Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth place. Which team will show up? The team that took three straight wins or the one that then gave up two straight losses? As it is, they could get bounced in the first round or make a run all the way to the finals!

Meanwhile, their crosstown rivals LAFC are on the top of the standings and the odds on favorite (53% according to 538) to win the whole thing. They have the most points ever with 72 and Vela has the single season goal scoring record with 34.

In the Swedish top league, the race for the championship is close among the big city clubs Malmo and the three Stockholm teams (Djurgardens, Hammarby, and AIK).

My family teams Elfborg and Falkenberg have their goals. Elfborg is in eighth and realistically the gap to seventh is too far. However, they could slip down so finishing eighth would be satisfying at this stage. As for Falkenberg, avoiding outright relegation is the goal. They have 19 points in 15th place. They are close enough to Sundsvall (20 points) to move up into the playoff relegation spot.

Over in England, Liverpool is off to a 8-0-0 start outpacing traditional top dog Man City and venerable top-6 Arsenal. Leicester City and Crystal Place are surprise top-6 right now. Chelsea sit in 5th. Shockingly, typical top-6 Man U is 12th and Tottenham is 9th. LFC's eight wins include some nervey one goal wins. Will this be the year they finally win a EPL championship after so many decades?

Defending the Champions League title would be a bonus but having gotten it last year I think they would not be too disappointment if they don't win it again. However, I think they would like to at least get out of group stage. Thus far Liverpool's champions league performances have been shaky with a loss to Napoli and a too close for comfort win against Salzburg.

QPR is doing stunningly well! They are ninth! However, will they be able to hold it together in the marathon 46 game season that is the Championship. They only have one draw as they give up goals but score them as well. They have managed to come out on top more than not.

LA Galaxy report card

How has the new front office (Dennis te Kloese) and sideline (Gullermo Barros Schelotto) done?

Definite thumbs up on the willingness to run out the youth occasionally!
Cuello, Traore, Efrain Alvarez, and Araujo have gotten some minutes and have showed varying degrees of promise.

Polenta and Gonzalez signings have firmed up the back line so a thumbs up there. GBS and company were "stuck" with Feltscher and Skjelvik at the outside backs and remain a liability. It is too much to ask Traore and Araujo to get the lion share of those minutes at their stage of development. The defense is better but it has weaknesses.

The midfield signings remain a question mark. Corona, Antuna, and Favio Alvarez have had some good moments. However, I feel that more was expected. I had hoped Corona would provide some defensive cover allowing JDS to get forward more. But I don't think that has happened. And if Corona was supposed to occasionally provide some offense, I don't think that has happened either. Is he an upgrade over Kitchen? Yes. But did we expect more. Yes.

Antuna and Favio seem fit and lively but in the end, the two have combined for just 4 goals and 4 assists. Considering the press clippings they had coming in, I would have thought we would get more production from them. As it stands, center back Steres has 3 goals, more than either of them and center/left back Polenta has 4 assists equal to the two of them put together.

The Pavon move will be a big test of the talent scouting and player development. There are 11 matches left in the season. Am thinking we should hope to get some combination of goals and assists totaling 10 from Pavon. That is the kind of impact fans will be expecting considering all the fanfare around him.

In terms of tactics and game management, one has to question GBS at times. Yes, he likes to play attacking football and that worked to perfection against LAFC in that 3-2 stunner.

But one has to take into account talent on your side of the field. Given the injuries and suspensions that have occurred over the season, sometimes, given the options to picking the XI, it might just be the better part of valor to "park the bus" and try to grind out a draw. Sometimes the match-up against a particular opponent means you play more conservative as seen in the thrashings LAG suffered at the hand of San Jose and Atlanta.

# # #

QPR season started off with a nice win! Expectations are low at the club as they are still under the shadow of the FFP ruling against them. Realistically, QPR has to concentrate on staying financially viable in a very competitive soccer landscape. Hopefully, their talent scouts and player development departments will be able to keep them in the Championship. As it is, they are in a financial pinch and getting relegated would make a bad situation worse.

Falkenbergs FF probably is at the low(est?) end on wage bill for the Allsvenskan. Their goal is simply to avoid gettting relegated. I'd say it is 50-50 regarding this. At the moment, they are outside the relegation zone! Go FFF!

Elfsborg is mid-table which is about where you would expect them as they don't have the resources of the big city clubs from Stockholm (Djurgarden, AIK, Hammarby), Gothenberg (Hacken, Goteborg), or Malmo (Malmo). Breaking into the top 6 would be punching above their weight and qualifying for European competition would be a spectacular season. Historically, they have often punched above their weight but it hasn't been true the last few years. They last won the league in 2012, broke into the top 6 in 2016, and got into Europa League in 2014.

In the global game of soccer following Elfsborg and FFF is following a minnow but enjoyable in its own way!

QPR budget is probably bigger than LA Galaxy but LAG is my home town team! Nonetheless, I do enjoy checking in on how QPR is doing since the only English soccer match I attended was at their home on Loftus Road!


Presidential Bracketology After Debates II

July 30 debate participants
Marianne Williamson
Tim Ryan
Amy Klobuchar
Pete Buttigieg
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Beto O’Rourke
John Hickenlooper
John Delaney
Steve Bullock

July 31 debate participants
Michael Bennet
Kirsten Gillibrand
Julián Castro
Cory Booker
Joe Biden
Kamala Harris
Andrew Yang
Tulsi Gabbard
Jay Inslee
Bill de Blasio

So where do they stand now?

Biden's has a level of loyal support among those Obama loyalists and Democratic voters who fear a sharp turn to the left. This voting block is probably about ~ 40%? Of course, not all 40% will support Biden because they might view him as gaffe prone, his age, or preference for someone else to carry the mantle.

I wonder how large is the block that wants a leftward move as articulated by Sanders and Warren? I suspect this group is between ~ 40%? Of course, Sanders and Warren together do not account for all 40%. Some in this group may feel Sanders may talk a good game but might not be able to get things done as he can come off as cranky. Likewise, Warren may appeal to true believers but how will she play with more pragmatic voters?

Thus, where does the remaining ~ 20% of the Democratic voters want to go?

Where does Harris (~ 10%) draw her voters from? If she dropped out of the race would they go to Biden? Or would they go to Warren/Sanders?

The same question for Buttigieg (~5%). Where do they go if he drops out?

If you add the top 5 vote totals at the 8/6/2019 RCP poll averages, they account for almost 80% of the votes. The remaining 20% are spread out among the rest of the field. Where do they go? And what is the percentage of "don't know/undecided" voters?

I think the top tier top five hasn't changed.

The scramble will be for the best of the rest because the next debate will have higher requirements for inclusion of which only 7 (marked in bold below) have currently met.

Left regional (~35%)
  1. Warren 
  2. Sanders 
  3. Booker 
  4. Ryan 
  5. Gillibrand 
  6. de Blasio
Governance centrist regional (~34%)
  1. Biden 
  2. Klobuchar 
  3. Delaney  
  4. Hickenlooper 
  5. Bennet 
  6. Bullock
  7. Inslee 
Unconventional regional (~7%)
  1. Buttigieg 
  2. Yang
  3. Williamson
New left regional (~14%)
  1. Harris
  2. O'Rourke
  3. Castro
  4. Gabbard
Those above in italics have met one of the two criteria. 

Thus, if I had to select a "bakers dozen" to make the next debate stage, this would be the list:
  1. Biden
  2. Warren
  3. Sanders
  4. Harris
  5. Buttigieg
  6. Booker
  7. O'Rourke
  8. Yang
  9. Castro
  10. Klobuchar
  11. Delaney
  12. Gabbard
  13. Bullock





2020 Presidential Bracketology updated

Previously, had this bracket and just recently, there was the debate field of 20.

Thursday, June 27, 2019:
Marianne Williamson,
John Hickenlooper
Andrew Yang
Pete Buttigieg
Joe Biden
Bernie Sanders
Kamala Harris
Kirsten Gillibrand
Michael Bennet
Eric Swalwell

Wednesday, June 26, 2019:
Bill de Blasio
Tim Ryan
Julián Castro
Cory Booker
Elizabeth Warren
Beto O’Rourke
Amy Klobuchar
Tulsi Gabbard
Jay Inslee
John Delaney

Thus, the updated brackets:

Left regional

  1. Warren 
  2. Sanders
  3. Booker
  4. Gillibrand
  5. Ryan
  6. de Blasio
I think Warren has gained some ground while Sanders is re-running the 2016 campaign. Admittedly, Sanders is better at it than in 2016 but the field is more crowded. The rest of this regional is lagging behind and the rankings are essentially interchangeable. 

Governance centrist regional
  1. Biden
  2. Klobuchar
  3. Hickenlooper
  4. Inslee
  5. Delaney
  6. Bennet
Within the regional itself, I don't think much has changed as Biden has a huge advantage as the former VP. However, his standing relative to the other candidates in the other regionals took a bit of a hit with the sharp attacks on him during the debate. As it is often said, his experience is both his advantage and disadvantage!

Unconventional regional
  1. Buttigieg
  2. Yang
  3. Williamson
This regional has thinned out as others in this group haven't gotten enough support to get on the debate stage. The bright star of Buttigieg maybe fading out but reports are his fund raising numbers are spectacular so he maybe able to weather this rough patch. 

New left regional
  1. Harris
  2. Castro
  3. O'Rourke
  4. Gabbard
  5. Swalwell
Harris has put some distance to the rest within this group. O'Rourke's stock is going down. Castro's ties to the Obama administration give him some street credibility but it might not be enough against the megawatt abilities of Harris.

Running but didn't make debate:
Bullock (governor of Montana)
Gravel (former senator from Alaska)
Messam (mayor of Miramar, Florida)
Moulton (congressman from Massachusetts)
Sestak (congressman from Pennsylvania)

Star Trek Discovery Season Two Episodes 13 and 14 - Season Finale Two-parter

"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow"
From Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare

***
Beware

Spoilers

Ahead
***

And so the Disco Season Two two parter was named, "Such Sweet Sorrow" as there were many partings in the season finale.

The Disco crew records emotional farewell messages to their loved ones as they prepare to take their ship to the future.

Fans say good-bye to Pike, Spock, Number One, and NCC-1701.

Burnham is separated from Spock, Amanda, Sarek, and Tyler, perhaps forever.

Additionally, Cornwell sacrifices herself to save the Enterprise. And as the show takes a new direction, Chancellor La'Rell will no longer be bringing her unique flair to the proceedings.

As I've been saying all along, the acting and character development has been solid as has the production design. In this two-parter, we get all the character moments of the rah-rah variety as well as the tear-jerker ones in good measure.

Some observations and complaints in no particular order follow .....

It was a delight to see the Klingons and the Baul ships riding to the rescue when things looked bleak. My "canon complaint" is that the Klingons in Disco season one and season two seem vastly more powerful than the more evenly matched "Cold War" analog foe we saw in ST-TOS.

As for the Baul Fleet, let's hope that Saru's people didn't wipe out the Baul in an uprising and that the Baul fleet led by Saru's sister Saranah was a Joint Mission that united the two long time enemies of Kanimar.

Though the writers did toss in the line that munitions engineers were all busy when the photon torpedo got lodged in the Enterprise, it is rather strange to have Admiral Cornwell and the First Officer Number One play unexploded bomb technicians for so many minutes only to be followed by the Captain Pike joining Cornwell in trying to figure out "which wire to cut" in the torpedo. Of course, all of this was to set up the send off of Cornwell in a blaze of self-sacrifice and for Pike to reflect on his own future as he could have been the one to sacrifice himself.

Pike does have an interesting problem "knowing his fate." When faced with a dangerous decision, does he take the view that he will survive because he knows his fate that leads to death lay elsewhere? Or will he be more cautious? It was an interesting plot move to "lock his fate" as the price of obtaining the time crystal. But as a matter of story telling, the writers backed off this idea rapidly as everyone else who touched the time crystal saw much more limited views of the future and the perspective of those visions was that they represent only one possible future.

Some quibbles about the Control AI residing in Leland. The whole point of artificial intelligence is that it can reside in a dispersed fashion; thus, the shut down of the section 31 attack fleet when Leland died was a little too easy.

The biggest story hole though is the 7 red bursts and the 7 red signals. At the beginning, when Pike is authorized to take charge of Discovery, he talks about observing 7 red bursts that could not be accurately located. Eventually, there are 7 red signals seen one by one through the season that can be located that are consistent with the locations of the red bursts.

We find out the red signals are generated by Burnham as she uses the time suit. After each jump, she sends out the signals as a spatial-temporal bread crumb trail.

But what about the red bursts?

What are those?

Are the red bursts the wormhole openings?

If so, Mama Burnham made HUNDREDS of jumps so there should have been hundreds of red bursts!

And of course, as I noted in the very first episode, are these red bursts-red signals light based phenomena? If so, the writers failed to recognize that the distances of galactic space are hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of light years. The writers treated the red bursts and red signals as largely instantaneous events, a major science boo-boo.

Overall the Disco writer's room sending Discovery and crew 950 years into the future was the easiest way to free the show from "canon constraints." One wonders what the show would have been like if they made that choice up front in season one? Did they feel they needed to link themselves to the TOS timeline to collect fans for the first two seasons? And after doing so, they then felt free to move to their own world building?

There have been nice "easter egg" moments a TOS fan like myself enjoyed. I think the most effective use was things in and around Captain Pike. Anson Mount was fantastic as Captain Pike. Would the Star Trek franchise have been better served if the series was based on Pike-Spock-Number One? During season one of Disco, I thought the show might have been better served being based on Georgiou-Burnham-Saru.

Besides a Pike based show, how would a Georgiou led show have been received? Instead, what we have is the noble prime Georgiou killed off in season 1 episode 2 and the Terran-evil with a some good Emperor Georgiou transferred over to the Prime universe. Perhaps the latter character would be more interesting to write for in some ways but look at how much fan support there has been for Captain Pike's unambiguously good role model captain! Wouldn't there have been great stories to mine for the noble prime Georgiou?

Instead, the show runners opted for the long arc of season one's convoluted war with the Klingons which had the Mirror Universe diversion! It felt a bit like the show 24 where the main arc of the threat that Jack Bauer had to deal with gets "padded" out with some sometimes silly side tracks to get the show out to the full 24 episodes.

In this regard, season 2 was better managed where some what at first glance appeared to be "side tracks" turned out to be part of the bigger arc. Indeed, even the "short Trek" preseason episodes plugged in some narrative points picked up in the season.

Overall, I think season two was better than season one. Will see how they take the show in season three untethered from any timeline of prior Trek!

Live long and prosper!

#StarTrekDiscovery


Liverpool 4 Barcelona 3 (agg)

Screen grab from the Liverpool Echo.


Messi's magic gave Barcelona the 3-0 lead in the semi-finals.

But the atmosphere of Anfield brought what could be considered one of the biggest comebacks in European football history!

It was truly a team effort by LFC.

Two goals by Origi who started in place of Firmino who was injured.

Two goals by Wijnaldum the sub who came in at half-time for the injured Robertson.

Two assists by the youngster Alexander-Arnold.

One assist by Shaqiri who started in place of the injured Salah.

Mane didn't get on the score sheet but was a threat.

Becker got some big saves in goal to preserve the clean sheet.

Henderson and Milner, the quiet midfielders were where they needed to be on offense and defense.

Center backs Matip and van Dijk and D-mid Fabinho patrolled the field - you can't stop Barcelona from getting their chances but you can attempt to limit them so they don't completely over-run your club and these guys made Suarez and Messi earn their chances.

See the amazing highlights at Bleacher Report!

#YNWA

Star Trek Discovery Episode 2.12

The second season is over with the two-part finale but I’m still playing catch up having seen episode 12 the set-up for the finale .....

*** Beware ***

*** Spoilers ***

*** Ahead ***

Two arcs in latest episode and as always the acting and production values are superb but story line a bit muddled. In arc A, we follow Pike’s visit to Klingon monastic planet Boreth and Anson Mount knocks it out of the park. He chooses his fate willingly consistent with his character. But the premise of a sealed fate for him is opposite of “open destiny” that was the emotional finish to episode 11. Also whole time crystals idea seems haphazard to me and allows for “deus ex machina” options for the writer’s room.

Meanwhile in arc B, Spock and Michael face Control that looks a lot like the Star Gate SG-1 adversary The Replicators! We all could guess it was a trap and was just waiting for how it would be sprung. As for the story line, what is Control’s obsession with Michael? Does Control have time travel knowledge independent of Red Angel? And red burst thing remains confusing. Will see how it all resolved in the final two episodes?!

#StarTrekDiscovery

Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth pla...