ON THE PITCH

Weekly Soccer Recap: Dynamo’s “Cubo” Torres in transfer talks; Coutinho arrives at FC Barcelona

Weekly Soccer Recap: Dynamo’s “Cubo” Torres in transfer talks; Coutinho arrives at FC Barcelona
Erick "Cubo" Torres remains a Houston Dynamo as negotiations with Liga MX side Veracruz come to a standstill. Victor Araiza/SportsMap

The first week of 2018 brought about new business off the field but not much has changed on the field at the top of the league tables. The interesting headlines are happening with teams like Arsenal and Real Madrid, who are hovering in and around the top four. Off the field, the winter transfer window is in full swing and many teams are looking to boost their rosters - including with Usain Bolt?

Premier League

The Premier League kicked off 2018 with some exciting matches on New Year’s Day (as told in last week’s soccer recap) but the drama ensued into the following days of matches. For starters, Tottenham and West Ham had to play twice in three days because of their postponed match from a few weeks ago. Both picked up wins on Tuesday before the London rivals faced off in a 1-1 draw on Thursday. Back to Tuesday’s action, Manchester City easily handled Watford, 3-1, while Crystal Palace earned a 2-1 win at Southampton. Arsenal and Chelsea fought to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday, after which Arsene Wenger expressed his discontent with the officiating because of a penalty call in Chelsea’s favor.

The league took a break over the weekend as English clubs took part in the FA Cup. On Friday, Liverpool defeated their Merseyside rivals Everton while Manchester United were victorious over Derby County. Chelsea and Leicester City were among the sides that tied and will have to replay their 3rd round matches. The biggest upset came from Championship side Nottingham Forest who eliminated Arsenal 4-2, in part thanks to two goals from U.S. defender Eric Lichaj.

Top 5: Manchester City (62), Manchester United (47), Chelsea (46), Liverpool (44), Tottenham (41)

La Liga

The biggest news in La Liga this week came off the field with FC Barcelona’s acquisition of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho on a €160 million transfer fee (approximately USD $190 million). The Catalan giants already held a nine-point lead in the league, which they kept after a 3-0 win over Levante. Meanwhile, second place Atlético welcomed back an old friend as Diego Costa’s transfer from Chelsea became official this month. The Spanish national team forward scored in both Atleti’s midweek cup match and Saturday’s league bout with Getafe - where he was ejected due to a second yellow card. Yep, Costa’s back.

Valencia continues to hang around in third thanks to a 2-1 win over Girona. Sevilla was upset 5-3 by Real Betis, who are currently in 10th place and five points from the top five. This adds another shocking result to Betis’ season after producing a win at Real Madrid back in September. Speaking of Real, the defending champions look farther than ever from retaining their title after a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo.

The 5: Barcelona (48), Atlético Madrid (39), Valencia (37), Real Madrid (32), Sevilla (29)

Bundesliga

The Bundesliga winter break has concluded as the league will resume on Friday when leader’s Bayern Munich host Bayer Leverkusen. Off the field, Usain Bolt has earned headlines with the announcement that the Olympian will go on trial with Borussia Dortmund in March.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (41), Schalke 04 (30), Dortmund (28), Bayer Leverkusen (28), RB Leipzig (28)

Ligue 1

French teams returned to action by taking part in domestic cup competition. As expected, all top five Ligue 1 teams won their cup ties and are through to the Coupe de France Round of 32. League play resumes Friday as Strasbourg hosts Guingamp.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (50), Monaco (41), Lyon (41), Marseille (38), Nantes (33)

Serie A

Inter Milan - at one point at the top of the table - could not start the year off right as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Fiorentina. League leaders Napoli and second place (by a point) Juventus rightfully took advantage and went on to pick up three points. Roma is another team that was set back, losing 2-1 at Atalanta, and dropped to fifth after Lazio’s 5-2 win at SPAL. Milan fans can rejoice as they get right to start the year in a 1-0 win over Crotone.

The top 5: Napoli (51), Juventus (50), Inter Milan (42), Lazio (40), Roma (39)

Liga MX

The Clausura 2018 season is off and running in Mexico and team’s who missed the playoffs were eager to get going with results. Santos Laguna, Pumas UNAM and Puebla were all victorious. Of course the sense of urgency to win exists with Santos and Puebla, particularly, as  both teams within the bottom five in the relegation standings. Of last season’s playoff teams, León and Club América were the only ones to start 2018 with a win. Defending champions Tigres were among the losing sides. Four of the nine encounters in the first matchday ended in draws.

The top 5: Santos (3), Pumas UNAM (3), León (3), Puebla (3), Club América (3)

MLS offseason

With only a few weeks to go before all teams are in preseason, transfers and rumors continue to be the talk of the league off the field. The biggest transfer this week coming from expansion team LAFC who acquired former U.S. men’s national team midfielder Benny Feilhaber from Sporting Kansas City.

The Houston Dynamo have been active in negotiations with several players this offseason but the biggest noise came from the potential departure of their highest-earning player, Erick “Cubo” Torres. The 25-year-old Mexican was rumored to return to Mexico after a deal between the Dynamo and Liga MX team Veracruz was all but done Monday, according to reports. The deal reportedly fell through because the Mexican side could not meet the player’s salary demands. The Dynamo did re-sign veteran MLS defender A.J. DeLaGarza, announced by the team Tuesday morning.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Dec. 26:

12:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Atletico Madrid vs. Lleida (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [EFL Cup] Manchester City vs. Bristol City (ESPN3)

Wednesday, Dec. 27:

2:00 p.m. - [EFL Cup] Chelsea vs. Arsenal (ESPN2)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Madrid vs. Numancia (beIN Sports)

Thursday, Dec. 28:

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] FC Barcelona vs. Celta Vigo (beIN Sports)

Friday, Dec. 29:

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Strasbourg vs. Guingamp (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Dec. 30:

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Hoffenheim (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. Hamburg (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Villarreal (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Everton (NBC)

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Eibar vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Schalke (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Deportivo vs. Valencia (beIN Sports)

Sunday, Dec. 31:

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Koln vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (FS1)

10 a.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Man City (NBC Sports)

11 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Dortmund vs. Wolfsburg (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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