2019 MLS First Round Playoffs Preview

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For the 2019 season, the MLS has introduced a new playoff format. Last year, it was six teams in each conference, and the top two seeds each earned a bye. After a one and down first round, the conference semifinals and finals would feature two-legged series before the MLS Cup Finals. This year, however, the playoffs were expanded to include a seventh team, and now only the top seed in each conference earns a bye. Also, after the first-round matches, the conference semifinals and finals will only be single matchups. With all this change, it brings a whole new excitement and potential for unpredictability. Let’s look at the six first-round matches this season.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

New England at Atlanta

This is the first postseason matchup between these two sports cities since the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. There is a bit of controversy heading into this game as Atlanta defender Miles Robinson, who played for the United States during the preceding international break, pulled his hamstring during a post-match training session. Despite the outrage from Atlanta United team officials and coaches, Atlanta must go on without their star defender. Atlanta is trying to become the first repeat MLS Cup Champions since the 2011-12 Los Angeles Galaxy. Their first obstacle is the team they last played at home, the New England Revolution, led by MLS Newcomer of the Year Carlos Gil. Despite losing Robinson, Atlanta and MLS superstar Josef Martinez will be too much for the Revolution as Atlanta moves on comfortably.

Prediction: Atlanta 4 New England 2

FC Dallas at Seattle

The Seattle Sounders are one of the best all-around teams in the MLS, but once again, the injury bug hit the Sounders as every major starter outside of goaltender Stefan Frei had to miss time due to injury. However, due to the major parity of the MLS, Seattle was able to survive shorthanded games and won enough when healthy to achieve the second seed in the Western Conference. The Sounders are healthy at the right time and come into the playoffs with momentum and two huge 1-0 victories, including a 94th-minute stoppage-time winner by Jordan Morris at San Jose. They take on FC Dallas who also comes into the playoffs with momentum. On decision day, FC Dallas needed to grab a win vs Sporting KC to secure a playoff berth and they got it done with an impressive 6-0 victory. Dallas has a very balanced roster and will give any team fits. With Seattle healthy and at home, I give the edge to Seattle, but it will be a win they will have to sweat out.

Prediction: Seattle 2 FC Dallas 1 (ET)

DC United at Toronto FC

This battle looks to be a slugfest. Toronto FC has had an up and down season. They won their first three games, then lost 10 of 21 games, then finished the season on a ten-game unbeaten streak to claim a home game in the first round of the playoffs. A productive season from Spanish midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, who notched 12 goals and 11 assists, helped anchor a struggling offense and lead them into the playoffs. DC found their success this season with defense as they scored the 4th fewest goals as a team this season but went their final five games without conceding a single goal. However, the lack of offense became apparent when they had a two-man advantage at home vs last-place FC Cincinnati and failed to score a single goal. I expect neither side to gain any traction and this will be settled in a PK shootout. This time, DC will not have to go against Zack Steffen and will prevail by the skin of their teeth.

Prediction: DC United 0 Toronto FC 0 (DC Wins 3-2 on PKs)

Portland at Real Salt Lake

Both teams were expected to make the playoffs coming into the season, but neither had it easy. First, Real Salt Lake dominate at home with a 12-4-1 record but had to fire their coach, Mike Petke, in the middle of the season for yelling a homophobic slur at an official in July. That coach is now suing the team, and this caused RSL and the general manager, Craig Waibel, to part ways. Portland, on the other hand, had to play their first 12 matches on the road and had star newcomer Brian Fernandez, amid a great season, enter rehab. While RSL is the favorites, I expect the experienced Timbers to go into Salt Lake and grind out an ugly victory and head to Seattle for the second round.

Prediction: Portland 1 Real Salt Lake 0

Sunday, October 20

New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

The surprise vs the disappointment. Offense vs defense. Philadelphia surprised many by holding the top spot in the eastern conference for several months while the Red Bulls also surprised many by taking a tumble to sixth place a season after winning their third Supporters Shield in six years. The Red Bulls relied on great defense while Philadelphia overcame a sometimes-porous defense to earn this home fixture. Despite many failures in postseason’s past for the Red Bulls, they will come out and dominate Philadelphia to earn a rematch with Atlanta from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

Prediction: New York 3 Philadelphia 0

Los Angeles Galaxy at Minnesota United

This is without question the game in the first round that is must-watch television. Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes his MLS playoffs debut against a young and rising Minnesota United team who are just in their third year of existence. Minnesota is full of young and speedy players anchored down by former Sounders’ champion Osvaldo Alonso and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Ike Opara. However, they are battling Zlatan, a player who for over a decade, dominated against the world’s best, and will look to carry that into the MLS playoffs. With a weak backline, Minnesota will have their chances but will be ultimately be done in by Zlatan. MLS Playoffs. Welcome to Zlatan.

Prediction: Los Angeles Galaxy 3 Minnesota 2 (ET)

‘The Sixth Sense’ movie review

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I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that hit me at 1:00 a.m. last night at the end of this movie. Wow, I love this movie.

It is still mind-boggling whenever I take a look at M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography and see how many awful movies he has directed that juxtapose some of the classics he has made such as Signs, which I reviewed earlier this month, and The Sixth Sense, which I am about to review.

This movie stars Bruce Willis as a child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe who attempts to help nine-year-old, Cole Sear, played by Haley Joel Osment. Cole struggles with social anxiety and paranoia due to the trauma he experienced earlier in life with his now absentee father. To add on to Cole’s daily struggles, he can also see “dead people” who haunt him.

Cole, eventually, confides his secret to Malcolm in which Malcolm believes that Cole is delusional and tries to leave him. However, Malcolm listens to an old audiotape of one of his patients that makes him change his mind to believe Cole. He tells Cole to find a purpose with this ability to communicate with ghosts, which results in one of the most shocking twist endings in film history.

The performances in this movie are immaculate. I could feel each character’s emotion through every word delivered. There were scenes, in particular, where I was floored and could not help but burst into tears. Toni Collette, who plays the mother in the 2018 film, Hereditary, plays Cole’s mother in this film and you can see the similarities of the mother/son dynamic in both films. One of the two scenes that broke me was at the end when Cole reveals to her mother that he can see and talk to ghosts. At first, she does not believe him at all until he brings up her mother and how her mother did something that she did not know about, which was just so beautiful but gut-wrenching to watch at the same time.

Now, the big twist.

This is a massive spoiler but I have to get into it because this movie is incredibly popular and the twist is common knowledge. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE, DO NOT CONTINUE ANY FURTHER. This is like the stop sign for you on an SAT test.

Here we go.

The opening scene of the movie sees Malcolm getting shot by a former patient of his who says that Malcolm failed him. The movie fades to black before we learn his fate but we see him the next year so we assume that all is good and he has recovered. The subplot of the film involves Malcolm trying to win his wife back because he believes that she feels neglected by his work with Cole.

In the final scene, Malcolm sees his wife asleep on the couch with footage of their wedding playing on the TV. This footage plays multiple times throughout the film without explanation. Malcolm sees a wedding ring fall and rolls towards him but he notices that his wife is wearing her ring. Malcolm looks at his ringless hand and discovers the fact that he is actually dead.

I knew there was a crazy twist with this film but I never knew what it was until last night. The flood gates opened for me and I was a complete mess once the credits played.

As a man of Christian faith, I, to the fullest extent, believe in the afterlife and the existence of spirits roaming the natural world. The way I see it, when people die suddenly, such as by gunshot wound, they can become trapped on Earth because they are either in denial about their death or they have not found the closure they wanted to that gives them the peace of mind to move on.

When Malcolm failed the patient that killed him, he had the goal in mind to not fail the next one. So when he helps Cole and his situation, he is unknowingly finding the closure he needs to move on to the next phase of the afterlife, wherever it may be.

As this month rolls on, I cannot believe all of the movies I have slept on for so long. The Sixth Sense will hold a special place in me for a long time and I will come back to this movie frequently.

Rating: 10/10

Thanks for reading this review and be on the lookout for a double-header sometime this weekend.

 

Week 6 Reflections

Week 6 brought about plenty of controversy and upsets. The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to have an easy bounce back win over the 0-4 New York Jets, but ignited by the return of Sam Darnold, the Jets stunned the Cowboys 24-22. Also, both the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans were underdogs at Los Angeles and Kansas City, but both came out with huge victories. Lastly, the referees once again became the center of attention as two phantom illegal hands to the face on Detroit Lions’ defensive end Trey Flowers contributed to a fourth quarter Packers’ comeback and helped them win 23-22. Here are my thoughts after Week 6’s action.

  • The Steelers’ defense looks nasty with the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick. In the four games they have played since they traded next year’s first round pick for him, they have had 13 takeaways. They have also neutralized the 49ers, Chargers and Ravens’ offenses. As the young defense continues to gel and gain experience, they could end up becoming nasty down the road.
  • Kirk Cousins is having a better season than most people are giving him credit for. Among quarterbacks that have started at least four games, Cousins has the third highest passer rating behind MVP candidates Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Cousins does struggle against elite defenses such as the Packers and Bears but takes advantage of weaker defenses. With a great running back in Dalvin Cook and two terrific wide receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings should continue to take advantage of inferior and banged up defenses. But the problem is that is not going to cut it come playoff time.
  • The Panthers need to trade Cam Newton. When he was the starter this season, the Panthers were 0-2. Without him, they are 4-0. Kyle Allen has stepped in and performed marvelously with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. Allen needs to be given the keys to the offense for the foreseeable future, which means moving on from their former MVP and franchise quarterback. The buy week allows him to get healthier, and the Tennessee Titans need to scoop him up. They were just shut out by the 1-4 Denver Broncos and only scored seven points against the Buffalo Bills. Ryan Tannehill is not the long-term solution over the now benched Marcus Mariota. If Newton can stay healthy, he will thrive in a Titans’ system that matches his style of play.
  • While everyone is calling for Jason Garrett’s head in Dallas, the real problem with this team and why they are on a three-game losing streak is the soft defensive play calling. I have no idea why the defense is playing so soft on opposing wide receivers as Teddy Bridgewater converted third down after third down against them, and the last two weeks, they were torched by Aaron Rodgers without his best receiver and Sam Darnold who hadn’t played since Week 1. Rod Marinelli needs to start being more aggressive and using the talent he has at his disposal or he’s just going to continue to hang Dak and Zeke out to dry.
  • San Francisco is continuing to look more and more impressive, but they have played some of the worst offensive lines in the NFL such as the Bengals, Browns and Rams. After this week’s matchup at Washington, they will take on the 4-2 Carolina Panthers. That game will determine just how good this team is.
  • The Detroit Lions continue to have the worst luck. They should have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs but loss due to questionable replay rulings. Monday Night, they lost with some horrible phantom calls that should not have been called. It is sad a very good team is losing games they should win but let’s not just blame the referees. The Lions settled for five field goals and against a very good Green Bay Packers team on the road, that’s not good enough. Yes, the Lions were screwed over royally by officiating, but as usual, the referees are never the sole reason for a team losing.
  • There is a simple solution to fixing the heinous referee issues: a sky judge. There should be a non-partial NFL employee at each game that watches replays of every play and if there is an egregious call like the two phantom hands-to-the-face on Trey Flowers or no-call like in last year’s NFC Championship Game, then he should buzz down and let the officials know so they can fix the error. It’s like a copy editor editing a quick news article.
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