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Weekly Soccer Recap: Landon Donovan is soccer’s Brett Favre, Man City finally loses

Landon Donovan is coming out of retirement to play in Liga MX. Victor Araiza/SportsMap

Liverpool and Manchester City delivered a thriller while - what at first looked like a massive troll job - Landon Donovan left many wondering why he is coming out of retirement. Here are the most important moments in soccer this week:

Premier League

There are several storylines to dive into after this weekend’s results in the United Kingdom but none will garner much attention than Liverpool’s 4-3 win over league leaders Manchester City. The Reds were up to a 4-1 lead at home before the Citizens scored two in the last seven minutes. Ultimately time ran out on City’s undefeated season but this may not me anything more than a blemish as City still hold a 12-point lead at the top of the table.

Manchester United enjoyed a 3-0 win over Stoke while Tottenham got a home win of its own, 4-0 over Everton. Chelsea could not undo Leicester City as that match ended in a scoreless draw. Arsenal, meanwhile, sees a spot in the top four slipping after a 2-1 loss at Bournemouth. Among other notable results are West Ham’s 4-1 win over Huddersfield and Newcastle’s 1-1 draw with Swansea City. Stoke, West Brom and Swansea are currently in the last three.

Top 5: Manchester City (62), Manchester United (50), Liverpool (47), Chelsea (47), Tottenham (44)

La Liga

The Barcelona show continues in La Liga, this week with a 4-2 win at Real Sociedad where Luis Suarez and Leo Messi stood out for their marvelous goals. Atlético Madrid managed a 1-0 win at Eibar while Valencia saw out a 2-1 win at Deportivo La Coruña. A long ways away from contention are defending champions Real Madrid in fourth who suffered another stunning loss at home, this time 1-0 to Villareal. That win, plus Alavés’ 1-0 win over Sevilla, places Villarreal in the top five.

The 5: Barcelona (51), Atlético Madrid (42), Valencia (40), Real Madrid (32), Villarreal (31)

Bundesliga

The Bundesliga winter break is over but not much changed. Bayern Munich picked up another three points with a 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, with Martinez, Ribery and Rodriguez as the scorers. Leipzig broke the deadlock for second and took sole position of that spot - for now at least - with a 3-1 win over Schalke. Dortmund moves up to fourth after only picking up a point in scoreless affair against Wolfsburg at home.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (44), RB Leipzig (31), Schalke 04 (30), Dortmund (29), Bayer Leverkusen (28)

Ligue 1

The second half of the season begins to pick up steam as the Paris trains continues to chug along, this time with a 1-0 win at fifth-place Nantes. Meanwhile, Monaco and Lyon both picked up a point - giving PSG no cause for concern in a title race where they hold an 11-point lead. Marseille was the only other top five side to pick up a win this week, a 3-0 result at Rennes.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (53), Monaco (42), Lyon (42), Marseille (41), Nantes (33)

Serie A

Normally soccer in Italy takes a winter break from Christmas (Dec. 25) to Epiphany (Jan. 6) as both are major Catholic holidays. This season, the Italian league broke tradition by playing during the holidays and prolonging the winter break until now. The Serie A returns this weekend.

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

Liga MX

It was a big week of news in Mexico but let’s begin with the results. Tijuana and Morelia each won their match, 1-0, over Necaxa and Puebla respectively. Queretaro picked up a massive 2-0 win against Lobos BUAP in a match of two teams fearing relegation. América and Pachuca battled to a 2-2 draw at the Azteca, while Tigres, León, Pumas and Monterrey all saw out three points this weekend.

Off the field, León made the biggest noise with two transfers with ties to MLS. The first was former Houston Dynamo Giles Barnes - an Englishman with Jamaican roots - who will ply his trade south of the border after his contract has expired with MLS. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock, León decided to bring the all-time MLS leader in goals, Landon Donovan, out of retirement. Barnes and Donovan share the same agent which is how talks began. Donovan - who has now become US Soccer’s version of Brett Favre - has not played a professional match since November of 2016. Donovan was in Houston last month in the Kick In For Houston match that raised funds for Harvey Relief efforts.

The top 5: Pumas UNAM (6), León (6), Cruz Azul (4), Monterrey (4), Club América (3)

MLS offseason

Major League Soccer clubs will all report next week for the start of preseason but before that, clubs will have the opportunity to bolster their squads in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft. Teams are in Orlando getting one last look at the best talent coming out of colleges in the 2018 MLS Combine.

That’s not the only way teams are making their rosters betters. Transfers continue to heat up in the MLS offseason with the inclusion of more young talent from South America. On Monday, Orlando City announced the signing of 19-year-old Josue Coman. According to reports, the Timbers are close to signing Peruvian international Andy Polo (age 24) while Chicago Fire have their eyes set on Colombian Juan Quintero (age 24). The biggest splash, however, was made last week as Atlanta United paid an MLS-record $15 million transfer fee for 18-year-old Argentinian Ezequiel Barco.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Jan. 16:

12 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Marseille vs. Strasbourg (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [FA Cup] Leicester vs. Fleetwood Town (FS2)

2 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Monaco vs. Nice (beIN Sports)

Wednesday, Jan. 17:

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

1:45 p.m. - [FA Cup] Chelsea vs. Norwich (FS1)

2 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Espanyol vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

Thursday, Jan. 18:

9 a.m. - 2018 NWSL Draft (Facebook LIVE/YouTube)

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

Friday, Jan. 19:

10 a.m. - 2018 MLS SuperDraft Draft (Facebook LIVE/YouTube)

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Caen vs. Marseille (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Jan. 20:

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

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

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Freiburg vs. RB Leipzig (FS2)

9 a.m. - [Premier League] Burnley vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

9 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace (CNBC)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Newcastle (NBC)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Hamburg vs. Koln (FS2)

Sunday, Jan. 21:

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

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

10 a.m. - [Ligue 1] Monaco vs. Metz (beIN Sports)

11 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke vs. Hannover (FS2)

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

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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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