Friday, July 31, 2015

Soccer round up

Falkenberg is hanging in there just staying above the relegation zone! Will they be able to stay in the top league for a third season? This is going to be exciting to follow. Last year, they were right on the edge but they hung on!

Elfsborg took leg #1 of round 3 in Europa Cup 2-1 at home. They go on the road to Norway for the second leg and a 1-0 loss would boot them out of the competition on away goals. However, the nice Europa league run they have had so far has not been matched by Allsvenskan play where they have slipped to fourth place. Fortunately, they do have a game in hand and if they were to win that game they would be in third place and only 1 point behind the leaders.

The LA Galaxy can't seem to win on the road. They were soundly beaten in Houston and this Saturday they are in Colorado. With players back from Gold Cup duty, we should be seeing something closer to their full strength team this Saturday. Will be interesting to see how the Galaxy fare with the departure of Penado and the arrival of Ricketts. I would think this is a slight to moderate downgrade in talent between the pipes. The Galaxy have the most goals in the MLS (36) but they also have surrendered the most goals in the Western Conference (28) so defense has been an issue with the Galaxy. This may have to do more with inconsistency in the back-line rather than the goalkeeper but we shall see.

Liverpool go to Helsinki for a friendly and then one last friendly back in the UK and then the 2015-2016 season starts! Good to see Lambert get an opportunity at West Brom. Wonder where Borini will wind up and, of course, will Liverpool be able to move Balotelli?

Will be interesting who is in the starting XI against Stoke, the team that battered them at the season finale last year.

About the only "lock" picks for the starting card:
Mignolet in goal. Skrtel and Clyne in the back four. Henderson and Milner at midfield. Coutinho somewhere/anywhere!

If Firmino and Benteke are match ready, they will be in for sure.

Thus, who gets the final two spots on the defense? Sakho, Lovren, Toure, Moreno, or Gomez?

Who joins up front? Lallana, Ings, Origi, or Ibe?

And what about Can? Will he be a defender or midfielder? Last season, he was a bright spot and with the revolving door of injuries he was almost always a must start player. This season, if everyone is healthy, don't see him breaking into the XI all that often.

Is the Middle Class Really Falling Behind?

Run a Google search with that question.

From the hits, you would think it is a slam-dunk that the middle class is falling behind.

Are there any voices offering a counter narrative to what is taken as a blatantly obvious truth?

One can count on Cato to have a contrary opinion which is one of the reasons why I like to check their web page now and then to get a different spin on what is the "conventional wisdom" offered by the media.

I am not an economist nor play one in the movies but here is what I think are the key points from the Reynolds' article.

1.  The White House Council of Economic Advisors used the average household income of the bottom 90% to define middle class. Reynolds' argues that this may not be a good measure of how the middle class is doing. If one uses that number, the middle class has been stuck since 1968 an assertion almost no one would make.

2.  He argues that if one uses after-tax median income, the middle class is making progress. However, those gains have stalled from 2007 to 2013 with a slight pull back.

3.  He also points out these measurements do not take into account wealth in tax-free savings accounts. I presume those are retirement accounts.

The key question is the definition of middle class.

Is the bottom 90% "the middle class?" Or is it a narrower slice of the population? Perhaps the 20th to 80th percentile?

And by what criteria? Average of annual income? Median of annual income? After-tax income? All assets (cash, investments, homes, cars, etc)?

I suspect one can cherry pick the criteria to get the result one wants. As my old primary care doctor used to say, liars figure and figures lie.

Politics: the 20% who think their party is too wimpy

The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump says something about party politics.

According to RCP, Sanders is polling around 18% while Trump is getting 21%.

Does anyone really think either of these guys will become President?

The noise these two are making reveals the reality that within the two parties there are about 20% in each party who feel their party just doesn't get it and somebody needs to slap people around and shake things up.

On the Republican side, 79% want somebody other than Trump and unfortunately (or fortunately) depending on your political views that 79% is spread out among a whole bunch of relatively mainstream candidates who have won elective offices in their respective home states at some point of their political careers. Unless Trump totally self-destructs sometime soon, he will continue to bleed the party as an all too happy media covers him making a mockery of the GOP. At some point, some of the candidates will have to consider dropping out so two or three candidates become the viable ones easily distancing Trump in the primaries. But people running for POTUS are not known for putting their egos aside easily!

On the Democrat side, 82% want somebody other than Sanders. Fortunately (or unfortunately) depending on your political views, the bulk of that support belongs to Clinton. The worry for the Democrats is that some scandal that is brewing gains traction such that Clinton gets knocked out leaving the party with a scramble to find a truly viable candidate which Sanders is not.

Monday, July 27, 2015

USMNT finishes fourth in Gold Cup

Well, that was a disappointment.

Though the US was tied after 120 minutes with Panama, the stats showed that Panama dominated the game.

Don't know if the USA defenders were too slow or they were out of position too often but Panama was consistently threatening to score. On offense, US passing was wretched. Bradley, usually, pretty reliable had many passes go awry some short and some long.

Anyway, it clearly looked like Panama was the highly motivated team and the USMNT looked disinterested. Nonetheless, despite mailing it in, they got the game to PK where they finally were put out of their misery and rightly defeated.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Oldest Copy of Koran Found In UK

A couple of days ago, there was the startling headline of the oldest copy of the Koran found in the collections at the University of Birmingham in the UK.

The carbon dating of the item placed the date somewhere in the range of 568 and 645. This puts the document within a couple of decades of when Muhammad lived. Call me a nerd, but I think it is always exciting to hear about ancient documents!

In the article, Prof. Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam, said, "These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed."

It would be interesting to hear if his view is shared by other scholars. However, it isn't a surprising assertion as the same conclusion was made about the Jewish Scriptures after finding the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is also the conclusion from comparing the voluminous copies of the Christian Scriptures found over the centuries.

People assume that textual transmission is going to result in gibberish like the "telephone" game where a message is passed from person-to-person and the end result is nothing like the beginning message.

However, experience has shown that religious texts are preserved fairly well all things considered.

First, it is highly likely that people who copy religious texts are going to be highly motivated to be accurate as they have a great commitment to the beliefs described by those texts.

Second, if the work is done in a community setting, there are more than one pair of eyes checking the texts. Thus, texts that make large errors will almost certainly be identified and pulled from circulation.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jamaica 2 USA 1: Two steps forward one step back

Expectations for teams grow with success. At one point, team USA was simply proud to be in the competition, win or lose. Eventually, it grew to the point where wins were more common than losses and losses were viewed as learning experience. Now, we have reached a point where losses are viewed as learning experiences and significant disappointments.

The loss to Jamaica is a learning experience for the team. But it is also a huge disappointment because it was a game the team should have won: they dominated possession and put the shots on goal.

Instead, they suffered a high profile defeat due to a lapse in concentration by the goalie in how he handled the ball that set up the second goal from a free kick. It will be argued that the central defenders were not marking properly on the set piece leading to the first goal. And finally, on offense, the USA had its chances but close doesn't count as the ball has to go into the net. What separates the top level teams from the wannabes is cashing in those opportunities and being able to bounce back from the occasional howler. Thus, objectively, the USA remain wannabes on the world stage.

Of course, some fans are on the ledge calling for Coach Klinsmann to be sacked. The adage in sports is don't get too high or too low. Indeed, a high profile loss but on balance the team is making progress.

Jason Davis at ESPNFC offers up a top-10 list of bad losses by team USA and rank this Gold Cup loss as #2.

I've only been actively following the USMNT since 2010 so many of these losses were not familiar to me. I do recall watching the loss to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup. I don't remember if experts were expecting the USA to win that game. But as a novice viewer, at that time, I did not get the sense the USA was the "better" team just failing to cash in opportunities. To my untrained eye, it looked like an even match. Looking on the internet for game stats, it looked like an even match.

In any event, Klinsmann will continue to try to find the right combination of veterans and younger talent to put on the field. If there wasn't such a good crop of younger players developing, the future of team USA would be in question. As it is, the potential is all there and the challenge is to realize that potential and in particular in high profile matches. That didn't happen against Jamaica and the team and the coach will take some heat for the defeat and rightly so.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

LA 5 SJ 2: Gerrard debut in MLS

It was a team effort but frontmen Keane and Gerrard headlined the game.

San Jose capitalized on some early sluggishness and jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Anyway, the Galaxy began a comeback when Gerrard took a hit in the penalty box and Keane took the PK to make it 2-1. Shortly after that, Gerrard received a deflected entry pass and put it in the net for his first MLS goal and leveled the match 2-2.

In the second half, Gerrard fed a low to the ground free kick that Keane beat the defender to and poked in to make it 3-2. Gerrard slapped in a loose ball into the net but the goal was waived off due to a foul in the box just moments prior. Keane took the PK and made it 4-2. Late in the game a dejected SJ could not keep up with the scramble in front of the goalkeeper and Lletget headed in to make it 5-2.

When the Galaxy players at Gold Cup duty return and Gio dos Santos gets added, the team has the potential to make a run at another MLS title. Of course, will all the pieces fit together? And, there is always the injury bug that can bite at any time. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers!

It was quite the fan experience to be in the General Admissions section 119. To our left was the Angel City Brigade supporter club and to our right were the San Jose traveling supporters. Both groups had their drums going and were in full voice singing and chanting the whole game!
Sixth and final episode of from Liverpool to LA

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Galaxy starting XI

Big news with the signing of Giovani dos Santos. Coach and GM Arena talks about dos Santos in the video below.

So what will the team look like when he is available for the line-up sheet in August?

Gargan, Leonardo, Gonzalez, Rogers
Central midfield:
Gerrard, Juninho
Wide midfield:
Lletget, dos Santos
Keane, Zardes

DeLa Garza, Dunivant
Husidic, Walker
Gordon, Villarreal

What do you think?

Will our DPs match up with other MLS club's DPs?

A lot of other teams have picked up DPs as the MLS is continuing to lure more high level talent.

Perhaps, the LA Galaxy competitive advantage is identifying solid mid-price and lower priced-young talent on the rise.

Barring injuries, the Galaxy should make the play-offs! Of course, six teams per conference make the playoffs so that isn't a huge accomplishment. But then of course, will all the pieces come together for them to make a deep run in the post-season?

Go Galaxy!

Episode 5 of Liverpool to LA...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Liverpool Starting XI for 2015-2016 Season?

Will Liverpool land any more signings?

Which players will be sold off to raise cash?

We shall see.

With the signings so far plus the selling of Sterling, the team is about even in terms of cash. Liverpool does have a log jam of players they are paying that they aren't sure they want to keep: Lambert, Borini, Balotelli leap to mind. In the end, they may keep at least one of them in case of injuries to starters and for squad work in the hectic schedule.

Will they splash out cash for a star player?

Benteke is often mentioned but until some exec is standing next to a player holding a Liverpool shirt in a press conference all the rumors are just that -- rumors!

But as it stands, who would be the starting XI at this moment?

My guesses:
Goalie: Mignolet
Defense: Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Sakho/Moreno
Defensive midfield: Henderson, Milner
Offensive midfield: Coutinho, Lallana/Markovic
Forward: Firmino, Ings/Origi

UPDATE: Benteke has signed!
Defense: Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Sakho (Moreno, Can, Gomez as needed)
Defensive midfield: Henderson, Milner (Can, Lucas, Allen as needed)
Offensive midfield: Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana/Markovic/Ibe (Who will claim the 3rd spot on a regular basis? Would think Lallana if healthy)
Forward: Benteke (Ings/Origi when extra forward needed or when Benteke needs a break)

Subs and question marks:
Goalie: Bogdan
Enrique - Didn't play a lot last season. I suppose you need to keep for injuries and squad work for FA-League-Europa Cup.
Can - Played a lot last season. Is he going to be defense or midfield? And could he crack on any regular basis the starting XI considering the XI I listed above?
Toure - Older but solid role player.
Gomez - youngster, new signing
Lucas - Solid role player
Allen - Solid role player
Ibe - Youngster, with lots of upside
Lambert - keep or not?
Borini - keep or not?
Balotelli - keep or not?
Sturidge - injured currently but when fit will start

Who else would have serious consideration for making the starting XI and substitute VII on a regular basis?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Galaxy 2 Club America 1

Yup, it was only a friendly. But Club America was not in the mood to be beaten and so they did not use the liberal substitution policies available for friendlies and they picked up a few yellow cards. Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy did an "A" team for the first half and a "B" team for the second half.

Here are the highlights from the game.

Keane's goal was the result of an incredible pass and then Keane snagged it down and put it in the net!

Meanwhile, in the words of the FS1 announcer, "Gordon rising like a salmon" put the header in the net for the winning goal!

The LA Galaxy PR machine has put out episode 3 of From Liverpool to Los Angeles:

And episode 4 .......

Next up is a US Open Cup match against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday. Am guessing Gerrard maybe used in the first half as he was in the friendly against Club America to continue the effort to get him familiar with his teammates and the MLS game. Gerrard made some nice long passes against Club America and had one hard shot on goal. Will see how he quickly he and his teammates get on the same wavelength in terms of passing and running at the goalie. Additionally, some features of MLS life are warmer temperatures (unlike the usually colder and damper Premier League) and the occasional stadium at elevation. Rio Tinto in Salt Lakes at 4500 feet. Colorado Rapid's Park is at 5200 feet. So will see if he plays and how much in US Open against Salt Lake.

The other question for the coaching staff is how much of the "B" team will be used in the game since US Open Cup is played under regular substitution rules (only 3). In the last US Open Cup match, Coach Arena's starting XI included 6 of the "B" team used against Club America.

On Friday, LA returns to MLS play against San Jose.

Its a log jam in the Western Conference with Seattle, Vancouver, and Dallas with 32 points. Portland and LA at 31 points. Kansas City is at 30 points but have 4 games in hand. The clubs besides LA have 1 or 2 games in hand.