1. Where in the world is Ventura Alvarado?
We hadn't heard much from Ventura Alvarado in a while. After missing nearly the entire Liga MX Apertura season due to injury, he's now back to full health. Alvarado reemerged in the starting lineup for América's regular season finale. From off the radar and into the fire, he's now started the last 3 playoff matches as well, lining up as a right wingback in CA's 3-5-2. With Alvarado back in the fold, Club América has earned a spot in the Liguilla Final vs. Tigres.
In a strange twist, we already know he'll have a new club in January. Santos Laguna announced a series of transfer deals prior to América's second leg vs. Necaxa. One of those moves was the acquisition of Alvarado, announced on Santos' Twitter account:
Meanwhile, Alvarado will finish the playoffs with his current club. But that's on hold for a couple of weeks as well. Why? As 2016-17 CCL Champions, América is now in Japan for the Club World Cup. On Sunday they'll face Asian champs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC, with the winner advancing to a semi-final clash vs. Real Madrid.
The Liga MX Final will take place December 22 & 25.
2. Wooten Scores... Again
Goalscorers can be a streaky lot. Andrew Wooten is on a scintillating streak right now, as noted in this space in recent weeks. Last weekend Wooten scored again, this time the opening tally in a 3-1 win at Nürnberg. This finish is among the simpler ones we've seen from him, but he keeps popping up in goal-dangerous positions:
This 28th minute strike was Wooten's 8th of the season, already a career high. He's now scored in 8 of his last 9 games across all competitions, and ranks 4th overall in the 2.Bundesliga Golden Boot race.
3. Bjørn Johnsen hype train accepting passengers
Another newly familiar name to regular readers is Heart of Midlothian's Bjørn Johnsen. You might know him as a target striker with a nose for the goal. He's also continuing to showcase the diversity of his game, particularly as a playmaker. Check out this sequence, in which Johnsen has two separate beautiful touches to set up Hearts' opening goal:
Johnsen flicks a gorgeous backheel to spring the initial play, and follows it with a perfect chip across the box.
This came on a big stage as well. Johnsen's assist gave Hearts the early lead vs. Rangers, with the home side going on to a massive 2-0 victory against the traditional Scottish power. Hearts lept into 2nd place on the SPFL table. First place is well out of reach beneath Celtic, but a Europa League position is very much up for grabs.
4. Lichaj outduels Yedlin
The recent USMNT coaching change presents a new opportunity for many players. Eric Lichaj is certainly one of them. As a fullback looking to earn his way back on the national team roster, a head-to-head matchup with fellow Yank DeAndre Yedlin was a great chance to get himself noticed.
He may have felt rather unnoticed ahead of the match. U.S. Soccer published an article previewing the weekend's action along with Bruce Arena's travel plans. The article listed the Nottingham Forest-Newcastle United game, noting Yedlin would be in action. It did not mention Lichaj.
Talk about your bulletin board material. Lichaj responded with vigor against the Magpies, earning Man of the Match honors from Sky Sports:
More importantly, Forest came away with the upset result, getting the full three points at home against The Championship's top club. Forest has now won three straight, is back to mid-table, and remains in striking distance just six points behind the Promotion Playoff positions.
5. Joe Corona, Champion
Another name you may not have heard in a while: Joe Corona.
It's been a minute since Corona was last in a USMNT uniform. However, he's having greater club success this fall than he's had in a while with Dorados de Sinaloa of Ascenso MX, now in Mexico's second division following last summer's relegation. Corona has started all but one game this season in Sinaloa.
Last weekend Dorados won the league's Apertura season title, winning both legs in the Final vs. Atlante for a 4-2 aggregate win. The clincher was a 1-0 clean sheet in front of the home supporters. Here's a photo of Corona and happy teammates posing with the trophy (back row, second from right).
Dorados earn an automatic spot in next spring's Promotional Final vs. the 2016-17 Clausura champion.