Weekly Soccer Recap: Harvey Relief Match raises over $300k, Real Madrid win Club World Cup ahead of El Clásico
The action is heating up as leagues wrap up right before the Christmas break. Many will be waking up early on Saturday as El Clásico is sure to bring the action in La Liga to a red-hot level with a World Champion Madrid hosting league leaders FC Barcelona. Here is the week in soccer:
Soccer legends like Landon Donovan, Brian McBride, Mia Hamm—and even with guys that don’t call soccer their first sport in two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, Astronaut Scott Kelly, and World Series Champion Alex Bregman—took the field for a charity match to raise money for Harvey relief efforts over the weekend. The event was put together by former Houston Dynamo Stuart Holden who reacted to the tragic events in his adopted hometown through social media.
Team Holden and Team Nash battled to a 12-12 draw that was decided on penalty kicks. The match was a spectacle that featured a Clint Dempsey bicycle kick, a Chris Wondolowski lobbed goal, and a last minute goal by—who else—Landon Donovan. More than $300,000 has been raised at kickinforhouston.com where donations are open until the end of December, with several match-worn jerseys up for auction.
FIFA Club World Cup
Real Madrid stays on top of the world after becoming the first club to win the Club World Cup in consecutive seasons. A Cristiano Ronaldo free kick goal was the difference as the European Champions defeated South American Champion Grêmio. The goal also moved CR7 to the top of the young competition’s all-time scoring chart with seven. The Portuguese and Real Madrid teammate Toni Kroos are the only two players to have won the competition four times. Mexico’s Pachuca defeated United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira in the third place match.
Double the action this week meant double the opportunity for Manchester City to extend their lead at the top. Not only are the Citizens still unbeaten in league play but—with dominant wins over Swansea and Tottenham—Pep Guardiola’s men have set a record for the longest winning streak in the Premier League (16).
Liverpool was another side that didn’t sweat the three points in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth, where Mohamed Salah picked up his 14th league goal to remain the leader in the scoring table. Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United also managed three points, albeit with slimmer margins.
Top 5: Manchester City (52), Manchester United (41), Chelsea (38), Liverpool (34), Arsenal (33)
Down goes Valencia! The Bats fell 2-1 to Eibar, allowing Atlético Madrid to jump them in the standings for second place. Valencia’s loss also means Barcelona’s lead at the top stretches from a five-point lead to a six-point one. Real Madrid did not play because they were at the Club World Cup, meaning they have a game in hand. Real will face Barcelona this weekend in arguably the biggest rivalry in soccer and the result could either give Barça and even more comfortable lead or pull them back within striking distance.
The 5: Barcelona (42), Atlético Madrid (36), Valencia (34), Real Madrid (31), Sevilla (29)
In a less interesting title race, Bayern Munich continues to roll as they picked up a 1-0 win at Stuttgart. The interesting dilemma in the Bundesliga this weekend was the shifting of teams in the other top four spots—also known as the Champions League qualification spots. Borussia Dortmund moved back within the top three, courtesy of an 89th minute goal by U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year Christian Pulisic, thanks to a direct win against Hoffenheim. Schalke and Leverkusen both had draws while Leipzig lost to 10-man Hertha Berlin.
Top 5: Bayern Munich (41), Schalke 04 (30), Dortmund (28), Bayer Leverkusen (28), RB Leipzig (28)
Paris Saint-Germain went down to 10-men but even that wasn’t enough to slow them down. Neymar & co. still managed a 4-1 win over Rennes to maintain a strong nine point lead at the top. Lyon defeated Marseille 2-0 in the Choc des Olympiques, the derby between the two Olympique sides. Monaco meanwhile picked up a 4-0 win at Saint-Étienne, a result that moves them into second place on goal difference. Nantes picked up three points despite going down to 10-men in a 1-0 win at Angers.
Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (47), Monaco (38), Lyon (38), Marseille (35), Nantes (30)
Maybe the most interesting title race is taking place in Italy as Napoli regained the top of the table this week. The change came as Inter Milan fell for the first time this season in a 3-1 loss to Udinese, ending the only undefeated record left in the Italian top division. Napoli, Juventus, and Roma all picked up three points while Lazio had a 3-3 draw at Atalanta. The only thing that could make the title race more intriguing is if A.C. Milan could somehow find their way in but the former giants lost 3-0 at Hellas Verona.
The top 5: Napoli (42), Juventus (41), Inter Milan (40), Roma (38), Lazio (33)
Major League Soccer
The offseason is in full swing in Major League Soccer and a blockbuster trade was the talk of week as Atlanta continues to make headlines, this time with the acquisition of Darlington Nagbe from the Portland Timbers. The Timbers themselves made a splash with the signing of Giovanni Savarese as their new head coach. The Houston Dynamo made headlines of their own by acquiring the full transfer of two key players in Alberth Elis and Juan David Cabezas. The Dynamo also traded for Houston native Arturo Alvarez and added a goalkeeper in Chris Seitz.
Among some of the buzz was the reveal of the 2018 home openers. One of the intriguing matches will be on March 3 when the Houston Dynamo host Atlanta United at BBVA Compass Stadium. Also, on opening weekend, MLS Cup Champions Toronto will host rivals Columbus and Seattle Sounders will welcome expansion side LAFC into the league. Speaking of expansion, Nashville is expected to be announced as the league’s 24th team on Wednesday.
A bit of unfinished business remains as Monterrey will host Pachuca in the domestic cup final on Thursday night. This match was postponed to this date because of Pachuca involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup. Looking to carry momentum after finishing third in the CWC, Pachuca meets a Monterrey side that is hungry for a title to lessen the bitterness of losing in the league final against crosstown rivals Tigres.
The rest of the teams in the league have begun preparations for the second half of the season and will soon take part in preseason friendlies. One of those friendlies will take place next weekend when Club America and Toluca FC meet on December 30 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
CONCACAF Champions League
CONCACAF’s next participant in the FIFA Club World Cup will be decided next spring when the next champion of the region is crowned. On Monday, the draw was held to decide the Round of 16 matchups for the two leg series that will take place in February.
CD Guadalajara (MEX) vs. Cibao FC (DOM)
Seattle Sounders (USA) vs. Santa Tecla (SLV)
New York Red Bulls (USA) vs. CD Olimpia (HON)
Club Tijuana (MEX) vs. FC Motagua (HON)
Tigres UANL (MEX) vs. Herediano (CRC)
Toronto FC (CAN) vs. Colorado Rapids (USA)
FC Dallas (USA) vs. Tauro FC (PAN)
Club América (MEX) vs. Saprissa (CRC)
One of the four Mexican clubs are expected to win as teams from Liga MX have won the competition in the last 12 consecutive editions. An MLS club will be looking to make the final for the first time since 2015.
MVP of the Week - Stuart Holden
Houston has had many adoptive sons through sports—like Houston Texan JJ Watt who spearheaded Harvey relief efforts that garnered national attention. Retired soccer player Stuart Holden, who won two MLS Cups with the Houston Dynamo and represented the USA in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, spearheaded an effort of his own after organizing the “Kick In For Houston” match that took place at BBVA Compass Stadium and was televised nationally on FS1, Facebook LIVE, Periscope and YouTube.
The match had several organizers in the background—including Holden’s employer FOX Sports and the Houston Dynamo—but it was Holden who was at the front of it all hammering the promotion of the match, recruiting celebrities like Steve Nash and YouTuber Jake Paul, and leading the crowdfunding efforts to collect more than $300,000 for the city’s Harvey Relief Fund. Holden was born in Scotland and now lives in Los Angeles, but his time in Houston as a youth soccer player and as a pro clearly had enough of an impact that he felt the need to give back. That is love for a city and that’s why Holden is this week’s MVP of the Week.
Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):
Wednesday, Dec. 20:
11:30 a.m. - [German Cup] Mönchengladbach vs. Leverkusen (ESPN3/ESPN Deportes)
1:45 a.m. - [German Cup] Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
1:45 p.m. - [EFL Cup] Chelsea vs. Bournemouth (ESPN3)
1:50 p.m. - Paris Saint-Germain vs. Caen (beIN Sports)
2:00 p.m. - [EFL Cup] Bristol City vs. Manchester United (ESPN3)
Thursday, Dec. 21:
12:30 p.m. - Eibar vs. Girona (beIN Sports)
2:30 p.m. - Alaves vs. Malaga (beIN Sports)
9:00 p.m. - [Copa MX Final] Monterrey vs. Pachuca (Univision Deportes)
Friday, Dec. 22:
12:30 p.m. - Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao (beIN Sports)
2:30 p.m. - Espanyol vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)
1:45 p.m. - Arsenal vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)
Saturday, Dec. 23:
6:00 a.m. - Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)
6:30 a.m. - Everton vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)
9:00 a.m. - Manchester City vs. Bournemouth (NBC Sports)
9:30 a.m. - [Replay] “Kick In For Houston” Celebrity Soccer Match Benefitting Harvey Victims (FS1)
11:30 a.m. - Burnley vs. Tottenham (NBC)
1:45 p.m. - Leicester City vs. Manchester United (NBC/Telemundo)