Monday, July 06, 2015

Galaxy 4 Toronto 0

Earlier in the season things were looking bleak for LA. But it was not the time to panic, as the cliche in sports is that one must not get too high or too low. This is especially true if your club has a history of getting things organized as the season goes on. Definitely, this is the case with the LA Galaxy. The management team has an eye for spotting and developing young talent and they have the savvy to bring in international veterans.

And so, now, it is the don't get too high part of the season!

Beating Toronto 4-0 is a good thing but let's not get too big headed as Toronto is missing six players to Gold Cup duties compared to LA sending four. Additionally, some of their other western conference rivals have two (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland) to five (Kansas City) games in hand.

Nonetheless, the trend arrow is up for the Galaxy as they continue to blend new talent (Zardes, Villarreal, Lletget, Maganto, etc) with the veterans (Keane, Gordon, Gonzalez, etc). And, of course, Liverpool veteran Steven Gerrard will be joining the club this month!



In other LA Galaxy news, midfielder Stefan Ishizaki is returning to Sweden. Have seen (on TV) his contribution to the team through nifty passing and by all accounts he was a good off-the-field and in the locker-room presence. All the best to Ishizaki!


Thursday, July 02, 2015

International vs. Club Soccer?

Being relatively new to watching soccer, one thing I did figure out was that in the men's game, the best clubs could probably beat the best national teams.

Reason #1, the highest levels of the top clubs have hoards of cash to buy the best players from around the world and are essentially forming something of an international all-star team. The national teams can only draw upon, obviously, only those who are passport holders of that nation so the talent base is simply not as big.

Reason #2, the clubs play a long schedule and get good at playing together while national teams train in fits and starts so they never get totally used to each other.

This item over at ESPNFC by Michael Cox gives those reasons and more.

I wonder if that is true for the women's game?

I suspect not.

1) The international competitions probably hold higher prestige value than club level achievements at this time.
2) I am guessing that club level women's soccer just doesn't have enough cash in it to have the same international all-star team effect as in the men's game.

From what I gather, the UK women's national team has gained a lot of public affection because of how well they are doing and the level of passion of their play. Meanwhile, the UK men's national teams are known for early flame outs and fans saying they play with no passion because they are saving their energy for where they get their paychecks - the clubs they play for.

The US Women as a group and as individuals have been rock stars because of their success, interesting personal stories and admittedly a very well oiled PR machine.

In the US Men just a few individuals have been breaking through to become the "face of the team" but nowhere near the US Women. Also, I think the USMNT has gained a following more as a collective group due to national pride reasons rather than great successes and compelling individual stories. I'm sure US Soccer would like to see the USMNT get farther in the World Cup and find some marketable "faces of the team" to further its popularity.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

USA 2 Germany 0


Episode 6 of Behind the Crest of USWNT World Cup 2015.

Good win for team USA!

That second goal was fantastic!

Having the fresh energy of O'Hara (75 minute) and Wambach (80 minute) was key to that goal. Wambach energetically tracked down that ball in the corner instead of letting it go and bobbed and weaved with it and then sent it over to Klingenberg who fired it to Lloyd who then crossed it over to the middle where O'Hara pounced and poked it into the goal!

On the other hand, that moment might never have happened if the two big penalty calls had gone differently.

Julie Johnston drew a yellow instead of a red card which would have left the US down a player for 31 minutes. At the 67 minute mark, Morgan won a yellow card (deserved) from Krahn and a penalty kick (questionable) which Lloyd cashed in.

The US did appear to be the stronger side in the game but there is no way to be certain the US would have won if the calls had gone differently.

In the post-game press conference one of the reporters compared Carly Lloyd to Steve Gerrard!

Below is episode 2 from the LA Galaxy's introduction of Gerrard to the fans.


Monday, June 29, 2015

SJ 3 LA 1 - back to reality

Didn't see the whole game on TV. Turned on the game late in the 2nd half when the Galaxy were already behind 3-1. The announcers were offering that the LA Galaxy team was "out of gas."

So, no time to panic after a dud against San Jose.

The Galaxy had played matches on 6/13, 6/17, 6/20, 6/24, 6/27 - 5 games in 14 days!

The schedule remains full as they play 7/1 and 7/4!

They do play San Jose again on 7/1 (US Open Cup) and will be interesting to see if the coaching staff makes any line-up changes indicating how much energy they want to commit to the US Open Cup competition.

On other news, Steven Gerrard arrives in Los Angeles!

The plan is to introduce him to the LA home crowd on the 7/4 match. He is anticipated to be on the line-up card on 7/11 at Stub Hub against Club America (International Champions Cup) and 7/17 in an MLS home match against San Jose!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Concerns about the PCUSA and the Emergent/Progressive Christian Movement (version 1.4)

As an individual who identifies with “evangelical” Christianity but who also has an appreciation for the efforts of “progressive” Christianity(i), I would like to offer the following thoughts and concerns.

In brief, the areas of concern I have are:
1. “Love wins” and holiness of God
2. The question of Israel
3. Same-Sex Marriage
4. Emphasis of the gospels over other portions of Scripture
5. Leftward political activism
6. Emphasis on the already over the not yet in regards to the Kingdom.

In practical reality, people experience an area or two of difference with any given church, denomination, or movement as acceptable and normal. However, when the dissonant issues becomes numerous it becomes necessary to consider dissolving the association and declaring the reasons for doing so.

Preamble
1. God’s grace is greater than our sins.
2. God has chosen to use the church as a vehicle of spreading the good news of grace to the world.
3. God’s grace is greater than the church’s history of theological confusion and ethical failures.
4. Yet, we can be assured that God knows his own (Matthew 7:21-23, John 10:14) despite our shortcomings.
5. The churches in America are not privileged by their existence in the twenty-first century or its location from theological confusion and ethical failures.
6. American trends are not necessarily best but it is the setting I am in.
7. New is not necessarily an improvement upon the old and old is not automatically correct.
8. There are some things we can know from God and many things we cannot (Deuteronomy 29:29).
9. Of what has been revealed, some are clear and some in dispute.
10. Though I am not trained in the theological arts or the original languages of the Scriptures, like a good juror, I must seek to evaluate the available data provided by experts, and render a decision and live and believe accordingly.
11. Though labels are imperfect, there is a divide in the American church between “evangelicals” and “emergent/progressive” Christians.
12. The Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) exemplifies this division with its legacy within evangelical Christianity and its increasing association with progressive Christianity(ii).  
13. Progressive/emergent Christianity has much commendable youthful energy, cultural awareness, creativity, artistic talent, high comfort level to engage intellectual/academic ideas, and commitment to action and compassion.
14. Nonetheless, there are issues of concern to this evangelical Christian.
15. Thus, I seek “Clarity over agreement(iii).”

“Love wins” and the holiness of God
1. There is no question that the Love of God is an important theme in Scripture (see John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:8).
2. However, has there become an imbalance on this emphasis to the detriment of the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:3, 1 Peter 1:15-16)?
3. A case study on this issue is the PCUSA removal of the song “In Christ Alone” from its recent edition of the hymnal(iv).
4. The reason for its removal was the copyright holders unwillingness to change “the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the love of God was magnified” as requested by the hymnal editors(v).
5. One can honestly debate theologically whether God’s wrath is satisfied at the Cross or at some other point in the arc of God’s story with humanity as the specifics of atonement theology is complex(vi).
6. The “disappearance” of wrath and notions of substitution of penalty is a recently development in the PCUSA.
7. The concepts of God’s holiness and justice within the atonement are of long standing in most Christian theological traditions and is evident even as recently as the PCUSA Confession of 1967 that states the following: God's reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery which the Scriptures describe in various ways. It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd's life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of a debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God's love for man. They reveal the gravity, cost, and sure achievement of God's reconciling work(vii).
8. C1967 rightly notes the variegated images describing the work of Christ yet the PCUSA and the broader progressive Christian movement is removing or diminishing this facet.
9. Removal of a notable contemporary hymn whether justified on not is emblematic of this broader theological trend.
10. As I see it, the potential danger of diminishing the holiness, justice, and wrath aspect of God’s character is moral relativism.
11. Another possible consequence is a drift towards a works-based spirituality if our sins are diminished raising the merit of our works.
12. Evangelical Christians must acknowledge the risk of Pharisaic self-righteousness.
13. However, Progressive Christians must acknowledge the risk of moral relativism and Pharisaic self-righteousness judgment against Evangelical Christians.

The Question of Israel
1. The PCUSA has gained a reputation for its pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel positions.
2. Many possible reasons could result in these views.
3. These stances could be based on theological perspectives that diminish Israel in distinction to a more robust view of Israel held by some evangelical Christians(viii).
4. Another possibility is the high value placed upon social justice that is defined by the nature of power-relationships.
5. The excusing of Palestinian anti-Semitism by progressive Christianity is inconsistent to stated concerns for social justice and a form of anti-Semitism.
6. An un-willingness to confront radical Islamic terrorism is inconsistent to stated concerns for social justice and could be another form of anti-Semitism.
7. Because of the long and dismal history of Christian anti-Semitism, I urge more caution in regards to Israel on the part of Progressive Christians.

Same-Sex Marriage
1. Society at-large is not obligated to follow traditional Christian teachings on this subject and the democratic process will define this issue in a legal context shortly.
2. Within the Christian community, we must honestly and fully confess our failures in this area in regards to how we treat the individuals affected and how we discuss the topic and commit to greater compassion.
3. Christians are divided on this matter.
4. The Gay Christian Network has succinctly defined this division with the terms “side A” and “side B(ix).”
5. Side A supports gay Christian marriage.
6. Side B encourages gay Christians to remain celibate.
7. Progressive Christians (majority?) and the PCUSA (mostly?) are Side A.
8. As I see it, there are two possible reasons to support the Side A position both of which I have strong reservations about.
9. One can offer different interpretations of pertinent passages in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1.
10. The other is to diminish the role of Scripture as a source of authority to guide faith and practice continuing a trend to undermine the value of Scripture on all issues.
11. Progressive Christians should be transparent about which of the two reasons are being used to justify their Side A position.
12. Labeling Side B supporters as bigoted, homophobic, and ignorant is not helpful.
13. A house divided against it self cannot stand; thus, churches and denominations will eventually be predominantly side A or side B.

The unbalanced emphasis on the Gospels texts
1. Progressive Christians appear to prefer the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) with potential diminishment of the rest of Scripture.
2. I believe that all Scriptures are inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and provide a consistent message.
3. It is an article of faith that the Holy Spirit guided the early Church in the selection of and accurate preservation of the Scriptures we have on hand.
4. I am not clear what the potential dangers are in elevating the Gospels over other portions of Scripture but I offer a couple of possibilities.
5. In academic circles, skeptics of Christianity have described the Jesus of the Gospels in opposition to the Christ of the Epistles(x).
6. Thus, it is possible that elevating the Gospels could result in a lower Christology though high Christology is not absent it is not as abundant in the Gospels compared to the Epistles.
7. This four Gospel approach could diminish an appreciation for creeds (explicit statements of doctrine) as the more creedal descriptions of faith are found the Epistles.
8. Diminishing creeds has the potential risk of fueling post-modern skepticism that says things are hard to define and therefore holding minimal confidence in and significance of truth claims(xi). 

Progressive Christianity and political activism
1. Progressive Christianity has been very closely identified with the political left.
2. This identification with the political left mirrors Evangelical Christians error of too closely identifying with the political right and should be avoided.

Eschatology – the already and the not yet
1. George Eldon Ladd popularizing of the idea of the Kingdom of God as “the already and the not yet” has provided a helpful perspective in understanding the Scriptural descriptions of the Kingdom in light of the realities of life in this fallen world.
2. “The kingdom of God is at hand” emphasis of Progressive Christianity is a strong and commendable motivator to action in seeking the peace and prosperity of the city (Jeremiah 29) and practical daily living (Matthew 5-7).
3. However, as in the case of other issues described above, an imbalance of emphasis has potential pitfalls.
4. Mark 2:1-12 highlights Jesus healing of the paralytic man but Jesus also used this occasion to announce his power to forgive sins.
5. Though “the kingdom of God is at hand” emphasis of Progressive Christianity to address material needs is welcome, a fulsome recognition that the King addresses the sins of individual human beings must not be neglected.
6. An overemphasis on the “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom has led to a “fire insurance” attitude of some within evangelical Christianity.
7. However neglecting the “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom leads to an under utilization of a resource for hope in this life (John 14, 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 1, Philippians 3, 1 Thessalonians 4, Titus 2, Revelation, etc.).

Final thoughts
1. "Birds of a feather flock together" and "let a thousand flowers bloom" in regards to the variety of forms and expressions of local outposts of Christ's church.
2. Associations with church and denominations are based on personal relationships but also an acceptance of theological distinctiveness.
3. Identifying and discussing distinctiveness is likely to be divisive but necessary.
4. Discussion for clarity with a charitable spirit would be an ideal to aim for.

John 17:16-26, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Lord, have mercy.

------------------------------

(i) Though the labels “evangelical,” “progressive,” and “emergent” resist precise definitions; individuals within the conversation generally have little difficulty self-identifying their perspective.
(ii) Many denominations have to varying degrees of affinity for Progressive Christianity and some Progressive Christians would hesitate to identify with any denominations.
(iii) A premise of the work of Jewish writer and radio host Dennis Prager.
(iv) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2013/august/wrath-of-god-in-christ-alone-blocked-pcusa-hymnal.html
(v) http://blog.presbyterianhymnalproject.com/2013/08/in-christ-alone.html
(vi) http://www.theopedia.com/Atonement_of_Christ
(vii) http://www.creeds.net/reformed/conf67.htm emphasis mine
(viii) Support of Israel can be derived without a "dispensational theology" (held by some but not all evangelicals) that proposes a specific role for Israel as a nation.
(ix) http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-a-gay-christian-response?
(x) Historically, a widely accepted example of high Christology would be the Nicene Creed.
(xi) Creeds represent good faith attempts to put into words the truths we hold and as such they, in "scientific" terms, serve as working hypotheses.



Friday, June 26, 2015

Quarterfinals Today USA v China

Above is episode five of Behind the Crest following the USWNT in the 2015 World Cup. Should be interesting as China had 2 extra days of rest and recovery compared to the US and Team USA will be without two starters. USA line up will be the same as before with Brian plugged into Holiday's central midfield role and Press as a wide midfielder. Will see if there is some shifts in the relative forward/holding positions of some of the players. I've heard people say they expect Press to be given the green light to push forward as well as for Lloyd to do so with Brian in a more defensive midfield role. We shall see. As I type, Germany and France are locked in a 1-1 match heading into Extra Time. Will it even go to PK?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

USWNT: USA 2 Columbia 0

Well, the starting line-up was the same as the USA v. Nigeria match.

The commentators on TV observe that the defense is doing well but the offense isn't very effective.

Much of the talk was that in a 4-4-2 the team doesn't have as much offensive presence especially since of the forward two, one is the aging Wambach. Many suggested a 4-3-3 with the advantage of one additional attack minded forward and less ground for Wambach to cover might be more a better use of the talents on the roster.

One wonders if that is already been discussed among Coach Ellis' staff?

What it would be like to be a fly-on-the-wall hearing them discuss their options!

Certainly, there will be at least two changes in the quarterfinals against China as Holiday and Rapinoe picked up yellow cards last night and will be benched for one game due to accumulation.

Brian and Press are likely to take those spots on the midfield.

However, what is the line-up if the team switches to a 4-3-3?

Forwards: Morgan, Wambach, Press or Leroux for the third spot?
Midfielders: Health, Lloyd, Brian.

And of course, the other question is who will substitute in?

If the USA gets the lead, I would figure Wambach will be subbed out around the 60-75 mark. Who comes in for her?

Rodriguez?

Will O'Reilly and O'Hara make appearances?

Go Team USA!


UPDATE: Episode 4 Behind the Crest, USWNT 2015 World Cup.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Good victory for the LA Galaxy 5-1 over Philadelphia

Can't get too high, can't get too low.

It was a slow start to the season but we don't want to get too panicky as the team was limited by injuries and players on international duty.

Good 5-1 win over Philadelphia but let's not get too crazy either as the Union are one of the bottom table clubs.

Nonetheless, it was good to see something close to the full line-up out there and the getting the ball into the net from a variety of players.

Hopefully, will avoid the injury bug and have something like this starting XI more often than not going into the second half of the season.
UPDATE: July is Gold Cup and the LA Galaxy will be missing Gonzalez (USA), Zardes (USA) and Penado (Panama). Thus, Galaxy will do a little juggling.

Lletget may play his way onto a starting spot.

And, of course, Steven Gerrard will be arriving in the July transfer window.

UPDATE: La Galaxy released a video about Gerrard .....

If Gerrard is physically fit, I would imagine he would start. He might get substituted out at the 60 or 75 minute mark as he gets used to MLS life and his teammates.

MLS matches are in the summer and thus much warmer than his previous life in the Premier League with its European schedule of Fall-to-Spring and cold rainy UK weather. Also, the teams of MLS are far flung across North America so travel days are much longer than in the UK. I'm sure he will adjust accordingly. But initially, I'd be inclined to sub him off to keep his legs fresher for the final push to the playoffs and for the playoffs.

Will be interesting how Coach Arena will use him. I would think Gerrard will be in the midfield with the liberty to push forward with an offensive mindset. I wonder if occasionally, he might be put in the front two with Keane or Zardes?

With Gerrard in at midfield, which midfielder (Husidic, Ishizaki, Juinho, or Vayrnen) will see his time cut back?

I'm guessing Varynen as he has been mostly a defensive midfielder and hasn't shown too much on the offensive end. I could see Gerrard starting and participating in the offense and helping the Galaxy get the lead and being subbed off with Varynen providing defense.

Lletget with his speed could challenge for one of the side midfield spots.
UPDATE: He has now started in the match against Portland and San Jose!

At the moment, things look promising.

Will see what the second half of the season brings!
UPDATE: Next match is against Portland who is ahead of the Galaxy in the standings and should be a better test of the Galaxy's progress compared to easy recent wins over PSA Elite and Philadelphia.




Thursday, June 18, 2015

USWNT: What are realistic expectations?


The angst in the commentary (Team USA is struggling) I've seen has fallen into these categories:
There are many more capable teams and that is why the US is just barely getting by.
The US team has not been playing well.
Coach Ellis hasn't choosen the strongest starting 11.

Don't know which of the three explanations are more accurate and of course, it could be a combination of these factors.

Let's look at the data:
This is the seventh Women's World Cup competition.

Championship final game result:
1991 USA defeated Norway
1995 Norway defeated Germany
1999 USA defeated China
2003 Germany defeated Sweden
2007 Germany defeated Brazil
2011 Japan defeated USA
2015 ?

All these prior champions and runners-up have advanced to the round of 16 this year. Thus, there are a small number of teams that are very good historically and continue to be solid performers. At face value, the USA has been strong but Germany's record has been comparable. As of now, these two are the current odds on favorites for 2015 but the way the bracket is framed, USA could face Germany in the semi-final.

With the popularity of the game, the number of teams that are serious competition is greater than in the past. Experts are saying France, England, Canada, and Australia could challenge the traditional powers for spots in the final four.

We shall see! GO TEAM USA!!



UPDATE: Behind the Crest Episode 3 USWNT 2015 World Cup

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

USWNT advance!

Okay!

USA 1 Nigeria 0, thus the USA advances to the round of 16.

Will this line-up be the one going forward?

Certainly, if there are no issues of injury during the rest-recovery phase leading up to the next match, my guess is that this line-up is the preferred line-up with situational substituting in the second half.

In this game, Leroux subbed in for Morgan at the 66 minute mark. Would anticipate that would continue to be the case as Morgan is not yet in full fitness.

Boxx and Rampone came in for defensive purposes at the 74 and 80 minute marks.

Given that the lead was only 1-0, I think Coach Ellis kept Wambach in just in case they needed a goal to break a 1-1 tie. If the USA had gone up 2-0, I think Wambach would have been subbed out.

My question would be who the USA brings in for offense if they are behind in the second half with a tiring Morgan and Wambach?

Certainly, Leroux but who else would get the call?

May well be that Team USA is really counting on the back four and Solo to shut teams out and holding leads in the second half. But who gets the call if USA is behind?

The other open question is the identity of the fourth starting midfielder because in 3 games it has been 3 different players: Press, Brian, and Heath. Has someone won that role? Or will another player be asked to start in the next game?

UPDATE: Behind the Crest Episode 2 USWNT 2015 World Cup.