Transfer deadline day - Liverpool picks up Ox from Arsenal, Origi out on loan, ........

Rumors continue to fly around but so far the only confirmed transfer in for Liverpool is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The current midfield depth chart:
1. Henderson
2. Can
3. Wijnaldum
4. Milner
5. Grujic

Lallana is injured and probably won't be back until late 2017 and early 2018.
Coutinho's status remains unknown until the transfer window closes.

Thus, where on the depth chart does AOC fit?

At this moment, I would guess AOC would be #4 on the chart. Because of Milner's age and Klopp's high energy offensive system, Milner has fallen a bit out of favor. He will still have a key role for certain types of opponents and as a wise veteran substitute when Liverpool is trying to see out a match for a victory. Thus, AOC's youth and energy and skill may be what Klopp wants. Perhaps, Klopp sees AOC (age 24) as being a bit further along in development than Grujic (age 21). With Premier League and Champions League, LFC needs some squad rotation and AOC helps with that. He will probably also get lots of minutes in League Cup and FA Cup matches. Of course, if Coutinho stays and when Lallana recovers, AOC would drop to #6 on the depth chart and his minutes will be rather low. On the other hand, given the past couple of years with the revolving door of injuries at LFC .....

The other news item is that Divock Origi has a loan deal with Wolfsburg. Clearly, a player development move since being sixth on the depth chart means he isn't going to get many match play minutes barring multiple injuries.

Thus, the depth chart for the forward spot loses a player:
1. Firmino
2. Mane
3. Salah
4. Solanke
5. Sturridge
6. Origi

The main area of remaining interest is whether there will be any movement on central defense. VDD was the candidate to be brought in. It makes financial sense for Southampton to sell but sometimes clubs feel they need to make a statement so they may not sell him and if they do sell they will try to find somebody other than Liverpool. It is similar to the Coutinho situation as it makes financial sense to sell but the club feels it needs to make a statement of intent about the season.

In any case, the defensive depth chart:
Central
1. Matip
2. Lovren
3. Klavan
4. Gomez
Wide
1. Alexander-Arnold
2. Moreno
3. Gomez
4. Robertson

Clyne is still injured and not available for selection.

Will update as news on this transfer deadline day warrants.

UDPATE: Sources say Sakho, an out of favor defender, will be transferred to Crystal Palace.

UPDATE: In a player development move Ryan Kent out on loan to Freiburg. Window closes at 11pm UK time. Still awaiting if there will be any additional news on other Liverpool ins/outs.

UPDATE: No other news appears to be out. VDD stayed at Southampton. Coutinho stayed at Liverpool amidst rumors that FSG, the owners of LFC, rejected a 4th even more astronomical bid from Barcelona.

The January window watch will eventually start up as the season wears on and teams re-assess where they are at and what they may need to close out the campaign.

LA Galaxy, you be the general manager?

I think pretty much everyone agrees the LA Galaxy season is "over" and that what they need to be doing is sending out the players they are certain to use next year so they can develop more chemistry with each other. They should also audition players they think may play a role in next year's squad.

Went over to Corner of the Galaxy to look up the 2017 salaries for the team. From this, you can piece together what was probably the key players at the start of the campaign. If you rank the salaries, you will find 15 players picking up 6 to 7 digits in base salary. There were 12 with 5 digit salaries.

So let's play the game of the typical pajama wearing blogger, "You be the general manager."

Looking at the list, the "depth chart" probably looked something like this at the beginning of the 2017 season.

Goalkeeper:
Rowe as the #1 with Diop and Kempin as backups

Defense:
Van Damme, Cole, Rodgers, Steres as the main stay of the back 4
Plugging in Romney most frequently and Diallo, Arellano, and Smith as needed

Defensive midfield:
Jones, Pedro (it was interesting to see that Pedro's base salary was lower than Husidic)
Husidic would have probably been rotated in most often to deal with fixture congestion.
Additionally, there would be some plugging in of Garcia, Mendiola, and JaimeVillarreal to deal with suspensions, minor injuries, and fixture congestion.

Midfield wingers:
Lleget, Alessandrini
Boateng as prime substitute and Jamieson and Lassiter getting minutes when possible.

Forwards:
G dos Santos, Zardes
McInerny, Jose Vilarreal, and McBean called upon in some situations.

I highlighted in bold (14 players) those who would have gotten the most minutes.

Of course, the reality of the season: Van Damme struggled and is now back in Belgium, Rodgers had what might be a career ending injury, Jones has been injured on and off through out the season, Husidic fractured his fibula, Lleget had a season ending injury while on USMNT duty, and Zardes by all accounts just isn't the same player he was before injury. Thus, 6 out of 14 players whom much was expected have for various reasons haven't been able to make the anticipated contribution! I would suspect even some top tier clubs in Europe would struggle if nearly half of their first team options were not available to various degrees.

What about 2018?

What are the open questions? What are the key holes that need filling?

Goalkeeper:
Is Rowe still the #1?

Rowe might be in the coach's dog house as Kempin has gotten the last two starts and Rowe wasn't even on the bench. Might Rowe be released to free up salary to find a new #1? Kempin and Diop might be auditioning to be the #2 for 2018?

Defense:
Of Van Damme, Cole, Rodgers, Steres, and Romney, only Steres and Romney will be around for 2018. As mentioned before Van Damme is back in Belgium. Cole is likely to look for one last good contract elsewhere. He has often been mentioned as wanting to go back to England and perhaps play in the English League Championship (2nd level in England). Rodgers might not ever play at this level again after his injury. Van Anholt who was brought in from the Netherlands to fill in for Rodgers was doing well but sadly suffered a season ending injury and isn't likely to be ready to play in 2018. Just don't see Diallo, Arellano, or Smith as ready yet for prime time. I wonder which of these guys has enough upside that they will hang onto them. Given their low salary, they all might stay. In any case, the LA Galaxy will need to find two wide defensive backs and probably at least one other defender  as a reliable backup and/or an experienced center back to help Steres and Romney continue to develop

Defensive midfield:
As for the midfield trio of Jones, Pedro and Husidic, the Jones signing was a bust. Pedro and Husidic will probably stick around and share time with the new DP J dos Santos with Husidic as the #3 on the depth chart for this position.  Garcia, Mendiola, and JaimeVillarreal are backups not yet ready for prime time but with potential. Will they keep all three?

Midfield wingers:
Lleget, Alessandrini and Boateng will be around. Jamieson and Lassiter have shown potential and should remain for further development. The scenario where it is possible Lleget or Boateng get released is to get more cash to get a high level but non-DP level striker forward.

Forwards:
G dos Santos, and Zardes will remain. However, Zardes might be better suited as a midfield winger. But how would one divide up the minutes among Lleget, Alessandrini, Boateng, and Zardes if Zardes gets moved to his more plausible role? In this case, one of them might be let go? Am not certain what will happen to McInerny, Jose Vilarreal, and McBean as they all to varying degree auditioned for that striker forward spot and none made much of an impression. The LA Galaxy need a striker forward. They really missed the in his prime Robbie Keane and his ability to create havoc and put the ball into the net. Even the aging declining Robbie Keane may have been more effective than anyone who tried to fill that role this season.

Can the teams I follow go 4 and 0 today?

Falkenberg, scrambling to get into third place, went on the road to league leading Brommapojkarna. Was hoping for a point on the road to keep Falkenberg in the hunt. Instead, a stunning 5-1 victory over the top dogs! With the help of Google Translate, got the league press office summary of the match. For the moment, Falkenberg is in third place but Trelleborg plays Helsingborg this week and with a win could jump into third. Helsingborg with a win jumps into fourth tied on points with FFF but in fourth on goal differential.

Elfsborg isn't mathematically eliminated from European football (Europa League) but it would be very difficult to climb that many spaces. Nonetheless, playing to be higher up on the table remains a reasonable goal for the club. Today, they got a much needed 1-0 victory at home against relegation bound Halmstad after 5 matches without a win.



Meanwhile, Liverpool dismantled Arsenal 4-0!



Behind the scenes murmuring was raised by the starting of Karius in goal and Ward on the bench with Mignolet left off the XVIII player team sheet. But the fans at Anfield left happy with the frontline members all scoring! Starters Firmino at 17, Mane at 40, and Salah at 57. To punctuate the domination, substitute Sturridge scored at 77. Liverpool enters the International break in good spirits. The remaining mystery for the club is whether there will be any ins or outs before the transfer deadline at August 31.

This evening, have the TV set on for the LA Galaxy vs. SJ Earthquake "California Clasico." Expectations are rather low as LA hasn't won since June 28 in a US Open match and June 21 in an MLS match. Nonetheless, players will have some pride with some playing for spots in the 2018 squad.

Not going to happen. Van Anholt stretchered off the field in the middle of the first half. LA gives up a goal right before the half. Red card on Smith so LA has to play catch-up down to 10 players. SJ scores again late in the half. And now at 90' a third SJ goal as Wondo gets a poacher's goal off a rebound.

European Night at Anfield

Transfer rumors continue and speculation of the starting XI in the Echo.

There are rumors that Barcelona will make a fourth offer for Coutinho .......

As for the starting line-up speculation, probably the same line-up that played to a 2-1 lead at Hoffenheim will be selected. Possible changes: Robertson slotted in for Moreno at left back and Milner taking Wijnaldum's spot in the midfield.

If Robertson's fitness level is high enough, I'd say it is 50/50 he starts. Klopp rested Moreno and Alexander-Arnold with the intent they be fresh to run at Hoffenheim tonight.

Am less certain about Milner and his 31 year old legs getting the start over Wijnaldum. If LFC is protecting a lead, Milner may well be one of the first substitutes to come in.

Will be interesting to see how Mane holds up as he has started 3 straight games and does a lot of running out there. Solanke would probably come in to take Mane's spot as a substitute, hopefully, due to the fact that LFC has the lead and Mane can be rested!

If LFC is protecting a lead, maybe will see Klavan come in as well to have three in the back to do battle in set pieces late in the game.

Go Reds!

UPDATE:

There you have it. Exactly as it was 8 days ago at Hoffenheim. My guess the choice of Moreno is not so much that in the abstract Moreno is better than Robertson but rather Moreno is rested and that Robertson is still new to the way things are done at LFC. If Robertson continues to play as well as he did against Palace, he will eventually be the first choice when all other factors are equal. As it stands, I think Klopp wants to run at Hoffenheim (thus rested both TAA and AM on Saturday) to get one or two goals early and salt the game away from there. LFC fans could be out on the ledge tonight if LFC surrenders a goal early due to a defending howler by either of the two young wide backs.


Wow!!!

Liverpool ran them out of the park getting a 3-0 lead before Hoffenheim knew what hit them. Klopp's view is that the best defense is to have an offense that stuns the opposition! Final score was 4-2. Liverpool is in the Champions League group stage!!

LA Galaxy - are they done for the season?

Van Damme was a vital veteran presence last season but has struggled this season. The Galaxy front office has been open to family circumstances. Previously, they allowed a before the contract was up transfer for Stefan Ishizaki back to Sweden in anticipation for the birth and raising of his twins. Van Damme has expressed his desire to go back to Belgium to be closer to his children. And so the management fielded offers and made a deal happen. Thus, the Galaxy bid farewell to Jelle Van Damme by completing a transfer to Royal Antwerp FC in the top Belgian League.

Here is the highlight farewell video prepared by the LA Galaxy media team:

There is reporting but nothing official that says the LA Galaxy will be bringing in Michael Ciani from France. Looks like he played a number of minutes at first division French league for many years but fell out of contract after the conclusion of the 2016-2017 season and has been looking for a club to play for in the 2017-2018 season.

Mathematically, the LA Galaxy are not out of the playoff hunt but practically speaking they are unlikely to make it given how far behind they are. Nonetheless, the players on the club will be playing for pride and contracts and roles for the 2018 season.

Who starts out of the current lineup?

With Van Damme out and Ciani not yet in, Steres and Romney start at central defense. Cole and van Anholt at wide defense.

Jones has the foot injury which he played through in the previous match but I think he will not start on Wednesday. Instead, look for Pedro and J. dos Santos to take defensive midfield.

Alessandrini and Boateng at wide attacking midfield and G. dos Santos at central attacking midfield.

Who is at the lone forward?

Zardes probably gets the start in the hopes of getting his confidence back. On the other hand, maybe it is time to have him watch from the bench for 60 minutes and come in with fresh legs to run at the opposition? But who starts instead? McInerney? McBean? Lassiter? Jamieson? As much as fans and analysts get down on Zardes, am not sure the other options are better. I suppose some might say they couldn't be worse. Of the four non-Zardes options, from the handful of matches I have seen, I think Jamieson and Lassiter probably have the most upside for the future and so one or the other could be plugged in for Zardes to give them some more experience. However, in looking at the stats page, McBean has gotten more minutes this season so maybe the coaching staff have McBean higher on the depth chart.

UPDATE: I see in today's LA Times that GDS is still injured and not available for selection for tonight's match against Columbus. Thus, what do you think fellow LA Galaxy supporters: 4-4-2?

Rowe in goal.
The usual back 4: Cole/Romney/Steres/Van Anholt
The usual 4 in the midfield: Boateng/Pedro/JDS/Alessandrini
But what about the 2 forwards?
McBean and McInerney or Lassiter and Jamieson?
Zardes off the bench?

UPDATE: Ooofff ...... LAG loses to Columbus at Columbus 2-0. You can stick a fork in the Galaxy season. They need around 25 points to make it to the playoffs. With 10 games left, they would need to win 8 and draw 1 to get 25 points. Considering that the club hasn't won in a couple of months, it isn't looking too good. Below, the lowlights if you consider it from the LAG perspective.


40 years of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2

Looking forward to seeing the documentary this coming week at PBS August 23, 2017 9/8c!

 

Read more about Voyager at the JPL-NASA web page.



image source: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager/assets/images/news/planets-16.jpg

Eskilstuna 3 Malmo 1 - huge upset in the Swedish top league

In a stunning upset, number 16 of 16, relegation bound Eskilstuna defeated Malmo, the top dog of the league by a wide margin.

Let's go to the CMORE highlight package:



With such a stunning result, I went to a Swedish newspaper and did Google Translate to see some commentary about the match.
Excerpt:

"I'm really disappointed. I hate to lose. It's the worst thing there is," says Safari and continues: "There are no easy matches so I do not understand if we ever underestimate a team. You can not do that." [......] Midfielder Franz Brorsson, who was tough at Buya Turay, was equally cursed. - We are not included. We think it will be easy. That it should only work by itself, but it does not work even if they last. Brorsson also questions the attitude of the team. - We are too bad simply. When the referee is blowing we are not there. We think you can only stand the shoes. It does not work.

I suspect some of the phrasing was "lost in translation" but I think we get the main point, Malmo didn't take their opponent seriously and got smoked!

LFC 1 Crystal Palace 0

With the huge match against Hoffenheim on Wednesday, Klopp exercised some squad rotation for the starting XI.

Mignolet remained in goal but 3 of the 4 of the back four were rotated in with starts for Robertson, Klavan, and Gomez. 2 of 3 midfielders were the same with Milner slotted in for Can. Of the front 3, Sturridge started in place of Salah.

Salah came in for Sturridge at 60. Solanke for Wijnaldum at 71. Sadio Mane broke the deadlook with a goal at 73. Lovren came in for Firmino at 90 to help see out the match.

Liverpool dominated play through out getting the lion's share of possession and shots at/on goal. Given past struggles against Crystal Palace, any victory will be happily taken. In particular, keeping a clean sheet must have felt very good for the defensive corp. Certainly, can complain about not getting more goals but that is the nature of soccer: sometimes one good shot is all you need and other times you can pelt the goalkeeper and get nothing. Take the three points and let's go capture a spot in the Champions League with a victory on Wednesday!

What is today's face of Klopp?

How about this one?


Seeing his maligned defenders come through with a clean sheet feels good. The Robertson signing was viewed as a positive for LFC and he came through today at left back. Also, good to see Joe Gomez out there after so many injuries. Hope he can stay healthy as the club will need squad rotation to make some noise this season!


You make the call - were the two PK's fairly given? Jönköpings 2 Elfsborg 2



The first PK was awarded (see at 9 seconds into the clip) for a tripping in the box by the defender. The second PK awarded (see at 1:40 into the clip) for a handball by the defender when a shot taken in the box struck the defender.

Under what circumstances is a PK awarded?

If any of the following 10 fouls that result in a direct free kick occurs in the penalty area then a kick from the penalty spot is awarded.

Excerpt:
A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following six offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force: 
  1. kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  2. trips or attempts to trip an opponent 
  3. jumps at an opponent 
  4. charges an opponent 
  5. strikes or attempts to strike an opponent 
  6. pushes an opponent
A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offences:
  1. tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball 
  2. holds an opponent
  3. spits at an opponent
  4. handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
A direct free kick is taken from where the offence occurred.

A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above ten offences is committed by a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play.

In the first case, the PK was awarded for tripping. However, seen at real time speed, one might say the defender is going for the ball and doesn't see the on rushing offensive player? Was the tripping careless, reckless or using excessive force?

In the second case, the PK was awarded for a hand ball. By definition the entire arm is considered in the definition: "A ball can be handled with any part of the arm, from the tips of a player’s fingers right up to the shoulder." But the rule also says this needs to occur deliberately.

My impression is that there are far more fouls that occur than are called. However, in these two cases, there could be a case made that these could have been no whistle blown.

What do you think?

Third bid for Coutinho reported to total 118 million pounds

Liverpool Echo reports that Barcelona has offered 82.1 million pounds plus 36.5 million pounds based on performance.

LFC has rejected the offer.

I think the USAnfield.com guys are right that pretty much everything rests on what happens against Hoffenheim next Wednesday on the 23rd. With that issue squared away, both LFC and prospective recruits will know where LFC is at.

With a victory and assurance of more Champions League play, LFC will have more revenue coming in (thus may be willing to spend more) and will make LFC more attractive to players they are trying to bring in. If LFC can bring in a top level defender and midfielder, they maybe willing to part with Coutinho for the right price - what that number is who knows!

On the other hand, maybe LFC and FSG wants to bring in a couple more top tier players AND keep Coutinho for a run at the Premier League title and a good showing in the Champions League. In this scenario, they tell Coutinho, you help us pull this off in 2017-2018, Barcelona is going to be offering 150 million pounds next summer 2018 and we will make that deal.

On the other hand, if LFC miss out on Champions League play with a pratfall at home against Hoffenheim, I think they will need to hang onto Couthino with the aim of winning Europa League or a top four Premier League finish to set themselves up for next year. The one bit of leverage they have is that the current contract with Couthino does not have a release clause built into it and Couthino would want to play well at LFC to insure his spot in the Brazil World Cup team for 2018 and to continue to boost his stock for Barcelona's attempt to bid for his services in the 2018 transfer window.

The nerve wracking part for LFC's football minds and FSG's money counters is if they hang onto Coutinho and he winds up not having a spectacular season. If that happens there won't be 118 million pound bids coming over the transom.

Revised LFC Depth Chart

Goalkeeper
  1. Mignolet - appears to have won the #1 spot
  2. Karius - probably will see him in League Cup and FA Cup competitions
  3. Ward - may see him in League Cup and FA Cup competitions
Central Defense
  1. Lovren
  2. Matip
  3. Klavan
  4. Gomez - central or wide defense? Or what ever is needed?
Southampton is playing hard ball so VVD doesn't appear to be transferring to LFC. Southampton's business model is to sell the players they develop so the posturing is probably to drive up the price. But it is a high priced game of chicken if they overdo it they could get stuck with an unhappy player. In all likelihood, they will probably sell him to the highest bidder NOT named Liverpool. It seems there is some animus against LFC specifically because of all the talent LFC have raided from Southampton. Wonder if Klopp has another player or two they have been looking at. I think central defense could use a little more support and competition for starting spots.

Wide Defense
  1. Alexander-Arnold - the start he got for Champions League reveals how high he is viewed by Klopp
  2. Moreno - despite lapses in defensive half, Klopp likes the offensive spark he can give
  3. Clyne (injured) - will be interesting how often he gets in when fully recovered
  4. Gomez - central or wide defense? Or what ever is needed?
  5. Robertson - one of the summer transfers but how often he gets in is an open question
Midfield
  1. Coutinho (injured) - when healthy and if he stays, he starts
  2. Lallana (injured) - when healthy, he starts
  3. Henderson
  4. Can
  5. Wijnaldum
  6. Milner - looks like he is no longer left back and as a player 30+ years old, his role maybe to come in at 60 or 75 to provide stabilizing experience in the midfield to help close out games.
  7. Grujic - looks to be a sub and for domestic cup competitions
Lallana/Henderson/Can/Wijnaldum combinations add up to a B+ midfield assuming Lallana eventual return from injury and Coutinho moves to Barcelona. LFC does need to find a solution to take their midfield into another level. Naby Keita hasn't been sold yet and Leipzig are continuing to play hardball. But if a huge offer comes in for Coutinho, LFC may turn around and "overpay" to get Keita. Wonder if Klopp has another player or two they have been looking at. With the high energy offense Klopp operates, the midfielders can and do wear down during the long season as reflected by the revolving door of injuries during Klopp's two seasons at the helm. 

Forward
  1. Firmino
  2. Mane
  3. Salah
  4. Solanke - will be interesting to see who Klopp picks for the XI for the next match since the top three forwards started two matches in four days and may benefit from some time off before the all important leg 2 against Hoffenheim next week.
  5. Origi
  6. Sturridge (injured)
The guys over at USAnfield.com make the excellent observation that LFC transfer window activity will be given a major boost if (when!) Liverpool defeat Hoffenheim next week to qualify into the group stage of Champions League. With the guarantee of more Champions League games (and the corresponding publicity and revenue), LFC will open up the checkbook and players will be eager to go to LFC.

Laget vid Havet - GO FFF!


image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkenberg#/media/File:Grand_Hotell_Tullbron_Falkenberg.jpg

With a victory, FFF can leap to third!

It is a road match against Degerfors so we shall see.

UPDATE: Degerfors 1 FFF 1. There are apps that track soccer scores from around the world. From those, I can get the bare bones of the story. In this case, Degerfors got the lead with a PK. FFF was able to equalize in the second half to snatch a road point. They are 1 point behind Trelleborg and the 3rd position with 11 matches to go. Can they do it and give themselves a shot at returning to the top tier league! Go FFF!

LFC needs to show up today against Hoffenheim



image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhein-Neckar-Arena#/media/File:Rhein-Neckar-Arena_Sinsheim.JPG

All that work last season to finish fourth comes to fruition today in leg one of the Champions League qualification.

Last year's squad faced fixture congestion even without European matches and this year's squad isn't much bigger with only three transfers (Salah, Solanke, and Robertson). All three are available for selection with Salah having established himself as a first team pick. Solanke and Robertson are second team for substitution and for selection to the first team during fixture congestion.

Definitely miss having the ability to select Coutinho, Lallana, Clyne, and Sturridge for today's starting XI and VII on the bench.

From my reading around various Liverpool FC web pages, the feeling is that the XI will be more or less the same as the XI from the Watford match with the exception of Milner swapped in for Moreno. Others have voiced concerns that Alexander-Arnold might be too young for such a big start but who is a realistic option at this time? Here is where you miss the more experienced Clyne. Wijnaldum has also come under criticism but again who do you start in his place? If either Coutinho or Lallana were available, Wijnaldum is on the bench. So there you have it. More or less the Watford lineup with probably one change.

In various podcasts there has been much talk about the recent resurgence of "three in the back" formations. Being new to soccer, I'm not fully versed on these tactical decision. However, from what I gather the traditional "four in the back" has the option of the two wide backs pushing forward thus leaving the two center backs as the key defenders. In LFC's case, it has been said Moreno and Alexander-Arnold are attack minded and their strength is in pushing forward. But the downside is they aren't as sharp in their defensive role.

Thus, would Klopp consider a "three in the back" today? This would mean benching Moreno and Alexander-Arnold and plugging in Gomez or Klavan as a third center back. Would three center backs be a more stout defensive set-up? Milner would be added in as a fourth mid-fielder and the front three of Salah, Firmino, and Mane would be unchanged.

Go Reds!



Wow! No change from the Watford match!

UPDATE: Hoffenheim 1 Liverpool 2


Alexander-Arnold had a wonder goal from a free kick! He was also caught un-alert in the late Hoffenheim goal.

I heard part of the game via audio commentary at LiverpoolFC.com and the broadcast team was very concerned about Moreno and the repeated line of attack by Hoffenheim on that side of the field. But clearly Klopp stuck to his plan by starting Moreno and when Milner was sent in, Henderson exited. In all, from what I heard of the match, both sides threatened and the score could easily have been higher with Hoffenheim having the one goal edge. But as it stands, LFC has taken an important step toward qualification to Champion's League play. They still have work to do as leg two will be at Anfield mid-week, next week.

Go Reds!

IF Elfsborg 2 IFK Goteborg 1


The opportunity for a top end of the table showing for Elfsborg is slipping away. If they had managed a home victory they would have had 29 points and be in the top half of the table. But as it is, they sit in 10th place seven points out of third and a slot in the Europa League.

Speaking of the wide-world of soccer, the LA Galaxy at one time recruited Stefan Ishizaki who was a key figure at Elfsborg. The ownership group of the LA Galaxy also owns Hammarby a historic club in Stockholm. On the current LA Galaxy, one of the bright spots in a dismal season has been the play of Emmanuel Boateng who was recruited from Helsingborgs IF.

Soccer, truly, it is a global village!

Malibu Lagoon State Beach

On the weekend, had the opportunity to visit the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. The lagoon exists during the summer months and fills in as water flows in from the Malibu Creek. During the fall/winter season when it rains heavily enough, the water is strong enough to break through the sandbar that helps form the lagoon. With the sandbar breeched, the lagoon's water level fluctuates with the tides.

The location is home to many birds and fish. In particular, at the moment, there are two endangered species breeding in the lagoon: the Western Snowy Plover and the California Least Tern.





image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowy_plover#/media/File:Snowy_Plover_srgb.jpg


image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_least_tern#/media/File:California_Least_Tern.jpg



Heron taking flight!



Egrets sitting on branches.



Had some fish, cole slaw, potato salad, and clam chowder at Malibu Seafood. Yum!



Walked across PCH from the restaurant and took a little snooze on the beach.

LA Galaxy Playoff Hopes?

Previously, I estimated that the San Jose Earthquakes would beat Philadelphia, RSL, DC United and Minnesota getting them 12 more points. Of the other seven matches, I figured they would lose four and draw 3. Thus, by the end of the season they will have 47 points.

They kept their part of the bargain this week by getting shut-out by Houston 3-0.

Under this scenario, LA would aim to get 48 points by the end of the season and to do that they needed to pick up 25 points by some combination of wins and draws in their remaining games.

LA lost 0-2. Saw the game on TV and LA looked good and put some good shots against NYCFC. However, when a team is struggling it seems they don't get any lucky breaks as those good shots by LA got saved by the goalie or bounced off the crossbar. Meanwhile, a team doing well like NYCFC can take some difficult shots and get the ball into the back of the net.

Here is the highlight package


To get to 48 they have to do some combination that gets them 25 more points.
Away Colorado Win
Home San Jose Win
Home Colorado Win
Away Seattle Win
Home Toronto Draw
Away Atlanta Draw
Away Kansas City Draw
Away Houston Win
Home RSL Win
Home Minnesota Win
Away Dallas Draw

Premier League Week 1 - Watford 3 Liverpool 3

Up at 4:30AM PDT - new season - same old story - Watford 3 Liverpool 3.

Right off the bat, Watford scores a goal off a corner kick - LFC fans have seen this movie before. Watford scores a goal off a corner kick in stoppage time to equalize.

A lot of credit goes to Klopp for the spirited offense of the Reds but he has not been able to turn around the defense and in particular defense against set pieces. In a recent ESPNFC article, there are many wonderful sketches of "the many faces of Jurgen Klopp" by Aaron Dana.

Well, today's face is obvious:



Can the LA Galaxy Sneak into the Playoffs?

In MLS, the clubs are divided into Eastern and Western conferences. The top two avoid the one-and-done knockout stage where #3 plays #6 and #4 plays #5 within the respective conferences.

At the moment, the San Jose Earthquakes are sixth in the West with 32 points and 11 games left.

The LA Galaxy have 23 points and 12 games left.

Looking at the SJ schedule I can see them beating Philadelphia, RSL, DC United and Minnesota. This gets them 12 more points. Of the other seven matches, let's be optimistic and predict they lose four and draw 3. Thus, by the end of the season they will have 47 points.

Technically, one can be tied in points and then go to goal difference to determine who gets the spot. But 48 points would out-right exceed the hypothetical 47 points of San Jose.

LA has 12 games left. There are only two scenarios that gets them 25 more points: 8 wins 1 draw 3 losses or 7 wins 4 draws and 1 loss. That is a very tall order given their current track record.

Can they do the following (or some other combination that gets them those 25 points)?
Home NYFC Draw
Away Colorado Win
Home San Jose Win
Home Colorado Win
Away Seattle Win
Home Toronto Loss
Away Atlanta Draw
Away Kansas City Draw
Away Houston Win
Home RSL Win
Home Minnesota Win
Away Dallas Draw

Wide world of soccer: Coutinho chase, Carabao Cup, FFF on the rise

Sources report that Liverpool FC rejected a 100 million pound offer for Coutinho. Thus, for now, Coutinho remains with the Reds. Fans at both Liverpool and Barcelona will be waiting to hear if Barcelona's owners will up the ante with a third bid.

UPDATE: Coutinho has upped the ante by placing a transfer request. From my learning about world soccer, South American players dream of someday reaching the level of being able to play for Barcelona or Real Madrid. Coutinho believes that time has come for him. In fairness to him, he has been quietly making that known without social media blasts or walking out of training sessions. The question now is how the high priced game of "chicken" will play out. Barcelona has a maximum number in their minds they are willing to go to to get Coutinho. Fenway Sports Group (FSG) the owners of LFC have to decide if there is a dollar amount that is "an offer they can't refuse." If Barcelona don't bid that number, LFC keeps Coutinho and have to hope he gives a great season (despite being disappointed) thus raising his selling price even more next year. On the other hand, if Coutinho gets injured (he has had some injuries in the past) and doesn't have a world beating season, the asking price may go down. Stay tuned!

If you have clicked through on your sports web pages to check on England soccer, you may have seen something called the Carabao Cup. Did you wonder what is that?

Well, it turns out that the English Football League Cup has sold naming rights to Carabao. You can read all about the history of the EFL Cup at the Wikipedia link.

The short version is that the top four levels of the English soccer pyramid is involved in this competition. Level 1 - Premier League, level 2 - League Championship, level 3 - League One, and level 4 - League Two. Thus, in addition, to league play, there are domestic cup competitions such as the Carabao EFL Cup. There is also the FA Cup which we can discuss in another post. And there are European Cup competitions (Champions League and Europa).

A few examples from EFL Cup first round of play:
Queens Park Rangers (League Championship club) defeated Northampton Town (League One club) 1-0.
Oxford United (League One club) lost to Cheltenham Town (League Two club) 3-4 aet (in extra time).
Bristol Rovers (League One club) defeated Cambridge United (League Two club) 4-1.
And so it goes .....

The teams of the first round are in one big pot and there is a draw to determine who plays whom - there is no seeding or home field advantage. The winners advance to the next round where 2 clubs from League Championship (the 18th and 19th place finisher in the Premier League that were relegated into the League Championship) and 13 clubs from the Premier League (not involved in European competitions) are thrown into the pot for the second round draw. The remaining 7 Premier League clubs are thrown into the pot in the third round draw. As a result of these draws, sometimes a giant Premier League clubs wind up playing a match against a lower division team (sometimes called "minnows" in the sporting press) in a tiny stadium in a small town.

Meanwhile, Falkenbergs FF won 2-0 over Varnamo to move themselves into fourth place with 30 points. Oster is at 31 points in third place and a slot in the promotion play-off at the end of the season. There is excitement in Falkenberg, population 20,000, the small town by the sea in Western Sweden.

Laget Vid Havet!





And so it begins: LAFC signs first designated player

Next MLS season, LAFC joins the league.

A few weeks ago, they named Bob Bradley as their coach. If you are new to soccer, you should know he was most notably the US Men's National Team (USMNT) coach from 2006-2011. His resume is long with various stops at MLS clubs prior to his USMNT gig. He followed his USMNT tenure with some globe trotting to leading the Egyptian national team, club managerial posts in Norway, France, and England.

Now, according to Kevin Baxter, LAFC has put down the first piece of the foundation of their team by signing a top Mexico national team member and La Liga club player Carlos Vela.
Time will tell what LAFC puts together but the opportunity for them is great as their in-city rivals LA Galaxy are in the midst of a meltdown season.

The Coutinho Chase - Whose sources are correct?

Jordi Blanco of ESPN Deportes says this morning, the deal is done for 90 million pounds + bonuses.

On Monday, UK Guardian said Liverpool FC plans to hold onto Coutinho.

Liverpool Echo sources say ...
The ECHO understands that Coutinho would accept the chance to join Barcelona if a fee was agreed between the clubs. However, he has been informed by Klopp that won’t happen and has since shown no signs of agitating for a move.

We shall see ...

Falkenberg and Elfsborg Update

The Swedish domestic competition

Week 31 is in the books in the top league of Sweden, the Allsvenskan.

Elfsborg is eighth with 26 points. Malmo is running away with it and will likely win yet another league title. The battle is for second and third and thus a ticket to the Europa League. AIK an Djurgarden have 31 and 30 points respectively.

Elfsborg has 12 games left in their season to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, in Superettan, the second level of the Swedish soccer pyramid, Falkenberg is in fifth with 27 points.

The league champs and the runner-up get promoted to the Allsvenskan. Third place teams gets a playoff with the 14th place Allsvanskan club for the chance at promotion. Currently, Helsingborg hold third with 30 points. Falkenberg has 13 games left to close the gap.

European club soccer scene for Sweden 

The Allsvenskan winner gets a ticket to the Champions League. Thus, 2016 champion Malmo entered 2017-2018 Champions League at the 2nd qualifying round. Unfortunately, they were defeated and eliminated by Vardar, the Macedonian league champion.

AIK and Norrkoping qualified for 2017-2018 Europa League at the first qualifying round level. Both advanced to the next round. Norrkoping was eliminated but AIK advanced to the next round. Ostersund entered at the second qualifying round by winning the Swedish Cup. They also won their matchup to progress to the third round. AIK's run in Europa Cup came to an end in the third round when they were defeated by Braga a club from the Portuguese League. However, Ostersund is still playing as they won their match and now await PAOK from the Greek Superleague in the playoff round. If they win that, they enter into the 32-team group stage.

Portland 3 Los Angeles 1

No Alessandrini in the lineup today. But would he have made a difference? I'd like to think so.

Sometimes the best defense is a strong offense and without enough offensive threats, the Galaxy's defense is put under pressure. Thus, it is the same old story: toothless attack and eventually the defense surrenders goals.

Pedro and Boateng linked up for the Galaxy's only goal today.

 

What is LA's "best" XI currently?

Obviously, you want the Dos Santo's brothers on the field and Alessandrini as these three Designated Players are costing the team almost $6 million (?) in salary and are the most talented players. But who do you put around them?

Boateng and Zardes give the team a lot of speed on the wings though their final touch isn't always there. The goal by Boateng is an example of how their speed can be effective as he put away the shot for a goal on this occasion.

Pedro needs to be on the field as he can help distribute as seen in the lone goal for the Galaxy on Sunday.

Thus, JDS, GDS, Alessandrini, Boateng, Zardes, and Pedro should be in every game they are healthy.

But what about the Final Five?

Van Damme, Cole, Jones and Van Anholt are former European league players with skills and experience. However, with Van Damme and Cole having expiring contracts and interest from overseas' clubs, will the Galaxy part with them? Until then, those two are still the best options in any combination of players to play defense.

Of the other defensive players getting minutes, Steres and Romney would fill out the XI on a given day.

Who gets sent out next weekend against NYCFC?

Defense: Cole, Steres/Romney, Jones, Van Anholt
Midfield: Boateng, JDS, Pedro, Alessandrini
Forward: GDS, Zardes




The Big 5 in the Last 10 Years in European Soccer - Who are the best teams? Who are the best leagues?

In the soccer world, the big leagues are La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy), Premier (England), and Ligue 1 (France.)

In the last 10 years:

La Liga has been won by Barcelona (6), Real Madrid (3), Atletico Madrid (1)
As you can see between Barcelona and Real Madrid, they have dominated the competition. Not surprisingly, these two clubs probably have the largest international following

Bundesliga has been won by Bayern Munich (7), Borussia Dortmund (2), Wolfsburg (1)
Even more extreme than La Liga, is the record that Bayern Munich has run up in the Bundesliga. Currently, Bayern has won the last five in a row.

Serie A has been won by Juventus (6), Internazionale (3), Milan (1)
However, Juventus has an even stronger monopoly with six in a row currently.

Ligue 1 has been won by Paris Saint-Germain (4), AS Monaco (1), Montpellier (1), Lille (1), Marseille (1), Bordeaux (1), Lyon (1)
At first glance, it looks like this league has some parity. However, four of the last five Ligue 1 titles have been won by PSG.

Premier has been won by Manchester United (4), Chelsea (3), Manchester City (2), Leicester City (1)
The crown for most diversity of recent title winners goes to the Premier League with four different teams winning the prize in the last five years.

Thus, in terms of league play, it could be argued that the English Premier League has the most "balance" in that there are a number of clubs that are in contention for the title. This competitive balance has been cited as the reason why the EPL hasn't fared well in the Champions League as the teams are worn down by the weekend matches of their domestic league leaving them unable to play at 100% for the mid-week Champions League competitions.

The biggest prize is the UEFA Champions League.
In the last 10 years:
2016-2017 Real Madrid
2015-2016 Real Madrid
2014-2015 Barcelona
2013-2014 Real Madrid
2012-2013 Bayern Munich
2011-2012 Chelsea
2010-2011 Barcelona
2009-2010 Internazionale
2008-2009 Barcelona
2007-2008 Manchester United

In the last five years, Real Madrid or Baracelona have won four Champions League Cups. In two of these finals, their opponent was Atletico Madrid, also a La Liga Club. And over a 10 year period, 7 Cups have been won by La Liga clubs.

Thus, it would seem that the top La Liga teams are the best teams in the world.

As far as the best league overall, if competitive balance at the top is important, then the EPL is probably the best.

The question of league depth will be put to the test as 4th place Hoffenheim of the Bundesliga will be matched with 4th place Liverpool of the EPL in a qualification playoff for the Champions League this month. The winner goes into the round of 32 group play while the loser is shunted off to Europa League Cup play.

Attempts to quantify the strength of clubs are imprecise but the UEFA Club Coefficient is such a metric. Liverpool is rated #35 while Hoffenheim is ranked #125. However, the Liverpool score is skewed upward by their strong showings from the 2014-2016 seasons. Take those numbers out and they are very close. Should be a good test for the two clubs!

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...