ON THE PITCH

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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It's Draft SZN! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

On Thursday June 22, the NBA will hold their annual draft. With the Rockets owning the number four overall pick, you'd think things would be looking up for them. However, in a draft where the top three players are all expected to be immediate impact guys, the drop begins where the Rockets are selecting. Armed with some young talent, cap space, and a new head coach, the Rockets are looked at as a team on the rise. But what will help contribute to that rise?

When you have assets, you have options. There are three main options I see here for the Rockets with number four: keep the pick and select the guy you think will work best moving forward; trade up to select the guy they feel they missed out on that isn't a punk Frenchie who dislikes Houston; or trade the pick for an established star. The other option is trading the pick for a good player and a future pick/s. Let's take a look at the options:

Option 1: Keeping the pick means you're drafting the leftovers. Those leftovers start with Amen Thompson. He's the guy I believe can come in and help sooner rather than later. At 6'7 and 215 pounds, he has an NBA body. His skill set can come in handy because he's played point guard. This team could use a true point guard, but Thompson isn't exactly a traditional point. He has the size of a wing player, which allows him to see over the top of the defense. His outside shooting is abysmal and needs a vast improvement. To me, adjusting to life as a pro without his twin brother Ausar, another good draft prospect himself, will be difficult. Overall, I believe he's the guy to take at four if they decide to stay.

Option 2: Trading up to get Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller may prove to be difficult. Both teams picking ahead of the Rockets have their point guards. Charlotte wants to find Lamelo Ball a running mate and have their eyes rumored to be set on Miller. Portland is trying their best to keep Dame Lillard happy. The Rockets would be best served to trade with either team willing to move down for whatever they offer, provided it's worthwhile. Portland was just in the playoffs the last few years and aren't as far out as some would think. They're the ones I'd eye to trade with. Speaking of Portland and Dame…

Option 3: The Rockets need a point guard and Dame may be looking to get out. Help them start their rebuild and bring Dame to Houston. Or, how about the Jaylen Brown rumors? Fred VanVleet has a player option for next season, then becomes an unrestricted free agent. There are a few options of finding veteran help around the league, especially at the point. Problem is, are any of these team willing to take the Rockets' offers? It'd start with number four, and include other assets as well. This option makes sense if the organization believes the roster, with whatever vet addition they make via trade, is playoff ready.

Option 4: The last option I thought about is to trade the pick for a first rounder in next year's draft and a decent player. I see this as a last resort of sorts. But only if they do not feel comfortable with whatever player they may take. That, and if they want to save cap space for next free agency period. Not having a first rounder next year isn't as bad as one might think. The team will need to make the necessary moves this offseason to ensure that won't be an issue next draft. FOMO is real, especially when a team is rebuilding and can't use one of the best/cheapest forms of acquiring top talent.

I talked with my good friend “TC.” The guy loves basketball and even hips me to a bunch of stuff. He wants them to move up in the draft for Scoot or Miller. While he is a James Harden fan, he doesn't necessarily want him back. He wouldn't mind it, but it's not his first option. I've spoken with a lot of native Houstonians about this. They all want a winner sooner than later, but have different philosophies on how to get there. Personally, I say options two and three are my faves. Trade the pick for help, rookie or vet, and go from there. I guess we'll have to wait three more weeks before we find out. Or will we…

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