Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crew Roster Notes, Those On the Move

As we enter a new calendar year let's take a look at the current status of three players currently listed Crew roster who don't seem to be settled.

Milovan Mirosevic, Wants Out
Reportedly looking to return to Universidad Católica with a year left on his Crew contract. Pretty sure the Crew are looking to get something in return for the player and I don't think it is out of the question to think fellow countryman Sebastian Miranda was let go with this in mind. Then again, I may be giving the Crew brain trust too much credit. If no deal is met than the Crew have a pretty unmotivated player on their hands.

My thought: It's probably best to reach a deal and let him go.

Emilio Renteria, Contract Expiring
Has less than 48 hours remaining on his contract. Rumblings of him / agent not liking the language in the new deal. I'm sure Emilio would like to be a starter as a forward playing, attacking player but the Crew moved him to midfield since the arrival of Jairo Arrieta.

My thought: Re-sign him. With Arrieta's playing style (aggressive) chances are the club will need another forward.

Dilly Duka, Trade / Transfer
The Crew have made it known they want to use Duka in a trade or transfer if possible. It's got to be shitty for a player to hear they are trade bait. I consider Duka to be a more than capable fill in for Mirosevic were he to go (which he should). Watch Duka on the U23 US team (1:05 and 1:30). He is best playing more centrally. Also, look up images of Mirosevic... now Duka. Note that Mirosevic is always getting knocked down.

My thought: Take Duka off the transfer list, build his confidence. The return would be less valuable. He has the talent, develop it.

Combined these player's salaries are $600,208 in guaranteed monies. Or, 25% of total guaranteed salary of the 21 players currently listed on the team roster. There is a possibility that all three are being shopped to make room for one player of which @patricksp71 as brought some attention too. His name is Diego Valeri and, according to captains Guillermo Barros Schelotto's Lanús side in Argentina.

Should be an interesting start to the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Earth to the Columbus Crew

Columbus still sits at the bottom of the list as far as players signed up for next year. This is counting Emilio Renteria whose contract only has a few more days on it. Other teams sitting on a roster of 21 players? New England, Colorado, Toronto, Montreal. Bad company as none of those teams will be in the top half of the table in 2013.

29 : LA*
28 : SKC*
28 : POR
27 : HOU*
27 : PHI
25 : SEA*
24 : CHI*
24 : SJE*
24 : GOATS
24 : FCD
23 : VAN*
22 : NY*
22 : DCU*
21 : NER
21 : COL
21 : TFC
21 : RSL*
21 : MON
21 : CLB

Median age of players on the Crew. Tied with Toronto and LA as the second youngest. Philly number one, 23. Crew planning a big old 'trio of locals sign' feel good here soon that will only drive median age even further down.

NY : 28
VAN : 27
SEA : 27
CHI : 27
HOU : 26
MON : 26
COL : 26
NER : 26
SJE : 26
DCU : 25
SKC : 25
FCD : 25
GOATS : 25
RSL : 25
PDX : 25
TFC : 24
LA : 24
CLB : 24
PHI : 23

Crew currently find themselves at the bottom in median player salary, 60k. That's barely above the league minimum. All is not entirely lost here though as they are in pretty good company. Seattle, RSL, DC also find themselves down with them.

120,000 : Montreal
116,434 : Vancouver
112,496 : New York
111,563 : San Jose
108,880 : Chicago
103,525 : Houston
94,625 : Colorado
92,292 : KC
90,750 : Philadelphia
86,000 : Toronto
79,875 : New England
77,679 : LA
77,500 : Dallas
77,125 : Portland
76,667 : DC
68,208 : Chivas
62,500 : Real Salt Lake
60,000 : Columbus
60,000 : Seattle

Posted this yesterday, Crew at the bottom in median market value according to Transfer Markt.

503,125 : NY
483,000 : SEA
442,750 : MON
402,500 : DCU
382,375 : SKC
362,250 : CHI
362,250 : COL
362,250 : FCD
362,250 : HOU
362,250 : LA
362,250 : VAN
281,750 : GOATS
281,750 : NER
281,750 : PHI
281,750 : RSL
281,750 : SJE
281,750 : TFC
261,625 : POR
241,500 : CLB


33870 : KC
33427 : San Jose
33263 : Portland
32522 : LA
32110 : New York
31655 : Colorado
31447 : Houston
30502 : Philadelphia
29265 : Dallas
29152 : Chicago
28815 : Seattle
28598 : DC
27959 : New England
27833 : Montreal
27469 : Vancouver
27330 : Chivas
25847 : Real Salt Lake
23819 : Toronto
23001 : Columbus

Other stuff that I won't list out, but will note; Crew 12th in returning goals (36 goals from last year) and 14th in returning assists (27). Crew have 13 players of 21 from USA, about league average.

Crew are far from a dumpster fire here (like Montreal and Vancouver seem to be), but they are starting from the base of the mountain. And doing so towards the end of Robert Warzycha's tenure kinda shoots up some giant red flags.

Still some time here before the preseaon starts for the Crew to get back into the game but it needs to happen soon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

MLS Values via Transfer Markt

Transfer Markt does an nice job in providing player information to the public. Over the past couple years I've found it to be reliable for English and European players but not so much for Major League Soccer.

Things seem to be changing though as stats and info are updated and accurate and player market values now seem reasonable in relationship to the rest of the world. If you are reading this then you have probably at least heard of the site so I'm not going to get much into what it is.

Below, median player market value by team in dollars according to Transfer Markt (the site uses GBP as their benchmark, I have converted to US Dollars at current exchange rate of 1.61). What this is telling us is the general player value by club. Yes, the Crew are last.

503,125 : NY : 28
483,000 : SEA : 27
442,750 : MON : 26
402,500 : DCU : 25
382,375 : SKC : 25
362,250 : CHI : 27
362,250 : COL : 26
362,250 : FCD : 25
362,250 : HOU : 26
362,250 : LA : 24
362,250 : VAN : 27
281,750 : GOATS : 25
281,750 : NER : 26
281,750 : PHI : 23
281,750 : RSL : 25
281,750 : SJE : 26
281,750 : TFC : 24
261,625 : PDX : 25
241,500 : CLB : 24

Transfer Markt likes to use 'average' but that is a pretty harsh way to look at things because of the way MLS uses the Designated player rule (handful of players drive up averages). Median in this case would be better. So I made it better. I added median age on the right as a sort of bonus stat. Again, 'average' age can be very misleading. Take the age association with value for what you will.

Below is how the site values each Crew player.

1,127,000 : Higuaín, Federico
724,500 : Marshall, Chad
644,000 : Arrieta, Jairo
563,500 : Gaven, Eddie
563,500 : Rentería, Emilio
483,000 : Duka, Dilly
483,000 : Mirosevic, Milován

Breaking here for the overall league median of 362,250.

362,250 : Gruenebaum, Andy
362,250 : O'Rourke, Danny
281,750 : Tchani, Tony
241,500 : Añor, Bernardo
201,250 : Finlay, Ethan
201,250 : Gehrig, Eric
201,250 : Meram, Justin +
161,000 : Williams, Josh +
161,000 : George, Kevan
161,000 : Horton, Aaron +
161,000 : Lampson, Matt
161,000 : Speas, Ben +
120,750 : Schoenfeld, Aaron
120,750 : Trapp, Wil

I've added a + to players undervalued, you can draw your own conclusions on the players over valued. Keep in mind though, a lot of value has to do with circumstance, environment and coaching. Example would be Dilly Duka. From what I've seen personally he is better suited as a more central or free roaming player (Mirosevic type) yet used as a winger on the Crew. The franchise also treats him like dirt (stripping playing time, publicly announcing he is available for trade).

Here are the percentage of players each team has valued less then the league median of 362k:

63% : PHI
58% : SJE*
57% : CLB
57% : NER
57% : PDX
57% : TFC
54% : GOATS
52% : RSL*
48% : LA*

48% : LEAGUE

48% : COL
46% : SKC*
45% : DCU*
44% : SEA*
39% : VAN*
38% : CHI*
38% : FCD
37% : HOU*
36% : NY*
29% : MON

I've included this last part here to show the general quality of player values. The asterisk is for playoff teams. You see that more valuable players (those valued over the league median) according to Transfer Markt leads to success. Consider it as a sort of numbers gut check.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Answering Adam Jardy

Way back on March 9th, 2012 the Columbus Dispatch printed a preseason preview for the Columbus Crew, entitled; "The Subtle Approach*" by (newly minted beat writer) Adam Jardy. This piece was the largest on the Crew all year for the paper, encompassing most of the front page of the Sports section, part of C6 and all of page C7. In it Jardy asked 5 questions of the upcoming season that could only be answered after the year was over.

Here are Adam Jardy's preseason questions (more of points, really) with my thoughts below each one (in italics bold).

After parting ways with leading scorer Andres Mendoza, the Crew will look elsewhere to replace his 13 goals. Emilio Renteria might end up being the focal point of the offensive attack, but team officials want to see a wide cast of characters finding the back of the net this season. That means Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka, Milovan Mirosevic and others need to step up and fill Mendoza’s void for the team to have a chance of a deep playoff run.
On aggregate, Gaven was the only hit here (tied with Jairo Arrieta with most on team, 9). As for scoring by committee? The Crew were tied for 6th in the league with 14 different players seeing the back of the net. 12 teams had at least 13 players score, meaning lots of different scorers isn't an indicator of success. However, having more than THREE players with greater than 5 goals, is (DC, LA, SJ, CHI). More evidence that it's not about having one super star, it takes a village.

One thing I want to note here is that Justin Meram's goal scoring rate (0.38) was slightly higher than Federico Higuain's (0.36). Meram's G+A p90 only behind Higuain and Arrieta.

Simply put, Renteria needs to avoid the injury bug that has bitten him in previous seasons with the club. The bulky forward is the team’s leading returning scorer, having scored eight goals in 18 games last season, but he will have to improve on that production for the team to have sustained success. If Renteria can play more than 25 games and produce at the same rate he did last season, the Crew will have one of the most-prolific scorers in the league.
We'll never really know if Renteria could have been that because his attacking partners in Olman Vargas and Aaron Schoenfeld never got going. The Crew did struggle with injury but Tommy Heinemann's became one of the most significant events of the year. Thinking back now, the Crew reaching for Vargas as a better target man than Heinemann really shaped the season. Vargas was a miss... no Heinemann meant rash signing in an inexperienced Schoenfeld to fill the void. What ended up happening is that the Crew completely changed formation and dangled Renteria up top by himself until Arrieta arrived.

The Crew was caught short-handed when Montreal nabbed Josh Gardner in the expansion draft, leaving the club with no experienced options at the position. Speedy Shaun Francis entered the preseason as the favorite to win the job, but the club made it clear it was looking for more options. Veteran Carlos Mendes probably will start at left back but could be better suited for the center of the defense should Francis develop into a starter.
The propaganda narrative out of Crew HQ (that everyone latched on to) is that Josh Williams did fine over at LB but is better suited at Center Back. I say that the challenges at LB allowed for the emergence of Williams. It's one of the most significantly positive things to happen to the club in 2012. Williams is a very talented and popular player. Were there not a mess at LB, it may have never happened. I feel that what came out of Crew HQ discounts what Williams did and the impact he made.

The front office has been vocal about its campaign to get to 10,000 season tickets sold, stating that doing so is vital to the future financial viability of the franchise. The club remains a ways off from that target, but as important as meeting it is maintaining it once the team gets there. An attractive style of soccer would surely help, which puts added pressure on Columbus not only to win but also to look good in doing so.
No official numbers on this but still not at that 10k target. I would estimate the club is still a few thousand away. Attendance overall at Crew Stadium was better but only back to where it was a few years ago.

Although the Crew brought in Mirosevic and added young talent during the offseason, the front office fell short in its pursuit of a designated player. Management insists the money remains on the table for a possible signing during the summer transfer window, and bringing in a high-profile name or exciting player would give the team and its fans a major boost. Without the caliber of player such a contract typically provides, the Crew finds itself at a competitive disadvantage.
Lots of rumblings about the Crew looking for a DP during the last offseason so when one was finally signed it wasn't too much of a surprise. While most wish it would have happened before the season, all would probably agree that the one the club signed is a good one. That said, even with the signing of Federico Higuian and Jairo Arrieta halfway through the season the Crew may still find themselves at a 'competitive disadvantage'. Before their addition the Crew were 10th in the league... after they came on? Lots of fireworks - but still finished 10th in the league.

*Really good work by Adam Jardy this past year. Interesting that I can't find a link to the cover page story "A Subtle Approach" online. People should subscribe the the paper though, anyhow. Maybe they'll be able to send Jardy to more away games. It's only around 15 bones a month. Support newspapers. Otherwise, without power in the press, get use to them kneeling down to local sports teams and becoming an extended PR arm.

One quote from the missing article that I like, comes from GM McCullers; "I'm not scared to remind our technical and competition staff that at the end of the day, we do have to sell tickets."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

MLS Rosters, Crew Smallest

The Columbus Crew are tied with Real Salt Lake with the least amount of players listed on their current rosters, 20.

I put a lot of weight into reducing roster turnover. The teams that are able to adapt to and retain within the restrictive and ever changing Major League Soccer rules will be rewarded with points.

I took a few minutes this evening to pull down the current team rosters of the 19 MLS teams from their official sites*.

31 : Seattle
31 : LA
28 : Houston
28 : Portland
28 : KC
27 : Colorado

Interrupting the list here to point out the above clubs - who are pretty much set. Interesting to see Portland and Colorado up there. Many teams start the year out at 28 roster players because of the allocation money reward for the last two open slots (MLS max roster size is 30). SEA, LA, HOU and KC will be playoff teams in 2013.

26 : Philadelphia
25 : San Jose
25 : Chicago
24 : Dallas
24 : Chivas
23 : New York
23 : New England
22 : Vancouver
22 : DC
22 : Montreal
21 : Toronto
20 : Real Salt Lake
20 : Columbus

The teams down at the bottom here have to be careful. One of the key predictors of success in MLS is returning league minute gainers from the previous year. The Crew are returning 18 right now, which is good compared to last year but near the bottom as things sit right now. Seems most of the other teams in the league have gotten that memo.

Below is what is salary estimate for each club based on last reported MLS Player's Union numbers and current unlisted signings. This should only be taken as a general indication of where a club is.

$ SALARY TO CAP (in millions) : TEAM

3.2 : Vancouver
3.2 : Portland
3.1 : New York
3.0 : Houston
2.9 : Toronto
2.9 : Seattle
2.8 : Colorado
2.7 : KC
2.7 : Philadelphia

2.5 : San Jose
2.5 : Montreal
2.4 : Chicago
2.4 : LA
2.2 : Real Salt Lake
2.2 : Columbus
2.0 : New England
1.7 : DC
1.6 : Dallas
1.6 : Chivas

Again, this is just high level estimates. I've only gone as far as to take the roster list currently available on and chop off the players 21-30 on the roster based on salary (below 47k). There are lots more push and pulls then that but with so much more activity in the coming weeks it will change day to day.

I've not included estimated pay increases, usually around 10% per club.


The Crew have cut too deep. They are always cutting. At some point they need to stop all the turnover and give themselves a chance to build some chemistry.

At this point, my advice would be to hunt down experienced talent. I know the Crew are inking deals with local kids but there is still space for weathered vets. I've written about some of the players in the USL but I also think bringing back players with MLS experience would greatly increase the club's fortunes next year and give them some space under the cap next year.

We'll see where the rest of this offseason goes. The Crew still have yet to fill 8-10 slots on the team.

Not sure where to even go with that.

*Official MLS team franchise pages seem to be updated frequently, but I expect there to be some error (as with anything). Where I could I matched up with fan pages and blogs, so I'm confident roster numbers are very close to right. You can find team pages in the top nav menu of

Monday, December 17, 2012

O'Rourke Re-Signs, Improves Playoff Chances

Columbus is going to bring Danny O'Rourke back for 2013 and in doing so, improve their chances of making the 2013 MLS Playoffs. This isn't just because Danny is a good player either, it's because the club is reducing year to year turnover.

Back on October 11th I looked at MLS Year over Year Consistency by club and found that teams that are able to stay together, regardless of talent or pay, were more successful. Danny takes the Crew up to 18 returning players from 2012 to sign up for 2013. If they all see minutes in 2013 that would put them number one on last years list by two players.

What I did was look at the players that saw minutes in both 2011 to 2012 on the same team. Here's how it looked:


16 : Los Angeles*
16 : Houston*
16 : FC Dallas

15 : San Jose*
15 : Sporting KC*

14 : Real Salt Lake*
14 : Toronto FC

13 : D.C.*
13 : Seattle*
13 : Vancouver*
13 : Columbus
13 : Colorado
13 : Portland

12 : Chicago*
11 : Philadelphia
11 : New England
8 : New York*
8 : Chivas USA

Five of the seven clubs returning more than 14 minute gaining players made the playoffs. Four of the five over 15 - and finally, the two teams with 16 were in the final.

Chicago and NY were out of control low but it makes sense because the over spent on talent thinking that is the key when in the end it only proved to make them moderately better than terrible Eastern Conference teams in Philadelphia, New England and Toronto.


It's only about halfway though the offseason and the January transfer window is approaching. Dilly Duka is still a valuable commodity that the club seems intent to maximize and there are rumors out there that have Milovan Mirosevic, who still has a guaranteed year with Columbus, returning to Chile for one last hurrah. For that to happen Major League Soccer would have to agree to a sale which would likely mean allocation money for the Crew.

Even those two players move on the Crew still sit at 16 minute gaining players returning. If the Crew are able to pick up Emilio Renteria? 17.


With the re-signing of Tony Tchani and Danny O'Rourke The Crew have put themselves back into a position to succeed. Again, the key is to keep the players on the club and healthy and for HC Robert Warzycha to keep his head about him. Of course keeping players who wield above average KPIs is preferred (Grossman).

Last year there were a couple key injuries that dropped the teams yr over yr minute gainers down to 13. Even worse if you remove Tom Heinemann's 5 minutes before season ending injury. Chemistry is key in this league. The successful teams prove that.


• Details of his contract were not released but the contract is likely for 1-2 years in the $100k range with about a 15-20% decrease from last year. Carlos Mendes moving on likely kept O'Rourke's salary close to last year.

• When Danny started the team had 9 wins, 3 draws and 6 losses. That's 1.67 Pts pGM, or +0.13 over the team average (GOOD).

• The team averaged 1.44 Goals For (GOOD) and 1.28 Goals Against (SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE) when he was on the pitch.

• In my opinion Danny is one of the best defensive stoppers in the league when he is out there. He is effective at breaking up attacks and has decent ball distribution. He's also a very physical / brave yet fair player. Rare breed in MLS. Elated he's with the Crew another year.

[UPDATE: ESPN's local radio affiliate (97.1 The Fan) reported that O'Rourke signed a one year deal.]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Look Back at 2012 MLS Preseason Picks

Before the start of the 2012 MLS season I spent a decent amount of time documenting different preseason pundit, fan and machine picks for Eastern Conference. My thought behind this was to take the general consensus of the crowd and see how accurate it turned out.


Turns out the wisdom of the crowd was above average in picking Eastern Conf order. Which means it worked as expected. Of the 29 picks I recorded it accurately picked seven teams within two spots on the table and picked two dead on. The median was 6 within 2 and 2 dead on.

There are lots of different ways to measure accuracy, I'm going to focus on picks within two spots on the table and "dead on" picks.


Kipp Lawton who wrote for the short lived Off the Laces. He accurately picked 9 out of the 10 East teams within two spots on the table. Interesting tid-bit I found in trying to track him down; He is now working with the San Jose Earthquakes.

The other folks to pick well:

Orrin Schwarz, Daily Herald (7 within 2 spots, 4 dead on)
Steve Davis, Pro Soccer Talk (7 within 2, 3 dead on)
Ryan Gates, Stumptown Footy (8 within 2, 1 dead on)
Big Soccer Member named "edwardgr" (8 within 2, 4 dead on)


Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) ended up being right around the middle. He had 6 within 2 spots and 3 dead on.

The EA FIFA 12 New York Times simulation article from the beginning of the year was one of the worst predictors. It only got 4 teams within two spots and 1 exactly correct. This basically puts it down near a guy named "LongDuckDong" from Big Soccer. It should be noted that the 'human' predictor at NYT was only slightly better (4 within 2, 2 correct).

My own FIFA simulation did much better. I wrote about that:

FIFA 12 Says... Crew 7th. Meram #1.

The always excellent Graham Parker picked very well this year in his preseason piece for The Guardian.

The worst? Well, besides "LongDuckDong" it was Rachna Kapur, a contributor for SB Nation's Goat Parade. Only 1 (one) team within 2 spots on the table and it was dead on, Sporting KC. It should be noted that 19 of the 29 picked KC correctly. There are some pretty long odds at actually picking this poorly.


Pretty good but I cheated and used the crowd. I was dead on about the Crew though, saying they would be battling for the final playoff spot. I'm pretty proud about that. Here's the link to that post. It will also include the list of off all the outlets I tracked.

MLS Fortunetelling, Apologies for Sporting Tops

And here's my post that included my final preseason predictions, I picked 8 within two spots on the table and 2 correct hits. That puts me up there with the top 3. My big miss was Toronto (a lot of folks missed them, only 2 of 29 picked them correct).


I'll round up a bunch of picks around February 2013 and post them up. I should be more accurate this go around because of what I've learned.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Trapp Signs, The MLS Homegrown

Here is the language 2012 MLS Roster Rules in regards to "Homegrown Players".


Clubs may sign up to two Homegrown Players contracts above the minimum salary and similar to Generation adidas player contract amounts.


A club may sign a player to his first professional contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has trained for at least one year in the club’s youth development program and has met the League’s Homegrown Player criteria. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players. There is no limit to the number of Homegrown Players a club may sign in a given year.

I found it interesting that MLS only allows two homegrown (HG) players to sign at above league minimum ($33,750 for players under 25 yrs old). In the language it does not specify if that is per year or overall but I'm going to go with per year right now as all three current HG Crew players are above the league minimum salary. Here are the current Crew homegrown players:

Base : Guaranteed : Name
55,000 : 70,500 : Aaron Horton
58,000 : 58,000 : Ben Speas
44,000 : 44,000 : Matt Lampson

Full MLS Homegrown list with salary can be found here.

The median Base and Guaranteed Salary for a 2012 MLS HG signing is $44k. With a max of 62,500 and min of 33,750. Only three players topped 44k: Brent Richards (POR), Speas (CLB), Cristhian Hernandez (PHI).

Since the Columbus Crew expedited this signing I think it is safe to say that Wil Trapp was signed for a number in the 52k - 62k range. What this means is that he will likely count against the salary cap.

Trapp is from Gahanna, Ohio (middle to upper middle class town, northeast edge of Columbus) and played a couple years in Caleb Porter's successful Akron program. He is listed at 5'8" 150 lbs. The Crew will try him out in the defensive midfield position with spot duty as a box to box. His size will put him on the smaller side of the playbill but that doesn't mean he can't handle it. We'll see.


Last week I estimated the Crew have somewhere in the range of $400 - $700k to play with. I'm going to amend that slightly by extending the range to $850k. The reason has to do with a few players falling off the total cap number (Lampson, Schoenfeld, George).

If you would like to see my 2013 estimates you can go here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cost per League Point to Salary Cap Number

That's sort of a confusing post title but It'll make sense in a second.

Dr. Howard Hamilton, who has a B.A.E. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University (whew), took a look at "Front-office Efficiency" by taking the number of league points a team earned and dividing it into total payroll. Seems simple enough. You can read that post here.

However, the game to be played in Major League Soccer isn't total payroll. That's a rich man's game. The true chess match for the grunts in the trenches is how well you do with payroll against the salary cap. Also of note, with respect to Dr. Hamilton; the Major League Soccer season doesn't end with the regular season.

Here is how that same thing looks if you take the team's 2012 year end salary to cap and divide it into total points earned with playoff points earned. On the left is how much each point cost the club to cap and on the right is how many points the club earned including the playoffs.

35,690 : San Jose 69
38,267 : Sporting KC 66
41,434 : Houston 63
43,563 : D.C. 65
44,938 : Seattle 63
46,946 : Los Angeles 66
50,151 : Real Salt Lake 58
51,425 : Columbus 52
54,123 : Chicago 57
57,181 : New England 35
59,211 : Montreal 42
60,585 : New York 57
68,293 : Philadelphia 36
68,320 : FC Dallas 39
69,120 : Portland 34
73,326 : Colorado 37
74,227 : Vancouver 43
85,783 : Chivas USA 30
121,453 : Toronto FC 23

Here is how each team looked as far as Salary to Cap as per MLS Player's Union last reported numbers. Teams in bold ended the year under the cap.

2,001,338 : New England
2,350,091 : Portland
2,458,556 : Philadelphia
2,462,598 : San Jose
2,486,845 : Montreal
2,525,601 : Sporting KC
2,573,478 : Chivas USA
2,610,316 : Houston
2,664,487 : FC Dallas
2,674,084 : Columbus
2,713,058 : Colorado
2,793,413 : Toronto FC

2,831,099 : Seattle
2,831,604 : D.C.
2,908,785 : Real Salt Lake
3,085,014 : Chicago
3,098,430 : Los Angeles
3,191,750 : Vancouver
3,453,370 : New York

You can find MLS salary cap rules here.

Please note; All teams exceed the MLS salary cap at the end of the year were in the playoffs.

I used Base Salary for this exercise as that seems to be what MLS uses as the cap number. Salaries can be found on the MLS Player's Union website.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Look at The Crew Salary Cap

Major League soccer is in the middle of a busy player transaction period so I thought I'd take a look at where the Columbus Crew are right now and how much space they have left to maneuver for new players.


At the end of 2012 the Columbus Crew were carrying a Base Salary to Cap of $2,674,084 and a Guaranteed Salary to Cap of $3,265,459. The league mandated salary cap in 2012 was 2,810,000 which means the Crew were $135,916 clear in terms of base but $455,459 over when including max guaranteed numbers.

The difference between Base and Guaranteed to cap seemed high so I took a look at the whole league at the end of 2012. Turns out the Crew carried the heaviest difference between Base and Guaranteed contracts to cap in the league.

591,375 : CLB
478,350 : VAN
448,595 : POR
422,917 : TFC
411,254 : DC
374,429 : PHI
367,926 : HOU
365,503 : CHI
361,459 : LA

360,017 : MTL : MLS MEDIAN

325,109 : KC
309,075 : NE
296,729 : SJ
262,535 : RSL
253,530 : SEA
249,798 : COL
242,750 : DAL
212,780 : CHV
187,172 : NY

A closer look at the Crew's number revels that Federico Higuain's Base to Guaranteed difference of $164,000 takes the team from 3rd (without him) to 1st (with him). Because Higuain came to the club mid year his base hit to the cap was $160k but it's still interesting to me that the league posted the full guaranteed salary of $324k. I'm not sure we will ever know if Higuain triggered - none, all or part of that - my hunch is that he may have but for the sake of evaluation of the 2012 cap I'll take it out.

To cap and adding all incentives (guaranteed) the final 2012 number was a possible $3,101,459. That works out to be $291,459 over the MLS cap number of $2.8 million. What this likely means is that the Crew realized that large difference in base and guaranteed contracts could hurt them and needed to be controlled.

Below will be the difference between Base and Guaranteed by player. Keep in mind that to meet 2012 cap the Crew had to make sure $291k didn't trigger.

Incentive : Name
164,000 : Federico Higuain
133,000 : Dilaver Duka
104,000 : Tony Tchani
31,250 : Chad Marshall
24,375 : Justin Meram
23,333 : Milovan Mirosevic
17,500 : Nemanja Vukovic
16,875 : Rich Balchan
15,500 : Aaron Horton
12,500 : Danny O'Rourke
11,000 : William Hesmer
9,375 : Jairo Arrieta
7,000 : Chris Birchall
5,000 : Eddie Gaven
5,000 : Olman Vargas
5,000 : Sebastian Miranda
3,125 : Carlos Mendes
1,875 : Emilio Renteria
1,666 : Andy Gruenebaum

After taking Higuain off the list you can see that the easiest way to ensure not breaking the cap was by keeping the players with larger guaranteed contracts from triggering.

Fans familiar with the team will notice players that got jerked around at the top of the list.


Together the aggregate difference between base and guaranteed equaled $279k. Subtracting that amount from the guaranteed cap total puts the club within $12k of the salary cap. I'll never know if they had to make minutes to prevent the guaranteed contract from hitting or if was based on how much they actually play. Regardless, with that much of a difference the Crew did everything they could to minimize the impact of their max salary. It also explains some bizarre behavior both on the pitch (revolving Right Midfield position door) and off (Duka going home, good example).

ON TO 2013

The Crew now fall at $1,978,900 Base and $2,341,400 Guaranteed after the latest round of cuts. These numbers include Tony Tchani's last published salary of $105k base and $209k guaranteed so with his contract successfully renegotiated it's safe to assume that these numbers to be slightly high. Though, not much higher. I would guess Tchani's new deal is in the $100k range but no gaudy guaranteed number.

Adjusting for Tchani's new estimated contract we'll go with:

$1,978,900 Base
$2,237,400 Guaranteed

Last year (2011 to 2012) the Crew raised player salaries 11%. If we use that same % and apply it this year the number to cap look like this:

$2,196,579 Base
$2,483,514 Guaranteed

The 2013 MLS Salary Cap is $2,950,000 (reportedly). Here is the range in room the Crew have.

$753,421 Bast to Cap after 11% increase
$466,486 Guaranteed to Cap after 11% increase

Looking at it this way tells me that ongoing negotiations with O'Rourke, Miranda and Renteria would mean significant cuts to their 2012 wages. Their 2012 base number was $400k. That chews up 50% of remaining cap room and would make it near impossible to get the roster up to 25+ players.


The Crew have 18 players signed up for 2013 and somewhere around $500-700k to play with. To get the roster to even 28 that means do not expect many (if any) high quality signings.

What is concerning is that the club cut so deep for Higuain and Arrieta and they did so at the back, in defense. This in turn lead to the spin/buzz phrase coming out of Columbus of: "An Evolving Core". What we are to take this as is that 2012 mid-season signings are now part of the club foundation on the field.

The Crew have themselves in a bit of a hole here and they will probably have to shop a few players away yet to make a full roster. Still lots of twists and turns left before next season starts up. Should be interesting.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"It’s a good… it’s a good. It’s a good thing"

Jason Kreis, Head Coach of Real Salt Lake, said the following after the club let go of a handful of players:
"It is with a tremendously sad heart that we at RSL say good bye to 3 absolute legends: Jamison, Fabian, and Will. Terrific soccer players but more importantly, terrific men. You will all be sorely missed, but you will remain family of RSL forever. Nothing but the best to the 3 of you! Upwards and Onwards Gentlemen."
In search of answers in regards the the roster changes my own club made I headed towards the club's website and the official explanation. Not satisfied with quick quotes from the coach and technical director I moved on towards "The Morning Buzz". It's a Columbus Crew podcast where "Frankie Hejduk, Duncan Oughton and's Cody Sharrett talk Columbus Crew, MLS and more," once a week throughout the year. During a recent recording they took on the changes to the Crew's roster makeup.

It takes them nearly 30 minutes to get to the actual roster changes and I doubt many listened long enough to hear it. So, here it is. I hath transcribbled it. If you would like to follow along (recommended) go here and pull the scroll bar to the 28th minute. It's where they start to transition into the recent Crew moves.

(emphasis mine)

[Duncan Oughton] We unfortunately, like every year, had to release players. Had to make room. Salary cap, for many a reason. We’re trying to improve the defensive unit as a whole. Bolster the central midfield and continue to build depth to this team. You know we might be signing a homegrown or two coming up here soon. The defensive units, there’s a couple of names out there, couple of contracts in the works. Ya know, it’s never easy to let go of a guy. It’s never easy, but there’s always reasons for it. There’s certain guys at the moment haven’t been picked up but contracts are getting negotiated. You’re trying to get them back in, fit them in the salary cap.

Frankie you and I have been in that situation and it sucks, it’s just a bad. Ya know, it’s just a great time of year. It’s the holidays coming up. Everybody’s, like happy, family and gifts. For a soccer players, MLS players, it’s always that nerve racking time of year. December 1st to you get picked up do you not. Is your salary too high. Is it time to renegotiate. There’s so many variables...

[Frankie jumps in] So many variables. It really is kinda a buzz kill for everyone involved an-and unless ya know ya know what a great season I had but even then you never really know.

[Duncan again] even then some guys don’t get picked up.

[Frankie again] …wanna bonus. Like ‘dude, I had the best season of my life I want a bonus and their like; dude wha? No.’ there’s some much stuff that goes in to it that a lot of people don’t understand. You try to do the best you can with it and there’s upside and downside there’s probably some trades that you shouldn't have made but you did there’s probably some didn’t… that you might. There’s a bunch that goes into it.

The bottom line is that everyone here at the organization is trying to do the best and get the best, eh, team they can assemble for the next season. And that’s it, it’s all in the best interest of the team and we’re trying to do things right.

Now we wish we could keep players that we couldn't, salary cap issues always come into effect in MLS uh, hence; Real Salt Lake. Hence a bunch of team droppin’ some big name players and I’m not just making excuses but that’s just the way it is man. It is like you said Duncan, it is a buzz kill and it is a stressful time of the year for the players and for fans uh tat a ya know ta just get to know a player that they thought was going to be here for a while that now is leaving or a player that they didn't want to leave that is now out of contract, to someone who ‘I’m done here, I wanna leave, thank you for time but I wanna leave’. So it is a tough time of year for everyone, ya know. We try to keep, ya know, the core together. We still got some…

[Duncan jumps back in] Oh, it’s a great core of players. When you look at the latest two additions; Arrieta, Higuain. I mean, your attack starts from there. You've already got Eddie Gaven who - year in year out, whether he plays good, bad- injured. When he plays Eddie Gaven will give you everything he has to much effect and this was his highest goal tally this season and I think we can expect much of the same playing with those two guys for Eddie Gaven. Right… you’ve got your Chad Marshall back there at center back. I mean Ben Speas is coming on. The core of guys. Andy Gruenebaum has pro-proven this last season that he’s one of the top in MLS.

So… you just… you can just tell. Like… this team is really… looking exciting.

I’m looking at 2007, like we talked about before, leading into 2008. This is, like, us [indecipherable] back then. I think the locker room’s great and ya know, it’s a good… it’s a good, it’s a good thing. We’re in a good place. We can go through the names released and people have their favorites people have their least favorites. People wonder why, people don’t wonder why. At the end of the day, the moves haven’t been made … just… short notice for no reason. The moves have been made for specific reasons. And just so everyone knows, there are contract negotiations out there for Sebastian Miranda. Chris Birchall, if he’s not picked up in the expansion draft he’ll be getting a offer, ya know. O’Rourke, Mendes, Renteria...

[Frankie jumps in] We have to. There’s a bunch of people in contracts guys... ... heh heh

[Duncan to close] Like, don’t freak out just yet. Some of these names you think are gone … will hopefully be back. The “buzz” is hoping and the club is hoping.

It's interesting to me how the Crew goes about things. Nothing ever seems to directly addressed or confidently explained. I often find myself wondering if the club themselves even know what is going on.

But, like... the salary cap and all, ya know?

Monday, December 3, 2012

USL PRO, Top Performers 2012

Ten months ago I took a look at the USL Pro division and pulled out a number of names that I felt were the crème de la crème based on the rating model I developed for Major League Soccer players.

So, before digging into this year it's important to go back and take a look at how well my list from ten months ago did. After all, if I missed on all the players last year then time to crumple up my rating model and air ball an attempt at my NC State trashcan hoop 3 feet away and start again.

In CAPS on the right will be my comments on if they should be in Major League Soccer.

Luke Mulholland : F : YES
Number 1 on my list last year, moved to Tampa Bay Rowdies and helped them finish 2nd in the league and win the NASL championship. I've inserted NASL stats in to my model as well and hope to get to that soon in this space but Luke finished 5th there.

Jhonny Arteaga : F : HE IS, KINDA
Picked up by NY Red Bulls, handful of apps, fans didn't seem to take to him but look at who he was playing behind. Recently released. I'd like to see another MLS team pick him up.

Matthew Delicâte : CF : POSSIBLY TOO LATE
Still with Richmond, not as productive as 2011 still above avg at 0.47 G+A p90. Have him rated overall as 8th best USL F in 2012. Still stings that the Crew didn't go after him instead of Olman Vargas last year.

Jorge Ivan Becerra : [will have to update]

Henry Kalungi : D : NEEDS A GOOD 2013
Still with Richmond, decent year but not as good at 2011. Rate him 60th overall but way down the list of defenders.

Rob Valentino : D : WORTH A LOOK
Solid year with Orlando, by far the league's best team and best defense. He missed some time this year though so he dropped down the list a bit. Still, two good years in a row on the best team? Worth a look.

Paul Nicholson : MF : WORTH A LOOK
Solid year with a not as good as 2011 Wilmington but 2 good years put together. Decent size. 26 yrs old. Worth a look.

Sainey Touray : F : WORTH A CLOSE LOOK
2 goals, 4 assists in 808 minutes. Productive, good size. Still only 22. G+A p90 0.67, 15th in USL with those over 450 mins. Was only a game away from 900 mins... would have been 5th in G+A p90 >900 mins.

An honest evaluation would be to say my model was able to pick out above average players. I am satisfied with results so I am moving forward with a new list and doing it early enough in hopes that MLS clubs take a harder look at the talent in the USL Pro division.

Important to note that this is more a list of prospects - in that I pulled ones who seemed poised to do good things based on age and situation along with league performance.


Orlando City dominated the league (in many ways including expansion hype, Wayne Rooney's brother and Tony Pulis' son) this year so I'm going to start with them, the league's best team.

This 6'1" Englishman spent his formidable years with Sheffield Wednesday. After getting loaned out a couple times he signed a deal with Orlando. Boden clocked 1890 minutes with Orlando this year which means he anchored a backline that allowed an astonishingly low 0.75 goals against per match (best in the league). Based on his numbers alone I am confident that Boden should get a look. Add in that he was shaped by a club like Sheffield Wednesday and you have a player who will likely make his way on to a MLS side soon.

Molino was the 2012 USL PRO MVP and I can see why. I have him second overall in the league (played in 200+ less mins than Boden). That said, Molino was ever present on the team (23 apps of 24 possible). From the MF he managed a 0.54 G+A p90 rate which is 4th when looking at MF with over 900 minutes. Kevin has played on every level of Trinidad and Tobago national team. Given his age I'm positive more than a few MLS teams are looking at him.


Luzuraris is a player who has already been identified by many. He's from Florida and has seemingly been all around the world yet just 23. Like many attacking talents, he goes to a club, gets a handful of chances and gets shuffled along before he can prove himself. Well, last year in Orlando he got that chance and made a big splash with 1.06 G+A p90 for Orlando City. Since he played 934 league minutes that puts him over my magic 900 min / 10 GM mark. Extremely effective player.

Jamie has popped up on my radar a few times. He's got fairly extensive MLS experience already. He's a former Generation Adidas player that was probably burnt a bit by that contract. No question about his passion for the game though. He tallied 5 Goals and 3 Assists in 1526 minutes on the best team in the league. G+A p90 rate of 0.47, which is very good. A little undersized (5'9") for MLS but impressive resume.

Dennis is only behind teammate Luzunaris in the G+A metric. He a 6'3" forward that recorded 0.96 G+A p90 with 1223 minutes played. That's 11 Goals, 2 Assists. He was the highest aggregate goal scorer in the league.


This Scot's resume tells me he has been around the block a bit but no MLS experience as of yet. He'll be 28 by the start of 2013 MLS action by he's worth a look. I see 10 (2nd in the league) Goals and 2 Assists while playing in 93% of all possible minutes for a 0.54 G+A p90, good enough for 3rd highest among USL Pro Midfielders with over 900 minutes.

Another from the British Isles, this time an Irishman that spend a couple years with Colorado Rapids in MLS before winding up in Rochester last year. He was an ironman for the 2nd place club playing in 96% of available minutes notching 2 Goals and 3 Assists. Danny is 5'9" but stout. What's that mean? A 5'9" American might be considered undersized in MLS but not a similar sized Irishman. Does that make sense? It better. He also makes art. Find him, try him - MLS teams.

At 23 years old, Cuevas won 2012 USL Pro Rookie of the Year. This probably placed him on a number of radars across MLS. Awards aside - I like his 7 Goals and 4 Assists in 1659 minutes. Even at 5'8" he's worth a look.

This square jawed Irishman likes to play football year round by playing the summers in USL and winters all the way around the world in New Zealand. Falvey says: " get to play and get paid all year round. You also get to see and live in two wonderful countries." That quote typifies what I feel the Crew is all about. Falvey is the reason why I like looking this stuff up. It's one of the reasons to love this sport.

Loads of good players in the USL Pro division. With the amount of competitive games these guys play and available stats MLS clubs should be building models based around: success in the league, age, size, etc. Matching that up with how similar players specific traits based on performance in the past when making the jump to MLS allows you the ability predict output and minimize risk.

For this research I used the statistics publicly posted on the official USL website.

Complete player ratings and stats on all 269 players to see USL Pro mintues, go here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2013 Crew: Doomed to be Average

Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common. - Satchel Paige

Looking at the past two years there is clear evidence to support exhausting all resources to keep as many players together as possible. This is of course challenging as Major League Soccer salary cap restrictions work against consistency.

Back in October I took a look at roster turnover on each club. What I found was that successful teams in 2012 retained players from their 2011 roster. It's not just a case of good teams keeping good players, either. San Jose topped the league this year after being a bottom feeder in 2011. You would've thought that they flipped their roster to improve this year, instead it's just the opposite. They had the 3rd highest player retention rate in the league. 60% of the Earthquake players that saw minutes in 2012 also saw time in 2011.

The team retaining the most talent from 2011 to 2012? MLS Cup co-participant, Houston Dynamo (67%).

What I've found is that retaining and playing >54% of the same players year over year greatly increases success in the league.

54% : Top Half of Table (53% AVG)
45% : Bottom Half of Table (43% AVG)

• Only three teams in the top nine were under 50% retention (NY, CHI, SEA).

• Only ONE team in the bottom half was above 50% (FCD)

The dust hasn't settled on the Crew offseason yet but right now, at best, the Crew have retained 15 players for the 2013 season that were on the team at the start of 2012. 50% puts them right in the middle of the table. If I subtract Aaron Horton due to him not seeing a minute of MLS time (in keeping with October post) the Crew drop to 47% retention. Removing Ben Speas' appearance in the last game takes the club down to 43%.

Unless you have one of the best players in a generation on your team you will likely be out of the playoff with a 43% retention rate of players seeing time in both last year and this year.

Has the Crew already relegated themselves to the middle of the 2013 table? My honest answer to that is "yes". Of course there is still a lot of time between now and the end of next year and there could possibly be re-signings (recommended).

CAVEAT: If I've learned anything in this league it's that MLS likes to tinker and that opens the door for crazy. That said; No expansion team this year should allow teams to keep more players together thus (fingers crossed) improve the overall quality of play in the league.


MLS changes and modifies rules constantly. There seems to be a strong movement to build "Homegrown Talent" with some of the clubs right now. Brian Bliss and company have really grabbed hold of this trend (see more at Top Drawer Soccer) and this year seems to be shaping up as the YEAR OF THE HOMEGROWN (Trapp, Weit and Barson for the Crew). Some of the cuts this year might be in anticipation of a trio of local players joining the club.

Here is the list of % players retained by club and listed by rank (descending 1-19) on the final 2012 MLS table.

60% : San Jose
60% : Sporting KC
54% : D.C.
30% : New York
61% : Real Salt Lake
44% : Chicago
48% : Seattle
50% : Los Angeles
67% : Houston
46% : Columbus
45% : Vancouver
- : Montreal
59% : FC Dallas
45% : Colorado
38% : Philadelphia
39% : New England
45% : Portland
28% : Chivas USA
48% : Toronto FC

One of the first things I'll be doing when predicting table in February is comparing rosters year over year.

Some good reading out there for those looking to make sense of offseason club moves.

1. Salary Cap Realities Harsh For Seattle Sounders, David Clark.

2. Real Salt Lake see more players victimized by MLS salary cap and roster policies, "denz"

The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct. - Cicero
One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best. - Goethe

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

7 Options Declined

The Columbus Crew today announced they will be declining options on the following players contracts: William Hesmer, Rich Balchan, Julius James, Sebastian Miranda, Chris Birchall, Tony Tchani; and forward Tommy Heinemann.

Columbus is free to negotiate new contracts with these players but it is not likely that the club will pick any back up. Roster bullet points:

• All totaled the Crew dropped $ 854,825 in Guaranteed Salary ($ 710,950 Base) today.

• $ 1,899,900 worth of contracts remain on the 2013 payroll, $ 1,554,200 (Base Salary) left on the roster, according to MLS Salary Cap rules

• Only 9 players left from just 2 years ago. Of them, 2 were regular starters. Columbus very much in rebuilding mode despite reports out of team HQ stating otherwise.

Here is a list of 17 players that will be returning in 2013: Andy Gruenebaum, Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Chad Marshall, Josh Williams, Bernardo Anor, Dilly Duka, Ethan Finlay, Eddie Gaven, Kevan George, Milovan Mirosevic, Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuaín, Aaron Horton, Justin Meram, Aaron Schoenfeld, and Ben Speas.

According to reports, the Crew will be offering new contracts to Carlos Mendes, Emilio Renteria and Danny O'Rourke.


Sadly, a lot of what was cut strikes me as simply cutting injured players. I do not believe the Columbus Crew have the resources to care and feed players with injury (of any kind). Hesmer, Balchan, and Heinemann all had season injuries early on. James suffered a collapsed lung that sidelined him most of the year then battled a reoccurring shoulder injury. All were cut and all are probably casualty of a poorly financed and run fitness and training staff.

Sebastian Miranda and Chris Birchall are pure examples of unnecessary cuts in my book. They have MLS experience and earn a modest starting salary. Replacements will likely be, at best, similar quality. It's 'change for change sake' at it's best.

Tony Tchani seemed to come on a bit this year but ultimately it's probably his Generation Adidas contract that did him in.


Having only been a casual fan over the years, Tommy probably responsible for me getting hooked on following the Crew as closely as I have since late 2010. I'm not even going to pretend to use data to justify keeping him (even though his win % as a starter remains one of the best in last 2 years). I favor him too much. He's a good dude and I wish him the best where ever he goes.

Tommy's time with the Crew inspired enough in me to make a couple videos... 1st is a video during a long road trip out west back in 2011.

Another was in defeat... but myths, legends and heroes are made in such times:

And here's a 3rd one I did.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Crew Brand

Almost positive this is a topic that is going to get more and more attention as the weeks and months go by, so touching on it for a minute.

Outside of what the word "massive" means and how the club plans on usurping it, there seems to be two separate arguments stemming from a Brand Survey the Columbus Crew asked fans to fill out. It was first sent out to fans of whom they had email addresses for. It was later posted on their site. You can find it here, Black and Gold Brand Survey.

The Two Arguments:

1st is about the logo itself. Even though I'm very far from my BA in Graphic Design (and Fine Art!), I know the thing is dated. I also asked a couple of friends who design for a living (one in Raleigh, NC another in LA) and whose opinion I trust more than my own what they thought, they agreed.

2nd argument is about what the logo means. What it stands for. These days I'm closer to what symbols mean more than how they look. The Crew logo has come to actually mean something in a way that some other pro sports in the US take for granted. In a lot of ways the Crew logo is the brand.

I'm sure a brand refresh would generate some interest and sell a few more tickets (I'm thinking Miami Marlins) but I believe it comes at cost greater than the gain. I'm having a hard time coming up with a total brand refresh that has been 100% worth it. Narrowing down the 'refresh' list to teams not moving out of town and it gets even harder to find a good example.

I've written about the "Crew Brand" a few times over the past couple years.


"The game of soccer was born behind places like Columbus Steel Castings and in towns like Newcastle Upon Tyne. The "Through these gates..." like sign is not uncommon around union halls and other mfg facilities around town. "America's hardest working team" comes naturally to this part of the country."


"I work, and have been working, in manufacturing here in Columbus for over six years. For me? Reaffirmation sometimes shows itself in the form of being able to share a moment talking Crew soccer with someone who physically sweats, sneezes, and coughs up black soot. I doubt many who are casting stones at the Crew have met someone like that.

Maybe there are folks out there that have never met someone who gets a three dollar pay increase for merely not getting maimed or even dying in the first couple months at the local foundry. That same someone who might only know of the Crew through their team slogan, "Hardest working team in America." "

Josh Williams (talent+romanticism)

"The future growth of this sport in this area is not in the teenagers filling stands on Saturday nights right now, but it is those same teenagers 20 years from now who are Jack swigging, pot smoking - proud - Iron Workers Union - hellraisers filling the stands and taking their kids out to the game."

Outsiders also tend to view the club as "hardworking, underdog" but think the logo sucks. I realize it's not for everyone but I enjoy this view on the Columbus Crew. I think it actually means something in that it actually represents an ethic and not just an animal, mythical being or a natural disaster.

If the Crew organization doesn't like that ethic or doesn't think it represents the folks around town then they need to step out of their office, drive down to Obetz, Ohio where their training facility is and walk into any one of the literally dozens of warehouses surrounding it. I actually work in one of them, right down near Rickenbacker Airport.

They can come on down and take a look around. I only ask a couple things that might sound a bit off to them but familiar to over half the City of Columbus: No loose clothing, hair can't drop below their shoulders. Flat soled shoes and long pants are recommended. I'll provide the safety glasses, a mask for dust producing areas and coating department... and, if necessary, a hardhat.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Crew Forward Market

Now that I've looked at Crew Defenders and Midfielders, it's time to take a look at the Crew's attacking group. Just as in the last post I'm going to touch on which players are a hit and which are a miss in regards to contract.

You'd figure that writing about the Forward position might be the most exciting, but it really isn't. Why this is probably has a lot to do with the Columbus Crew switching to a single forward attack over the two that they preferred all of last year and at the start of this year.

The rise of the 4-2-3-1 as Robert Warzycha's primary formation comes from the lack of any target man. The injury to Tommy Heinemann, impatience with Olman Vargas and generally 'rookie-ness' of Aaron Schoenfeld almost forced the oh so mighty hand of Warzycha to go with what was his secondary formation (the: 4-2-3-1) last year.

Since that formation change - the club rode the Jairo Arrieta train from summer on. What that means is that there isn't a whole lot to hang our hats on here at the "forward" position. All is not lost though. How about we look at it from a "attacking" position perspective.


Federico Higuain
Value: $195k, Contract: $162k
Notes: Contract was cut in half to adjust for MLS rules regarding players starting half way through the season.

Emilio Renteria
Value: $163k, Contract: $134k
Notes: Renteria's Goal p90 rate tanked this year but most of that was due to the change in his role. Renteria took his positional change really well and actually earned three assists.

Jairo Arrieta
Value: $134k, Contract: $113k
Notes: Arrieta is another contract I cut in half due to MLS rules on players coming in halfway through the season.


Olman Vargas (released)
Value: $79k, Contract: $175k
Notes: Olman contract option was not picked up by the Crew.


Turns out that even my modest predictions for him back in February were too lofty. I predicted 3-5 goals, no assists and 1200 minutes of playing time with a scoring rate of 0.12. Turns out I was dead on the scoring rate. In MLS he got 0.13 but only half the 1200 minutes I foresaw. Also, he registered 0 (nowt) assists, just as I thought (mu-hahaha).

On other thing I tried to predict was his salary. I called it at $140k. Turns out it was slightly higher; $175k. What's frustrating to me is that armed with only public information I was able to predict what this player would do and the salary he would make.

Vargas was the only real loss the Crew took at the forward position. In fact, the forward position was the only group that was in the black.

It's surprising to me is that for all the fan discontent with the Crew attacking capabilities the players classified by Stats, Inc as Forwards actually did very well (in terms of value). Much better, in fact, then both Defenders and Midfielders.

-$186k: MIDFIELD
+$127k: FORWARDS


Justin Meram and Aaron Schoenfeld are underpaid when comparing what they did to the rest of Major League Soccer. I value Meram at $169k and Schoenfeld at $80k. Both are clear values based on 2012 production. The earned well above their current salaries.


Robert Warzycha will ride Higuain and Arrieta till the wheels come off. Problem will be - the wheels will inevitably come off. You can't win in this league with just one playmaker and one opportunistic forward. Banking an entire season on that combo is league table suicide. Aaron Schoenfeld and Tommy Heinemann will have to play a role in order for this team to make some noise in 2013. Look at the best teams in this league. Hell. Any league.

Simply put: You cannot survive on a poacher (Arrieta) and an advanced playmaking forward (Higuain) to create all your goals over a 34+ match season.


Of the players that saw time, Ethan Finlay and Ben Speas are the only other players I haven't talked about. I like both of them. It appears that they will be spending time in unnatural spots. Speas seems to be destine for the Left Mid spot and Finlay? Anywhere else under King Warzycha. I like him anywhere that allows him to run.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crew Midfield, MLS Value Conversation

The more time I spend with on this type of analysis the more things start jumping out at me. It's especially apparent now that I've reviewed the Crew Defenders and Midfield. While the specific numbers matter to me, the simpler way to look at this is to call a players contract either a "Hit" or "Miss".

It's great that there are some players far exceeding contract but what is also impressive are those players that demand larger contracts and perform up to that level. Going back to my last post real quick, you'll notice two players that were definite salary / contract "Hits" in Sebastian Miranda and Carlos Mendes and three decidedly "Miss" in James, Vukovic, and Marshall.

Looking at the group as a whole it's easy to say that the Crew missed on the entire backline with contracts falling -$(195,506) to the red. That actually puts them 14th in the league (not good) in regards to the backline (TFC, COL, VAN, PHI) territory. However, upon closer inspection I see that C. Marshall makes up 89% of that deficit.

Similar tale to tell here with the Crew midfield. The players at this position carry a contract deficit of -$(186,126) and through not much fault on his own, Dilly Duka makes up 74% of it (reminder: I always use 'guaranteed contract'). Duka is coming of Generation Adidas graduation and appears to be saddled with a heavily incentivised contract. It is very possible that the 'herky-jerky' nature of his playing time was due to this. Has the Robert Warzycha and Co. ruined a talented player here? I have a feeling we will find out very soon when/if he suits up for another club and plays his natural central MF spot.

Other midfield contract misses are Milovan Mirosevic, Danny O'Rourke and possibly Chris Birchall. Mirosevic's $223,000 is 28% too high in my book. I value him at a healthy $160k, which is significantly above league median of $110k, which means he added value but he did not live up to this heavy price tag.

In fact, no midfielder in MLS really lives up to a salary that high when looking a value based on performance. My analysis shows that anything over $215k might be too high for a MF player in MLS. Or, another way to put that is to say; that if you are a team looking at a offering a contract above $200k... don't, the risk far outweighs the return you will likely get.

As for the contract "Hits" I show Eddie Gaven and Tony Tchani. Now, Gaven is a solid Hit. I rank him as the 3rd best MF in MLS this year. Tchani's hit is a bit of a strange thing, but it makes sense upon closer inspection. MLS is littered with midfield players. Almost 200 different players saw time there (compared with 150 Defenders, 110 Forwards) and a good chunk of them only played in half the games. Only 25% saw more than 2000 minutes compared to 36% of defenders. What this means is the MLS has a lot of midfield players making good money only playing half the time. There are many possible reasons for this, first being that a MF does a lot of running.

That said. This is a 'market value' look at the league so while MLS has a collective problem in searching for the right MF players, Tchani falls into a sweet spot on the list. Here are some of the players around him on my player rating and make similar salary: Gabriel Gomez, Luiz Camargo, David Ferreira, Bobby Convey, Branko Boskovic... Those are some heavy hitters but also some large salaries. All of these players only played in about half their team's games yet make over 200k.

Tony Tchani also has one of these Generation Adidas contracts that tend to out pace player value according to MLS. The difference between his base and guaranteed is $104k and Duka's diff is $130k. That's a lot of added pressure on both player and coach and I can see why MLS is taking a closer look at the GA program (It could be argued that this Adidas program pays correctly and MLS themselves undervalue. I'm not taking that on). Regardless, in my opinion any team with both these players should start them game in / game out. They are talented and will bring wins. Problem with the Crew is that they reached on them before their salary counted towards the cap and now that it does, they realize that, while they are valuable and meet their "Base Salary", they are not worth their heavy guaranteed rates.


Brian Bliss is the Crew Technical Director. On his own, he knows young undiscovered talent (he is connected to that pipeline) but I think he tends to miss on experienced players when he doesn't have the help of folks like Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Looking up and down the list of Crew midfielders it is circumstance might do in Dilly Duka and Tony Tchani while in my opinion the wise cut might be Mirosevic. If the Crew can rework Duka and Tchani's contracts down to where their guaranteed is at base levels they should keep them as they are both worth that.

One other larger contract th Crew have is Chris Birchall. I'm not sure about him, because he came into the season a little late, if is $109k contract has to be paid in full. I am confident that had he been around all season he would have been a "Hit".

Lastly, we have a trio of lower wage midfielders that contributed well above their league mandated minimums. They were

Kevan George
$33,750 salary : 67,500 HB Value

Bernardo Anor
$44,100 salary : 75,833 HB Value

Cole Grossman (released)
$44,100 salary : 67,600 HB Value

Bernardo could very well end up on the defender list next year even though he's only a defender in the eyes of Robert Warzycha. Note: Ethan Finlay is listed as a Forward by Stats, Inc. I will cover him later with that group.


The MF positions in this league seem to be a revolving door and the Crew is no different. This muddies the waters and makes contract evaluation difficult. My recommendation to the Crew would be to work on a consistent and durable MF lineup (and formation) and work from there. Constant change will only make things more difficult to evaluate and therefore reward/compensate appropriately.

The reason this post is in conversational for is because there is very little to ground these players with. You've got GA players with unbalanced contracts, an aging Chilean who never found his rhythm, a talented young leader who requested out, a skillful gazelle who was put into an unnatural left back position and tore his knee apart, and another who very well could be one of the best MLS midfielders of his generation.

The Crew's problem is here - in the midfield. Not so much in that there isn't enough talent, more that it is probably been misused or there is a disconnect between Brian Bliss and the coaching staff.


As I'm finishing this midfield post up and getting ready to head out to meet friends on this day I can't help but think of Kirk Urso and his family. While I'd give a lot to be writing about his performance and what he would contribute to next year - his life reminds us all of what is really important.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Crew Defense, Market Value (Salary)

Off and on over the past couple years I've been trying to come up with a meaningful way to measure MLS Player Value. I mentioned it in my last post, calling it HB Market Value. What I did with that was pull the median from the 10 salaries above and below an individual performer based on my own player rating model.

I thought the results were interesting and somewhat useful but there were too many strange outcomes. After some digging I found that it was because the difference in what a Forward makes in relationship to what a Defender or Mid-fielder or what-have-you. So, I've taken one small extra step and pulled out the players by position and re-run the 10 above / 10 below median salary.

I'm satisfied with what I've got right now. Here is what happened with Crew Defenders. It is sorted by % Above or Below 2012 Salary:

HB Market Value : $112,500
2012 Salary : $44,100
Difference : +$68,400

HB Market Value : $71,466
2012 Salary : $44,000
Difference : +$27,466

HB Market Value : $160,500
2012 Salary : $140,000
Difference : +$20,500

HB Market Value : $96,250
2012 Salary : $106,209
Difference : -$(9,959)

HB Market Value : $69,313
2012 Salary : $100,000
Difference : -$(30,687)

HB Market Value : $84,571
2012 Salary : $125,500
Difference : -$(40,929)

HB Market Value : $89,303
2012 Salary : $145,600
Difference : -$(56,297)

HB Market Value : $161,000
2012 Salary : $341,250
Difference : -($(174,000)

* Vukovic has was let go earlier this week.

If you add these 8 salaries up and subtract my "HB Market Value" you end up with a overall loss on these players.

$1,040,409 : Total Salaries
$844,903 : HB Market Value
-$(195,506.00) : Difference

I can see why the Crew eliminated Vukovic but removing him doesn't take their backline into overall profitability. Oft injured Marshall, James and O'Rourke are concrete boots to this position. All are excellent players (Danny's work roaming the mid-field is master-class, when he's out there. Thus illo above. I'll include him in my Mid-Field market eval) but (right now) their contracts far outweigh contribution.

The only way to take the Crew backline back into profitability would be to drop Marshall and one of the following; James, Vukovic, or O'Rourke.

Marshall was just resigned a long deal and O'Rourke seems to be staying. With Vukovic gone, this leaves Julius James as the odd man out.


153 different players saw time (according to STATS,INC) as a Defender during the 2012 MLS season. The Median salary for this group was $99,000.

Here are the Players who most outperformed their 2012 MLS contract. On the left is % value above salary.

383% : Connor Lade : (NY)
270% : Chris Korb : (DC)
168% : Jeb Brovsky : (MON)
167% : Tyler Ruthven : (NY)
155% : Josh Williams : (CREW)
155% : Bryan Gaul : (LA)
153% : Steven Beitashour : (SJ)
151% : Raymon Gaddis : (PHI)
150% : Jermaine Taylor : (HOU)
146% : Austin Berry : (CHI)

When I talk "Market Value" I'm talking within Major League Soccer universe only. More specifically the 2012 MLS universe. Trying to determine a player's value to foreign leagues is a completely different species. It's something I would love to take on at some point, but this... that is not.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crew Drop Three, Grossman to RSL

Olman Vargas, Nemanja Vukovic and Cole Grossman have been dropped.

From "All three players are not eligible for the MLS Re-entry Process and will be placed on the MLS Waiver wire, with the MLS Waiver Draft taking place at 3:30 p.m. ET this afternoon."


1. Grossman was the only player picked from the 43 dropped for today's "Waiver Draft". Real Salt Lake nabbed him, wisely.

2. The Re-entry Process" is a tricky animal as MLS over-engineers player draft rules everything. My understanding is that Vargas and Vukovic are dangling out there once their 2012 contract officially ends at the end of the calendar year. Both are quality players


I've written a lot about Cole here at Helltown over the course of the 2012 season, with emphasis since the end of the Crew season when doing player evaluations. The reason for this is because his metrics were notably good in the short time he played.

Real Salt Lake was smart to pick him up.

For me? He's a $44k a year player who was put into impossible positions when called upon this year. He started against Seattle, DC United, Sporting KC, LA, and Houston and never lost a match with 8 goals for and only 4 against. If you didn't notice; Those are the best teams in the league.

His counterpart, Milovan Mirosevic? He didn't win a single game against a team ranked 1-9 on the table when starting. NOT A SINGLE ONE. 0 Wins, 4 Draws, 5 Losses. 10 Goals For, 16 Against. A main contributer to the club missing the 2012 playoffs was Mirosevic's presence on the pitch when playing better competition.

Let's take a second to break down some of the incompetence that Grossman mentions in his Facebook post today.

Below is a record of the Crew's results when Mirosevic was a starter against better competition:

Round 4: NY. LOSS
Round 6: HOU. DRAW
Round 10: SJ DRAW
Round 20: DC. LOSS
Round 21: LA. DRAW

You would think that during this part of the season the club would have noticed a trend. Why? Because by week 22 Grossman had 3 wins in 5 starts vs top teams to Mirosevics 0 in 5.

The team didn't take notice and started Mirosevic in critical late year matches. He ended up starting in 4, losing 3.

Round 28: NY. LOSS
Round 30: CHI. LOSS
Round 32: SKC. DRAW
Round 33: DC. LOSS

At one of the most important positions on a Robert Warzycha coached team (Defensive Mid-Fielder)... Why would Mirosevic, a player who clearly struggled against better players early on, get time late in the year against quality clubs?

I'm sorry, but it doesn't take a Duke University graduate to figure this one out. A trend is a trend. It should have been sorted. The Crew reacted quickly with Olman Vargas by pulling him early in the season (didn't start after week 10, no wins against top half talent), why not Mirosevic?


RSL is ranked 3rd in over all record over the last 4 years. While it's true that Columbus is 4th in that time, RSL still clocks in at 4th over the last two years. Columbus has tumbled to 9th.

Grossman is going to a better run MLS franchise. The fact that they picked a player like him is a testament to how they measure performance and why they are consistently better than Columbus and the other 15 clubs in the league below them.


I ventured in to the ever increasing dark forest that is Facebook and found that common fans are upset about Vukovic getting dropped. Longer written posts reason out in favor of keeping Cole and there is general indifference to Vargas.


I rate every player. I also keep track of every player's salary. If I take the 10 players above and below an individual on my rating scale I can summize general value (or "HB Market Value" if I may. If you will).

Nemanja Vukovic: $125,500
HB Market Value: $75,000
Difference: -($50,500)

Olman Vargas: $175,000
HB Market Value: $93,300
Difference: -($81,700)

Cole Grossman: $44,100
HB Market Value: $65,000
Difference: +$20,9000

Both Vukovic and Vargas are overpaid. Cole is underpaid by a significant percentage. By picking him up in the MLS Waiver Draft RSL is getting a value.

The Columbus Crew let go of $344,600 today.

The total HB Market Value of these players: $233,300.

Aggregate salary dropped today, by club.

$756,255 : NYR : 9
$463,790 : PHI : 3
$413,256 : SKC : 4

$344,600 : CREW : 3

$292,514 : FCD : 5
$208,502 : COL : 2
$185,600 : TFC : 4
$155,000 : VAN : 3
$149,372 : NER : 4
$111,500 : POR : 3
$103,333 : SJE : 1
$35,750 : RSL : 1
$33,750 : MON : 1

RSL picked up Cole's $44,100 salary, so call it even for them.

Of the 43 dropped today I recommend the following players (other than Cole):

B. Brettschneider: $33,756
HB Market Value: 105,950
Difference: +$72,194

C. Rodriguez: $64,383
HB Market Value: $90,750
Difference: +$26,367