Wide World of Soccer - weekend April 28-29

Liverpool FC 0 Stoke City 0. Nuff said.

High drama on Wednesday for leg 2 against Roma. 5-2 lead looks good but Barcelona collapsed to Roma and were eliminated so Roma is not to be underestimated.

QPR takes care of business with a 3-1 win over bottom of the table Birmingham City.

LA Galaxy woes continue coming out on the short end 2-3 to NY Red Bulls. A couple of questionable calls went against LA Galaxy that took a goal off the LA tally and added a PK that was the Red Bull's winner.




LA Galaxy got some more offense but unfortunately their defense cost them.  One of the MLS analyst says that LA's 4-3-3 might be better for them. I speculated about that possibility back on April 13 though at that time I didn't anticipate Zlatan would start which he did.

LAFC in dramatic fashion defeat Seattle 1-0 with a stoppage time free kick!


Elfsborg falls 2-1 to Sundsvall.

Falkenberg plays on Tuesday on the road at Halmstad.


Wide world of soccer: weekend of April 21/22 2018

Hats off to LAFC for rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat Montreal on the road. If you had said that LAFC would get 4 wins against 2 losses to open season entirely on the road, fans would take it. They have their home opener next weekend.


Liverpool was on the road at West Bromwich cruising with a 2-0 lead only to surrender 2 goals late. The problems of defense reared its head once again!



QPR lost to Brentford 2-1. Not surprising for a road game at a team at the top half of the table.


LA Galaxy fall at home to Atlanta 2-0. Saw the second half of the match on TV. Atlanta had the lead so they were probably not as aggressive on offense. Nonetheless, it seemed they were always more threatening to score while LAG only got weak "half" chances at goal. LAG simply looked inferior to Atlanta.


Falkenberg (FFF) is off to a 4 game win streak with a 3-1 victory over Frej Taby.

Elfsborg plays Monday against Stockholm based Djurgarden.


LAG thus far

LA Galaxy stand at 3 wins 1 draw 3 losses.

Have seen parts of several matches on television.

The 4-3 victory over LAFC highlighted the best and worst of the LA Galaxy: the worst, a defense that always looks on the edge of calamity, the best, an offense that, on this occasion, lived up to the hype.

However, in most other matches, it has been the offense that hasn't shown much life. Aside from that 4 goal explosion against LAFC, LAG has been shut out 3 times, scored 1 goal 2 times (one for a win and one for a loss), and scored 2 goals in the season opening victory.

Thus, at an anemic 8 goals for the season, only 4 clubs have scored less.

Meanwhile, the defense has allowed 10 goals which is middle of the pack.

On paper, their problems appear more on the offense side of the park than the defense side.

However, by the "eyeball" test, it looks like there are problems on both sides of the game.

The defense always looks to be on the edge of being overwhelmed. One would have thought based on the eyeball test that the stats would bear out they are bad. But the "numbers" say they only gave up 10 goals which isn't too bad compared to the rest of the league.

On the offense side, it just seems the team is out of sync: passes to nobody, shots that don't seem very high percentage, inability to retain possession and pressure on the other team.

Elfsborg wins!

In their fourth match of the season, Elfsborg finally got a victory with a 2-0 win on the road against Brommapojkarna!

Lot of ball watching on that second goal by the defenders, eh?

Below is the CMORE highlight package.

 

"We are Liverpool: this means more" LFC's latest promo video



Sports is partly about scores and stats but it is mostly about narrative.

"We are Liverpool: this means more" is LFC's latest promo video with great moving images of past and present and the narration of current manager Jurgen Klopp.

Fantastic and moving and I've only been a fan since 2014 and have never been within a hundred miles of Liverpool.


Wide world of Soccer - how the six clubs I follow did

Friday April 13
LAFC beat Vancouver 2-0 on the road
LAFC bounced back from two prior defeats and continue to show the acumen of signing Rossi and Vela who got the goals in the victory.

Saturday April 14
Liverpool defeated Bournemouth 3-0
The three headed front line get a goal apiece in a taking care of business win.

Elfsborg downed by Sirius 1-0 at home
That is now three straight losses for the boys from Boras but no time to panic yet as there are still 27 more matches. For historical context, Elfsborg have been in the top league since 1998. From that time onward, they won the league in 2006 and 2012. They finished second in 2008. They won the Svenska Cup in 2001, 2003 and 2014. Hopefully, they can get their season going real soon!

QPR lost at home to Preston 2-1
Preston is higher up in the table so a loss isn't too surprising.

Chicago 0 LA Galaxy 1
Zlatan has appeared in 3 games and now has 2 game winning goals! Wound up watching the match on the phone via the live stream on Twitter for the first half and then the LA Galaxy audio stream for the second half. With the crazy wind, LAG had the wind with the in the first half and Chicago had the wind with them in the second half. The much maligned (and often with good reason) defense and goalkeeper came through a steady steam of attempts by Chicago in the second half.

Sunday April 15
GAIS 0 Falkenberg 2
The team by the sea have started off with 3 wins!




Chicago v Los Angeles Galaxy

The LA Galaxy and Zlatan take their show on the road to Chicago.

How many minutes will Zlatan play? 

He was in about 20 minutes against LAFC and 30 minutes against SKC. Some speculate 40 minutes in which case, might as well go 45 for a full second half. My "guts" tell me to look for 30 minutes again. This is his first road trip and the weather is likely to be miserable in Chicago so I'm thinking they play it safe with 30 minutes.

Any changes to the line-up that was used against SKC?

That line-up played SKC got their chances and played them pretty even with the exception of two defensive lapses in the early part of the second half which cost LAG the two goals. Thus, I don't see any line-up changes. The only two that could perhaps be considered is putting in Ciani for Steres but I think that unlikely. The other would be to start Lletget instead and have Boateng enter as his sub. But I think that unlikely as well but more possible than Ciani starting.

4-2-3-1 or something else?

As a relatively new soccer watcher, formation watching isn't always so clear to me. I know that at the beginning of the TV match coverage, a formation is shown. When I watch the game, it is sometimes pretty much as described. But clearly in the flow of the game, players push forward when the opportunity is there.

I was in the stands (behind the goal) on the side LAG were moving toward in the first half of the SKC match. There were times when Jonathan dos Santos (listed as one of the defensive midfielders) looked like he was in the offensive front! Alessandrini was listed as a central midfielder and he was often out wide. Pontius was listed as a wing midfielder and he was central. So clearly, these 4-2-3-1 formations are allowed to be fluid to capitalize on the situation. Perhaps that is part of why the defense sometimes gets over-run as the back line doesn't have any help when the other team comes pouring forward off a turnover by the LAG offensive players.

In the Premier League, the formation shown at the beginning is often a 4-3-3 that is favored by Liverpool. Could the LA Galaxy play something like that?

Kitchen would clearly be the "6" with 100% of his mindset on defense.

JDS would be 50% defense and 50% offense and link the movement of the ball from defense to offense.

Alessandrini would be offense minded looking to feed the ball to the three guys in the forward line or taking the shot himself.

The three forwards would be Pontius, Kamara, Boateng.

My guts tells me that this set up might be too offense minded and could expose the defense more especially since Feltscher and Cole do like to push forward and get into the offensive actions.

4-4-2

When Zlatan comes in, the team appears to go into this formation with Zlatan and Kamara as the two upfront. Perhaps, the team could play that from the start and have Pontius and Kamara as the two upfront? Alessandrini/Kitchen/JDS/Boateng as the midfield?

At the 70 minute mark, sub in Zlatan to pair with Kamara, Lletget replacing either Alessandrini or Boateng depending on who looks more tired and Pontius gets reassigned to the midfield?

Anyway, as the team chemistry improves, the players will have a better sense of when to pour forward on attack and when to play it safe and not rush too far ahead. With those subtle adjustments in decision-making, I think the team can compensate for the slightly slower feet of the defensive line.

Fearless (clueless) forecast:
1-1 or 2-2 draw on the road.

UPDATE: LAG win it 1-0! Zlatan with the game winner in stoppage time of the first half. Zlatan started and played 80 minutes.




It is Big-ly: Man City v. Liverpool, Leg Two


The starting XI is pretty much as expected. Admittedly, the bench is depleted; however, hopefully, they won't be called into service other than to provide some fresh defensive energy to close out the match. If they have to call up on the reserves to chase the game, then it would mean Liverpool is in serious trouble!

And here is the starting XI and the bench for Manchester City.

Currently, LFC has a three-goal edge.

If at the end of regulation the aggregate is:
3-0 LFC advances
3-1 LFC advances
3-2 LFC advances
3-3 goes to Extra-Time
3-4 Man City advances
4-4 LFC advances on away goals
4-5 Man City advances

Let's Go Liverpool!

IT. IS. A. FINAL!!!

Liverpool advance to the semi-finals with a 2-1 victory in leg two with a 5-1 aggregate!

Man City came out on fire and got a very quick goal and put LFC on their heels and came at them in waves. Some disputed calls went against Man City and the half ended 1-0 in favor of Man City but still down 3-1 on aggregate. Coach Pep was hot at the referee and was sent to the stands.

Man City continued to press but LFC continued to parry and you guessed it, MO SALAH got the goal at 56.

Man City had to push forward even more down 4-1 on aggregate and needed 4 goals to win. Liverpool defended and got the insurance goal from Bobby Firmino at 77.

Man City gamely fought on but Liverpool began to sub in some fresh legs to finish off the match.

Here are the highlights from Fox Sport. Fantastic goals by Salah and Firmino.

The weekend in soccer

Saturday started with the Merseyside Derby.

Everton v. Liverpool 0-0 (draw) 

The Reds with an eye toward the second leg of the Champions League semi-final played a weakened side so a draw was a reasonable outcome.

Hull v. QPR 4-0 (loss)

Ugh. QPR isn't a top level team so don't expect them to win all the time but they are usually at least competitive and they weren't today.

Falkenberg v. Eskilstuna 2-0 (win)

Off to a good start with two wins. Can they keep it up and get back to the top tier? "Laget vid havet!"

Atlanta v. LAFC 5-0 (loss)

Did the stunning loss against LA Galaxy last weekend leave the team still out of sorts? Or perhaps Atlanta is simply too much for LAFC to deal with? In either case, Bob Bradley and the brain trust will need to look at their situation after the glossy start.

Sunday provided two matches for me to follow

Kalmar v. Elfborg 1-0 (loss)

Ooofff .... off to a bad start with two losses. 28 matches to go. Hopefully, they will get their feet under them soon!

LA Galaxy v. Sporting Kansas City 0-2 (loss)

SKC dominated possession of the ball in the first half but LAG defense was up to the challenge for much of the time in the first half. But there was one bad patch early in the second half when LAG surrendered two goals. Those were not outrageous world class goals. However, they were clinical finishes to the opportunities granted by some poor defending from LAG.

The first goal was off a weak clearance off a corner kick that got pounced on by SKC.

The second goal was essentially a 1-against-3. Give the guy credit for taking it to the LAG defenders Steres and Cole and after ditching them, he got it past the goalkeeper Bingham. Any one of Steres, Cole, or Bingham could have prevented that goal but none did rise to that occasion.

LAG had shots of which three hit the woodwork. Jonathan Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini were back in the line-up but did seem a little rusty: pace and passing was just a little off.

The defensive group does seem a bit slow and teams that have speed will cause problems for LAG. Cole is astute but his 37 year old legs sometimes let him down. Skjelvik looks promising and don't recall him getting overwhelmed against SKC but he clearly got outpaced on goal #3 that LAFC scored. Steres has the physical tools (he made a couple of good tackles against SKC) but over his time at LAG errors seem to crop up. Perhaps it is focus and decision making that will improve with experience? Feltscher seems to be settling in but am concerned that without smart positioning and situational awareness he might not have the speed to catch up if he gets up too far forward on the attack. Kitchen has been very helpful to the defense but it seems the sum of the parts haven't gotten to where LAG needs to be to be consistently competitive.

Meanwhile, the Zlatan phenomena continues but no Hollywood ending tonight. He got in for about 30 minutes and put some shots on goal with one or two of the chances that got the crowd hopeful.

From the General Admission side of the stadium, it was hard to tell how good were his shots on goal. Judging from video replays I saw after the game, two of them looked like good efforts that if the goalkeeper has shut-off for a moment would have yielded a goal.

Sigi and company have a lot to chew over.

Defending put them in a three-goal deficit against LAFC and a two-goal deficit against SKC. Don't see Ciani or Romney as a better option than what they have out there now. So they may simply have to live with what they have. Do wonder how much upside does youngsters Hilliard-Arce and Arellano have?

As LAG offensive players advance in fitness returning from injury, it will be interesting to see which players will get the minutes upcoming and whether they will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation - probably. It seems that when Zlatan is in they switch to 4-4-2. Will he go on the road to Chicago? And how many minutes will he get?

Tough loss that could easily have been a draw. No time to panic as the team is still a work in progress with the arrow facing in the up direction.

Wide world of soccer - LA Galaxy v LAFC



Complete craziness!

IN any language, exciting ....... video compilation of the Zlatan goal call from announcers from around the world!


LAFC made LA Galaxy defenders look like they had concrete shoes on and bang, 3-0 lead!

But the LA Galaxy woke up in the second half and LAFC started to get a little tight.

3-1, with the Lleget goal. Good to see him on the way to full force after so many months of rehab from his foot surgery that could have been career ending.

Zlatan comes into the game!

Boateng crosses and Pontius scores on a diving header, 3-2.

Free kick by LAFC goal keeper and Steres heads it upfield. Zlatan sees that the LAFC goalie is too far from his goal and the properly gauges the flight of the header and on the bounce strikes a swerving shot into the goal, 3-3!

LAFC realizes they could lose this thing and they wake up and start to attack and get shot that hits the post.

As the game appears to be winding down to a draw, LAG pushes forward as the ball goes toward the open space to the right of the goal box and Cole, 37, tracks it down and hits a cross into the box and Zlatan, 36, out jumps everyone to head the ball into the goal, 4-3!

###

LA Galaxy were one of the "originals" when MLS started in 1996. Soccer was still on the periphery of most sports fans including myself back then.

David Beckham arrived in 2007 and the LA Galaxy and MLS began to get a bit more attention. I would check in on their progress on and off but mostly off. I did make it to one Galaxy game when both Beckham and Donovan were on the field.

It would not be until 2010 that I would follow the club more routinely. The Landon Donovan late game goal against Algeria in the World Cup pushed me into soccer fandom!

Got pretty spoiled as the LA Galaxy won 3 MLS Cups between 2010-2014 in 4 MLS Cup final appearances.

After that great run, the team model of relying on 30+ y/o European stars began to run into trouble as Robby Keane and Steven Gerrard just couldn't stay healthy enough to make a difference and so the LA Galaxy flamed out in the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

2017 was a dumpster fire as the team went toward a youth movement and some of their veteran players got hurt or just didn't play well resulted in the team finishing with the worst record in MLS.

With the launching of LAFC in 2018, it was tempting to "jump ship" but I decided to stick with the LA Galaxy as it is pretty hard to change clubs once you have some history of rooting for them.

No hard feelings about LAFC. It is good for the sport and the city to have a solid rival in town. In a face-to-face match, I have my team to root for. In other situations, I'll check in on how they are doing and wish them well. This is how I think of the Angels (I am a Dodger fan) and the Clippers (I am a Laker fan). I happily rooted for the Angels the year they beat the Giants to win the World Series!

LAFC has definitely gotten off to a great start and the LA Galaxy could learn from them about scouting for talent in Latin America.

Wide world of soccer - LFC v Man City, leg 1

Champions League quarter-finals!

Am guessing Man City is favored but leg one is at Anfield.


The KOP should be loud tonight!

In reading around the various media outlets in the build up, there is concerns at LFC about injuries.

The Echo reports that Gomez, Matip, Klavan, and Can are not available for selection.

Line-up guesses:
GK: Karius
Defense: Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson
Midfield: Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Frontline: Mane, Firmino, Salah

Liverpool take a 3-0 lead in leg 1. Here are the highlights!

Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane score in the first half!

Wide world of soccer - QPR!



QPR bounce back from their loss to Redding with a 4-1 victory over Norwich.

I had mentioned in my last blog post that I would go find fish and chips if QPR would win a match!

So now, I will need to look around the part of town I live in to see who has them on the menu.

Sheffield Wednesday is another club like QPR and Norwich occupying the middle-ish part of the bottom half of the table.

Come on you R's!

Wide world of soccer - Sweden

Swedish soccer leagues that I follow, Allsvenskan (tier 1) and Superettan (tier 2) have kicked off.

Elfsborg fell 2-1 to historic powerhouse Malmo.

According to Transfermarkt.com, Malmo, AIK, and Ostersunds are the top-three in terms of "market value" of the clubs. Elfsborg is fifth.

According to one odds-maker site, Malmo, AIK, and Djurgarden are front-runners. Elfsborg is seventh.

Last season Elfsborg finished eighth.

In the Superettan, Helsingborg, Halmstad, and Jonkopings are the favorites according to the same odds-making site. Falkenberg is projected fifth.

On the basis of "market value," Helsingborg, Eskiltuna, and Jonkopings are the three strongest. Falkenberg comes in eighth.

Falkenberg kicked off their season with a 3-2 victory over Landskrona.

Falkenberg has punched above their weight the last few years winning the Superettan in 2013 and staying in tier 1 for three seasons. Last season they came up short to making it into the promotion playoffs.

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...