Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stumbled Upon: MLS Danger men

Digging into chances can be murky waters but something was uncovered today. Who is creating the most real chances for their team. Chances as in Shots on Goal. It's a tricky stat in that; what is really a shot on goal. Does it have to be within the goal mouth? One that the opposing goal keeper has to get a paw on?

For soccer across the land shots on goal are a stat forged out of 100+ years of following the game. Major League Soccer tried and failed at creating their own rules in the past, but in recent years has gotten better. This year, for example, they have taken large strides in making shots on goal (and all other stats) fall more in line with what the rest of the world is doing.

Good.

MLS welcomed in Opta Stats this year and it's paying off. Data can now be measured equally and fairly with other major news and athletic outlets.

Where am I going with this? Oh, Dangermen. Who prey tell, in the mighty MLS, is creating real chances on goal, as in, Shots on Goal?

First thing to do is eliminate outlying data. As in; Guys that have 2 shots in 4 minutes. In doing so I choose to go with players that have more then 10 shots on goal this season. I thought it seemed reasonable considering the MLS season is now almost half way done.

Wow, that really trims it down. Only 38 (out of 419 that have seen time) players in the league have 10 accurate shots? Ummm, Okay.

Next up; who has the most in the shortest amount of time. No problem. Let's dig in. Deep Dive.

Wait... The MLS leader in chance creation is Tom Heinemann for the Crew? Yep. 1.8 shots on goal per 90 minutes. Best in the league. Yes. Heinemann. It could be argued but he is the most dangerous striker in the league when looking at it in this simple way.

Who are the rest? Well, you are about to become in the know. Shots on Goal per 90 on the left.

1.8 : Tom Heinemann
1.6 : Charlie Davies
1.6 : Marco Pappa
1.6 : Chris Wondolowski
1.4 : Fredy Montero
1.3 : Andres Mendoza
1.3 : Will Bruin
1.3 : Justin Braun
1.2 : Teal Bunbury
1.2 : Luke Rodgers

The Crew have 2 players on the list. That plays out in terms of the increase in goals over the past month. What about players converting Shots on Goal in to actual goals? NO GOALS OFF PENALTY KICKS INCLUDED. Here are those converting SOG at a rate over 50%. AKA, guys that are not only hitting the target, but putting it in the net. These are the guys to bottle up.

62.2% Thierry Henry
56.9% Danny Mwanga
55.6% Andres Mendoza
55.4% Landon Donovan
55.0% Chris Wondolowski
50.4% Luke Rodgers

31% is the average conversion out of the 38 players with over 10 SOG this year. Chance Creation. It takes 11 to do it, but these are the guys making it happen and finishing the job.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Richmond Beat Crew. Cunningham Out of Chances.

Beautiful evening at Crew stadium for the 1,845 (plus my pen and paper) that witnessed The Richmond Kickers upset the Columbus Crew 2-1.

Game notes from said pen and paper:

- Richmond went up in the first half with a nice bending shot from Hiroyama.

- Meram is fast. Meram came to play. Meram had a nice assist to otherwise invisable Cole Grossman.

- Robbie Rogers looked bright, if rusty. Cool to see him out there with Meram. He has no one in the middle to get the ball to though. What the heck is Cunningham doing?

- Danny O'Rourke, in his first action of the year, get's a friggin' Red Card.

- Heinemann inserted for a spark. Plays like it's the MLS Championship. Energy. Blacked out boots. Gives the Nordecke thumbs up, Nordecke loves him. Helltown loves him.

- Nordecke loves Iro as well. The common O-H-I-O chant is O-H-IRO! Iro comes on late for corner chances.

- Helltown favorite Matthew Delicate scored of a beautiful header to put the Kickers up 2-1. My life is complete now. I saw Welshman Deli score a goal that belongs in the EPL.

- Game ends. Richmond moves on, deservedly.

Aright. Columbus is out for their busy month of games. I've got mixed feelings about it about the team loosing but Richmond played extremely well. As mentioned before, I have The Kickers ranked as the best team in USL Pro. They looked the part. I moved around the Stadium a lot (because I could) so I may have missed some but they looked solid. No breakdowns. No mistakes.

The Crew had a handful of reserves out there. No Gaven, Marshall or Miranda... and no Mendoza of course. Cunningham started up front, no doubt in yet another attempt to get him that MLS record tying goal. At least I think it would have been even though it was a US Open Cup match. He looked lethargic. Absolutely no creativity or positive touches. I noticed a couple of his teammates getting visibly frustrated with him especially after the 75th min with the Crew was really pressing even when down to 10 men. When the game ended he just sat there like he played his guts out when he didn't. What's the deal with this guy?

Contrastingly, Richmond stayed on the pitch to perform some cool down drills to avoid future injury while the perpetually banged up Crew just walked off. Hmmm.

And Warzycha pissed off. Shawn Mitchell's breakdown of the game as well points to that.

"They have to wear this crest," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said of his team afterward, pointing to the Crew logo on his shirt. "I don't think they know that. I am so disappointed. So disappointed." Amen, Coach.

In other US Open Cup news; Orlando City (the 2nd best team in the USL) barely lost to MLS powerhouse FC Dallas 3-2. Columbus faces Dallas this weekend on the road. Big game.

Richmond is going to move on to play KC. As of this writing (Galaxy v LA Blues still to play) hey are the only non-MLS team left in the Tournament.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Impressive Crew Win Over Rapids, 4-1

as promised in my game preview post:

Pivotal 5 Weeks, Crew v. Rapids Preview

The Crew are starting their busiest month of the season. Nine games already scheduled between now and the end of July. More if they get past the Richmond Kickers on Tuesday (US Open Cup game). It's the kind of run in the middle of the season that can make or break the team. I'm really looking forward to it, truth be told.

This mid-season clump of games presents interesting lineup challenges for the Coach Warzycha and Co. In a way, having players out recently due to minor injury might have been a mini blessing in disguise. I expect Duka, Griffit and Renteria getting healthy for this stretch. Who knows, we may even get to see local hero Mr. Danny O'Rourke out there soon. He has been a regular starter since joining the team back in 2007. It's been strange not seeing him out there this year. We are suddenly looking at a very deep MLS team if these guys get healthy.

On to the Crew v. Rapids.

Columbus is currently (and surprisingly) sitting in 3rd in the East. A win today puts them tied NY for 2nd with a game in hand. I'm not sure anyone expected that this far in at the start of the season.

Last year's MLS Cup winner Colorado is having a good year as well. I have MF Jeff Larentowicz ranked in the top 20. He's the man to watch today. The Rapids are going to be a bit hobbled though without Striker Caleb Folan (Red Card) but it could be argued that Omar Cummings (2 goals, 1 assist in only 551 mins) and Conor Casey (3 goals, 1 assist 562 mins) are playing just as well. Actually, they are playing just as well.

The game today will be between two teams about as evenly matched as they come. Similar GF and GA per game. Similar records and similar goal distribution between players on each team.

It's going to be a beautiful evening in Columbus. It rained all morning but has since stopped and the temps will be in the mid-60s. Add in a reasonable start time and we have ourselves the makings of a great game.

Helltown Beer inside info that you'd probably rather not know:

The game is scheduled on a semi-unusual Sunday at 8pm because of the Kenny Chesney concert last night which, I hear, some of the rookie Crew players attended. Hey, if they got them a little country in 'em? Good. I'd like to think Gaven and Marshall were at the local pub watching the US Mexico game sipping scotch. Next go 'round fellas, next one. Anyway, the Crew stadium crew has been spending the whole day cleaning up and getting the pitch ready. Let's hope it's in good shape.

2nd place in the East? I like how that sounds.

PS. 2606 video treatment for Eddie if he scores tonight.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Brek Shea and FC Dallas

FC Dallas stood out to me after spending some time with MLS teams and player performance in relationship to salary. Marvin Chavez, George John, Fabian Castillo and Andrew Jacobson are among the top under valued players in the league in that the are playing well beyond what their salary might dictate.

In all, FC Dallas only has six players performing below their current salary. From what I've found, this is superior team management/planning then all the other teams in the MLS. It could be argued that if it were not for the injury to Designated Player David Ferreira earlier this season the team might be even better at appropriately paying it's players.

One interesting piece of info to take a look at is how much a Point is worth currently in the table. In adjusting player salaries to reflect their teams point in the season I can see that FC Dallas (47% of season complete) is getting the most points out of monies paid out to players. Each point taken from either a win or draw is only costing the team ~$46,000.Under paying players isn't necessarily a virtue. In fact it can get a team in trouble next season. Will Dallas be able to hang on to players out performing their salaries? Or will they have to shed a few in hopes that they can bring in new talent at lower levels of pay. Time will tell.

In a league without relegation and limited funds paying players appropriately is a high wire balancing act that has a net if you fall. In the English Premier League, where relegation does happen, there is no net. In fact if you fail there, you and all your spent money, fall into a vat of acid.

One of the reasons I mention Brek Shea in the post title is that he is one of the players in the MLS being paid appropriately for is outstanding play this year ($133k salary, $205k value). The tall Texan is 21 years old and has six goals on the season to date. He is playing lots of minutes on a winning team. To put his goal scoring in perspective. His six goals are more then any Crew player had last year except for the one and only Guillermo Barros Schelotto (9 goals) had all last season. Ironically, for Dallas last year, their leading scorer was Jeff Cunningham. Yeah, that Jeff. He had 11 for them.

Let's keep an eye on Mr. Shea this season. He is having an MVP year. It'll be interesting to see what other teams (foreign and domestic) come calling later this year. Where he ends up could be a bellwether moment for the rapidly growing MLS. A league that is now able to compellingly stand on the same level as, say... Turkish leagues and lower division European ones.

Is it possible that we might see a USMNT in the near future that isn't loaded up with players riding foreign pine? Recent results by the MNT may suggest that picking players based on the simple fact that a club outside the US saw something in them almost seems antiquated at this point. Almost. When you throw in the fact that some US players are getting picked out to play elsewhere based 1st on the fact that it brings attention (rich) US viewers (revenue) and not player talent? American's gobbling up foreign teams are doing so for a reason folks. Ohhh, it's getting interesting.

Young Mr. Shea's future may answer that question and prove some of those statements.

For now, pull up the FC Dallas game tonight on your computer while the USMNT game is on the TV. You might see the future US mid-fielder putting one in the net at Pizza Hut park and wish it were him putting a much needed one in at the Rose Bowl against Mexico.

Friday, June 24, 2011

MoneyHoney, Part 2: The Battle of Attrition

I've heard fans of struggling teams in Major League Soccer accuse or excuse team play on thriftiness. I've heard Crew fans toss that out this year more then a few times. And rightly so. The team shed many top players with top salaries last year. But were the decisions the team made actually thrifty ones?

All of the teams in MLS are asking the same question. Money questions in this league or any league are always going to be asked. An injury to a Designated Player here, a breakout league minimum salary rookie there. It's a difficult balance. But it doesn't have to be. Not for a league like Major League Soccer anyway.

Salaries in the MLS are not out of control as they might be in the NFL or NBA. Swing and miss on a player and the harm done isn't as devastating. For the Crew the lightning rod example is Andres Mendoza. His DP guaranteed salary is near $600k. That's a hefty sum for a team in the MLS like the Crew. I had to ask myself... Is any player in the league worth this much?

The answer to that question is, No.

In fact, there isn't a player in the league worth more then $210,000. At least not based on performance.

It can be the Castrol Player Rank, PowerStats101 or even my own player rank. It doesn't matter. No player is worth, based on performance, anywhere near what Mendoza makes. Players like him make what they do because that salary is what it takes to get a player like him to play in a town like Columbus. Same goes for a player like Henry. He has been magnificent this year. Best offensive player in the league by a long shot. But in no way is he worth the 5.6 million to get him to play in NY. That's more then some teams as a whole. Good for the league, yes. Watching Henry play against MLS talent is a thing to behold and should be appreciated. It's not in his individual talent that winners are made though. Pay all you want to Henry... You still have a Sutton in goal. It's balance that teams need.

It's not easy. For a lot of teams it is a battle against attrition. Case in point could be the Columbus Crew. The team made some bold decisions this year. Picking up rookies in the draft and paying the modest salaries. Balchan is a perfect example. He is paid a modest salary of 59k. But he has logged 1255 minutes this year (1350 being the max possible). Columbus is 3rd in the East, doing well. My estimated value on him is near $160k. Well over double what he makes now. Thrifty to a T. The Crew have a few other examples like Balchan. Heinemann, even though he hasn't scored, is one. His league minimum wage presence on the pitch for a winning team is enough. He has opened up things for Mendoza. Don't believe me? Check the Chivas game and the one against Houston. The only two times the Crew has had more then 1 goal during the run of play this season. James and Burns are other good examples of getting the most out of players.

Columbus isn't the best example of thriftiness though. San Jose and Dallas are the best at it this year. The only two teams on the positive side in terms of getting the most out of under paid players based on performance. Columbus clocks in around 10th. A lot of that due to our controversial friend, Mendoza. But to be fair, Dilly Duka has a lot to do with it as well. Injuries have kept this talented player off the pitch.

So how do all the teams stack up this year in terms of player performance and salary? Here is the list.

+239,911.25 : San Jose
+217,235.15 : FC Dallas
-026,259.45 : Chivas USA
-064,181.55 : Seattle
-126,720.58 : Portland
-129,487.31 : Chicago
-168,033.66 : Los Angeles
-177,943.76 : Colorado
-280,203.82 : Philadelphia
-323,530.49 : Columbus
-406,675.12 : Real Salt Lake
-497,496.95 : Toronto FC
-513,671.71 : Vancouver
-527,199.11 : New York
-576,779.20 : Houston
-593,696.51 : D.C.
-677,921.59 : Sporting KC
-727,345.60 : New England

I capped the DP's to what their salary counts towards the team cap. There are hundreds of other things to take into consideration when valuing player worth. That's just a list showing how teams are doing in terms of paying players based on what they are doing on the field only.

The biggest take away from this is that team management across the board are paying the wrong players too much. It is indeed a battle of attrition. Maybe the best players will get taken by European leagues. But it doesn't make sense to pay a lot of these players what they are making. Reward players like Balchan. Keep them in Columbus. Let deeper pockets take the others.

Tons of opportunity for informed teams to succeed here.

Nobody said it was easy. It wasn't easy for the Crew to cut loose some popular players. But in the end has it hurt the team and its standing? Difficult questions to answer right now. But so far, not too bad.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RE: Rapids SUBJECT: A Call to Arms

The Rapids knocked the Crew out of the playoffs last year on their way to winning the MLS Cup. That's cool. We're all good. Go up there and meet the President. Congrats.

When I ventured out to follow my local soccer team this year I made sure to check up on all the current blogs and newspapers already doing so. There weren't many. Massive Report does a great job (Matt Bernhardt, glad he's on our side). Shawn Mitchell over at the Dispatch does a good job too. My favorite Crew blog is Global Football Today's David Burgin. Goddamn, he's good.

Over the last couple months I've gotten to read up on what other teams have as far as fans writing in either long form or short. I've learnt that some MLS teams have intelligent fans and some don't. I was happy to see last week that Houston had great coverage outside the official MLS stuff. But the Rapids? Ya'll suck. Your SB Nation report on the Crew was the most uninformed thing I've read to date. I already dislike SB Nation stuff because out of all the teams in the MLS the Crew are the only team that don't have a blog listed. But you? Your scout drivel on the Crew takes the cake. Saying the Crew hasn't won an away game right after the team just did was odd.

The Crew made some massive changes to their team this year and many thought that this would be a "down year" for the team and not find themselves in third place in the East with almost half the season over. Disjointed? Yeah. But here they are in the hunt.

I dislike calling out other teams based on reports and fans. It's about the players on the pitch. But this one struck a nerve.

Gaven. Mendoza. Marshall. Hesmer. Youngin's Meram, Balchan, Anor. And even you Gardner.

A Call to Arms. Go Crew.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Richmond Kickers to face the Columbus Crew

A few weeks ago I dug into the USL Pro goings on and found a one; Matthew Delicate. Or Deli, as I hear teammates and fans call him. It was determined by my computer machine that he was the best player in the USL Pro division.

Karma has spoken here at HölleStadt Bier. Mr. Delicate and his team, The Richmond Kickers, are going to be taking on the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium on Tuesday, June 28th in the third round of the 2011 Lemar Hunt US Open Cup. Our countries oldest soccer event (by far). Incedientally, Lemar Hunt helped restart this soccer in North America thing back in the '90s. His family set up the Crew and built the first soccer specific pro stadium in the MLS. The Crew have his initials on the back of their jerseys. You may even see this LH logo on the pitch from time to time.

Who are the Richmond Kickers (besides being from the great Commonwealth of Virginia)? Here are the players with their player ratings on the left. Again, this is in relationship to the rest of the league. Mr. Delicate is the best player. Another name to take note here is David Bulow. He has 5 goals in 2 games during this years Open Cup.

100 Delicate, Matthew
90 Goerres, Sascha
86 William, Yomby
84 Kalungi, Henry
84 Pascale, Ronnie
82 Vercollone, Luke
75 Elcock, Edson
71 Heins, Ryan
61 Nyazamba, Stanley
48 Dos Santos, Gerson P
42 Hertel, Dave
40 Hiroyama, Nozomi
37 Callahan, Michael
36 Bulow, David
32 Foglesong, Robert
25 Bangura, Shaka
10 Wallace, Jamel
3 MacKenzie, Ross
1 Barlow, Neil

The Crew has a very, very busy schedule coming up next month. Busiest of the year actually. They will probably go with a lot of reserves for this match up. The Richmond Kickers will be bringing everything. Including their league's best player and LH Open Cup goal leader Bulow.

Should be good. Any Crew fan with their head screwed on straight should check it out.

Kickers logo at top was designed by Thinkhaus of Richmond. Very clean, very good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

44% of MLS Season Gone, Too Early for Playoff Picture?

A couple weeks from now will mark the halfway point in the MLS season so I decided to take a look at what the playoffs would look like. I regret this decision as I now have a headache.

Why?

"Each conference has a Wild Card playoff game, which is single elimination. The league's 7th seed plays a 10th seed, and the 8th plays the 9th, with the winners playing the top-seeded team in the Conference Semifinals. The lowest-seeded survivor plays the Supporters' Shield winner."

"Conference Semifinal series are conducted in a home-and-away, aggregate-goal format. The lower-seeded team in the Conference Semifinal hosts the first game. The winners of those four series advance to single-game Conference Championships that will determine the MLS Cup finalists."

Where to start... one thing I don't quite get is how they know that the top three in each conference will make up the top 6 in the league on the combined table. As it stands, that's not the case. I get that it is a re-seed. But, ah, whatever.

For the rest of this exercise we will need both league table formats (conf breakout and combined), pen and paper. Pay attention now.

First; At the top of this post I have included the table that breaks the East and West out. Top 3 from each. Okay. Simple enough. Preston! put your pen down. I've included that on the hand out on your desk.

Second; we need to get our Wild Card teams. For that, look on the right for the single table. On your paper and with your pen, eliminate the top 3 teams from each conference. Got that? Good. Now circle the next 4 teams with top highest in points. In this case, as it stands now, a 6th seed gets the call - Seattle. Not a 7th seed as the MLS states.

Third; We have our Wild Card games allll set now. They are as follows:

06:Seattle
v.
10: Portland

and

08:Colorado
v.
09:San Jose

The lowest seed winner of these two games will go on to play the Supporters' Shield Winner (team with most regular season points). LA Galaxy, as it stands.

The other winner will play the highest seed in the conference of which the Supporters Shield winner isn't. This case? Philadelphia. Goooo Union. You son's of Ben.

Here, the picture gets a little more clear. Except that it's not really East and West Champion. Either Conference could have a team from the other win. This year it is likely to happen in the East Conference since 7 of the 10 teams would be from the west (as it stands now). WAIT. Are you serious? only 2 teams from the west wouldn't make it into the playoffs?

yep.

There are so many things wrong with this playoff format already but let me throw another log on the fire. And douse it with gasoline.

West Coast teams have an advantage here due to late game start times during the regular season. There have been 15 games to date where an eastern time zone team has traveled west and played after 10 PM EST. The numbers? 24 Goals West, 11 East

Record: West: 8 wins, 7 draws and 0 loses.

Portland has benefited the most with 3 (of their 5) wins during this time slot. One draw (out of 3). 0 loses. In other words... 10 of their 18 points right now. You connect the dots.

Philly, Toronto and New England have paid the largest sleepy time price with 3 games each out west that late. New York is the only team to have shown well out west, catching a couple draws.

--------------------------

The MLS plays double round robin. Each team playing twice. This differs from other domestic leagues in that those teams play most games according to conference (i.e. in their time zone). Late games do happen on occasion in the MLB and NHL. But not as common. The NFL doesn't touch game start times after 10 PM EST.

The MLS is still a young league. They are a decade away from the clock that counts down and stops during, uh, stoppage. Also far away from the extra GK sub and secondary assists. Oh, and the 35 yd game deciders with 5 second clocks. Christ. It's gotten a lot better.

The playoff buzz will be exciting till the end of the regular season, especially for the west. I do like that they are involving the combined table to pick the wild card spots. But, ultimately, it is convoluted. Two tables to keep track of? Maybe they are easing us into the single table format. I dunno.

I'm not against a playoff format in soccer. It's neat. The lower divisions in England have it (go Swansea! first Welsh team in the modern PL!). But when Major League Soccer expands to 20 teams it may make more sense to just make it the top 4 or 8 in each conference then have the top 2 play.

And then... In Billy dreamland... after that - when each conference is expanded organically to 18 in each with 2 lowest getting relegated back down to the (combined) USL/NASL and the top from each conf going on to play each other? I'll be in soccer heaven. In the US. Dreamland. Where Crewnicorns frolic in a downtown stadium. Ahhhh.

MLS has the key's to a Ferrari here. They just need to go start it.

Hey! my headache is gone.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Decisive. Crew 2 Crush 0

Columbus outplayed a decumbent Houston Dynamo squad last night. That's right. Decumbent. I'm not sure how else to describe how the Dynamo played. Whatever it was, the Canaries made them pay up for it.

The first goal of the game was satisfying for Crew fans. Bernardo Añor showed a brilliant piece of mid-field ball skill and composure before he fed Mendoza. No deflections, no messy play in the 6 yard box, and no sliding/falling down shot into goal. It was a pure one and it felt good.

Goals right before half are reward for the work done in training.

Before the goal both teams were seemingly trying to conserve energy under the heavy heat. It wasn't the prettiest thing to watch but it didn't feel like last weeks Chicago disaster. Word around canarytown was that the practices were intense over the past week. I could tell the Crew were hungry. It paid off.

The EPL is where I spend most of my soccer time but this year I've watched more MLS over the past four months then I ever have. In Major League Soccer it's mental focus and energy that wins games more then talent. I happen to adore that. That's not to say there isn't talent in the league though. There is. But often times it's snuffed out by half empty stadiums, little press / pub and no TV options for fans. That is changing though. The leaps the league has made this year alone is great. It's exciting to see.

The second half:

The Crew worked hard in controlling the effort Houston put forth in reaching for the equalizer. Hesmer was in top form and made critical saves. Houston's effort was destroyed when the Dynamo's Palmer got sent off after his second mistimed tackle.

With a man up Columbus worked the ball around the pitch with little threat from the now exhausted opposition. That too, was great to see.

Meram (highlight) was inserted in the game late for a shot of fresh legs and it paid off. He made a darting run down the right, crossed it in front of goal and found Anor and an open net. Anor made a mess off it on his first strike but made amends when it bounced off (a surprised) Houston's out of position GK Tally. Meram provided the quality on this goal - but a goal is a goal and it was well deserved for Anor.

When it was all said and done Anor walked away with an assist, a yellow, and a goal. Great game for the young fella who has been putting in impressive performances for the reserve team.

Other game notes:

- Hesmer was my Man o the Match. Great game. Great saves. Leadership. He had a humorous swat on one save but it did the trick. Barking orders to his backline and controlling the pace. If it weren't for a couple gigantic misfired kicks into the cheap seats it would have been an A+ game for him. A Dynamo goal would have been disastrous and he kept them out.

- Warzycha kept Heinemann on almost the full 90 on a blazin' hot sauce hot wings night. Thank you. The kid needs some of the immaturity worked out of him. Tom (along side Mendoza) creates real problems for opponents. Houston's back is not as bad as they looked. It was the Crew making them look bad. A Cunningham start would have been preferred by Houston. He is not the threat he once was.

- Gardner played well and worth note. I'm starting to hope he has found his home here in Columbus.
- Mendoza got a knock... got tired... and got weird. At one point the camera panned over to him just lying flat on his back. He played hard, but it was a funny moment so it get's a picture and a quote.

- Balchan, Meram, Anor, Heinemann. The future looks brighter this morning for the Crew.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Another way to change Sunday's CREW 1 DYNAMO 2 Headline

Been a while since I posted up any of those pesky power rankings. So here it be. I've taken the time to keep up with stats for each player so I need to get something out of that right? I'm half inclined to simplify teams into 4 simple categories.

GREAT : GOOD : MEDIOCRE : BAD

The Crew and the Orange Crush fall into the foggy MEDIOCRE category. I've often thought about separating players in the same way. Maybe I will. Anyway, a win between these two teams gives hope to die hard fans that their average team will become good. Albeit, from opposite sides of the spectrum.

Houston has a mess of good players and one great one (A spectacular Mr. Davis). A win here would be their second in a row and it could be said after the game that the Dynamo are on their way.

For the Crew it is a different story. A win here would be excellent, but the team doesn't have any "great" players right now. It has one (Gaven) that is right on the edge of being great, but not there yet, and a defensive back line that is looking to return to form. With so many players on the injury list, 3 points in this game will only raise more questions then answers.

Unless it is decisive for the Fighting Canaries.

From what I can gather the Crew might be looking at going back to a loaded MF with one up front. Overlapping outside defenders galore (Miranda is a hard worker up front and delivers positive services). If that happens, it very well might put Mendoza in his element. Same goes for Eddie, for that matter, if used in the middle of the field.

That's all speculation at this point though. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to believe that Warzycha will come out in the same formation as the last few games. His team is loaded with all around talented players, but lacking in specialists. A loaded MF might be just what the doctor ordered.

Speaking of doctors... still looking for 6'5" Liverpool born and Gerrard fan Andy Iro to get minutes. It'd cool Bleeno's heart during those hot southern nights.

On that...

Premier League fixtures released today!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crew v. Dynamo and a Stoke Reference

The Columbus Crew take on the Houston Dynamo this weekend in what is gearing up to be a mystery match. In reading around the Dynamo sites, blogs and papers I noticed something; Their fans are not problem pointer outer folks. More supportive in many regards then (maybe only a few vocal) Crew fans. I'm speaking generalities here, so take that for what you will but some may see it as refreshing to see a fan base being, well, fans.

But Houston is not Columbus. Columbus is located near a part of the country that has run out of patience and is not interested in accepting mediocrity or failure. It's a place where the fire burns as hot during the 3rd shift as it does 1st. Poor results are met with sharp fangs and deadly venom. Win or be eaten alive. Buried, whilst still breathing. Then dug up again and munched on again.

They might not know it, but many fans here expect what my beloved Stoke Upon Trent fans expect. Give 100% regardless of talent. Damn the blue bloods. Lose a limb out there? Toss it off the pitch and carry the hell on.

The Crew logo is audaciously designed with three men wearing hard hats. I work in the manufacturing industry up here with over 200 folks working their asses off all day, every day and incidentally, it's not more then a mile away from where the Crew trains. Live up to that logo or change it to Limited models wearing the latest fashionable trends. Heck, The Limited could fill a catalog full of injured Crew players wearing their clothes. They are based up here aren't they?

Calming down...

I just read that Tom Heinemann is getting pegged to start with Mendoza up front this weekend. Turn them loose and give the Dynamo something to worry about.

Houston is likely to come out in a similar formation as the Crew. The Chicago Fire absolutely jammed the Crew last weekend and exposed what's becoming a tactically weak Columbus. The approach Chicago came with is not expected from Houston. As in, tactically they nearly mirror Columbus.

Both teams are coming off frustrating extended month of May and mixed early June results. Unless the Columbus staff makes a drastic formation change look for this one to be more open with both teams pushing and desperately looking for goals and three points.

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Editors note: This post is to be read at your own risk with a pint of IPA and listening to Akron, Ohio's own - Black Keys.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Finishing Quality (Control)

The Columbus Crew. My Columbus Crew. My Canaries. My Nordecke muse. My summer habit... Have not scored a goal during the run of play in half of their 14 games to date this year.

All totaled? The 14 goals in 14 games is misleading. It's 9 goals and 5 penalty kicks. That is by far the worst in the league. To the point that it is a near butchering of the Beautiful Game.

Only once this year has the team topped more the one goal in a game during the run of play (vs. Chivas a few weeks ago). If that doesn't make me reach for my 12 year old Caol Iia single malt, by Ardbeg, nothing will.

There is a direct correlation between getting fouled and PKs for the Crew this year. They are the most fouled team. And as a team, the Crew is tied with DC for the most goals off PKs. Eddie Gaven? The most fouled player.

Going back to the 9 run of play goals. As a fan it's a tough watch. Andres Mendoza, the controversial Designated Player as he is, generated the only spark of offensive brilliance for the Crew this year. The team has 5 goals in 3 games during the run of play in a row with him starting. His high salary might have been a mis-fire by the teams administration, but with his presence he has outdone Renteria playing in Warzycha's early season one man front formation.

There is a remarkably poor stat that the Crew have this year. It is in the number of shots it takes the team to score.

TWENTY.

That's 4 more then the next worst team (New England). That's 4.9 goals out of 100 shots. The best in the league is San Jose at one goal per eight. Let that sink in. Let it soak.

Just as a baseline; I ran the numbers for the English PL. No team is below 10% goals per shot. The MLS league average is 9%. I'm begging you - Crew. Don't make me go into English supporters leagues to get to a 4.9% goals per shot quality.

If The Crew want to go back to playing with a one man front and rely on the occasional PK to get them that all important game winning goal? Then so be it. I hope they like the middle of the table, because that's where they will wind up. Draws a plenty and the Beautiful Game left wanting for the European leagues to begin anew.

The Columbus Crew. My Columbus Crew. My Canaries. My Nordecke muse. My summer habit.

You have some work to do.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crew 0 Fire 1

Fake English rags can be so unkind.

100% USDA Grade A MLS USMNT

What would a USMNT look like if it were only made up of players currently playing in the MLS?

The number on the left is my player rating for this Major League Soccer season to date, which is how I pulled the list.

Rating : Name : Home State : Club

Goalkeeper
95 : Kevin Hartman : Ohio : DAL

In the Back
97 : Todd Dunivant : Colorado : LA
95 : Roy Miller : California : NY
94 : Sean Franklin : California : LA
93 : Sheanon Williams Massachusetts : PHI

Middle
98 : Brek Shea : Texas : DAL
97 : Daniel Hernández : Texas : DAL
96 : Kyle Beckerman : Maryland : RSL
95 : Jeff Larentowicz : California : COL

Up Front
94 : Chris Wondolowski *: California : SJ
90 : Kenny Cooper : Maryland : POR

-----------------------------------
The Subs
93 : George John : Washington : DAL : D
93 : Drew Moor : Texas : COL : D
91 : Danny Califf : California : PHI : D
89 : A.J. DeLaGarza : Maryland : LA : D
85 : Chad Barrett : California : LA : F
84 : Will Bruin : Missouri : HOU : F
79 : Cam Weaver : Washington : HOU : F
91 : Nick Rimando : California : RSL : GK
94 : Jack Jewsbury : Missouri : POR : MF
93 : Brad Davis : Missouri : HOU : MF
92 : Ned Grabavoy : Illinois : RSL : MF
92 : Nick LaBrocca : New Jersey : CHV : MF
89 : Eddie Gaven : New Jersey : CLB : MF

Fantasy land stuff here but there are proponents of choosing national teams with more weight on proven performance and current form, not perceived potential (upside), age (youth). I do not think these players are better then the likes of Dempsey, Howard, Bradley or other American's playing abroad but I do think it'd be very interesting to see this team take on our national team.

I'd be fun if the USSF and MLS could put a game like this together. They already do something similar by dragging poor Manchester United over to play the MLS all-stars. Why not.

I'd buy that ticket.

* Wondo currently plays on the USMNT but even since missing a couple games he still ranks high in my rankings, which may say a lot about the quality of striker the US has. I did not filter the list for any players called up. Interesting he's the only one that made this list.

Unable to Resuscitate

The USSF hand picked USMNT team experienced a horrid loss last night against Panama.

In the build up before the game, Fox Soccer Channel's Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones had casual fans believing this was going to be a 6-0 cakewalk over Panama. On some occasions barely stopping short of literally laughing at that nights competition.

Not knowing the first thing about Panama going in to the game and looking to read up. I was able to catch Ives Galarcep (FSC, same place Wynalda and Cobi play) excellent pre-game match up article. In it, Mr. Galarcep weaved a tale of caution that turned out to be oracle like.

As a casual fan of the USMNT I'm going to hold back on getting into how the players performed, Bradley coached and the current state of the USSF and only say that the US team looked flat, Panama played their guts out and Wynalda and Jones got a frustrating dose of humility.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

MLS Game Program

I've been working on Crew game programs now for a few weeks. One one hand it's fun for me because it's a way for me to put my player ratings to work and keep up with with injuries and probable line ups. On the other hand I put it together because I was a tad frustrated with the official programs that the MLS puts out about a 48 hrs before each game. Missing info and generic formations.

Because my program includes player ratings it is tempting to use it as a predictor to final outcomes. It is not that. My player rankings are too influenced by playing time to use it as such. I do have separation outside of PT though. Offensive productivity is one. Another couple drivers are how well the team is doing overall. Not directly influenced by wins and losses but by goals against and goals for. Better defensive players in the league show higher scores due to the entire team's GA.

It's also about relationships between the teams. If a player is on a bad team and getting a lot of minutes he suffers in my rank a little. An example of this right now is Chicago's Logan Pause. He has more minutes then both Dominic Oduro and Gaston Puerari for the Fire but he he ranks below both of them. Most of that due to fouls conceded. The weight put on fouls is light, but if a player is chopping guys down too much in relationship to his team and the rest of the league it could effect his score.

One interesting note on fouls is that games involving The Crew have the most fouls. They are 1st in fouls suffered (but, 7th in conceded). Believe it or not Eddie Gaven is the most fouled player in the league. Chicago is 2nd in the league in aggressive play behind only Philly.

So with this game between the Columbus and Chicago one could be certain in saying that there is a high probability the game will be more of a rugby match. This little tid-bit of info is important for the Crew because it means that they will be getting more chances on set pieces. Something I hope they worked on in training this week. They haven't been great with them so far.

If we were to go with the old adage of: "past performance predicts future results" then I might be inclined to say that the difference in this game will be how well Columbus converts set pieces around Chicago's box.

Let's say the game will go like this... MF battle because the Fire are loaded up there and Columbus MF is strong. Late in the game Gaven get's fouled 25 yards out. Mendoza (cast on arm) lines up... takes the shot directly on goal and... AND?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mini Drama Unfolds, Mendoza nails it


A lot can be gleamed from this short sequence of events that happened during the Columbus Crew's win yesterday. In a strange way it reminds me of Blackpool's Charlie Adam's penalty kick drama during the last weeks games in the EPL.

After missing his first one Blackpool got another. With relegation on the line Adam grabbed the ball and rushed to the PK line to take the shot. Surely to make amends for his missed on earlier. The confidence to do this comes from a place somewhere deep inside that most people don't have. Adam lined up, showed himself a true captain, and nailed it. I'm not sure if I've ever really seen anything like that in sport. The fire that burned in him was uncontrollable.

The penalty kick that equalized the Crew game yesterday was the complete opposite. The result may have been the same, but the moments leading up? Completely different.

Miranda running up to discuss with Mendoza what he was doing, Cunningham, readying his gear to take it, to Marshall running all the way in to pull him off it so Cunningham could match the MLS goal record only to have Cunningham himself pull (captain) Marshall away. That reads all messy like, because the moment was messy-like. To me, right now, it says a lot about where the team is off the pitch and lends credence to what some are saying is going on in regards to Mendoza.

Is this a leadership problem? Should Marshall, as captain, had the final say? I'm going to have to yield to bleeno on this one.

As I said, the end result was a goal. Crew went on to win.

I'll take that for the moment.

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As an aside; Gaven pulls Mendoza quickly after the goal preventing the "thumb sucking" thing he does. Thank you Eddie.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hot Time In the Town Of The Crew

The air conditioner in a hotel room near the beach. It's either full on cold or broken. That's how I've always seen the weather in Columbus. Mostly the full on cold is what we get here.

But tonight the AC is broken, your hotel room bed is sandy, your back is sun burnt to hell, and you are out of dry clothes. 95 degrees and not dropping in Columbus right now. Look for the full three subs to be used tonight by both teams.

The Crew can make a big statement with this game. We need that fight, that hustle, that heart. Throw out wins and losses, goals against and player talent.

Tonight is about digging deep. Whichever team can do that on this steamy night will win.

US Mutant Ninja Turtles

A very positive performance from the U.S. team last night against Canada. A slow start attacking-wise turned on its head by the middle of the first half. Canada were content to let the boys keep possession early on and I think it gave some of the freshman crew a little time to adjust to the game and the crowd and settle any butterflies.

Movement of the ball was much better than against Spain, but then, like I said, Canada wasn't putting nearly as much pressure on as Spain was. But nonetheless, the U.S. were making smart decisions getting the ball moving forward. keeping it on the ground for the most part, save for the occasional, irritating, hoofing upfield.

I was surprised at Altidore's perfomance up front. He is so much better with a buddy in attack. And I have high hopes for he and Agudelo and Wondolowski to entertain us throughout this Gold Cup.

And Dempsey. where oh where would we be without Clint Dempsey. strong on the ball. patient. intelligent. gets into good spaces. that guy is a solid forward and midfielder. expect goals from him.

Nice work, fellas. looking forward to the next one. and the Crew play tonight.
footy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Howdy, Partnerships.


Busy stretch of games coming up for the Crew. and with injuries to a Duka, Renteria and, most notably, Heinemann, I'm looking forward to what a few of the other players can show us out there. The team is in a bit of a transition period with some new blood trying to mix in with the old. and Warzycha is trying to find his starting 11 and his starting formation. please, freaking find it soon! so maybe let's look at the squad that's going to be running out with a fresh perspective and hope that through some surprises and key partnerships and some damn vision for crying out loud...ahem...excuse me... i was gonna say, let's hope we can spot a few diamonds in the rough.

So Cunningham will likely be starting up front with Mendoza. and Mendoza is a frustration right now because he's obviously got something but that something keeps hiding inside and peeking out instead of leaping and just plain sulking sometimes. maybe Cunningham can be the one help Mendoza find his Kwan.

Gaven's been largely out of the limelight of pitch heroics lately. but, i know the type of player he is and rest assured he has been ever-present in most, if not all, build-ups. he works behind the scenes. he puts himself in the best position to either receive the ball or pull a defender into a position which allows a through ball to the stiker or draw a foul. he's not a flashy man. he's a smart man on the pitch. and i guarantee he keeps a left back on edge all game long.

I, for one, would have loved to see Gaven get the call up to the USMT over Rogers but if reports of Gaven's private life causing him a bit of exhaustion are true then its best for him and the Crew that he stay in Colombus. I also, admittedly, haven't seen what all the hubbub is about Rogers either.

Let's get some teamwork going. real honest to goodness teamwork. vision. not just passing to another guy in a yellow shirt (although, I'll take that, too). link-ups. starting the play from back. leadership. I'm looking at you, Marshall. organization. yelling. spitting fire, but not complaining. i want to see some real Rec League basketball HUSTLE.

Hustle. hustle. hustle. I'm looking at you, CREW.



Monday, June 6, 2011

Shawn Mitchell Shows Fang

Shawn Mitchell is the beat writer covering the Crew for the Columbus Dispatch. Less guarded in his post today on his blog for the paper taking shots at Red Bulls TV analyst Shep Messing for his comments about Mendoza during last weekends game.

Harvard Grad Shep's comments during the game:

"Shockingly bad."

"That's just pathetic."

"A DP? You have to be kidding me."

"Shockingly poor."

Mr. Mitchell's response?

"Messing, by the way, was a former NASL goalkeeper, nude model and bargain-brand smokeless tobacco pitchman in the 1970s."

Tobacco ad video added.

Not sure what's better... Shep's "Shep" jersey or his line at the end: "it's really relaxin', try sum." Hey! I had that soccer ball.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meram The Brave, Crew and Red Bulls 1

Even without a handful of players lost to the upcoming Gold Cup the New York Red Bulls still start very good team. But their lack of depth hurt them during a hot night at Red Bull Arena. The key moment for me was when Jan Gunnar Solli had to leave the game in the 28th minute due to injury and was replaced by Matt Kassel. In Solli's absence the Crew took advantage of the left side of the pitch and in the end equalized in stoppage time.

The Crew's defense was solid last night after conceding the early goal. NY clearly wasn't done after scoring one an the Crew kept them out. No easy task when you are facing constant pressure an in form Henry, Lindpere and Luke Rodgers.

After a flurry of up and down play right after the 2nd half started it was clear the Red Bulls were content with getting out of the game with a 1-0 win. In the last 10 minutes there were some desperate time wasting maneuvers. One such maneuver found Justin Meram and Luke Rodgers get tangled up in the corner. Meram (the Brave) got a couple good shoves off on Rodgers and somewhat remarkably Rodgers didn't retaliate. Though, I'm sure Meram got an earful of Queen's English after the altercation.

That fight and spark was refreshing to see that late in the match. Shortly thereafter Meram broke loose from Kassel on a great ball from Ekpo and crossed it in to Balchan for the equalizer. Probably a moment that will be remembered after this season is over.The heat got to both teams but it benefited the Crew. It didn't look like NY had anybody on the bench to sub in.

-Duka, for me, finally had a good game with the ball around his feet. He has always been able to stop on a dime and turn it's just the ball hasn't been going with him. Last night it was.

-Julius James got caught chasing Rodgers and cost the Crew an early goal. He admitted as much after the game. James is a good defender but over the past month he has had some costly mistakes.

-The entire Red Bull team in the second half was in shutdown mode. I'm not sure they had any other choice.

-Duka and Tom Heinemann both went out due to injury, should be interesting how the attacking front looks with two games still on the schedule this week.

-Mendoza was sloppy with his finishing but his play wasn't terrible.

-Cunningham. A couple plays stuck out for me where he just lost the ball in space then went to ground (once recklessly sliding into a NY player). I like how much ground he covers but there were a couple cringe worthy moments for him last night.

-Fun post game report with Balchan and Meram. Ashleigh Ignelzi! Richie Rich! Great to see a couple young mid-western kids have a moment like this. Helps in knocking some of the stink ugliness that's been going on around greater Columbus with the Buckeyes. Wish the local paper made more of it. I'm tired of hearing about the Buckeye's. This town needs a positive sports story.

Real Salt Lake Back On Top

RSL isn't letting anything get past them maintaining a ridiculous 0.40 Goals Against p/Game. I gotta say that Espindola and Beckerman for RSL are quickly becoming a couple of my favorite players in the MLS. It's going to be a big test for the Columbus Crew when they come to town this Wednesday.

San Jose's Lenhart had a fantastic header yesterday on route to helping the Earthquakes jump past a couple teams in the standings.

Friday, June 3, 2011

MLS Castrol Rank Not Worth My Time?

Quickly now because the MLS Castrol Index is only updated once a month and there is a game on tonight and a mess of them tomorrow. Wait, crap. More games all this month? I just imagine this thing being created by some poor 19 year old stuck in a basement having to watch recorded MLS games on betamax, pausing and rewinding with no remote and no bathroom breaks. The biggest issue I have with what Castrol is trying to do here is just not sustainable. Don't believe me? Read up on how they are put together. It's also subjective (positive and negative movement the importance of different parts of the pitch). This "official" index is also only painfully updated once a month.

Outside of telling you how you are doing, good measurement systems need to be immediate. What if companies only tracked metrics once a month? With sports once a month updates might as well be last year.

That said; It would be awesome if there is a guy using a betamax machine though. His name would be Preston and he would use mechanical pencils with no erasers to take notes in wide ruled three subject notebooks.

Helltown supports Preston.

Anyway, I can't be critical of something without digging into it. I did. Here is how The Castrol Index stacks up to my list. Here is how Castrol see's the Columbus Crew. I could get into how Preston's index bottoms out at 4.25 for some inexplicable reason. What is interesting is that once Preston and I get past the top 50 players we actually start to agree. Preston just might be a crazy genius. stop making sense man!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

6-2-11 MLS Table(s), Presented by Matthew Delicâte

Wait... The River whats? Hey!

Ima posting up the first ever, one and only, new, free, + free shipping USL True table. Why the Dayton Dutch Lions not.

After running the numbers through Billy's computer machine it has been determined that Matthew Delicâte is (one of) the best players in the United Soccer League (USL Pro). Which, I'm starting to gather, is the highest level the USL has. In relationship to the MLS is it right below it and to the right. NASL is on the left. Not sure why these guys can't agree on getting together. Well, I do know. And they need to get back together now. The arguement in the US for promotion/relegation in my lifetime (by region, East/West, depends on it). Story for another day.

Matthew Delicâte is leading the league in my overall performance category and leading the league in my offensive list. In fact, he has been leading things in the USL for a while. This year he has 6 goals at 3 assists in 9.3 games played for the Richmond Kickers. Hey MLS! Crew? Anybody? Pick this Welshman up.

Okay. Here is the MLS table that includes last nights Chivas Whitecaps west coast only, past my bedtime matchup. I'm actually upset Chivas could only put one past the 'Caps. Table Update: 6-4-11
Let's go over the top with recent Richmond Kickers action. Way over.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coaching, Poaching and Encroaching

Crew v. Chivas USA.

where to begin? i suppose at the kickoff.

going into the game i already knew it was ending up a 3-3 draw. normally i don't like to watch a game who's score I already know but with 6 goals scored I was excited about witnessing some good strikes on goal.

and the Crew definitely had some great opportunities to score. a few of them were simply wasted. and none more than Mendoza lazily watching a rolling ball inch toward the goal line. a spark of speed and a simple touch would have made it count. but the defender wanted it more and cleared the ball right off the line. what kind of...what... just... Mendoza!!?

lazy. truly lazy.

Heinemann had a good game for me. obviously needs to work on staying onside, though. geez. but he's a hard worker. he wants the ball. wants to score. wants the victory sprint so bad he can't hide a smile.

i'm a little baffled by Warzycha's comments from the other day when he "took some blame." to me, he seemed more to put the blame on Gardner not knowing his position on the field. did he tell Gardner to cover the middle or did he tell Gardner to cover the left? because if Gardner was going rogue and stopped taking direction from the manager then why wasn't he pulled? either way, this supports something i brought up before about the team staying in formation. and that is and will always be a coaching problem.

speaking of being pulled, Mendoza off when he's got himself a brace, following by Heinemann who was starting to make some real trouble for the defense, and then Gaven at the end who may be in a slump since shaving off his hockey playoff beard? I suppose it's true that Mendoza was having some leg issue. and PERHAPS Heinemann was getting tired. but to change up the whole front end is a bit drastic in my opinion. and the proof for me shows in the time after Chivas went down to 10 men. The Crew rhythm was gone by that point and it hardly looked like Chivas was one many shy of full strength. Chivas was still pressing, still trapping, still going for the win and still shutting up shop. that was impressive. hats off the Chivas, certainly.

an entertaining game, in the end, even knowing the final score from start. i don't have high hopes for the Red Bulls game this weekend, but anything's possible in sports.

well, hey, let's not end on a low note. so here's this...

EKPO!!