Liverpool - no time to panic ... yet

In sports, the adage is don't get too high, don't get too low.

It was great that Liverpool got two wins right out of the gate and played Arsenal to a standstill. But don't get too high as they merely scored 2 goals in 3 games.

The loss to West Ham, 3-0, was a bad one. But don't get too low and blow up the team and the lineup and fire the coach.

Here is an item over at Liverpool Echo suggesting Ings should get more time. With Coutinho out with the red card, this is a sensible move. Perhaps, a 4-4-2 formation with Benteke and Ings up at the top. But who are the 4 midfielders?

Milner for sure. If Henderson is back to health, he is also in. With the investment in Firmino and his getting closer to full game endurance and comfort with his team mates, you put him in the XI as well. The question is who is your fourth one? Lallana (is he healthy?), Lucas, Can, or Ibe? I'd go with Lucas and let Milner/Henderson/Firmino be more attack minded.

UPDATE: Still not clear Henderson is going to be available. If not available, plug in Can.

As for the back four, despite the blunders, I think you stick with them. Just not convinced they will be better off starting Moreno, Sakho, or Toure over any of the current four.

Amateur Theologian

I recognize that professional theologians have training in the original languages, taken classes in church history and systematic theology, and spend most of their time mulling over the Bible text and the knots of trying to bridge the thought world of Christian faith and daily life in a world skeptical of god (generic) and Jesus as the Christ (specific). My hats is off to them for their efforts!

In this blog space, I free acknowledge my reflections are in the realm of amateur theology. My goal is to give my best understanding of the Scriptures. Over the years, there have been various "projects" focusing on specific books of the Bible and other times specific topics.

Recently, have noticed that the Apostle Paul gets a lot of the brainpower of professional theologians. Makes sense given that much of the New Testament was written by him. And, not surprisingly, Christian theologians write many volumes about the doctrine of Christ (Christology).

Thus, for my next amateur theologian project, I was thinking of looking at the Apostle Peter's writings pertaining to the Holy Spirit.

Is there as lively a debate in Petrine theology as there is on Pauline theology?

Certainly, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) is lively in regards to the continualist and cessationist debate. Look for the label Petrine Pneumatology to follow the posts on this topic. Haven't set myself a schedule as regular life often is quite busy. But I wanted to give this topic some thought and see where it leads.

0 for 4 this soccer weekend

One would figure by rooting for four different teams, one of them would win!

Alas, this weekend, my clubs whiffed with three laying goose eggs: LA Galaxy lost 1-0, Liverpool FC lost 3-0, Falkenberg FF lost 1-0, and to cap-off the grand slam, IF Elfsborg lost 2-1. Don't think this has happened since I started following FOUR teams!

It is international break so all four clubs will be taking some time off with the exception of players with national team call-ups.

Meanwhile, the LA Dodgers face a huge 3-game showdown with the SF Giants. Go Dodgers!

LIverpool vs. West Ham

I remember last year, Rodgers had to juggle the line up a lot due to injuries and trying to push the right buttons to get something to work.

Right now, with two 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw against Arsenal, it isn't time to make changes. I'd go with the same lineup as last week. Haven't heard if Henderson is back to game speed. Thus, Mignolet in goal.
Defense: Clyne, Lovren, Skrtel, Gomez
Midfield: Can, Milner, Lucas
Forwards: Firmino, Coutinho, Benteke

Will be interesting to see if Firmino is ready to go a full 90?

If not, will we see Ibe or Ings off the bench for him. I'd say Ings. Moreno will probably continue to be the late substitute defenseman of choice.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

San Jose is up 1-0 at the half. Seems to me they are faster to the loose balls and their defensive pressure is causing hurried and errant passing by the Galaxy. Also, seems like the SJ defensive backs are using their size to frustrate dos Santos by initiating contact and knocking him down.

Don't know enough soccer to know what Coach Arena is going to do in the second half to change the narrative of the game. Something will have to be done on the Galaxy side as San Jose is dominating and are sitting on a 1-0 lead and if the Galaxy doesn't change the flow of the game it could be 2-0 in short order.

UPDATE: Oh my, red card on Galaxy defender Leonardo at the 47 minute mark!

FINAL: 1-0, San Jose wins it. Hats off to San Jose, they put the pressure on in the first half and got the goal. They kept pressing and forced Leonardo to bring down the breakaway leading to the red card. But it seemed going down to 10 increased the Galaxy urgency and San Jose seemed to relax. Galaxy put some threats to score but seem to make one too many passes or didn't connect on the key final pass. It was a reality check game that tells the Galaxy that people aren't going to just fall down and let the Galaxy take the wins. San Jose seemed to make it a point to rough up Dos Santos to throw him off stride. And with speed to burn down the sides they put the Galaxy on the back foot in the first half.

Weekend Sports Roundup

Dunno what to say about the Dodgers. Starting pitching is doing reasonably well but the relief pitchers give up the tying and go ahead runs. The offense isn't offering much support. What can you say when you spend hundred of millions of dollars on player salaries and wind up with a team that might not make the playoffs! Yikes!

Inspirational article in the LAT this past Sunday. One of the representative moments of the Giant-Dodger rivalry was when Marichal (Giants) hit Roseboro (Dodger) on the head with his bat 50 years ago in 1965. Eventually, the two men did reconcile! As big a rivalry the two teams have, in the end, its just baseball.

Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy took down NYCFC, 5-1. Yup, you read that right, 5-1. It was 1-0 at the half with the two teams pretty even though LA appeared to be gaining the upper hand. But in the second half, the flood gates opened and the Galaxy ran all over the field against an increasingly hapless NYCFC.

Elfsborg kept pace with a win to remain in the second spot. They also won their Svenska Cupen match during the weekday. That is the Swedish equivalent to the FA Cup and the US Open Cup where all levels of the football pyramid get to participate.

Meanwhile, Falkenberg needs a draw against Sundsvall to get out of the relegation zone. A win would be even better. Go FFF!

On Monday, Liverpool goes to London to face Arsenal. After two fairly weak 1-0 wins, Liverpool faces one of the big 4 and it will be a test of whether the summer signings will come together. Figure Liverpool will field the same XI as in the first two wins with the exception that Can will probably take Henderson's spot due to injury and Firmino will probably take Lallana's spot due to injury. Would look for Ings to get in if Firmino is still not up for 90 minutes and especially if Liverpool goes down 1-0 and needs the extra attacker. Other possible subs getting into the game are Moreno and Origi for fresh legs. Will be interesting to see who else Rodgers puts on the 18 with Henderson and Lallana unavailable. Maybe Markovic and Lucas?

UPDATE (over at the Liverpool Echo):
LFC line up to face #AFC: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Lucas, Milner, Can, Coutinho, Firmino, Benteke.
Confirmed #LFC subs v @Arsenal: Bogdan, Sakho, Moreno, Origi, Ings, Ibe, Rossiter

UPDATE: 0-0 but both sides had great opportunities. Saw about 15 minutes of the first half at the student union during my lunch hour. Liverpool was taking it to Arsenal during that stretch. The EPL game is fast and with very swift accurate passing relative to the MLS game. At least that is my "eyeball" test as a relatively new soccer viewer. From reading post-game accounts, the general feeling is that the real difference this year for Liverpool is the back four. The addition of Clyne and Gomez has been synergistic - sum is greater than the parts. Last year, in the games I saw, the defense was often scrambling and over-run. And I suppose that was heightened by the fact, they often went with a back three last season. Liverpool, last season, would rely on the adage the best defense is a strong offense which works against inferior competition. Last year, fans got nervous when Liverpool had to "park the bus" to defend a lead or preserve a draw. I think this year that will be less of a concern. At least on data from three games!

CCL Match: LA Galaxy vs. Comunicaciones

FT - and that's all folks. Galaxy pick up 2 wins and gaudy goal differential numbers heading into the road portion of CCL which will be in late September and late October.

90 - 2 minutes of added time.

88 - Keane dancing around with the ball back to Walker back to Keane and its 5-0!

86 - long ball to dos Santos who swings it left for Keane to put it into the net! 4-0.

77 - on the whole LAG dominating possession with some near miss shots.

76 - Lletget in for Gordon.

53 - Keane to Gordo gooooool! 3-0.

46 - Keane in for Zardes.

HT - after the initial 2 goals, Com has been more competitive. LAG with more shots but not all that threatening. Will be interesting to see the substitution by Coach Arena for LAG.

40 minute - another free kick for LAG. Com defenders taking to the hack attack defense; but not much is happening for either side

28 minute - Gordon takes a shot .... right at the goalie; Gordo missed the open man to his left.

24 minute - is it my imagination or is the field looking pretty ragged looking? I suppose with the drought in California they might not water the grass as much?

21 minute - corner from Comunicaciones who have been dominating the last few minutes but Galaxy go on the counter attack but Comunicaciones recover in time.

#LAGalaxy #CCL #LAvCOM

LA Galaxy (MLS Champions) vs. Comunicaciones (Guatemala champions).

Wow, just turned the game on TV (Fox Sports 2) and it is already 2-0 LA Galaxy on top!

The starting line-up for LA:

Substitutes available: Wolverton (G), DeLaGarza (D), Leonardo (D), Sorto (D), Juninho (M), Lletget (M), and Keane (F).

Similar line up compared to the first CCL game against Central (Trinidad and Tobago champion) though this time Dos Santos is starting as opposed to coming off the bench.

More Soccer Roundup

In Monday action, Falkenberg lost late to Hammarby, 1-0. FFF remains just barely above the relegation line. The relegation drama is one part of soccer we don't have in MLS. This format give motivation for teams as there is quite a bit of money on the table to be lost if one falls from a higher level league. Thus, there is drama at the top (winning a championship) and bottom (avoiding relegation) of many soccer leagues. Of course, teams in the middle need to find a balance between hiring new talent to try to go up the table and keeping existing talent from being raided by more lucrative clubs.

Also in Monday action, Liverpool defeated Bournemouth, 1-0. Didn't see the game but read the post-game analysis. The general feeling was that it was a pretty even match and that Bournemouth had a goal waved off that may have been a good goal and that Liverpool's goal was a missed offsides call. In MLS world, there are lots of complaints about the referee's work. Alas, even in a top three in the world league like EPL there are also complaints! The game is simply too fast for the refs to catch everything and "instant" reply isn't going to work in a sport that prides itselft in the continuous nature of the playing.

In Tuesday action, LA Galaxy play in CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). Hope to watch the game on TV tonight and may live blog my impressions?

The big news for LAG is the rumors that Zardes may be recruited away from the Galaxy to the top level Belgian league. For those new to MLS, there is a team salary cap of which three designated players (DP) do not count toward the cap. For LA, the three DP are Keane, Gerrard, and Dos Santos. The salaries of the rest of the team count toward the cap. Thus, Zardes a rising star, is paid below free market wages. Zardes should get quite a raise going to Europe and stiffer on the field competition; thus improving him as a player. Eventually, he could return to MLS and command a DP level salary. As a fan, would be great to have him stay at LAG but the nature of the global business of soccer says making the move makes the most sense for his long term development.

Eventually, MLS will grow enough that there will be more DP slots and a higher salary cap for the rest of the club. But, at this point in the development of MLS, that is not in the cards. To get a sense of the salaries around the world, check out this article.

Soccer Roundup

LA Galaxy defeated FC Dallas 2-1 on Saturday.

Game temperature was 90F and so the game did look sluggish but FC Dallas did seem to have a spring in their step in comparison and rightly got a 1-0 lead on clearly more assertive play.

But soccer is a rude game in that all it takes is a few moments of inspiration on the attack or lapse of concentration on the defense and the game changes 180 degrees. The Galaxy capitalized in a short stretch of ~ 5 minutes in the second half with two goals by Keane!

On Sunday, Elfsborg won 2-0 over Djurgarden allowing the club to move to second place on the table. Two thirds of the season is complete and its a log jam at the top of the table with five clubs separated by a mere 4 points.

On Monday, Falkenberg is in action against Hammarby. FFF is 13th (15th and 16th is relegation and 14th is playoff for relegation) and just above the line. A home victory tonight by FFF will allow them to breath a little easier but its tough anyway you slice it when you are in the bottom half of the table. Hammarby is in 12th so they aren't much better off. Should be a good match up.

On Monday, Liverpool host Bournemouth. Will be interesting to see if Rodgers writes the same XI on the card tonight. One possible switch is to start Firmino for Ibe and give him ~ 60 minutes or so to see how close he is to match fitness. With three defenders sitting on yellow cards, one wonders if Toure or Moreno will get a start or substituted in early if Liverpool get a comfortable lead. Can and Ings will get some time as well if Liverpool can get the lead on Bournemouth.

GOP 1st Debate the Top Ten

Didn't get to see the first debate with the other seven.

Did see the prime-time debate with the top 10 candidates.

Pop quiz: can you name the top 10 candidates?

I'll mention all 10 at some point in the observations below and mark their first appearance in bold.

On policy, with the GOP, you are going to get strong defense no matter what. It is just a question of degree and confidence speaking about it with some specificity.

On the specificity front, Gov. Christie wins that by talking about the Ohio Class Submarine, something Hugh Hewitt has used almost as a "litmus" test for seriousness about national defense. Because of the large number of candidates, I'm not certain each candidate got some form of national security question.

On the economy, with the GOP you are going to get (1) reform regulations and (2) reform the tax code. Again, it is just a question of degree and confidence speaking about it with some specificity. And here is where the governors do have an advantage as they could also say, I've done it in my state. Gov. Bush, Gov. Walker, Gov. Christie and Gov. Kasich had that opportunity.

The other thing you can see in the debate is personality.

For instance, combative is a double edged sword. Overdo it and people think you are mean. Do it just right, you come across as someone with conviction.

Mr. Trump came across as over-the-top in my opinion. However, as Gov. Kasich pointed out he is tapping into something that some people feel and can't be ignored. Sen. Paul and Gov. Christie skated right on the boarder-line during that dust up over the NSA data collection.

Staying calm is a good quality in a leader. However, in television, if you are too calm you might not stand out especially in an era of confrontational television. In this regard, one might feel that Gov. Bush and Gov. Walker are calm leaders. On the other hand, you might feel they lack passion.

Humor is another double-edged sword. Overdo it and people think you aren't serious. Do it just right, you come across as authentic.

Gov. Huckabee got off some zingers but might have gone to that well a little too much. Dr. Carson was on target on this front.

Sharing some personal stories can help connect with voters and so Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz humanized themselves with their family histories though Gov. Kasich mentioning his postman father twice might have been a bit too much.

Democrat voters are more likely to nominate younger candidates. They nominated Clinton/Gore in 1992 and Obama in 2008. The Republicans have tended to go with more experienced candidates. Also, if they have anyone younger on the ticket, they usually go in the VP slot. Thus, Sen. Rubio and Sen. Cruz in GOP world are primed for VP slots unless the preference for more experienced candidates has faded. If there was a Democratic politician with Sen. Rubio or Sen. Cruz's personal stories and excellent communication skills, I would think Hillary Clinton's front-runner status would be seriously dented much as Sen. Obama that in 2008?

In any case, winnowing will eventually take place and it will come down to a "final four." As I see it there are two slots for governors which is currently held by Bush and Walker though Christie and Kasich made a strong introduction of themselves last night. There is one slot for the young rising star which Rubio and Cruz can fill with Rubio with a slight edge. And the fourth slot belonging to someone who sends a message. In this category is Trump, Huckabee, Paul, and Carson. Of these four, I think Carson has the most staying power as Trump and Paul may wear out their welcomes and Huckabee is old news. The wild card is whether somebody from the other seven can break into the top tier. Fiorina probably has the best chance with her biography and communication skills. But in order for her to break through, some of the top ten will need to drop out.

LA Galaxy in CONCACAF Champions League

Coach Arena and the brain trust have to decide how much the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) means to them.

The Galaxy are in the hunt for a play-off spot in the MLS. However, they will also be playing a total of four CCL games mid-week during the rest of the season. These competitions test the depth and fitness of any club.

Thus, does Arena put out his #1 line-up tonight for the CCL match up?

He also has to plan for a big showdown with Seattle this weekend where a win will help the Galaxy keep pace in the hunt for a play-off spot.

MLS teams don't have the massive budgets of the English Premier League where the #2 squad of most clubs would probably beat many teams from weaker Leagues. Instead, the MLS #1 squad includes high level players in the three "designated player" slots, several well paid (by MLS standards) in the $100,000 to $1,000,000 range, and the starting XI is rounded out by a few journeyman players earning from the league minimum up to $100,000. The #2 squad will be comprised of mid-level players who have skill but can no longer play a full 90 minutes on a regular basis, up-and-coming players below $100,000 (who someday could become stars in the league), and squad players making the minimum.

Thus, for CCL, will Arena use his #1 squad? Or will he mix and match? Perhaps 2/3 of the #1 squad and 1/3 from the #2 squad? Also, he has to take into account any injuries on the club. Some will outright not play so they can recover. But what about the player with the slight injury who could still play? Does he rest them from CCL so they will be more fit for MLS?

The answers will be revealed when he fills out the line-up card tonight.

Go Galaxy!

UPDATE:  Arena has confidence in his B team! And indeed, they dominated Central FC. Only Zardes and Gordon from the A team started. Lletget, dos Santos, and DeLaGarza from the A team were substituted in at various points. I wonder what the scouting on Communicaciones FC will indicate in terms of the starting line-up. Am guessing a team from the Guatemalan league might merit more A team players than a team from Trinidad and Tobago!

UPDATE:  Found a "ranking" web page. Don't know how good they are (wonder if 538 of ESPN is eventually going to get into this?) but certainly at the top levels it makes sense based on the reputation of those clubs. Would guess the rankings become less clear cut the further down you go in the list. According to this site, within the CONCACAF the Galaxy is #18, Central FC is #72, and interestingly, the next CCL opponent Communicaciones FC is #5.

Win by away goals explained

Took me awhile to get it but I think I got the idea behind "winning by away goals."

Elfsborg won leg #1 2-1 against Odd in Europa League Round Three.

Today, leg #2 takes place. The winner is based on the aggregate score of the two legs.

Obviously, if the aggregate score is NOT equal, the side with more goals wins.

But what happens if the aggregate score is tied at the end of regulation play?

In this situation, one tie scenario is that Odd scores 1 goal while Elfsborg score none. Thus, the aggregate score is 2-2. The tie breaker is which team scored more goals away from home. Since Odd scored 1 goal against Elfsborg at Elfsborg in leg #1 they win on "away goals."

What if Odd is leading 2-1 at the end of regular time?

This would mean the aggregate score is 3-3 and both teams would have scored 1 away goal. Thus, the game goes to extra-time to determine the winner. If still tied, the contest goes to penalty kicks until someone ones.

What if Odd is leading 3-2 at the end of 90 minutes?

This would yield an aggregate score of 4-4. However, Elfsborg would have scored 2 away goals while Odd only 1 and thus Elfsborg would be declared the winner on "away goals."

Got it?

UPDATE: According to this ranking web page (take it with grains of salt I suppose), Elfsborg is #204 in Europe, Odd is #262, Randers (Elfsborg defeated in round 2) is #373, Lahti (Elfsborg defeated in round 1) is #306.

If one uses the UEFA Club Coefficient:
Elfsborg = 140
Odd = 328
Randers = 254
Lahti = 404

Thus, it would appear that Elfsborg "should" have won as two ranking systems have them as the "better" team.

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...