Weekly Recap

Weekly Soccer Recap: Ronaldo picks up 5th Ballon d’Or, City rule Manchester and Toronto lift first MLS Cup

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF poses with his five Golden Ball (Ballon d'Or) trophies. Photo by Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Big money clubs saw their investments pay dividends over the weekend in both Europe and North America. Manchester City grew their stranglehold in the Premier League race while Toronto FC and Tigres won their respective leagues.


UEFA Champions League

The last matchday of the group stage took place in Europe’s marquee competition and, while advancing teams were all but set in stone, there was some drama on the final day of activities. Already qualified Manchester City took their first blemish of the season in a 2-1 loss at Shakhtar Donetsk, sending the Ukrainian side to the knockout stage and—in a surprising turn—relegating Napoli down to the Europa League.

Bayern Munich gave Paris Saint-Germain it’s second consecutive loss in a week and redeemed themselves for their 3-0 loss at PSG earlier in the year. Liverpool, Tottenham and Barcelona all had comfortable wins while eliminated Dortmund went down swinging in a 3-2 loss at Real Madrid. The biggest implications where between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid as the draw limited Chelsea to only three options in the next round, which ended up being FC Barcelona.

Round of 16 matchups:

Juventus vs. Tottenham / Basel vs. Manchester City / Porto vs. Liverpool / Sevilla vs. Manchester United / Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain / Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma / Chelsea vs. Barcelona / Bayern Munich vs. Beşiktaş

UEFA Europa League

Activities also resumed in the Europa League as teams solidified their standing as first and second in their respective groups. The advancing teams along with the third place Champions League teams will contest the knockout stage in February. The Europa League champion clinches a spot in next year’s Champions League so there is plenty left to play for.

Round of 32 matchups:

Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta / Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow / Copenhagen vs. Atlético Madrid / Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao / AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv / Celtic vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg / Napoli vs. RB Leipzig / Red Star Belgrade vs. CSKA Moscow / Lyon vs. Villarreal / Real Sociedad vs. Red Bull Salzburg / Partizan vs. Viktoria Plzeň / Steaua București vs. Lazio / Ludogorets vs. A.C. Milan / Astana vs. Sporting CP / Östersund vs. Arsenal / Marseille vs. Braga

Premier League

Derbies dominated the attention in England this weekend, the main one being between the top two sides in the table. It was Manchester City who got the last laugh over their crosstown rivals in a 2-1 win over United at Old Trafford. With the win, the Citizens extended their lead at the top of the table to 11 points and look unreachable in the title race.

Liverpool and Everton fought to a 1-1 draw at Anfield while West Ham managed a 1-0 win over fellow London club Chelsea. The biggest advantage was taken by Tottenham who beat Stoke City 5-1 to climb to within a point of the top five, building on the four teams in front of them failing to win this weekend.

Top 5: Manchester City (46), Manchester United (35), Chelsea (32), Liverpool (30), Arsenal (29)

La Liga

The top four maintained their form by each picking up three points. Real Madrid, fourth in the table, defeated fifth place Sevilla to keep them from challenging for the Spanish crown. The race is heating up mid table between places six and thirteen where the separation is a three-point difference. These are the clubs likely battling for a spot in next year’s Europa League.

The 5: Barcelona (39), Valencia (34), Atlético Madrid (33), Real Madrid (31), Sevilla (28)


Another week, another Bayern Munich win. Add to that a Leipzig 2-2 draw against Mainz, Schalke and Mönchengladbach drawing 1-1, and Dortmund losing again. It certainly looks as if the title is sealed for Bayern Munich, baring a catastrophic meltdown farther ahead in the season. The other winner this week was Bayer Leverkusen, now three points out of the second place spot.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (35), RB Leipzig (27), Schalke 04 (26), Mönchengladbach (25), Bayer Leverkusen (24)

Ligue 1

Paris Saint-Germain didn’t have a good week, with a loss in the league last week followed by a midweek loss at Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Luckily for them, the remedy came in a 3-1 win over Lille this week in Ligue 1. Di Maria, Pastore and Mbappe had the goals and PSG is back at ease with a nine-point lead in the table. Lyon, Monaco and Marseille all won to keep pace in the race for second.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (44), Lyon (35), Monaco (35), Marseille (35), Nantes (27)

Serie A

Last week, Inter Milan took hold of the top spot in Serie A and held on for good measure this week. Juventus were the ones who dethroned Napoli last week but could not come up with a result against Inter this week, with that encounter ending in a nil-nil draw. The bad news came for Napoli who, after being ousted in the Champions League, could not retake the top spot with a nil-nil draw against Fiorentina. Roma also picked up three points and so did A.C. Milan—their first under new manager Gennaro Gattuso.

The top 5: Inter Milan (40), Napoli (39), Juventus (38), Roma (35), Lazio (32)

Major League Soccer

The 2017 MLS season culminated with the first Canadian champion in the league—and Canada’s first professional sports title in a major sport since 1993. Toronto FC got revenge over Seattle Sounders FC in a rematch of the 2016 final. Jozy Altidore and former FC Barcelona midfielder Victor Vazquez etched their names in Toronto sports history by supplying the winning goals.

Liga MX

What’s sweeter than winning a championship? For Tigres fans it was seeing their team lift the cup in the house of their crosstown rivals. The most expensive team in Mexico, Tigres, defeated Rayados 2-1 in the second leg to secure their sixth league title. The win also denied their Monterrey rivals tying them at five titles a piece.

A goal from Eduardo Vargas offset Dorlan Pabon’s 2nd minute goal and Francisco Meza’s goal in the 35th minute officially won the title. This series, however, will be remembered by Aviles Hurtado’s missed penalty in the second half, leaving Rayados fans wondering what could’ve been.

FIFA Club World Cup

The 2017 FIFA Club World Cup is underway where continental champions meet to officially crown the best in the world. Mexico’s Pachuca, champion of CONCACAF, defeated African champion Wydad Casablanca on Saturday to secure their spot in the semifinals. United Arab Emirates Al Jazira, in this tournament as the host, eliminated New Zealand’s Auckland City in a playoff and followed it up with a win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds. They face European Champion Real Madrid on Wednesday for the other ticket to the final.

MVP of the Week - Cristiano Ronaldo

CR7 had the best week of anyone in soccer. His goal midweek for Real Madrid against Borussia Dortmund made him the first player to score in all six group stage matches of a UEFA Champions League. Later on in the week, he was named the winner of the Ballon d’Or—given to the player voted best in the world—tying a record of five with Barcelona’s Leo Messi.

The Portuguese is undoubtedly heading into the declining side of his prime—and even then is better than anyone not named Leo Messi. At 32 years of age, we may soon see the last of one of the greatest to play the game. But for now, sit back and enjoy because there may not be anyone more competitive, and his last chance to win a World Cup likely comes next summer.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, Dec. 13:

11:00 a.m.- Al Jazira vs. Real Madrid (Telemundo / FOX Soccer Match Pass)

11:30 a.m.- Hoffenheim vs. Stuttgart (FS2)

1:30 p.m.- Bayern Munich vs. Cologne (FS1)

1:30 p.m.- Schalke 04 vs. Augsburg (FS2)

2:00 p.m.- West Ham vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

Friday, Dec. 15:

1:20 p.m.- Monchengladbach vs. Hamburg (FS2)

Saturday, Dec. 16:

6:30 a.m. - Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace (NBC Sports)

8:00 a.m.- FIFA Club World Cup Third Place (NBC Universo / FOX Soccer Match Pass)

8:30 a.m. - Arsenal vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - Stuttgart vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - Frankfurt vs. Schalke 04 (FS2)

11:00 a.m.- FIFA Club World Cup Final (Telemundo / FOX Soccer Match Pass)

11:30 a.m. - Manchester City vs. Tottenham  (NBC)

5:00 p.m. - “Kick In For Houston” Celebrity Soccer Match Benefitting Harvey Victims (FS1)

Sunday, Dec. 17:

8:15 a.m. - West Brom vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - Hannover 96 vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS1)

10:30 a.m. - Bournemouth vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

11:00 a.m. - Leipzig vs. Hertha Berlin (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - Barcelona vs. Deportivo La Coruña (beIN Sports)

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Let him cook! Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a rebuild. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr are studs. KPJ just signed a four-year extension with the team. Other guys like Jabari Smith Jr, Kenyon Martin Jr, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, Tari Eason, and Jae'Sean Tate are really good pieces to surround Green and KPJ with. The only issue with this group: they're REALLY young! Tate is the elder statesman at 27 of the young nucleus. Most are barely old enough to buy a drink. Some still aren't old enough! They're a bunch of green bananas waiting to turn yellow to slightly brown and be ripe enough for consumption.

We need to give it time. Just like bananas, they take time to ripen. Coach Stephen Silas is known for developing young players. His most prized student is the star player for that team in South Oklahoma up 45. Number 77 for that team credited Silas with helping him realize his All-Pro potential while Silas was a part of the coaching staff there. To a man, all his former players credit him with being a positive influence on their careers. So why are fans in a rush to get rid of him?

When you look at the Rockets' record over the last few years, it's gross. Sure, they've been a lottery team the last couple of seasons, but that was by design. As part of the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trades, they gave away pick swap rights. Had they not been that bad, they wouldn't have been able to draft Green or Smith Jr. Those two guys are building blocks for the future, along with KPJ. Giving those picks away would've put this team further down the totem pole of developing themselves into a contender. Losing pays off when you can hit on high lottery picks.

If you give a chef dirt, bread, ham, molded cheese, and spoiled mayo, can you expect anything else but a nasty ham sandwich? How about if the chef was given a steak that is almost rotten, potatoes with root growth, and spoiled butter? Could you expect a better meal than the sandwich? Yes! However, that meal may still cause a stomachache. Now, give said chef a full complement of gourmet groceries and guess what you'll get?

This is why I say let Silas cook. He's the perfect coach for this group of kids. He can teach them all the fundamentals of the game at this level and help them grow into their full potential. If there's a change to be made on the sidelines, move Silas into a front office role, but DO NOT get rid of him! Guys like him are too valuable. Why do you think Mark Cuban hated losing him, but knew he couldn't retain him because he had a head coach already? Cuban knew what he had in Silas and what Silas did for Luka Doncic. He can do something similar for the Rockets if given the time to work his magic.

Should Tilman Fertita find the need to move on, I'd look for a more experienced coach who can guide them from bottom of the playoff ladder into top four in the West and real contenders. For now, Silas is the head chef. Continue giving him the groceries he needs, and he'll continue giving these kids the lessons they need to develop. Changing the coach now could stunt their growth. Let him cook!

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