Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ah So, Coach Warzycha?

From Craig Merz at thecrew.com:

Warzycha blamed himself for the leaky defense that allowed two first-half goals. He said Gardner was playing too close to left back Rich Balchan.

“There was just confusion,” Warzycha said. “I think (Gardner) was trying to defend. He was next to Rich too much and he wasn't covering the middle.”

ahso, Bleeno?

Monday, May 30, 2011

MoneyHoney, Part 1: Columbus Crew

The chart at the top shows only the Columbus Crew. In gray is the individual players current guaranteed salary. In dark blue, is true value based on my player rating model.

With my (still evolving) player ratings I've had the bug to match them up with player salaries in a way that makes sense in a way that might make Billy Beane happy.

So here goes nothing.

Using the statistics available I've attempted to assign a score to each player. It's impossible to really go beyond maybe a letter grade or descriptions like; Great, Good, Average, Poor, Disaster - but I'm fairly satisfied with what I've got. Sébastien Le Toux is probably not the best player in the league. He is, however, one of the best. I'm confident in this because no matter how I play with the numbers he always finds his way into the top 10%. Why? He is on one of the best teams, their GA average is great, he has a handful of assists, one penalty and he plays loads of minutes.

I weight each category with a multiplier and HEEEYOOOHHH out comes a usable aggregate. In Le Toux's case: 88.50. The best in the league. Each player has a score like that. Players can actually receive an negative aggregate because of weighted GA. Shavar Thomas for Sporting KC has the lowest number at -38.84. I slide the difference between these two and out comes my score on a 100 pt. scale (on right).

So, looking at it this way, where does this leave the Columbus Crew to this point in the season? Well, let's get to that.

- 401 players have seen the pitch this year
- 24022.1 is the total number of points all players have earned in my model
- $49,290,780.79 is the total salaries off all those players (using a rounded cap number of 350,000 for the DP's). Less then Fernando Torres transfer this past season.
- Divide the points into the total salaries and I get a single point value of $2,052

On my sliding scale (to get rid of negatives) Le Toux has 127.34 points. Use my per point factor of 24022.1 per point and that gives him a value of $261,282.60. His actual salary is $179,000.00 making him a value.


In the chart for the Crew we have 10 players performing at or above their current salary. Of course a players worth is not only in performance, as the case with team captain Chad Marshall. And of course the player market dictates how much a player is paid.

Overall, the soccer market in the US is small so we don't see a whole lot of wasted spending by many (if any) teams (yet). Major League Soccer is going about this the right way.

Moneyball-ing it, so to speak.

Puzzling Crew v. Chivas Game

It was clear that the Crew set out to put away some goals on Saturday night. Perhaps coach Warzycha watched some of the Philadelphia Union / Toronto FC game earlier that day and gained even more confidence in his game plan. Only problem is that Warzycha couldn't help but make changes to something that wasn't broken in the back.

The Crew's defense had been solid, mid-field? Average. With that, the expected changes were done to the front with Mendoza, Heinemann and Ekpo in CAM role. They were. And it kinda worked save for the fact that for some reason Warzycha couldn't keep his hands off the things that had been working.

The change to add Gardner over both Rusmir and Burns was bizarre. To start the game Warzycha switched Rogers to the right and Gaven to the left was again, bizarre.

The results of the changes in the middle were thus: Gardner went rogue, seemingly everywhere and out of position often. Which could have contributed to why Gaven looked out of position and made it seem like Robbie started his international break early.

The Crew MF of Gaven, Rogers and Gardner, in that formation = Garbage. If possession stats say anything, it says that.

Ekpo played confidently though. His assist to Mendoza was all hustle and skill. His turn in the box and shot in goal was skillful as well.

Heinemann again proved that he is a threat when streaking towards goal and in the air even though his touches in the mid-field weren't great. Maybe he wouldn't have had to do that had the Crew's MF not been blown up.

Mendoza. His two goals were FIFA 11 like. High quality. I've been watching the Crew since I moved here in 2006 and I can only think of a handful of goals scored that confidently. Inexplicably, Warzycha pulled him with plenty of time on the clock preventing him from a deserved hat trick. I heard he walked off right after the sub. Some say he was physically hurt. I say he felt he was robbed of reaching 3. Regardless, it doesn't excuse walking off the pitch into the locker room.

Hesmer may have been able to play better. A messy headed ball across the post caught him once. Another time a strong shot bounced off his hands at 5 yards out and fell in the goal. I can't say that he should have gotten them, but I know to expect a lot from him. I've seen him make those saves.

Chivas came out on the attack and caught the D off guard. Once order was restored in the second half in the MF I noticed Marshall playing better. His form was restored.

Cunningham. He did look good and he was all fight. But it was with fresh legs against tired ones. I know the game plan for the franchise this year was to get some players experience, hopefully sneak in the playoffs and get Cunningham two goals for the MLS record. But I think the weight of this record is causing some bad decisions.

When Renteria comes back we probably shouldn't see him coming on in critical situations.

In any performance based industry you look for consistency. Even if you are not hitting the target you can build off consistency. The analogy here is archery. If you are hitting the same target over and over (even the barn behind the target) at least you can expect, learn from and understand the mechanics involved in doing so. What Warzycha did was disrupt the consistency in the MF and CDM. Two things that were, if anything, consistent outside of the one game (data point) in San Jose. Now the Crew thinks they solved the problem of scoring goals. But under the surface they've created a new one in preventing them.

Now we have arrows going everywhere. Not good with NY coming up.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

MLS True Table - May 29th, 2011

LA takes the top spot this week, ho hum. The biggest news for me was The Philadelphia Union going goal crazy yesterday scoring SIX against Toronto FC yesterday. I was able to catch that game and I think they could have been a couple more. The Crew also opened up a little, scoring 3 themselves. I was left scratching my head on how they also allowed 3 though. Outside of a just plain good game by in form Chivas USA I'm thinking the defensive collapse was a combination of things that I'll get to later.

5-30-11: Updated table to include last nights DC United / Portland Timbers game.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Clouds over Columbus: Crew v. Chivas

All of the three games Chivas has won this year has come in the last five games. The Crew have only won one in their last five. You could argue that this is the proverbial "TWO TEAMS HEADING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS" headline. But this is the MLS. Game times, Location, Team Travel and even Weather, one could argue, decide many games.

Chivas is the only team to come from the West and win in the East and this one is here in Columbus. Game time is a reasonable, good footballing time of 7:30 PM EST.

It's Columbus, so who the hell knows right now. The Wunderground is calling for a cloudy 70s day with the ever present slight chance of rain.

So with the intangibles out of the way it looks like we have the makings of a level playing ground with fortune on the side of the home team (booooring). Quality should be on show. Something the Crew haven't been able to show in the last however many weeks due to travel and incessant RAIN (where ever they are; home or away).

09: Columbus Crew
11: Chivas

86: Alejandro Moreno
84: Nick LaBrocca
80: Eddie Gaven (CREW)
80: Heath Pearce
79: Robbie Rogers (CREW)
78: Ante Jazic
78: Sebastian Miranda (CREW)
76: Ben Zemanski
76: Chad Marshall (CREW)
76: Julius James (CREW)

Clear weather and playing at home favors the Crew. Normal distribution of data tells us goals are on the menu for the Crew tomorrow. There is a direct relationship between Goals per shot and goals per game. Columbus has epically poor quality in the category. Chivas? Slightly below average. Numbers, without intangibles, tell us that this is destine for a 1-0 Crew win. However, normal distribution of goals combined with weather and location tell us that the Crew could win 3-1.
Green is good. Higher number is good. The key is for one team to break through the numbers above. If the Crew can't muster up more then ONE goal then we have a serious problem. To the bottom of the table will the Crew fall.

Oh... forgot to mention. Dollar Beer night in Columbus tomorrow? Nervous. History tell us... Hide the kids. Shit.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Crew is Last in Something

And it is no secret. Quality in Goal Scoring. The facts. Here we go.

The Columbus Crew is:

3rd: Shots Per Game
LAST: Shots on Goal Per Game
LAST: Goals Per Shot
LAST: Shots On Target
LAST: Goals Per Shots on Target

Morbid of me to be looking for things that my team is last in. I would prefer it to be in fouls per game or something. But it isn't. It's in Goal stats.

Those are pictures of the sky over Columbus today. The clouds made me put these stats together. They, and the ensuing downpour, also made my car break down on High Street near German Village today. Booooo.

Only One Left for LA to Overtake

The Galaxy beat Houston last night 1-0. Dallas over Seattle 1-0 as well.

Jeff Larentowicz jumped up my player score list by scoring two last night for Colorado but New York and Colorado ended up at 2-2.

Henry. Donovan. Again last night.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Submitted for Review

Ali said once: "Will outweighs skill" - but maybe we got both here. Something about him playing for the Carolina Railhawks (via Charleston Battery) and now the Crew.

Here Are Power Rankings Again

Whenever I mess around with power rankings I feel dirty. My numbers are based on a model though. I like to think they they are less arbitrary then anyone else's "gut" feeling. Maybe not. In either case, they can't be worse then Bleacher Report. Talk about feeling dirty after reading something.

- Columbus is falling (also the name of my next movie). Due in large part to non-existent forward play. The Crew have made changes whilst out west. Home this Saturday. Goals are coming for the Canaries. They do not have the worst scoring offense in the league as the table so embarrassingly points out.

- Philly hanging in, but the gap betwixt them and Power Ranking favorite around the intercomputersnets LA Galaxy is not statistically significant.

- Checking when Salt Lake plays next. Mercifully, they are on at 9 PM EST. And doubly mercifulicous is that no eastern time zone team has to play after summerducking 1 ducking A. to the ducking M. this week.

- Houston is playing LA late tonight, should be a good game and help everybody sort out the LA GALAXIAN best team in the league thing. Maybe they are but Billy is pulling for Houston.

- Matt Bernhardt has the best power ranking out there. Hey, we both have Cbus 9th. Still digging at his method. Portland? Hmmm. Good stuff.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"beta" Tag Gone From MLSsoccer... wait. who. what the cuss

Tootled on over to the MLS website today and noticed the very exciting news today that the beta tag was removed from the logo. Very exciting, I know.

Wait a second... Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out, track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23.
Give me a hard copy right there.

Well. I'll be darned. Mr. Heinemann made the team of the week.

"FW: Tom Heinemann (Columbus Crew) – The new Steven Lenhart in Columbus, Heinemann showed a great deal of promise in his first start. Active, tireless and solid in the air, he will feel like he should have come away with at least a goal in Portland. He earned himself an encore."

Special thanks to the Esper machine.

Maybe it was just me. It's just me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Disappointment, Exhaustion and other Crew musings

Saturday night's game was on late. too late if you ask me. 11 pm out here on the east coast. 8 pm in Portland. why so late? i don't know. but by the time i'd had a few beers and a sipping shot of spirit the 2nd half was rolling up and i was struggling to stay awake.
curiously, i awoke Sunday morning and immediately checked the final score. had Colombus rallied and tied the game up 1-1, or really pushed themselves and actually gone ahead? the answer to both queries was a resounding "NO."
what I saw in 60-70 minutes of play was a tired Crew desperate for a leader, a goal scorer, someone the rest of the team could look to and think "he's really going for it, I'm with him!" but there was nobody to fill that spot. and i fear, nobody will step into that spot.

let's look at the options:

Renteria - i think he's a bit lazy. i've said before he can post up. he can make a turn. send in a good ball. but he's not a runner. he's not trying to create chances. that's just not a part of his game. he has some good qualities. but a leader he is not.

Mendoza - um, no. was his introduction into the game supposed to spark something? i'm sure the manager hoped so. Mendoza had a lot of game time after Renteria went off injured to stake some claim. but he didn't. he doesn't. why is his paycheck so hefty?

Chad Marshall - he's got the spirit. but so far he seems quiet on the field. and being a defender he's back in his half protecting Hesmer, not making noise up front.
Heinemann - young. but he looks like making trouble, doesn't he? in my view, if he can start giving the opposition defense more to think about the Crew will start moving back up the table.

Ekpo - like him. he's got something. i just don't know what it is.

Gaven - he's got to do more. and the team has got to give him more to do. plain and simple. guys got a lot of talent. and when gets the ball i think, "yes, here we go." does the team think that too. i don't know. but he's the likeliest candidate for me.

If Gaven and Heinemann can get a partnership going in attack I'd say we'd have something for other teams to fear.

so, who's it gonna be? somebody. Anybody!

Robbie Rogers USMNT Call Up

On the 23 player roster 6 players currently in the MLS got the call. The distribution of them at each position is suspicious. To me anyway. But what do I know.

Below are the MLS players on the team. On the left is what US born rank I have them in the MLS at their respective positions relative to the rest of the league.

01: Nick Rimando (GK)
13: Tim Ream (D)
07: Landon Donovan (MF)
10: Robbie Rogers (MF)
01: Chris Wondolowski (MF)

Mr. Ream and Mr. Rogers sorta stick out, but methinks youth was the main consideration in their selection. Regardless, congratulations to Robbie. Looks like the Crew has gap to fill during the tournament. Should be interesting.

Here is a list of the entire team.

Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers/England)
Tim Howard (Everton/England)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne/France)
Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres UANL/Mexico)
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover/Germany)
Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark)
Eric Lichaj (Leeds United/England)
Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente/Netherlands)
Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
Jonathan Spector (West Ham United/England)

Freddy Adu (Rizespor/Turkey)
Michael Bradley (Aston Villa/England)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham/England)
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Maurice Edu (Rangers/Scotland)
Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution)
Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers/England)
Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium)
Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls)
Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor/Turkey)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)


Edit: Forgot to add Mr. Feilhaber AND Juan Agudelo on the list of MLS players on the team. Both have only seen limited time (to this point in the season). Quality players.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ella Masar Fan Over Here

Last weekend my brother had given me a call to talk a bit of soccer. He had a trivia question for me. It was in regards to a league his young daughter was playing in. He asked me, in so many words, if you could create the perfect pre-teen soccer player in his daughters league where do you think there parents would be from. My mind raced around. I figured it wouldn't be two American born parents and that I would have had to have been two foreign born. Elsewise, he wouldn't have asked.

My brother has taken notice of this kid saying that he is playing on another level then the others. He gave me clues: Controlling the ball in ways the other kids in the Shenandoah Valley haven't seen before. The kid has smart spacing, good touches, whichever team he played on won even if he wasn't scoring goals.

Since our mother was English I immediately thought that this boy's parents must be has well. Another clue came in that his parents were from different countries. I figured that a Brit had to be one of them. It was not.

My brother pushed me on. I couldn't guess it. How could I ever as it turned out it was German and Welsh. I had to think on that combo for a minute. An American born player with parents from soccer rich countries. I told to keep an eye on that one. In 7 or so years a kid like that will be a star in this country.

In between that trivia question I asked how his daughter was enjoying soccer. He said, like thousands of other American girls in this country, she enjoyed it a lot. Later that evening I turned on the US Women's World Cup warm up game against Japan. It was being played right down the road from me at Crew stadium. I got excited about it. The women's team in this country is a powerhouse in the world and the Women's World Cup was coming up this summer.

I sent a text over to a friend of mine who played girls soccer most of her life and still loved the game.

"Womens world cup this year. USA is playing warm up on FSC right now. At Crew Stadium!"

I got an unexpected response:

"Womens soccer sucks"

I was taken back and sat there for a few moments later thinking about what in the world would make her say that. I was a little crushed to hear that. I got a text back a few moments later, apologizing, telling me that it wasn't from her. It was from her boyfriend who had her phone.

"buy him some extra ice cream for spelling all his words correctly." I responded back.

I'm not the smartest guy in the world and thus; am not the most easily offended. But I was by that guy's comments. Here we have a great national team. We even have a group of extremely dedicated people keeping a pro league going in the WPS. His comment got to me.

In doing so I decided to pull the stats from the young WPS season and put them into the same scoring system I have going for the MLS. Below are the top ten:

100 Ella Masar (magicjack)
93 Abby Wambach (magicjack)
82 Tina DiMartino (PHI)
79 Marian Dalmy (magicjack)
79 Lindsay Tarpley (magicjack)
74 Shannon Boxx (magicjack)
74 Becky Sauerbrunn (magicjack)
74 Christine Sinclair (NY)
73 Christen Press (magicjack)
71 Brittany Bock (magicjack)

Pulling stats from the official WPS site is shoddy right now as Sky Blue FC isn't available but I'm going to keep checking.

WPS True Table:

That dude who sent that text can suck it. Go USA this Summer and good fortune to all the folks in WPS this year.

The United States Women's Team has won two of the five World Cups and has never finished lower then third in any of them.

MLS True Table, Extended

Now that Major League Soccer is 30% into their season I'm extending out the True Table to include per game averages in Goals For, Goals Against and Goal Difference. Relevant now as enough games have been played to give fans of their clubs a good idea of what they are working with the rest of the season.

Columbus, for one, was true to form last night loosing 1-0 to the Portland Timbers. I haven't had time to digest this game as I was welcoming in the latest edition to the Johnson household, Isaac! Congratulations Jim and Trish!

The game is running now and being dutifully uploaded for bleeno to review. I can see right off that their starting line up has been tweaked up front, no doubt in attempt to get more chances up front.

A lot of action yesterday, couple more games later today:
- I see that Helltown Power ranking favorite Philadelphia (and completely underrated in the nearly incompetent official MLS power rank) put in two against the Fire
- San Jose has fully woken up with a 2-1 win over the Revolution. Wondo, with an assist and win yesterday, is firmly on top of my player ratings. Go Wondo. In outstanding form and should get consideration for the USMNT (again).
- In another "official" MLS power ranking mystery, Houston draws with NY 2-2 (in Houston). I had Houston 5th and MLS - 10th.
- Big game later today for Real Salt Lake and Dallas. A couple of the best teams in the league.


Edit: True Table updated to reflect games played May 22nd.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Portland Timbers v. Columbus Crew

Preview Match up show! Okay, not a show or much of a match up because eastern time zone teams are have a rough time playing out west. In fact, none have won. The "odds" are slim that Columbus will win given this one has a start time of 11pm EST. Late. A topic for another day.

Back to "Odds". Over here at Helltown we don't mettle in odds! We deal with truths, facts, KPI's, non value adds, upper and lower control limits, failure mode and effects analysis, repeatability and reproducibility, et al right? Huzzah!

Annnnddd, one day I'll get to all that. Well, in fact I working on using tools used in the industry I work in (MFG) and applying them to soccer. Sound silly? It's not. Lots in common. Namely; success as goal.

What I have been working on is my measurement system. Being able to measure is one of the most important things to get right before trying to improve (win) or, in the case of the MLS, get the most out of the limited funds that you have. It is not right the first time out. Mine is not right. But I gotta start somewhere.

Below is how the Timbers and Columbus match up at the four basic positions up to this point in the season:

The Crew has a decided edge in the back with Defense and Goal Keeping. Portland; up front. In my previous post you can see where they both rank overall.

Portland has two players in my top 20 (on right as well). The rest are Crew players in the top 50 in the league.

81:Jack Jewsbury (POR)
81:Kenny Cooper (POR)
77:Eddie Gaven
76:Robbie Rogers
75:Sebastian Miranda
73:Chad Marshall
73:William Hesmer
73:Julius James

Miranda sticks out right now because of his play in the last couple games. Hoping bleeno can catch last weeks game to help out on that one.

Prediction? I can't really make one. The game is on late and Portland has an awesome crowd behind them. But I hear Jewsbury may be out. It'll be a tough one for the Crew but how they respond to last weeks 12 minute meltdown will say a lot about the team. If they can come out of this with a draw then I think I could see that as a success.

But I dislike calling a draw a success.

Get your rest gentlemen. Go Crew.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Everybody Dislikes Power Rankings

But those creating the Power Rankings like the LA Galaxy. They looked good last weekend. But one weekend a power rank does not make. Below are mine with the "official" MLS rank in parentheses.

01:Real Salt Lake (2)
02:New York (3)
03:Philadelphia (11)
04:FC Dallas (4)
05:Houston (10)
06:Los Angeles (1)
07:Colorado (5)
08:Columbus (6)
09:Seattle (7)
10:San Jose (13)
11:Chivas USA (8)
12:Portland (9)
13:Chicago (14)
14:Toronto FC (16)
15:New England (12)
16:Vancouver (17)
17:D.C. (15)
18:Sporting KC (18)

Lots of agreement on the bottom six. Crowd theory at work here. If you are fans of those teams? Get vocal. Changes are needed. Normal distribution of data says that lower scoring teams will net a few in the coming weeks. That means Philly, Columbus, Toronto and New England.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Crew Status Quo Burnt

The Crew's impressive seven game non-loosing streak ended ugly late last night. In the span of 13 minutes the San Jose Earthquakes put three goals past Hesmer and his stingy defense.
It's easy to get critical after a bad loss, isn't it? It was a late game for an eastern time zone team and there were some sloppy plays that, one could argue, showed that. But there may be more to this game.
Early on in this game I felt coach Warzycha was just hanging to the things that kept his team from loosing over the past couple months. You could tell the water was rising about 15 minutes into the game. The goals were in a bunch - but once it got to 1-0 right out of the gate in the 2nd half I was wondering, as the announcing crew was, what the changes there would be. Shortly after, at 2 nil, part of me got excited to see the Crew in full attack mode with folks coming off the bench, but alas... it didn't happen until after the 3rd goal.

When it did happen.
Looking like a caged lion; Tommy Heinemann came on in the 66th minute. He proved to be just that in the last quarter hour mixing it up with the Earthquakes even causing a San Jose player to get sent off with 10 minutes to play. Gaven and Rogers finally had a target in the middle after struggling in the first 60 minutes with Renteria. 10 minutes after Heinemann, Ekpo came on. This opened up things a little bit more in San Jose's third.

It's hard to tell anything once a team is down by three. But the short time Ekpo and Heinemann were on makes me want to see more of those guys this year. It was only 15 minutes and Renteria and his straight forward style of play stayed on. I would have preferred to see Mendoza and Heinemann up front, Ekpo at CAM, Gaven and Rogers out wide - with no Renteria. Call it a diamond or whatever. This kind of thinking is more for bleeno but I think it is worth a shot when your team is not scoring goals (all year).

Again, easy to just discount the things the team has done right this year when a loss comes. But I think this is an important one to learn from. It's been no secret that Columbus is struggling scoring this year and this game embarrassingly exposed it. The back line and Hesmer have already proved to be solid. It's important at this point in the season to try a couple different things in the middle and up front. But who am I.

- Brad Ring in the MF for the Earthquakes keeping Ryan Johnson and Wondolowski dangerous.
- SJ: Steven Lenhart. Funny to see him taken down in the first 3 seconds of the game. But it was probably the wrong thing to do.
- SJ: Khari Stephenson had (one of) the best goal(s) in the MLS I've seen all year.
- CREW: Heinemann for doing the kind of things every team needs. He is young, but he is football savvy.
- CREW: Rogers seemed off and Dilly was all hustle (which is the norm now) but no quality (which is also becoming troublingly normal)
- GAVEN: Gaven was Gaven in my GAVEN category. I liked the shots he took because Renteria was having trouble getting free. They were on target, gotta take them.
- CREW: Ekpo shinned in his short time out. Wow, was he impressive in the middle.
- Balchan and Miranda had a rough night out. The weakest on the team (last night). I'm worried about the play of Miranda.
- CREW: Burns had good touches. If I get a chance, I will watch again for his positioning during the 13 minute goal festival. On first watch, he played well.

MLS Power Rankings

Still messing around with power rankings by position. As with any "Power Rank", it's not an exact science. I'm hoping to get this to the point of at least providing a general indication of how well a team is doing by position. So far I think it holding its own.

One of the things I'm looking at is the number of players at a position for a given team. Generally speaking, the assumption I make is that if a team has multiple players playing in one position over many games then the weaker they must be at it. The glaring exception here GK for the Red Bulls. Their goal tending as a team has been excellent, but because they have used a 3 different keepers in the first third of the seaon it makes it look like they are struggling there. I'll see if it works itself out as the season rolls on.

To the Middle With Ye

Columbus Crew playing past their sleepy time drop to the middle of the table. Dallas and the Galaxy open up with a mess of goals. Beckham; vintage bend.Helltown will take a look at the important Crew loss soon. I hope bleeno has the windows open when he watches this Crew outing. San Jose played very well. If you're an Earthquakes fan, you don't have to do anything with your windows.

7:28 PM Monday, May 16th, 2011:
Table updated to include last nights Red Bulls / Chivas game.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Castrol Index and Me

(Further information on the Castrol Index)

Below is how Castrol has the Columbus Crew through April. I multiplied by 10 so as to match my system. Also to eliminate going two deep past the decimal point. It makes little statistical difference to go even to one (which is why I don't use it on the right).

87.3 Chad Marshall
84.7 Eddie Gaven
84.5 William Hesmer
81.7 Julius James
76.1 Robbie Rogers
73.9 Sebastian Miranda
72.1 Rich Balchan
69.8 Kevin Burns
68.4 Emmanuel Ekpo
59.3 Dejan Rusmir
59.1 Dilly Duka
57.0 Emilio Renteria
54.7 Andres Mendoza
51.9 Tommy Heinemann
42.7 Jeff Cunningham
36.3 Bernardo Anor

And here is Helltown's list. I expanded it out the tenths of a point so It seems smart like Castrol's. I could take it out to 1000th of a point if I must. I'm kidding. Yet... I could.

78.6 Eddie Gaven
78.1 Robbie Rogers
76.4 Sebastian Miranda
74.5 Julius James
74.5 William Hesmer
74.5 Chad Marshall
72.0 Emilio Rentería
65.9 Rich Balchan
61.7 Kevin Burns
55.3 Emmanuel Ekpo
55.3 Dejan Rusmir
54.3 Dilly Duka
43.3 Andres Mendoza
26.8 Tommy Heinemann
26.2 Jeff Cunningham
24.6 Josh Gardner
20.8 Bernardo Anor
19.5 Leandre Griffit

Again, Castrol is only through the end of April and only updated once a month. Its complex measurement system does not seem sustainable to me. Note: Missing Mr. Gardner and Mr. Griffit along with a couple games because of time frame.

Castrol's method is deep while mine has more to do with how well the team is doing, using regression, with the rest of the league. Goals, assists, shot accuracy do matter but only as much as team Goals against in relationship with the rest of the league and time on the pitch (where defenders earn their keep).

Making great passes around the 18 yard box is great... but are they winning and who is on the pitch when they are? Or conversely, who is on the pitch most when loosing?

I've never seen anywhere that states that good passing anywhere on the pitch is a KPI of wins. Just as I don't see possession percentage as an indicator of it. But I'm new to this. I'll look in to it further.

For now? I'm content with my method. As a guy who works in manufacturing and deals with key performance indicators all day? Contentment with your measurement system is all you can ask for.

That said.

Above all other sports I know that Soccer isn't about numbers. It's the beautiful game. But people like to try to quantify and qualify it. I like to use my measurements as a way of understanding. Others, who have an uncanny eye for it, do not need it. I envy them.

STOKE (and MLS weekend)

Before getting to the Columbus Crew and their game this weekend, I just want to get this out of my system.

STOKE! What a year to really start following them. Maybe Helltown is a good luck charm for them. It's already been, arguably, their best season. Go on Stoke. Man City fans calling you knuckle dragger's is a compliment. They are scared. Scared, I tell you.

Which leads me to: The Columbus Crew. (Only MLS team in the rust belt... industrial town like the best PL teams... calls their fan section by a German name... anybody? okay.)

Late game for Columbus at San Jose this weekend. Here are my power rankings by team thus far. It's by position as Stats, LLC has them (D, F, GK, MF). It's on a sliding scale so I'm not saying the Union is perfect in most areas, just the best. I am thrilled that the Crew are second overall. This didn't happen because I'm a fan. I've done this "heat map" power ranking before where the Crew was fourth. The same place the MLS (beta) has them in their own power rankings.

Columbus will have to buck the trend this weekend of eastern teams traveling west to play. No team, east to west or vice versa, has won (0-12-12). The Crew have two almost must wins over the next couple weeks. Both are winnable. I will be recording both for bleeno's review in case he can't catch them. Sitting proudly on those nails.

I'm really happy with the way this season is going for Columbus. When I started out I was determined to be a loyal fan. It's become rewarding (to this point). My writing on the MLS will not change the face of the MLS. A couple neato things have happened though:

I took notice that shortly after my post that mentioned the Crew moving downtown a interview was done on the official Crew site on any new stadium plans with the President and GM. I also mentioned the messy stats change that happened at MLSsoccer.com to which, soon after, the MLS added Beta to their logo.

My most proud connection is my player ratings. I'm using a mix of formulas used in the PL to rate. And I started near the beginning of the season. The MLS was not using any such ratings until this past week. The are now using the Castrol Index. This is a very good thing. For one, they have Landon ranked at 104. I have him at 61. But this sort of ranking doesn't make sense to some because he has the second most goals in the league. There are a couple things I disagree with in the Index ratings. The first one is how they use the 60% of minutes played each month and discount those who are under that. Like in baseball when you hear minimum of 100 at bats and the like. I'm not going to say it's lazy (the Castrol Index is anything but), but there are ways to work percentage of minutes played without using an arbitrary number to rule out players that play less. The visible representation of using a bottom floor number is manifesting itself in Steve Zakuani being ranked 2nd still.

Anyhow, neither here nor there. Helltown isn't blazing a trail with thousands of readers. Just happy to be on the right track. On the pulse, so to speak. With my favorite writer and much better soccer mind; bleeno.

Oh... Bleeno: Wondering if we should get Smitty in?

Here is the latest MLS table:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Billy was kind enough to get me the local Colombus feed of the Crew v. Sounders match from last Saturday. and last night i had a look at it.

The rain was coming down hard. the pitch was soaked. the stands were mostly bare save for those hardcore fans who would sit on nails for their team if necessary. Seattle certainly looked the more relaxed team at the start. but then Seattle is a rainy place so, you know, feels like home.

Most of the first half happened in the midfield. a bit scrappy. in fact, much of the match was akin to a hockey game. swinging in legs. bumping. aggressive. little composure. Miranda in particular gave away the ball way too easily in the first 20 minutes. and the Colombus back line made a mess of clearing the ball under pressure. they were too quick to lose their shape and thus provide few options for a man in trouble.

Colombus settled down eventually and played a better rest of the half. But not before Sounders' midfielder Friberg sent in a nice diagonal cross into the box which Fredy Montero headed passed Hesmer. a bit of a calamity there. really, Montero should not have been able to reach that ball. the fullbacks were unprepared. and Hesmer should have stood his ground instead of coming a bit forward and losing his position.

The Crew also had a couple nice chances. Renteria made a good turn in the box and sent in a low pass to Gaven, who was making a run in. but he was just a bit off and could only knock it wide. first half ends 0-1. Sounders up.

The second half began much better. Plenty of positives from the Crew's perspective. Renteria was excellent at holding the ball up and having some vision to turn and move the ball forward. he was very impressive on a first touch. i'd like to see more discipline on his second or third touch, though.

Mendoza came on and things seemed to change a bit. more of the game was played in the Sounders end. there was more fight and fire to the Crew. and some much more positive passing displays. when Mendoza sent a beautiful thru ball to Rogers between two defenders I thought it'd be a goal for sure. But Seattle's defender closed on Rogers quickly and he took the shot early and well wide. Rogers has got incredible speed and if the midfielders can keep their eyes open for more thru balls like Mendoza's they'll likely see more goals. and certainly more corners.

The Crew finally got their goal from the penalty spot. Chad Marshall was pulled down in the box as a corner kick was coming in. no question. no complaints from Seattle. Ref points to the spot. Renteria stepped up. 1-1.

Marshall, who despite the failings of the back line as a whole, had a positive game. i like him in the back field. tough guy. he's not gonna be pushed around.

at the end, i suppose, a draw just about sums it up. although Colombus had some nice chances that Keller was just too good for. a little more composure on the ball. and staying in the formation will go a long way.

looking forward to Saturday's match.

commentator quote of the night:
"Seattle wearing their dark green tonight. Trimmed in... sea foam?... i think they call it."

Bleeno writes about footy for Helltown Beer.

Monday, May 9, 2011

introducing, COLUMBUS CREW

It may take some time for me to win over my new favorite writer, bleeno, on the Crew and the rest of the MLS. But! I'm going to work at it. Ya see, the EPL may be winding down but the MLS is heating up. And when that gets to its boiling point? EPL. Back on.

I'm excited about the fact that, with bleeno, I'm doubling the size the local news paper out here in Columbus has covering the team. Will he put in the time. Will he slug through nil, nil draws against San Jose become a fan and give us the coverage the fans sitting in Nordecke expect.

Your to date 2011 Columbus Crew with never before seen Billy Sasquatch player ratings for the Columbus Crew.

79 Eddie Gaven
78 Robbie Rogers
76 Sebastian Miranda
74 Julius James
74 William Hesmer
74 Chad Marshall
72 Emilio Rentería
66 Rich Balchan
62 Kevin Burns
55 Emmanuel Ekpo
55 Dejan Rusmir
54 Dilly Duka
43 Andres Mendoza
27 Tommy Heinemann
26 Jeff Cunningham
25 Josh Gardner
21 Bernardo Anor
19 Leandre Griffit

I just do what the computer tells me but that is how it sees the team so far. It'll be interesting for me to see that list at the end of the year.

Where will this 2011 season take us? A pretty good place so far this year. Chad Marshall is already getting the press as the best defender in the league. Eddie Gaven is already becoming a folk hero in my own mind and Mendoza is already sucking up pixels over at the mighty Deadspin.com.

I'm hoping that the Crew can hook bleeno. Can the hustle of Dilly and the promise of my man Tommy win him over during the long summer months? Time will have to tell.

the New guy

Long time reader. first time poster. rabid Helltown fan. and spirit-partner of Helltown Brewmasters United.

I'm coming to you from Raleigh, NC. looking all the way across the sea to the Premier League and scanning the local landscape for MLS inspiration.

this is Bleeno. and i'm honored to be here.
now let's get started. and i'll keep this brief. cause i don't want to ramble on and on.

The Crew.
a fan? not yet. YET. i'll be a fan when i know more. but i wouldn't profess to be a fan without at least knowing the players names for crying out loud. so that's my first objective. and what better way to meet my objective than to play FIFA 11.

straight outta the gate I'm into it. Goal - Gaven. this guy consistently is getting big numbers. man of the match kind of numbers. and he settles in all over the midfield, which i love. side note: I'm a Liverpool fan. and Gerrard does this in spades. attacking. holding. defending. on the wing. versatile. it's very important to be able to change your formation (which i love to do. cause i like to tinker) and not have to make two substitutions just to make the formation work. Gaven - A+.

unfortunately, the FIFA roster and the actual roster seem a bit different. and i don't know enough to know what's what. so, i need time.

a fan? not yet. YET. but, i'll be a fan when i know more...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Crew and Sounders 1

I'm not going to make any bones about this; I admire the Sounders. Their fan base is, and has been, large, loyal and thoughtful. Seattle showed a lot of class last night.

The pivotal point in the game was the penalty given on a corner in the second half. It's the kind of foul that happens often enough in soccer so I'm not going to make too much about it other then, well, it is there.

Watching the Crew now through 8 games I've come to realize that they are somewhat a team of two tactics. One built on the other. Defend and Defend / Attack. This is a good balance to have. I see some teams have either / or but not often mastering both. Philadelphia has Defend (and does it well). Salt Lake and New York have perhaps mastered the Defend / Attack tactic averaging 1.5 and 1.4 goals a game and letting in an astonishingly little in turn (.3 and .4 p/GM)

Columbus is right there with them on the Goals Against p/GM and if they showed anything last night, they may have the ability to get more goals even though none got through during the run of play. 17 shots got off and most were in the 2nd half when they went into their Defend / Attack mode.

The Crew played a better game this week then they did last week which may be a testament to what kind of season KC might be having verses the one Seattle is. Seattle is a far better team then Sporting KC. Had the Crew played this well last week the score would have been much different then the 2-1 line. That's neither her nor there though. Seattle did what they had to do to keep the Crew from taking 3 points.

Billy's Players of the Game (BPOTG this week):

- Mr. Gaven... again for me. I was happy to see the ball going to him more this week. While it took away from Robbie's runs down the side I do believe going to him created real chances. About bounce here or there on a rainy night would have changed The Crew's fortunes.

- Mr. Levesque for the Sounders. Really. Maybe a reach but the shoes he was trying to fill with Brad Evans out... I could go with all the Seattle defenders in the game but I saw Levesque in the back helping against the Crew attack and the 10 corners the Crew won. I liked the way he played.

- Kasey Keller. Solid.

Important to notes:
Ekpo coming off the bench for the Crew had a much improved game over last weekend as well. The Crew's defensive line was shaken in the first few minutes of the game with a heading goal by Montero and wasn't called on much in the 2nd half because the guys up front were busy pushing the issue.

As for the highly paid Mendoza? Perhaps I'll get to him later on. With the Players Union salary numbers out I have a lot to chew on in relationship to my player ratings. Preview: It ain't going to be pretty for him.

MLS Player Ratings Made Easy

While working on a project at work I figured out a way to assign productivity scores in a way that was easier for people to understand. Some teachers already use the method: Sliding Scale. What I've done is take the player ratings that I have been using and put it on a 100 pt scale. The best player receives a perfect 100, the lowest rated = 0.

The best player, according to my ratings, right now is Thierry Henry with a score of 4.4. The lowest rated player in the MLS right now is Shavar Thomas at -2.00. The difference is 6.4 pts. In adjusting the -2.0 to equal Zero and 4.4 = One I just divide everyones score in and multiply by 100.

An early explanation of my Player Scores can be found HERE. Although, that description is not complete, it gives the gist of what I'm using. I'll probably never fully explain all the ingredients I'm using. I did test my score scale on the EPL and it passes the smell test, so I'll stick with it.

This will also allow me to make it easier to understand team power rankings. Since I'm using a 0 to 100 spectrum on the players the score a player receives tells me the score percentile he is in.

Example: The Crew's Designated Player Andres Mendoza has a score of 43. A score that puts him, statistically, around the middle of the 389 players that have minutes this season. Considering his is the 10th highest payed player in the league? I'd say that is an issue... for another post on another day. Shawn Mitchell touched on this in his column today.

Go on Stoke.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Portland 18k > 60k Arsenal

That's crowd size. Better clear that up because a good percentage of MLS players make between those numbers in salary.

Portland's win over Philadelphia has generated slightly anomalous data. All year we've seen teams with positive Goal Difference in the top half of the True Table. If you take a look at it now, after last nights game, you notice the Timbers have a -2 GD. Jumping 4 teams with better (and positive) GD on the True Table is strange. It usually points to inconsistent play.

Here is what the EPL True Table looks like as of this morning.

Me thinks it may have to do with Home Field in the case with Portland (and the Union traveling cross country). Folks at other networks had to of taken notice of the atmosphere during last nights game. What a good win for Portland. The crowd was creative and they sounded just as loud as what I hear at some Arsenal games.

In staying consistent with my scoring system you can see in my Team Power rankings color map how things shake out by Team and Position. Philadelphia Union are still at the top and Portland is below league average at every spot.

Again... big win for Portland.

Here are my top 5 players for the Timbers. Kenny cracks the top 20 at 16th overall and Jack Jewsbury is 24th.

3.09: Kenny Cooper
2.97: Jack Jewsbury
2.45: Rodney Wallace
1.96: Jorge Perlaza
1.84: Eric Brunner

Friday, May 6, 2011

An Afternoon Off

Well, not quite an entire afternoon, but a few hours home early.

Got Keepers ranked now. I didn't actually mean to assign any efficient scores to the position but with new stats come surprises.

Billy's Computer Machine has crunched the numbers and this is what he got for the top 5:

3.21: Faryd Mondragon: Philadelphia
2.83: William Hesmer: Columbus
2.67: Tally Hall: Houston
2.54: Kasey Keller: Seattle
2.42: Matt Pickens: Colorado

Admittedly this is heavy on the Goals Against category. But isn't that what the position is all about? The position has to be the maestro out there. Mondragon (10 saves) has not been nearly as busy as Kasey Keller (23) and poor Stefan Frei has had to try and keep out 35 shots. I've got him ranked 9th.

Nick Rimando (6th in my world) has been having an outstanding season. If I were to look at the position only and strip out all other aspects of the game he would probably be the best. 88% save rate on 17 shots. But stripping out the rest of the game would be a disservice to the beautiful part of the Beautiful Game. As the season goes on and more data points are available I'll be able to see if my rating system can hold for GK position.

I do think great individual players can lift an entire team on an individual game basis but over the long haul the game of soccer is a team game. This is what makes the lack of playoffs in the EPL understandable. It's not just the starting XI or even the short list of regulars on the bench. It's about the entire team right down past the reserves.

If you were to suspend all reality and imagine a player like Messi on a MLS team, then what? Would that team just dominate the league like having a superstar over in the NBA on your team like a Kobe or LeBron? No. Of course not. But were Messi's MLS team to make the playoffs would that teams chances increase in winning the title as opposed to having the most wins during the season? Highly likely.

A player like Messi does not nor has not existed in the MLS. But Charlie Davies this year is on pace to have an amazing year. If DC can sneak into the playoffs then we may see some weirdness happen.

On another note, the "beta" tag has been added to the MLS logo over at MLSsoccer.com. Good.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

MLS Stat 180

MLSsoccer.com updated their statistics pages. I hope they are still working on them. Why did they change? Why are not all players on the All players tab? Why are players duplicated on team pages?

Among those spectacular improvements they have managed to include efficiency statistics I like: Goals p/90 Minutes and Scoring Chance Percentage. Most like to call the latter Goals p/Shot, but that's a minor quibble. I like that the site is trying to improve their stat pages. I hope they keep it going.

Since their stat pages are still under construction (I really hope they are) I've had to jump ship and find another source. Thankfully I found one over at... wait. I keep quiet on that for now. I'm nervous that I'll jinx it. I will say that over at my now home for MLS stats they publish the correct order of Wins, Draws and Losses. Yes! They do. It's a conspiracy. This new source is a major nationwide newspaper. Lets hope the W-L-T thing gets scrapped. I'm looking at you too CrewXtra over at the Dispatch. Still with the Red Cards p/GM? seriously.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Speaking Modern Language

Prost Amerika Soccer. Seattle Soccer with a European Accent.

And with that... we have two MLS games tonight. DC v. Seattle and Houston v. Colorado.

Let's look at: DC / Seattle
'Cause Seattle takes on Columbus this weekend. Just sayin'.

Super Awesome Sasquatch Overall Team Rankings:
9th: Seattle
14th: DC

Offensive Super Sasquatch Team Rankings:
15th: Seattle
2nd: DC

What does this mean? Umm, not much. DC has an edge in shear offensive productivity. Much of it due to Davies early season. Neither of these teams have anyone in my to 30 Overall player rankings.

Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso for Seattle crack the top 50. I have to go to Chris Pontius at 89th for the highest DC man.

It'll be interesting to see if Seattle can hold off DC in this still early season.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Crew Do Score a Couple, Win

(Pictured: Omar Salgado)

Renteria scored on a penalty and one during the run of play. The penalty was a cheap one that came off a sloppy play by the Whitecaps keeper. The run of play goal was off his left foot and, um, I'm trying to frame this right; his first goal off his left foot in 11 years and 50 goals. Yes, his first.

Renteria has EPL grade right foot power, and as he proved last night, his left has some power as well. Just strange that a striker hasn't had a goal from his weak foot after 11 years of play.

On the Whitecaps side the team set up shop on defense for the 1st half. This appears to be a running theme for opponents of the Crew. This is something the team really has to work on attacking because this tactic of barricading against the Crew is working. Most of it is the Crew's fault because the seem content kicking it around for possession. In fact, they do it to a point of frustration. When Ekpo was inserted in the 2nd half on defense he wouldn't even turn up field when he had the ball, he was content just knocking it back to Hesmer in goal. After a couple times I was literally shouting at my TV. Hesmer also deserves a card for time wasting. Not going to give him a pass because he lives in German Village. He has a nasty, nasty habbit.

In today's Columbus Dispatch, Commentary Columnist Bob Hunter wrote a piece on fans not showing up for Crew games (last night ~11k). He seems to think it is lack of goals keeping them away and he actually talked to GM Mark McCullers about it. Mr. McCullers thinks part of it is pushing out popular players.

I say "actually talked" because beat writer Shawn Mitchell mostly just pulled player quotes from MLSsoccer.com for his column. That is a head scratcher. Are these players so surrounded by press that he can't get his own quotes after the game?

In any case and anyway. Crew win.
Man o' the Match: Omar Salgado (Whitecaps)
I'm going to give it to the 17 year old for scoring his first MLS goal on a great header in the corner.

Best Crew Players of the Game or BCPOTG? Gaven. Duka. Gardner.
Again, Gaven is quality on and off the ball. Dilly Duka is all hustle (Duka deserves note for that). Gardner also had a decent game and if for nothing else, saved the 3 pts with a heads up play blocking a shot by Khalfan.

Who/What struggled?
Ekpo coming off the bench. I'm also going to say the offensive strategy of going to Robbie Rogers side of the pitch too much. Way too much. A ton of speed and decent touches but zero creativity there right now. In Rogers defense, no big target in the middle. Tommy Heinemann did not play.

Another minor struggle the Crew have is free kicks. They had two right on outside the 18 yard box and elected to pass it in, not take shots. Gotta take shots there. If nothing else, to minimize the chance of a break on your own goal.