Monday, January 30, 2012

Fake Crew Match Day, Feb 4th 2012

Ben Speas is getting his abdomen checked, Tchani has "a knee injury, according to team doctors" and Julius James is not ready to go with that painful shoulder.

What would the Columbus Crew look like if they went out on the pitch this weekend? The graphic here shows what I think. Is it the dream line up? No. It never will be. Injury and opponent will dictate who starts.

Besides, imagine the size of Gaven's eyes when firing in a cross. Miro, Vargas, Heinemann with Anor chasing that missed first touch? Money. Ah, MLS.

Roll that spherical thing out there already. Let's go.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Autonomous League of US Soccer

OBJECTIVE: Build a nationwide soccer league system in the United States that is connected and healthy.

WHY: After the busy holiday season I wanted a project to work on at Helltown. Unifying multiple soccer entities and leagues is a worth while endeavor. It's an exciting thing to work on.

CHALLENGE: Many. Different organizations and more importantly different financial structures.

01: Existing Leagues. When you step back, Major League Soccer's (the United States "top division") closed single entity system is a tough nut to crack. They (MLS) want to own the team, the transfers, the sponsors, TV rights, the grass on the pitch and you. It's not just MLS, though. The NASL, USL and NPSL all have their own way of managing their existence.

02: Travel. MLS's business structure is a road block in creating a unified league system in the United States, but not the most difficult to overcome. Money is. Always money. How so? Travel. This country is huge. The United States Soccer Federation's biggest asset is also it most challenging hurdle.

03: USSF and Sunil Gulati. This number 3 is actually number one, but I have absolutely zero ways or means of controlling it or understanding it (fully). I don't know the thoughts of the board members or C level executives. Heck, don't even know or care who they are. All I need to know is if they realize they are sitting on something special or not. I'd like to think Gulati knows but resolving petty disputes (NASL) about lower leagues is not bringing anything forward and a waste of time.

04: FIFA Calendar. US does not follow it. Simple solution? Change the US calendar to fall in line with rest of the world. But work to be done to get to that. Weather and all that. Plus... the United States of America the most prosperous nation in the history of human kind. Sorta figure; we might be able to make a few rules if we so want. Maybe not.

THE FIRST TWO STEPS: Are always the hardest, and each step brings new challenges.

01: Split the soccer semi/pro playing clubs into EAST and WEST at top 2 levels (for scheduling during regular seasons, maybe play a east/west cup or something to determine US champ, we'll get there). Mississippi River being the divider. Southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest on 3rd, 4th and 5th will be determined by organizing league and team density and will feed East/West on top 2 levels.

02: Promotion and Relegation. Unify Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, United Soccer League and National Premier Soccer League through promotion and relegation yet allow the individual leagues to retain control of their teams.

Promotion and relegation can be used as a tool to structure league sizes and regional divisions.

THE TEAMS: Autonomy has to be used to organize our current soccer chaos in the United States. It's not going to happen in one year. But it can happen in five... that said; the 1st question has to be asked, how many teams do we have in the US playing semi or pro soccer?

152 total teams in the USA

4 "Major" Leagues, 18 different divisions

75 USL (10 Divisions)
50 NPSL (5 Div)
19 MLS (2 Div)
8 NASL (1)

90 East of the Mississippi, 62 West

Click to view all 152 teams in the top four leagues of the US soccer "pyramid".
It is necessary for the USA to have all soccer leagues working together in order to be competitive on the world stage. I have more coming, just a start!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

USL Pro Guys, Super! (Part II, Oohhlaaoohh)

16 days ago I spent some quality time with the USL Pro players I found to be of pretty high prospect based on my very own qualitative statistical maths (that may or may not have been aided by a cheap Costa Rican beer that may or may not be foretelling of the yet to arrive, Columbus Crew forward, G-Olman Vargas).

I'm following up on this stuff because I mean it... here's a video from the coolest year ever (1983) to entertain whilst reading...

With that said *deep breath*

I bring news! Of an updaaaated list!! Now... we ride!!!

01 : Luke Mulholland, 23 ATT MID (England)
Signed with Rowdies (NASL)

02 : Jhonny Arteaga, 25 F (Colombia)
Trying out with NY Red Bulls. Chances of signing are good there. Again... Crew took a look at him last year... deserves better than that dysfunctional afterthought in NY.

03 : Matthew Delicâte, 29 F (Wales)
Richmond Kickers have him on the roster. What'd I'd give for him to be on the Crew roster. Here... I'll sing a song about it. Oohhlaaoooh eeehaaaboolalala.

04 : Jorge Ivan Becerra, 27 D (Mexico)
Still listed with the Wilmington Hammerheads.

05 : Henry Kalungi, 24 D (Uganda)
On loan with club called Proline FC in Uganda, will return to Richmond 2012.

06 : Rob Valentino, 25 D (USA)
Looks like he'll be with Orlando again this year (USL Pro).

07 : Paul Nicholson, 25 CDM, (England)
Wilmington Hammerheads again looks like. Want to catch a Hammerheads game this year. The seem to have a strong backline made up of 3 Brits and a Scot.

08 : Sainey Touray, 21 (Gambia)
With Harrisonburg at the moment. His production and age say he should be on the move. No news.

Other guys... Andriy Budnyi, still listed as a Hammerhead. Jose Angulo, is trying out with the Red Bulls, Tadeu Souza Terra is in Findland now with MYPA (Veikkausliiga).

Monday, January 23, 2012

- 1.64 Million Columbus Crew Moves

The Columbus Crew moved $1.64 million off their books last year by declining, waiving, dropping, offering minimums, having stolen or just, well... misplacing. None of these players were sold, so nothing in return. Dollars-wise anyway. The team did get a lot of space to replace average talent... with average talent. Save for a few, you be the judge.

Below are the guys moved in 2011 and what they are up to now.

Dejan Rusmir
What Happened: Declined Option
Last Crew Salary: $170,496
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $110,900
Status: Started playing for OLYMPIAKOS NICOSIA FC in Cyprus last week. What I think: Good to have the experience and he is a good player, but too much.
Kevin Burns
What Happened: Declined Option
Last Crew Salary: $42,000
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $129,000
Status: Sent email to the Danish club he tried out for (Hjorring), surprisingly got a nice response. They liked him but small club, not enough money. His agency says he may be headed to Germany to trial there. What I think: Maybe I'll send another email... but this time to the Crew. Bring him back. $42k breaking the bank fellas?
Josh Gardner
What Happened: Stolen
Last Crew Salary: $49,200
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $184,300
Status: With Montreal Impact, likely starter for them. What I think: Impact got a great pro and better player.
Andres Mendoza
What Happened: Dropped
Last Crew Salary: $595,000
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $227,700
With Atlante FC, Mexico. 2 goals in less then 300 mins so far this season for them (3 games in). What I think: Only caught fire for a month (2/3rds through season, 13 goals is misleading. 5 were penalty kicks. Never fit in and didn't / never would've worked well with Renteria.
Andy Iro
What Happened: Traded
Last Crew Salary: $87,346
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $39,000
No team at the moment. Nottingham Forest put the PR feelers out, they deemed him "lovable but clumsy". Crew could use him now. Haven't heard anything else. What I think: Sign him back at $50k. Crew needs depth in back.
Santiago Prim
What Happened: Dropped (I think)
Last Crew Salary: $32,600
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $0
Playing for RAMPLA JUNIORS FC in the Uruguayan Primera División. What I think: Seemed like an odd signing at the time. Did he get homesick?
Leandre Griffit
What Happened: Traded
Last Crew Salary: $55,000
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $32,500 (min)
Traded to Toronto mid 2011, they dropped him same time as Iro... Nowhere now. What I think: Crew reached to get Tchani and it involved Griffit. Lots of red flags around Tchani right now but jury is still out. As it stands, Iro and Griffit should still be in the black and yella.
Robbie Rogers
What Happened: Minimum Offer, Declined
Last Crew Salary: $140,000
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $229,100
With Leeds. May be playing on January 31st against Birmingham at home. What I think: His buddies got shipped out of town. He left. Good talent leaving. End of story.
Emmanuel Ekpo
What Happened: Minimum Offer, Declined (lost?)
Last Crew Salary: $222,250
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $239,600
Status: Was lost there for a bit. Some say he has turned up in Eastern Europe. His Nigerian National Team was banned from this years African Cup so I know he isn't there. We'll see. What I think: Expensive, but he held it down all of 2011. I think the Tchani signing really bothered him (on different levels).
Jeff Cunningham
What Happened: Option Declined
Last Crew Salary: $152,500
*Helltown 2011 Season Value: $80,200
Status: Signed with Guatemalan side, Comunicaciones. What I think: Way too much spin out of Obetz (and ONN) on this guy. The team needed a goal scorer and it was turned in to a feel good story about returning "home". I also didn't believe the stories about his changed character. I'm sure he was nicer than the first go around, but too much noise about dissent on decisions last year.
Alex Riggs, Ben Sippola and Andy Adlard have not popped up yet. I thought Sippola had some talent. Sure he's out there somewhere.

*Helltown 2011 Season Value: Is based of player performance during league play last year using my own rating system, then assigning a dollar amount to each point earned in that system based off the MLS salary aggregate (players that saw minutes in league play only).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

USMNT Win, Circadian Good

It was a good win because it broke a losing streak against South American teams that goes back six years and 12 games. Last win against a S. American team was May 2006 in Cleveland (oh, hell yeahs! woofwoofwoof!) over the same foe in Venezuela.

Actually, if you want to get technical, the United States has a very good record against Venezuela. 3 Wins, 1 Drawn and Zero in the loss column (since 1988). How do I know? I pulled all USMNT results going back to 1988. That's right, exciting Sundays here in the Brewery District. Anyhow, I stopped that year because it was getting tedious and irrelevant to last nights result to go any farther. Besides, it was the year my beloved z28 Camaro was built. The peak of '80s Camaro engineering, if I must say so. So there I stopped. Logical.

The reason I did it was because I don't like it when misinformation is distributed. And believe me when I say that there is a lot of bad info out there, particularly when the US National Team is involved. Even during last nights broadcast on ESPN 3. It's not just recent times that this has been happening either. Read Brian Glanville's The Story of the World Cup. What a funny little thing FIFA becomes when you take a longer view of it.

Marching back to last nights game....

Good and fair result for the US. I saw crisp and deliberate passing and organized counters. Which is to say, these guys have been coached up (finally, instead of a bunch of good players just kicking it around). I loved it. I'll take what I saw last night over the more talented guys playing in Europe / Central America any day (Dempsey, being one exception). The US team last night was mostly made up of MLS guys and the showed exactly what they should have. I gotta say when Wondo came on I jumped with pride... Were it not for some impressive goal keeping on the Venezuela side, it would have been a 2 or 3 goal outing.

Amazing how different things look when dudes functioning on the same circadian rhythm play together.

Here be interesting finds that I found in my USMNT findings today.

- We've never played Venezuela in Venezuela (since 1988).
- Current Crew forward Emilio Renteria subbed in last night and embarrassed himself getting a late yellow for no reason other than he can't control himself. DAMN IT RENTERIA.
- The USMNT has never lost when playing in Columbus (5 wins, 3 draws, 0 loss). Best record in the United States (over 5 games that is, Seattle has a clean record on 5 games).
- We've lost 12 times out of 18 in Miami. Remind me again why we ever play there?
- Believe it or not we've lost more in Costa Rica than Mexico over the last 25 years.
- The USA has never drawn or won in Costa Rica in 5 games.
- US not too hot outside borders actually. 47-22-65 (W,D,L) is what I have since 1988.
- Show off with your friends. Below are all the South American teams the USMNT has played since the last win. So what if we've only played one outside of the US. We're rich!

2006: USA (2:0) Venezuela
2007: USA (1:3) Paraguay
2007: Argentina (4:1) USA
2007: USA (2:4) Brazil
2008: USA (0:0) Argentina
2009: USA (0:3) Brazil
2009: USA (2:3) Brazil
2010: USA (0:2) Brazil
2011: USA (1:1) Chile
2011: USA (1:1) Argentina
2011: USA (0:1) Paraguay
2012: USA (1:0) Venezuela

We should play more in South America.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Major League Challenges, USSF

Eric Wynalda's comments NSCAA Convention last week are exactly what needed to be said and to exactly the right people. Part of that convention was shown on Fox Soccer and I enjoyed what I saw. Lots of food for thought there, but I hadn't seen nor read all of Wynalda's comments until yesterday.

Chunks of his long speech (along with his Q and A) have made their way my direction and I just sort of passed them off as Eric being Eric. However, I feel differently after reading the whole transcript.

During it, Wynalda literally and deliberately makes a much needed leg breaking tackle on Major League Soccer.

His talk is meaty, but what struck me was that after Wynalda finished his lengthy talk (or standing proudly over the player, MLS and its snapped leg), he took questions. I thought to myself; 'could Eric defend his stance to a crowd of knowledgeable coaches from all levels of soccer in this country?'

He never stepped back or side ways from any of them. Directly pointing his sharp blade at Major League Soccer. In fact it was so scathing that eventually MLS Director of Communications Will Kuhns jumped in, unable to control himself any longer as Eric ripped about his league.

After loyally, yet fleetingly trying to stick up for his bosses (namely MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez) Kuhns tries to challenge Wynalda intellectually:

Kuhns: But you don’t have any facts, that’s the problem. There’s no facts.

Wynalda: I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

Both of them go back and forth about transfer fees going to the league and not MLS clubs. Wynalda states: "100% of zero is zero".

Kuhns tries and fails to explain that one away because the money does go to the league. Only after that does the league distribute the money in how they see fit and not directly back to the team that sold the player.

Defeated on his limp attempt to engage Eric on the mechanics of the league, Kuhns goes into a sweeping soliloquy about our country having an "inferiority complex" and that "there’s a culture of self-loathing in our country."

It backfires.

Wynalda: Wait a second, stop, what country are we talking about? This is the United States of America.

Kuhns: Right!

Wynalda: I’m not scared of anybody, and if you’re scared of an inferiority complex, if that’s something you want to actually bring this into the conversation, you’ve just become the problem. This is the United States of fucking America.

What I find interesting is that much of the discussion at the convention was on grassroots work, youth clubs, the college game and Major League soccer. They talked about each as individual entities. It sort of irked me.

Off and on over the past couple weeks I've spent some time with a giant spreadsheet that contains every team I can find currently operation in the United States (pro, semi or developmental). Right now I'm working through the so called 4th level of the USSF soccer pyramid. What I'm wanting to do is to figure out a way to get all of these leagues working together in a meaningful way.

It's definitively a challenging endeavor but I really think that pulling it all together is achievable sooner rather than later.

It can be done! And it will be a huge step in making us more competitive soccer nation and not just a place where other countries buy 'John Wayne' away only to fill the corporate pockets of MLS executives. We have to people and resources to be much, much more than that.

After all... This IS the United States of fucking America.

You can find the full transcript from Eric Wynalda's talk at the coaches convention on the National Soccer Wire website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In 3's, Easy to Please. Game of the Year

Hard to believe this is occurring for the 4th time. Gotta say that 2011 was a little different, though. How so? My "game time" was supplanted by good scotch and scribbles on the Columbus Crew (as opposed what it use to be; gaming and, well... scotch).

Crew stuff towards the bottom if you don't like video games.

Got a mess of games in though. Missed a couple here and there, but for the most part had a good time with what I did play.

There were 3 game franchises that I kinda like that were on their 3rd game. Gears of War, Uncharted and Modern Warfare. I liked all three (still liking Uncharted: Drakes Deception right now).

Also, there were sports games that I picked up: EA's FIFA 12 and Madden 12. SEGA's Football Manager 12 and NBA 2k12.

I'm still collecting old games, and of those - a couple were pretty good. Konami's 2001 MLS Extra Time was interesting. Also a more recent cast away XBOX 360 game called Darkest Days that came out early in the 360s life. Good stuff.

A lot of great games played this year, but a couple stood out. Rockstar's LA Noire and Bethesda Softworks' Skyrim.

LA Noire is the type of game I'd like to see more of. It pulls the player in with familiar controls and feel but then takes them to a slightly different mental place. Slightly, yet boldly.

Skyrim is a fantasy masterpiece. It reaches that magical place between astounding game mechanics / play / artwork and my own imagination. I'm a sucker for games that allow me to create my own script. I read somewhere about a Skyrim player who played the game as a pacifist and only commanded other non-playable characters to fight his battles. In another story I heard about a player never using weapons and using only his fists.

Finally, my favorite. A player claiming to strip down naked whenever he took on a dragon in-game. No weapons, no armor, no magic. In the buff and Beowulf style.

For that? Etch it into Helltown Lore. Skyrim earns it.

2011: Skyrim
2010: Red Dead Redemption / Heavy Rain
2009: Uncharted 2
2008: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

SPORTING SOCCER Notes and Bonus Crew Stuff

2K Sports and Visual Concepts has impressed me for the 2nd time(the other time being that 2k5 NFL thingy that I spent many hours with Bleeno playing). What 2k12 has shown me is how much further EA can go. I like FIFA 12. But it stands between itself. One side of the game is the ridiculous amount of time spent getting rosters and player ratings correct / balanced and the other side is creating amazing gameplay. Both those things work really, really well. But it is far from bringing them together and forming a deep experience. Insanely fun? Yes. Ultimately satisfying? ... just missing... something. Maybe why I play it so much. Searching for that missing whatever.

For a deep sports experience pick up Football Manager 12 for the device for which you are reading this blog. My Lordy. Interesting to note: FM 12 includes 141,000 players from all over the world. Real players. Meticulously rated and graded.

Players in the Costa Rican (new Crew signing Olman Vargas-es-as former;) league do not make that massive list. I'm excited for any international signing coming to town, don't get me wrong. Just don't make assumptions based merely on the fact they are from outside the boarders of the United States. Can you dig it?

Hope so. Negligible talent washed out in a 'last picks first' system that rewards mediocrity, yet somehow expects greatness. Hm, maybe learn from the Austrailians. Sell them players, MLS. Shake that maker.

Ream, Le Toux, Rogers. I said. Can you dig it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crew Reporting In

Can't-not post a candid picture of the Crew first gather in Obetz, Ohio 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Finda' Crew: Tomorrowland

Now that the 2012 Columbus Crew roster is almost full, the burning question HAS'TA be asked... That question? Shaw... Has there ever been a better time to see a Google Map that pinpoints the hometown of each Crew player?

The ad at the bottom isn't Helltown. Not my deal, and not my choice. I don't endorse nuttin'. 'cept for Smitty and Bleeno words. Anyhow... Players sorted by last name underneath playground map. Red things show where players are from.

View 2012 Columbus Crew in a full screen map

Crew roster as of this superduper blog post...

Bernardo Anor : Caracas, Venezuela
Rich Balchan : Carmel, Indiana, USA
Dilly Duka : Montville, New Jersey, USA
Ethan Finlay : Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA
Shaun Francis : Mandeville, Jamaica
Eddie Gaven : Hamilton Township, New Jersey, USA
Eric Gehrig : Harvey, Illinois, USA
Kevan George : Roxborough, Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago
Cole Grossman : St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Andy Gruenebaum : Overland Park, Kansas, USA
Tom Heinemann : St. Louis, Missouri, USA
William Hesmer : Wilson, North Carolina, USA
Aaron Horton : Lewis Center, Ohio, USA
Julius James : Maloney Gardens, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago
Matt Lampson : Hilliard Ohio, USA
Chad Marshall : Riverside, California, USA
Carlos Mendes : Mineola, New York, USA
Justin Meram : Shelby Township, Michigan, USA
Sebastian Miranda : Las Condes, Chile
Milovan Mirosevic : Santiago, Chile
Danny O'Rourke : Columbus, Ohio, USA
Aubrey Perry : Ocoee, Florida, USA
Emilio Renteria : Caracas, Venezuela
Ben Speas : Stow, Ohio, USA
Tony Tchani : Bafang, Cameroon
Olman Vargas : San Jose, Costa Rica
Korey Veeder : St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Josh Williams : Akron, Ohio, USA

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ROGERS END : Mercurial

Adam Jardy (Dispatch beat writer for the Crew) is reporting that (the impressively named) Robert Hampton Rogers III (The Robbie Rogers) is officially moving off the Crew grid (Leeds United or "ABC"... Anywhere But Columbus).

I don't know who Robbie is. Folks in my adopted and beloved Brewery District / hobnobbery German Village claim to see him skating around (heavily bricked) Short North (how cute:). I'll take their word for it, I've never seen him. Never seen him down on Alum Creek Drive in Obetz near where I work (Artdotcom), either. I guess that's about all I've got on that sort of insider stuff.

At arms length? I can say that he is a positive California kid who embraced Columbus more than the town embraced him back. Which is a shame on a few levels...

Robbie by the Crew números:

5 Years with the team

16th Crew total minutes, all time

14th Crew Assists all time

0.17 Assists per Game (meh, pretty good)

0.14 Goals per Game (up there for Mid)

I rate Robbie's 2008 season as the 10th best all time by a Crew player. I also rate him in the top 20 OVERALL in all time Crew greats.

Rogers is about as true a 'winger' as you might get in Major League Soccer. It sort of a shame he is leaving now that the team has a couple more targets in the middle to play with (Mirosevic, Vargas, Heinemann, Speas).

In case anyone is wondering, below are the top 10 Crew seasons by player:

2001 : John Wilmar Perez
2001 : Brian Maisonneuve
2008 : Alejandro Moreno
2008 : Guillermo Barros Schelotto
2008 : Brian Carroll
2010 : Guillermo Barros Schelotto
2008 : Chad Marshall
2001 : Jeff Cunningham
1998 : Stern John
2008 : Robbie Rogers

As a guy who moved to town around the same time he did... I wish the best to Robbie in the homecountry - or where ever he may land.

Cheers, and here's to Crew fans who will tell stories of 'remember when'.

Adam Jardy is working hard for the Crew.

Rogers End. Howards End.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

USL Pro Guys, Super!

The MLS SuperDraft is coming up later this week and I'm getting geared up by not trying to figure out the rules of it. Instead, I am just going to follow up on a post I made last year regarding the USL Pro division and declare the "SuperDraft" the crap beer at your least favorite chain restaurant (Rock Ice happens to be a Costa Rican beer, hmm).

Applying the same weighted measurements I used for 2011 Major League Soccer, below is a short list of USL PRO players to keep an eye out for in the future. Some call this league the 3rd division, others call it minor leagues (cringe). I like the league. Stable and has a wealth of good players.

01 : Luke Mulholland, 23 ATT MID (England)
Luke had one of the better goal scoring years in the USL last year and recently moved to the NASL side Minnesota Stars for a few games. 9 goals, 5 assists in 23 games in the USL.

02 : Jhonny Arteaga, 25 F (Colombia)
Jhonny made appearances for MLS reserve teams Crew and Red Bulls last year and had an impact each time he played. He had an impressive per 90 minute goal scoring rate of 0.70 with FC New York last year. He won the USL Golden Boot with 13 goals in 21 games.

03 : Matthew Delicâte, 29 F (Wales)
I'm not sure what else to say about the guy. I wrote on him a few times last year and as fate would have it, his Richmond team played the Crew in the US Open Cup and beat them. "Deli" put in a beautiful header that ended up being the winner. He actually is the "traditional big English" style forward that *assive Report called recent crew signing Olman Vargas. Though, not sure exactly what English tradition they refer too... Andy Carroll?

04 : Jorge Ivan Becerra, 27 D (Mexico)
I have to trust my measurement system with defenders because I saw so little of USL teams last year (Fox Soccer did have a few). Ivan tops the list of Defenders (and 3rd overall) and stands out to me because he put in so many minutes with a good side in Wilmington as well as being one who was chewed up by the MLS Draft format back in '06. Columbus actually picked him up then but he never really saw time with the senior team.

05 : Henry Kalungi, 24 D (Uganda)
I'm noticing a trend with internationals breaking in to the United States via College Soccer then finding themselves on a USL squad. In the case of Kalungi he fell to Richmond via Winthrop via drafted by MLS (Rapids) then not getting a contract. All of the Richmond Kickers side had a great year last year. Kalungi just happens to be the youngest of the group that allowed only 0.88 goals a game (2nd best in USL).

06 : Rob Valentino, 25 D (USA)
Looks like Rob bolstered the best defense in the USL with Orlando (0.67 GA). Though, it appears it was more defend by committee for the team. Rob has been picked up then dropped by a couple MLS teams (Revs, Rapids) without ever seeing a minute.

07 : Paul Nicholson, 25 CDM, (England)
Paul is another who found his way to USL via College. He is another good player on Wilmington's strong 2011 side. He played every minute during their positive 2011 campaign.

08 : Sainey Touray, 21 (Gambia)
Touray probably has the biggest upside here out of the bunch. He has been identified as a talent already (Red Bulls took a look at him as a teen). Last year was the first year he really got some time and didn't disappoint. 7 goals and 6 assists in just 12.9 (90 min) games. That fills up the stat sheet more then most in the USL.

Other guys... Andriy Budnyi, 30 (because he is from Ukraine and born in the former Soviet Union). 8 goals, 6 assists in just 16.4 (90 min) games... Jose Angulo, 23 (another Colombian). 9 goals, 3 assists in 15.8 (90 min) games... Tadeu Souza Terra, 25 (Brazilian). Looks like he was already spotted by a bigger club in Brazil but he lead the USL in assists last year with 8.

Complete USL Pro Stats available HERE.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Crew Easy & Seattle Burning

If you look west then angle your head a little north you might see smoke billowing out of Seattle. Why? The folks contributing to Sounder at Heart info factory are/have been working hard. I'm constantly impressed with the way they weave numbers and digits and things together. There is no question they are the leaders in digesting MLS data and turning it into understandable and useful information.

Yesterday "sidereal" (if I could find her/his real name, I would use it) put up a great post that dives into next years MLS (unbalanced) scheduling. "Sidereal" looks at strength of schedule and distance the team has to travel this season. Revealing stuff.

Last year I spent a lot of time on Eastern teams traveling west to play late start games. It was pretty amazing that a league would not only schedule these games so late, but they would also do so when an eastern team had multiple league games that week. Thus, artificially raising western teams records (even if just a little). Something to keep in mind when reviewing any strength of schedule reports based on last year's team records.

As for the analysis done by "sidereal"? At the very least, it shows that 2012 is a favorable year for Columbus as far as travel and strength of schedule.

Now, if only "sidereal" would do the same thing to last years season (match it up to actual results and all)...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hold up. Two Goal Scorers Sign with Crew?

Columbus is coming through on promises to sign attacking threats. Both of the players signed today are dangermen. They even have similar goal scoring records over the past two years in their respective leagues.

Milovan Petar Mirosevic Albornoz has signed with the Columbus Crew. Milovan Mirosevic. Or "Milo", as Warzycha is already calling him.

31 years old, Milovan appears to be an attacking mid in the Chile Primera División. No doubt that Miranda had a hand in this signing. Milovan is coming over from Univ. Católica where he has put in 1735 minutes this year and is scoring at a 0.36 p/GM rate. Last year, same team / league he was scoring at an astonishing 0.62 p/GM. From the looks of it he seems to be a enthusiastic player and is involved a lot.

Some questions have to be asked about his last knee injury, though. Sell, sell, sell(?).

Next up is 26 year old Olman Vargas López. Olman comes to the Crew from the Costa Rican team Herediano. He is listed as an attacking forward. His rate is in the 0.51 range over the past two seasons (37 games played).

No information on their contracts, yet. But I think both of them are high quality signings. Looks like a good bit of miles on Milovan's legs but at 31 and in a new league... I can see him becoming a dangerous threat. Vargas has the looks to be a star, for sure. From the little bit I've pulled from players coming from a league like his to MLS, it does look good (from a numbers standpoint).

Not making predictions yet, but a 0.50 goals per game in a league like the Costa Rican top division hopefully translates into a 0.30 type scorer in MLS with the Crew's current squad.

Now the Crew have Renteria, Vargas, Heinemann, and Horton up top as options with Milovan right behind them. Impressive. And I'm not talking about "impressive" from a goal scoring standpoint. I'm talking IMPRESSIVE from a Passion standpoint.

Passion over everything here at Helltown.

Tar Heel and recent college title winner (or whatever you call it); Ben Speas is in talks right now with Brian Bliss and the Crew. Could it be that Columbus solved almost all her goal scoring issues in just a couple days?

Big day here in Columbus. Actually, exciting.

In other news... Brian Bliss (Technical Director of the Crew and a person I'm finding more and more fascinating) was called to be part of the U-20 staff.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Crew vs. Analysis

"Crew Communications" put up a little story a couple weeks ago about the team picking back up a system called Match Analysis. It has fancy software names and systems like: Mambo Studio software, Tango Online and Tango ToGo!. I'm not here to mock it though. After getting past the fact that the Crew didn't have a system last year, let's talk about the one they are picking back up.

It is a very good thing that the Crew have something like this to use. Just as long as they have the folks in place that can digest it AND have people able to communicate it with the right folks - effectively.

Looking at one of the sample reports Match Analysis has I can see both good and bad data. The most important thing the Crew can do is determine what data is important and ignore the rest.

One of the sayings I learnt early in manufacturing is "don't trust your eyes, trust the data." Yes, it is true. Your eyes will fail you more than nowt. However, now that I've been doing it for a number of years, I've had to add, "but it depends on who is looking."

Analytical systems in sports have an important place, but should only serve as one tool in a box of many used to build success.

In recent years I've seen analysis tools over used and trusted too much (in sports). Pat Shurmur's Cleveland Browns team comes to mind this year. I've also seen the Houston Rockets in the NBA use it effectively then abuse it. Baseball invented the damned things and they still can't figure out how to use analysis systems correctly.

A little preachy here today but it is for good reason. I saw very little out of the Crew last year as far as tactical changes to start a game to get out in front of individual teams or opposing players. Most of the changes each game were in personnel starting only.

Sticking to your game plan and forcing the opposing team to react requires superior talent. Not a lot of teams in Major League Soccer boast that amount of talent... ergo, I says to you; therein lives an advantage. What I'm hoping is to see the Crew using this Match Analysis data in effective ways.

One interesting note is that the Crew has had this system in the past. Just not last year. According to the Match Analysis site; it is claimed that a mountain of US Open Cup winners using it. I can see it useful on unfamiliar USL or NASL teams (or for them).

The Crew fell out very early in that competition last year (the year they dropped the system) to a Richmond Kickers team. A team that belongs to a league that streams games online and makes available all their stats.

No fancy system needed for that.

I was at the game the Kickers / Crew game. The Crew didn't lose because they had less talent. They lost because they had no idea who they were playing.

That is just plain lazy, and systems can't replace lazy.