Thursday, September 29, 2011

And the Hits Keep Right on Coming

The sporting match last night had the Columbus Crew drop another game. This time to Sporting KC in sporting 2-1 fashion. Most Crew players on the pitch were not playing sportingly. There was some unsporting like un-sportsmanship once the game was tied at a sporting 1-ONE. Players flopping around and such, looking for a draw. Un-sports-man-ship-less-ly by the Crew.

The Sporting Missouri Football Club United New Boys FC City result was a fair one for them. Two mistakes by Columbus made for a painful night. Chad Marshall got beat and fouled in the box and Julius James mishandled a corner into his own net. I think Hesmer could have gotten there but it would have looked ridiculous. I mean... a save of the week type thing on a shot from his own player? damnit, the Crew can't win.

With this loss the Crew fall into the last playoff spot. It's not looking bright right now. Eddie Gaven.

Eddie Gaven.

The Crew need Eddie to get back out there. Can an injured player win league MVP?

So to the last playoff spot the Crew fall. Did they read my last post about Duka starting? No. Arg.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Crew Lineup, Crossbones Style

A lot of folks out there think "you know what? when my guy starts, the team wins." Or, as it is in Ohio: "when that bastard starts, we lose."

I took a look at each Crew game and the players in them. Then I looked at who started the games. Since goals are normally important, I added those too. What I found was interesting and not what I thought.

1st takeaway? Do not play Duka. Ever. Mr. Duka has started 12 games. Columbus has only won 2 of those 12 and lost 6. That's a 0.83 Team PPG when he starts. Goal Difference when he starts is -11 in those 12 games (-0.92 p/GM). To be honest, this data point is so far out of control with the rest of the group I don't even know how to handle/process it. I'm being serious here. And I like Duka. Is he just unlucky or is he that much of a disruption? Wish I had more time.

2nd: There is a clear line between the players that have team success when they start and those who don't. Below is going to be a list of Crew players with average team points earned when starting (total games started).

PPG : Name
3.00 : Andy Gruenebaum (2)
2.25 : Justin Meram (4)
1.83 : Kevin Burns (12)
1.67 : Bernardo Anor (6)
1.58 : Joshua Gardner (19)
1.50 : Jeff Cunningham (4)
1.50 : Tom Heinemann (12)
1.48 : Eddie Gaven (23)
1.41 : Chad Marshall (29)
1.41 : Julius James (27)
1.38 : Dejan Rusmir (13)
1.37 : Sebastián Miranda (30)
1.36 : Emmanuel Ekpo (25)
1.35 : Robbie Rogers (23)
1.25 : Will Hesmer (28)
1.24 : Andrés Mendoza (21)
1.20 : Emilio Renteria (10)
1.17 : Rich Balchan (18)
1.00 : Eric Gehrig (4)
0.83 : Dilly Duka (12)
0.33 : Shaun Francis (3)
0.33 : Danny O´Rourke (3)

Hope the dotted lines make sense. The Number of games played matters of course. And I'm sure folks will be curious as to who scores what and when. It's all HERE.

Kevin Burns and Gardner, with all those games and a good starting PPG. Talisman like? or just guys you should start. START THEM.

Optimism for this Game

Columbus has only had a couple results this year where they pushed past what people thought was going to happen. The away game at Houston comes to mind. 4-1 over Colorado and 2-0 win over RSL.

The April 16th matchup against Sporting KC was a 1-0 win but certainly not that memorable. After all, pick 1-0 for the Home side in every MLS game and 'they' just might call you an expert.

Columbus is tumbling without Eddie Gaven and with a Robert W new contract and Chad Marshall's leadership/captaincy roll changed with the return of O'Rourke (Danny, I hear didn't travel to KC). I know that statement isn't probably the most fair, but perception is becoming reality here.

The Crew need this game badly. It needs to be one of those surprising games. A loss here and the club tumbles to the last playoff spot and is looking up at a stampeding DC coming to town Sunday.

I happen to think this is the kind of game the Crew can pull out. They will be hungrier than KC and will be sharp coming off a tight game against the best team in the league (uh, LA).

Put in the work, Crew. Come home with 3 pts., balance to your normal 1.42 PPG and 1st place in the east.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eleven, twelve, Dig and delve;

Welp, it was like Christmas day over here at the Helltown Beer, Brewery District location. Electronic Arts FIFA 12 came out.

So what are we dealing with here? 1. Player movement is slowed again this year (a very good thing). 2. MLS is treated with some more respect (was that Martin Tyler making a team specific comment on the Whitecaps?). Player pictures for almost all Crew players too. 3. And, this is big... two announcing teams.

Okay, that's all I've got so far. Only spent a little bit of time with it.

If you care not for fake Crew team news, change the channel. I'll get back to real Crew news tomorrow as they take on KC in probably their most important game of the year.
As silly as this may sound. What the folks at EA think about a player in the fake world... does matter in the real world (as it does, to a greater degree, in Football Manager where, among other things, player dollar values and contracts are more accurately handled).

The creators of these games review and rate over 4000+ players across the globe in 20+ statistical categories. It's mind boggling, really.

Below is the overall ranking of all Columbus Crew players in FIFA 12.

Overall : Player
73 : Marshall
68 : Gaven, Hesmer
67 : Rogers
66 : O'Rourke, Renteria, Mendoza
65 : Miranda, Duka, Ekpo
64 : Balchan, Gruenebaum
63 : Rusmir, Gardner, Anor, Meram, Cunningham
62 : Francis
61 : Heinemann, Gehrig, Burns
59 : Prim, Grossman
58 : Williams
57 : Riggs, Horton, Veeder
54 : Sippola

As most FIFA players hopefully know; overall score isn't a great indication of what the player is capable of, but it is a good general score. In that: generally speaking, 65 and up is an above average MLS player. 60-64 is an average starter. In the PL, you have to have a 68+ to be competitive.

The most improved Crew players over last years version of the game are:

+6 Gardner (57 to 63, bench to starter)
+5 Gehrig (56 to 61, reserve to possible starter)
+3 Anor
+2 Gaven
+2 Balchan

Setback (overall) this year:

-2 Mendoza
-3 Cunningham
-3 Veeder

Believable. I know the guys up in Vancouver do there homework in rating players. Other notable increases include Renteria and Heinemann's all important 'vision' stat (+2 and +5, respectively).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Der Nördlichen Ecke

Great photos from the LA / Crew game Saturday. Bruce Arena chose Frankie Hejduk as captain. He played is guts out (as he did all his years in Columbus) and helped put away the all blacks.

After the game, Galaxy jersey off - Crew scarf on, Frankie came over to have one with the best supporters a soccer player could ask for. Photo above was taken by Sam Fahmi or Alison Horn for Massive Report.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Crew Lose to LA. Crew Player ratings.

Since I plan for the worst kind of soul crushing disappointment that comes with an extra time goal I took it upon myself to rate the Columbus Crew players for this game to keep my mind away from the inevitable end.

The plan was simple. +1 for positive movement or touch and -1 for some action that sucks. Tally them up and...

Rating : Name
+5 : Marshall
+5 : Renteria
+4 : Rogers
+3 : Danny
+3 : Gardner
+2 : Mendoza
+2 : Miranda
+1 : Duka
+1 : Hesmer
+1 : James
00 : Grossman
-1 : Ekpo
-3 : Francis

Hope that recaps all the action for everyone. Goodnight.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fanfare from Crew v. Galaxian

Andres Mendoza has 6 goals from the run of play. Eddie Gaven and Emilio Renteria have 4 and Tommy Heinemann has 3. The Columbus Crew are dead last at procuring goals outside of PKs. They have been last all year.

13 MLS teams have a scorer with 6 goals or more. On those 13 teams, 28 players have at least 6 goals or more. There are 24 MLS players with 6 or more goals that make less money then the Crew's create-a-player (on FIFA 12) lefty only goal scorer.

Bleeno and Smitty (and Geoff(and Crack and Stevens)) will get that reference, but to others reading... I meticulously create players on sports video games. Usually each player has at least one weakness (save for the Woods, Crack and Smitty; Trequartistas those guys). Comic books from the 80s are probably to blame.

Mendoza is like one of those created players. He has a top 50 in the world "100" left foot but little* else. When I watch him I feel like I have a controller in my hand and am trying desperately to get the ball on his left side. And when less then 30 yds out? Punch it.

This weekends Crew game is sold out. A feeling I haven't felt since...

Beckham flew back to Cali today. So none of that guy at the game. Yeah, there is Donovan and that Irish fellow (Keane, sorry Nana) but it's Beckham that sold out the stadium (for the first time since...). But leave that behind. If fans knew there stuff they would know that Todd Dunivant is the real reason to go to the game. He has a stranglehold on the MVP race right now. Well... here at Helltown he does.

The Crew have a real chance of dropping out of first this weekend. A loss here and a KC win puts the Crew in a tight spot in 2nd with Philly. If DC and Houston also win then we have a 5 alarm fire going on here in Columbus.

What's that then?

Looking forward. Columbus has KC Wed. of next week then DC next Saturday. Danger, Danger. 1st in the East to the last wild card spot will bring out the nearly dead and depressed Buckeyes.

And it will be the thing of nightmares.

*Mendoza showed recently he can play the mid-field well. The Houston game. Check the tape. Unfortunate we can't see the 33 yr old there more during his stay in Crewtown.

Your Ctrl+(right)click for reading this post (for my brother. Amazing how it means so much to so many. Not only in the US, but across the world. And amazing how quickly we forget what it's like not to be the clear number one).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Andres Mendoza's Value is $205,608.64

Sebastian Miranda is the most valuable player on the Columbus Crew at $267,357.37. Señor Miranda is playing 132.5% above his current salary of $115k. Josh Gardner is playing 273.4% above his current salary of $49,200. That is the largest margin on the club.

Six Sigma tools are a beautiful thing. Those witty Brits at Minitab also make it unfair. I can. not. wait. till the end of this season. Yes, the Crew have a chance at the MLS Cup and that is exciting. But I can't wait to rip data that is standing still.

One of the things I found appealing about following the Crew this year was the player salaries. Why? Well, to be frank, their salaries are approachable (small, but I believe them to be fair in the worldwide footballing market).

Example: Eric Gehrig is pulling in a modest sum of 32,600.40 p/yr. That's $958.82 per game if he plays or not. But most of us don't get paid to play kickball. Let's look at it as a bi-weekly pay check of $1253.84 before taxes. The cold, honest truth here is that he is making less than the Ohio median household income. These are people to pull for. To buy a ticket to see.

For the record: Mr. Gehrig is worth $68,323.90. And that is right now. If Chad Marshall is out another week, that worth will go up.

For the record, here are the best players on the Columbus Crew, by value, right now. The % is what they are worth above their current yearly salary.

273% : Josh Gardner
265% : Tom Heinemann
236% : Julius James
197% : Rich Balchan
190% : Kevin Burns
132% : Sebastian Miranda
109% : Bernardo Anor
109% : Eric Gehrig
064% : Robbie Rogers
053% : William Hesmer
013% : Justin Meram
007% : Eddie Gaven
001% : Emmanuel Ekpo

Incidentally. Therein is your starting team for 2012. Right? Certainly people smarter than me are looking at this.

UPDATE/NOTE: Looking at value only; guys out performing their salary in relationship to the rest of the league.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crew Lose to Union. I don't know, man.

What I do know has nothing to do with why the Columbus Crew lost the game or why they are on such a bad run. The answer, in large part, to that is the absence of Eddie Gaven out there.

What I don't know is the status of Chad, Robbie or Eddie's contracts. My understanding is that all three are up this year. I feel like I've got to lean on Football Manager for this because our local media is asleep at the wheel. In that fake universe, William Sasquatch took over the team and let Marshall and Rogers go. I don't feel like the two Californian's want to be here anyway (in both real and fake world).

Last night we got a good look at Eric Gehrig in Marshall's regular spot. You could see that the Union saw his central position in the back as a weakness. They attacked it often and Le Toux burned him once for a goal. Gehrig had missed headers, was out of position a lot and chasing the action, nearly broke fellow rookie Heinemann's leg going for a ball and has an 80s metal hairdo. But you know what? Only one got through and Hesmer was rarely tested. Gehrig's got heart goddamnit. Can't fault him on that. I'm not saying Gehrig would be a suitable replacement for Marshall. I'm just sayin'.

Columbus is still holding the top spot in the East and is somehow still holding onto 5th in the entire league. Even with the recent skid, Warzycha has settled into a 1.40 to 1.50 ppg average this year. The last month has been bad for the team but it's not out of control.

On that, Warzycha's career PPG average is an impressive 1.59. So he is off this year. Part of that has to do with the league he is coaching in as a whole though. 36% of the games ending in a draw. Other leagues around the world are in the mid to high 20% range.

27 weeks into last season... Bundesliga: 19.9%, Serie A: 26.4 and the PL: 30.1%.

This post has been a winding road, hasn't it. It's probably because the game last night boring. Outside of the Gehrig observations...


Dilly Duka: Dude. Again? Is it me or is he trying to do too much out there? He's becoming a black hole, man. He plays with his head down and rarely looks to pass.

Danny O'Rourke: Pretty solid out there. Probably best he hung back last night but I want to see him get forward.

Rusmir: Concrete boots out there again. He was a bit off last night. Would rather see O'Rourke up there. Seeing Gardner come on for him put a smile on my face.

Robbie Rogers: A forgettable game, but not all his fault. See: Duka and Rusmir.

Final note on Josh Gardner. The coaching staff has been telling him all year that when Francis returns he will be put back on the bench. I think that is the correct way to handle it. Francis looked pretty good last night. I am hoping that Gardner finds a spot on the team though. He is a good player. I'd like to see he and Danny in the middle, both can handle box to box work.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Crew in Philly Preview

Ekpo is out (card suspension) and Balchan is on the injury report. I have no idea how Balchan found his way back there. It is possible that Richard may be odd man out with Danny O'Rourke returning. As such, I have a sinking feeling that the Crew use the injury report as a confidence tool for players sometimes. Rich isn't being benched, he's just nicked up, not back to full fitness. By the way, Danny is back.

Speaking of Danny. Even though he has been out almost all year, he has been everyone's favorite person to interview. He's like the unofficial spokesperson. Which has allowed everyone to see that he's got a little crazy in him, which I like. It's going to be interesting to see how he plays tonight. His performance could actually be the key for the Crew.

Both teams are on a bad run right now, but no doubt the Union's is the more atrocious. Last 8 games: WLTTTLLT. That said, the Crew are without Gaven and in the midst of their worst form of the year.

Picking this game is like asking which kind of headache you prefer. A day long low grade headache or a skull splitting migraine that lasts a couple hours. Edge goes to day long, but I'm going to have to go with neither. Draw.
Let's ask Danny who's going to win: "The deus ex machina of football devices pull randomness from a rancor's teeth." Okay, thanks Danny.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Having Video Fun

The images were originally inspired, shot and edited with different music. The longer Modest Mouse version exists but it only works if it is fed after midnight (I guess both are long, but I liked the images and music).

Always stayed away from these bands when messing around with video because I like them and thought I'd screw it up. Figured it was as good a time as any. Had lots of fun.

I've been recording just about every Crew game in expectation of creating something exciting at the end of the year. I've got lots of plans for the footage actually. We'll see what happens. With this one I set up the old sony handycam, Early 70s Sears BW TV, my monitor and my cell phone (to capture the digital). Shooting the Oasis video through the handycam, run through a VCR to the old TV actually looked really good. Might put the whole thing up at some point.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Crew Plays PK Ball

Percentage of total goals this year coming from the spot.

%PK : Team
26% : Columbus
19% : D.C.
19% : New England
14% : Real Salt Lake
12% : Seattle
12% : Philadelphia
11% : Vancouver
10% : Los Angeles - x
10% : Portland
8% : Colorado
7% : Sporting KC
7% : Toronto FC
6% : Houston
5% : New York
3% : Chicago
3% : FC Dallas
0% : Chivas USA
0% : San Jose

Someone is going to have to look in the statistical archives of not just MLS but the rest of the world and let me know if a team down to 10 men has ever gotten two penalty kicks like the Crew got last night. That's some freaky stuff.

It is in the 50's right now here in Columbus. Maybe All Hallow's Eve has arrived early.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The First Visit of Thrice

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber was in lil' ol' Columbus today. Free lunch at our new downtown park; Columbus Commons. Ol' Don made a special visit to tell this town something without saying it.

From the Columbus Dispatch:
"The Crew is doing fine," Garber said. "But fine is not good enough when you have expansion teams selling out every game. The bar has been raised. The Columbus Crew want to be part of that great story. This is a good city that has proven it loves the game. We're just trying to figure out a way to reconnect the dots."

Mr. Garber's visit was not one of showing respect or thanks. It was that of warning. If you don't believe me then imagine Mr. Garber's words as if you heard them in a performance review. Not getting it?

John, you are doing fine, but fine is not good enough when David over there is nailing it everyday. The bar has been raised. I know you want to be part of that great story. You are part of a team that has proven itself. We're just trying to figure out a way to reconnect the dots.

I don't know if he has been out here before but I do know that if things don't improve he will be out here a couple more times. I've learnt this 3 visit rule over the many years of me life in performance based business.

If things don't improve, the next visit will be one that attempts to eradicate issues he (the league) deems as underlying issues. This is, by nature, a failure point because their grasp on the local issues and heartache is usually wrong.

The 3rd visit will be to deliver the bad news. Grave news.

This means that Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers and his administrative staff need to find solutions now. Not tomorrow. NOW.

It also means that the Crew Supporter Groups need to actually support their club. I've heard way too much bitching and complaining over the past year. Add in an embarrassing shutdown of a supporters bar and a parking lot death and I really, really hope they read the bloody messages on the wall. As in: They are more of the problem then the solution right now.

Now's not the time to point fingers and hate the person that hates the same team you hate. Don Garber isn't here to visit the beautiful city of Columbus. He is here to tell the city to get things in gear... or else.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hey Crew, What's Happening

Slow start from Dilly Duka. He looked like he did at the start of the season, which is frustrating. The Generation Adidas player looked slightly better at moments later in the game but still not up to where many think he should be. I'm not pinning the loss on him (or the loss in Seattle two weeks ago) but at some point this player needs to find his place or he will never graduate*.

As for the rest of the team? Something hasn't been quite right for the Crew during there last two games. The 6-2 beat down in Seattle and now the 4-2 loss to a weaker team in Toronto. Or 10-4 aggregate. Or -6. Or +crummy. Two horrible losses book ending a bye week.

It's only two games so it is not time to panic. A 34 game season is plenty long to allow for 4 points of data in any direction. Even though it is late in the season, it will take 2 more games like the last two for me to start getting upset.

Hard to see any silver lining in this loss to TFC, but they are a team in the middle of their best run of the year. Should they be beating the Crew at home though? No. Nobody should be.

Notable Play:

Hesmer had a gruesome day. On the blooping header he showed his heavy feet. Same speed/quickness issue late in the game on his decision to come way off his line. He was 3 steps late on that one.

Ekpo and Duka weren't effective in their rolls. I noticed Ekpo dropping back quite a bit, perhaps to aid a recovering Balchan.

Burns should be filing a police report this morning. Foul or not, he needs to be stronger on the ball and have better positional awareness when he has the ball. His lack of both led to the assault the produced a goal. Great play from de Guzman. Burns went down too easily.

Renteria and Mendoza. Jury is still out on this combo but common cogs in both blowout games.

Mr. Rogers played well. His crosses were to good places, just nobody there in the 1st half. Renteria is not a target man (nor is Mendoza, either).

Heinemann had his best game of the year. He was the man Rogers needed and it paid off. He also dropped a beautiful pass to Mendoza that produced a goal.

Final Thoughts:

Columbus has opened it up in attempt to score more goals over the past few weeks. As a result, they are allowing too many. Games involving the Crew should not be 4,3,8,6 goal affairs (last 4 games).

Event Horizon Player of the Game:

Dwight Burgess. He called a great game. His best game.

* More on Generation Adidas players. It seems very loose.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Don't Play No Game I Can't Win

I've only got a few minutes left until my annual fantasy football draft of the American kind. And here I am writing on Helltown planning and scheming on a Major League Soccer Post. The Modern Man over here. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm committed to the Crew this year and with that, the greater MLS universe. Its been kind. And un-kind. Plenty left this year and still enjoying it.

That said.

I've updated my Helltown Beer Player Rank. The whole thing is shaping up pretty well. Evaluating performance based on limited time and available statistical data has proven itself pretty well within my weighted formula (whew). Waiting for the Prem to get to five games before I try it there. Hm.

Ah, the Prem. What was I talking about. Oh. I noticed that domestic league awards are getting knocked around. Still lots of kickball to be played, but let me go ahead with it.

Wait. But before I do... I've gotten into a strange habit of purchasing one (1) sub ten dollar blu-ray movie a week. This event happens on Sunday (unless I'm out of town). So, for my annual MLS awards I've decided that each category will be sponsored by one of the said cheap movies (that sales in the mid-west region of the USA have dictated based on income, demographic and sales of beef jerky per capita-what?)

Last Starfighter Rookie of the Year:
Rich Balchan. Because I'm a Crew fan. Damn the numbers.

The Rundown Defender of the Year:
Todd Dunivant. No Question.

Under Siege Goalkeeper of the Year:
Kevin Hartman. Seagal's best movie. League's best 'keeper.

Big Trouble in Little China Coach of the Year:
Bruce Arena. Because he is my hero. Been there since the beginning with him. Nights at RFK even. Just because you coach LA doesn't mean you will win. Guy is a legend in our time. Same as Kurt Russell.

The Day the Earth Stood Still Most Valuable Player:
Brek Shea. Still plenty of games to go though. We'll see. Todd could take it. The whole thing is up in the air right now. Maybe just like Keanu's career.

As for my football fantasy draft? still got some time, eye's ah reckon. It's all numerical anyway. I'll let the #'s work and see what happens. Did that a couple years ago and won. Last year went with my heart and came in last. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Glenmorangie. Team Rank! (MLStyle) 1985 99 Luftballons

Live from downtown Columbus, OHIO on my computer, typed out in words that get jumbled together as poor grammar comes this numbers thing. That thing? Why, Power Rankings they be. Oh, the bane of all that is Sport, power rankings be (and my curse). It's when some poor writer tries to sit down and act like he/she knows everything about all 10 MLS teams. Who could possibly know enough about all the teams to put a list together. Honestly. The thing is the size of sputnik. Wait. 18 teams now?! Well I'll be damned. Last I checked the power rankings back in June (1985) I swear there were only 10.

Looking at the league now I see that there are only 9 teams that have any sort of shot of making it out with of the year with a shiny thing. Mathematically, the Supporters Shield can only be won by a handful of teams (no, my graphic doesn't show that. Why ruin everyone's fun? Besides, I'm sure now I've said this there will be a thing on MLS dot com about that topic). The MLS Trophy? Another four or so. I don't know man. Numbers are for non Glenmorangie folks. Look at my stupid picture link already.

I don't have time to watch all the games. I look at the strengths and weaknesses of teams based on the the players that play each position and my weighted player rank system. Generally, if a team is playing a lot of guys at a position then that tells me they are weak there (or have an injury problem). FC Dallas only plays with one guy up front. So they get dinged for that in my system. Were I an opposing team, I'd just jam them back in the MF whilst shadowing Shea with 3 subs. Done. BOOOOM!

Power Rankings. Fun at first, early in the season, but as the picture forms they get boring. Where are all those folks raking Portland at the top early on? MLS dot com actually said "Add in a couple of road draws, and they may even find themselves in the Shield race." Back at week 10. Honestly. Don't you worry though. Helltown Beer had them at 17th in the league back then.

and one more for the True Blood. How about Byrne going at it with Once in a Lifetime. Time isn't holding us. Time isn't after us.