Sunday, December 29, 2013

Some WhoScored Crew Analysis

Who Scored is one of the only places (if not the only place) that rates each MLS player each game, all season. They also rate another 10+ leagues that span the globe. Just like anything, it isn't perfect but it does give us a general indication of which players are doing well.

I like tracking such things but often times things like a game by game player rating might get over looked because of another story or just not enough time to put together a coherent thought.

What I've done here is take each player's rating when they started and broken each out into one of three categories.

This is any score above the best median player score on the year (Chad Marshall's 7.36, which was good enough for WhoScored's 2013 Best XI). The % in the chart is out of total number of player starts. I should indicate it on the chart but it's the holidays. Alright, I'll get to it soon.

This is the middle column. It's the percentage of times the player performed above the median starter's rating for all Crew players.

I work in the retail industry where a metric called NPS (Net Promoter Score) is very important. What it does is throw out the average scores and only look at the best and worst. I like looking at NPS with player ratings because you can really waste a lot of time dissecting average performances (or players). For this quick exersize I decided a 'top' Crew performance was 7.17 and above. A poor performance was 6.49 and below.

For all three above, the higher the better. I've sorted by the aggregate of all three.

One of the reasons this doesn't get a more serious look is because I don't have enough time to fairly compare it to the rest of the league. This just tells me which Crew players performed the best vs. other Crew players.

That said, I'm familiar with their ratings to say that a MLS level player should have a 'Net Promoter' above 50% if they have over five starts (George, Finlay, Finley, Warzycha, Schoenfeld are light).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Uri Rosell, MLS Best Young Player

Major League Soccer teams are running down their best stories of the year and one I'm proud to be a part of is Uri Rosell's 2013 journey with Sporting KC. They linked to the Massive Report post I worked on where I claimed Oriol Rosell was the best young player in the league based on available player ratings out there.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dayton Added as Crew Affiliate

The Columbus Crew announced yesterday that the Dayton Dutch Lions will now be an affiliate.

What this means is that the Crew will send at least four players to Dayton to play on their team during the upcoming 2014 USL Pro season (more on that in a minute).

This MLS / USL Pro relationship is only about a year old now so any activity between teams will be forging new trails. The Sporting KC / Orlando City relationship this past year was easily the most notable (and even a little contentious), but several teams have worked a deal:

Philadelphia Union / Harrisburg City Islanders
DC United / Richmond Kickers
New England Revs / Rochester Rhinos
Houston Dynamo / Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Sporting KC / Oklahoma Energy (+Orlando City for one more year)
Columbus Crew / Dayton Dutch Lions

MLS seems to be setting up something out of the MLB playbook and their minor league System. MLS wants all teams to affiliate or field a team (Reserve or U-23) in the USL Pro division by the end of 2015. MLS has also made it clear that they want to expand their footprint and market reach by doing this.


My personal preference would have been that the Crew field a full reserve team in the USL Pro division and let Dayton grow on their own, independently.

Players down the bench for the Crew could really benefit from playing a regular schedule in a competitive league. You would also get to pepper the reserve roster with trialists (a luxury they now lose).

The argument against this is the same as it always is; Cost. But MLS, as a whole, plays that card too often. An investment in players is just that... an INVESTMENT. It will pay off over time because Ohio is rich with players and coaches.

The team could also charge 5-10 bucks for home games at Crew stadium that have minimal staff and make a few dollars off that. Hold bake sales, set up a Kickstarter campaign. I don't care. Get it going. The sale of just one player could fund your reserve team for years.

Another way a MLS team could take advantage of this to get coaches experience, try different tactics, try Josh Williams as a central mid, go crazy. It would be your team.


I've said it a number of times this year; My favorite soccer events of the past year have been in Dayton watching the Lions. I was at the early Charleston Battery match, the USOC match against Deerborn Stars (a surreal match) and the Crew reserve match (which was fantastic).

Dayton, in just a few short years, were a growing team in a sports mad state. Not just in recognition but in competition as well. They had already knocked out the Crew in the USOC in 2012, tied them in a wild 4-4 game at Beavercreek HS, and almost beat them again in the 2013 USOC. In the USL they were also making ground as well by making the playoffs last year for the first time.

This connection with the Crew ties them to the top division in the US and Canada as well as the affiliation they have already with FC Twente in Holland. It's really a couple big steps forward for the young club. If the Crew were going to associate with any team I'm glad that it is the Dayton Dutch Lions.

My hope is that, even with this affiliation, they are able to keep their independence from Major League Soccer in the years to come. I do not want this to be a big brother / little brother situation, 'cause...




I wrote a good bit about the Dayton Dutch Lions this past year for Massive Report, here is some of that:

GHOST RESULTS, A look at MLS Reserves and how they did in the USL Pro division.

US OPEN CUP 3rd Round Preview, Columbus vs Dayton

US Open Cup: Dutch Lions Rd 2 Win, Will Face Crew

From last year, here is my post from went the Lions beat the Crew in the US Open Cup back in 2013:
Twente Dutch Lions (2) v Crew (1), Explained

Finally, the best for last...

Infiltrating the Orange Beast (by Rick Gethin)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Arrieta Returning

Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew announced today that Jairo Arrieta will be returning to the team for a second full season.

After setting the league on fire in 2012, Jairo'S productivity slowed down a bit in 2013. Some of his slow down was due to call ups to the Costa Rican national team and some due to injury (there was also some poor man management sprinkled in).

Now that Arrieta has played a measurable amount of minutes in MLS (3396) we know what to expect.

There are three things I know for sure you will get with this player:

1. Effort
2. Passion to play in Columbus
3. 0.32 Goals per 90 minutes

That goal rate is fairly average for a starting MLS attacking player (his assist rate is slightly better than replacement level). Combine that with Dominic Oduro's rate of 0.41 over the past two years and you get about 3 goals from the two of them every 450 minutes played (if they can both co-exist in the same lineup, which is still a bit of a question mark).


Most people are going to remember this past year with Arrieta but he is a player that is capable of pretty outstanding things in this league and with him hungry to make the trip to the World Cup we might see that return to form.

That said; this latest move puts the Crew at 24 players and still on the hunt for another goal scorer because even top form Oduro, Arrieta and Federico Higuain are not going to get this team to 47-50 goals on the year (which should be the target).

It does put the team on the right track, however. The alternative of not having a player like him wrapped up for next year would have been a bit scary.

I don't have any solid estimates to give on his salary other than to say it will be less than his previous deal that was around the $225k range.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Clark In, Lampson Now Number 2 GK

From what I can tell the Columbus Crew have found their number one goalkeeper for 2014 in Steve Clark.

What of Matt Lampson though? Didn't the Columbus Crew sell him to fans and supporters alike as a more than competent starting 'keeper in MLS? There is little doubt that the this was done. Why it was done isn't clear but does leave open a lot more questions.

Like; Was/is Matt Lampson any good?

The simple answer is that he is inconsistent. Which comes from being young. Which is why Clark is in town.

Bear with me while I dig into some 'keeper stats (something I shy away from), as I think there is value here.

First place to start is a comparison to the guy that played on the same team. Andy Gruenebaum.

Andy started 21 matches this year, Lampson 13.

Goals Against Average
1.33 : Gruenebaum
1.38 : Lampson

Not a whole lot of difference here but it works out to be is almost two goals more a year were Lampson in goal (45.2 Andy, 46.9 Matt) all season.

Starts per Clean Sheet
5.25 : Gruenebaum
2.60 : Lampson

What this means is that Lampson, in his 13 games, only needed about three games to get to a shut out. Shut outs are good but this had me scratching my head. How could Lampson be shutting out opponents at almost double the rate yet have a higher goals against average?

This is where the inconsistency comes in. Lampson struggled on the road.

Save % Away / Home
73.6 / 72.6 : Gruenebaum (2012-13)
60.9 / 86.4 : Lampson (2012-13)

That's pretty stark from Lampson. It's wild, really. That home save percentage (works out to be 0.29 GA) he has might have buttressed Crew Stadium as a fortress but his away save numbers were off the charts low (not good).

In fact, in Lampsons 7 Away starts he has allowed an average of 2.43 Goals Against. During a season long campaign of 17 Away starts that works out to be 41 goals allowed! The Crew allowed 46 all year.

It's entirely likely that Lampson could have improved that number but there is some risk there. Too much for Gregg Berhalter and company to take, apparently.

On the season Lampson had a lower save percentage than Gruenebaum by a couple pts. On the surface it might not mean that much but pulling back and comparing to the rest of the league you can see that the gap is quite wide.

Save Percentage (minimum 10 starts)
78.9% Matt Reis NER
73.8% Joe Cannon VAN
73.2% Nick Rimando RSL
72.6% Donovan Ricketts PDX
71.1% Jon Busch SJE
71.0% Andy Gruenebaum CLB
70.5% Sean Johnson CHI
70.1% Luis Robles NY
70.0% Brad Knighton VAN
69.6% Troy Perkins MTL
69.5% Clint Irwin COL

68.5% David Ousted VAN

68.5% Zac MacMath PHI
68.3% Matt Lampson CLB
68.2% Raul Fernandez FCD
68.0% Jimmy Nielsen SKC
67.5% Michael Gspurning SEA
67.4% Tally Hall HOU
67.2% Bill Hamid DC
66.7% Bobby Shuttleworth NER
64.7% Joe Bendik TFC
62.7% Dan Kennedy CHV
57.4% Carlo Cudicini LAG


Had a short conversation with Bill Vegas ( he seems to think that Clark is a big upgrade for the Crew. From what I can find out there, he seems to be... and for now? Clark is the Crew's number one and comes in as a signing that may turn out to be the biggest of the offseason.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Peter O'Toole on the Ould Sod"

Peter O'Toole 1964, Douglas Kirkland

An excerpt from Peter O'Toole on the Ould Sod by Gay Talese • ESQUIRE • AUGUST 1963

O’Toole, unaware of the priest, smiled as the stewardess brought his drink. She was a floridly robust little blonde in a tight green tweed uniform.

“Oh, look at that ass,” O’Toole said softly, shaking his head, raising his eyes with approval. “That ass is covered with tweed made in Connnemara, where I was born… Nicest asses in the world, Ireland. Irish-women still are carrying water on their heads and carrying their husbands home from pubs, and such things are the greatest posture builders in the world.”

Peter O'Toole passed away a few days ago on December 14th.

Gay Talese's Esquire article is well worth your time. Talese takes a trip with O'Toole a couple years after Lawrence of Arabia, to where he grew up. It starts innocently enough with O'Toole in full on mode in excitement of flying home to Ireland and ends up with him drunk and laying in the grass on the side of a mountain, writing his name backward.

I chose the quote above because it reminds me of flying with my grandmother to England some 15 years ago. Her home. I remember how excited she was. We were flying Virgin Atlantic and I distinctly remember her leaning over to me and devilishly muttering something very similar after a female flight attendant passed by, trying to get me to talk with her.

My grandmother is ten years O'Toole's senior and only just now slowing down. Stubborn lot, them. Some might say the best lot. I would not disagree. "So many great things from such a tiny little island," as she is known to say.

Peter O'Toole is more than any words I can type here. Seek out his work, or if one of his movies comes on television... stop, watch.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December Crew Budget Snapshot

Here's an updated high level look at the Crew 2014 budget.

Total $$ (in millions) : Description : Player Count

$ 1.74 : 2013 Out : 11 cut

$ 0.32 : 2014 Off Season In : 4 signed


$ 3.78 : 2013 YE Guaranteed Salary Total

$ 2.57 : 2014 Current est Salary (w/ est increases) : 23 on roster


$ 1.81 : 2014 est Budget (Cap) Hit : 13 players to cap

$ 3.10 : 2014 MLS Budget (Cap) Number : 30 max roster size

$ 1.30 : 2014 Crew Budget (Cap) Space : 7 open slots


2013 Guaranteed Salary : Name

361,250 : Chad Marshall
263,333 : Glauber Berti
230,000 : Matias Sanchez
225,375 : Jairo Arrieta
195,000 : Eddie Gaven
175,000 : Danny O'Rourke
93,887 : Andy Gruenebaum
80,500 : Aaron Horton
46,500 : Konrad Warzycha
35,125 : Kyle Hyland
35,125 : Drew Beckie

EST 2014 Guaranteed Salary : Name

120,000 : Waylon Francis
96,600 : Daniel Paladini
52,000 : Matt Wiet
46,000 : Brad Stuver

2014 BUDGET, By Player
Estimated "cap" hit players, with est pay increase

$375,000 : Federico Higuaín (DP, I)
$274,534 : Dominic Oduro
$162,750 : Tony Tchani
$142,200 : Agustin Viana
$133,350 : Wil Trapp (HGP)
$120,000 : Waylon Francis (I)
$115,000 : Josh Williams
$96,600 : Daniel Paladini
$87,151 : Justin Meram
$84,700 : Tyson Wahl
$79,920 : Ryan Finley*
$67,284 : Ethan Finlay*
$66,960 : Ben Speas* (HGP)

*depends on new signings in coming months

Estimated off budget players

$52,080 : Aaron Schoenfeld
$52,080 : Bernardo Anor (I)
$52,080 : Chad Barson (HGP)
$52,080 : Eric Gehrig
$52,080 : Kevan George
$52,080 : Matt Lampson (HGP)
$52,000 : Matt Wiet (HGP)
$46,000 : Brad Stuver
$42,150 : Daniel Withrow
$42,150 : Shawn Sloan


HGP: There is some gray area with Homegrown Players (HGP) in regards to their budget hit. It use to be all were treated as Generation Adidas type players (meaning no cap hit) but then, a couple years ago, it looked like it may be just a max of two that don't hit the cap.

I think the HGP cap hit gray area comes from the fact that no HGPs were making enough to hit the cap until, well, this year (and the Crew leading the way). I'm leaving them marked at 'on budget'.

Raises: I've given raises to returning players based on observations I've made since the last CBA. I am expecting Williams and Oduro to be getting significant pay increases(about 2x previous salary). For Williams, I am using Justin Morrow's 2012 pay jump (50k to 120k) as a road map.


The Columbus Crew have 7 open roster spots remaining. I would expect almost all of them to be starter quality (100-200k) with 3-4 of them being internationals (I).

Here is what I expect the priorities to be with the remaining 7 slots and $1.3 million in budget space:

1. Goal Scorer ($250-350k)
2. Center Back (200-250k)
3. Right Midfielder (200-250k)
4. Right Wing Back (150-200k)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Know But I Don't Know

Marshall Out, Paladini In on Busy MLS/Crew Day

In somewhat of a surprise move, Chad Marshall was sent to Seattle this morning for an unspecified amount of allocation money (likely close to $150k) and a 2015 SuperDraft pick.

Marshall's salary of $360k guaranteed (and closer to $400k in 2014*) was just too large a block in the overall league mandated $3.1 million budget.

Marshall likely has one more year on his Crew "legend" contract that the previous ownership signed (saddled) him too (with) that Seattle is okay with paying.

Team watchers have noted that Marshall's overall form has dipped significantly over the past two years.


Also today, the Crew announced the signing of three year Chicago Fire player Daniel Paladini for a fourth round SuperDraft pick.

Paladini made $87k in 2012 and is likely to receive a modest 5% jump in pay for this upcoming season. His 4 Goals and 5 Assists over 1515 minutes (0.53 G+Ap90, well above average) in the past two seasons made him one of the best "values" on the draft list.

Paladini is a MLS veteran and will be a game day 18 player for the Crew in 2014.


With Glauber and Marshall gone, the Crew have no regular starter from 2013 to fill the CB role. Many expect Josh Williams (a regular in the role in 2012) to become the main man but Gregg Berhalter has expressed a desire to get him forward on the right.

It would appear, however, that it will be Chad Barson, Josh Williams, XX and Waylon Francis / Agustin Viana in the back line for right now.

The addition of Paladini is a solid one for the Columbus Crew. They get an experienced player at basically a league minimum veteran's contract.

Gregg Berhalter and company did a good bit of business within the MLS fishbowl today but fans are looking for a signal that says the defensive minded Berhalter is looking to improve on the offensive side of things.

I'll take an analytic look at what exactly this could mean for the 2014 Crew in the next few days as more moves are likely.


DC United lead the way today with a couple re-entry picks to go along with signing Davy Arnaud from Montreal recently. While they may be expensive, these transactions do instantly improve a horrid 2013 United defense.

Another big name taken off the draft board before the draft yesterday with Chivas USA made a great pick up in Mauro Rosales from Seattle. Rosales was arguably the best player available.

There were a number of players that withdrew from the re-entry draft process before it started. Sometimes this indicates the player is working on / or has some other options. Notable: Kenny Cooper, Bobby Convey, Tommy Heinemann.

Here is how the 1st round of the Re-Entry draft went:

Pick #...Drafting Team...Player...Position...Former Team
1- D.C. United...Sean Franklin...D...Los Angeles Galaxy
2- Portland Timbers...Steve Zakuani...MF...Seattle Sounders FC
3- Toronto FC...PASS
4- Columbus Crew...PASS
5- FC Dallas...PASS
6- Vancouver Whitecaps FC...PASS
7- Philadelphia Union...Corben Bone...MF...Chicago Fire
8- Chicago Fire...PASS
9- San Jose Earthquakes...PASS
10- Montreal Impact...PASS
11- Colorado Rapids...Marc Burch...D...Seattle Sounders FC
12- New England Revolution...PASS
13- Seattle Sounders FC...PASS
14- Los Angeles Galaxy...PASS
15- New York Red Bulls...PASS
16- Houston Dynamo...PASS
17- Chivas USA...PASS
18- Real Salt Lake...PASS
19- Sporting Kansas City...PASS

(Teams that picked in the first round can pick again)
1- D.C. United...Bobby Boswell...D...Houston Dynamo
2- Philadelphia Union...PASS
3- Colorado Rapids...PASS
4- Portland Timbers...PASS

There are a number of players left that will carry over to the 2nd round this time next week that can be signed for a lesser amount.

For the Crew, Danny O'Rourke and Konrad Warzycha are still out there. There are also a few center backs to be had as well that Columbus could look at (Heath Pearce).

There will likely be lots of moves betwixt now and then, however.

*The Crew's official website is claiming that Marshall clears more that $500k budget/cap space. This is either his $350k salary + 150k in allocation money from Seattle. Or just the Crew making the medicine go down a little easier.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oduro Returning, Need Efficient Scorer

The Columbus Crew announced today that they have re-signed MLS veteran Dominic Oduro.

The specifics of his contract were not released (they never are) but we can speculate that he likely got a healthy bump over last year. My best estimate would be in the $200-250k range after out playing his $120k contract in 2013.

Picking up Oduro for anything less than a DP contract could be considered a win for the Columbus Crew. After all, there are only so many goal scorers available that you can count on to score pretty regularly in MLS.

But you can also count on Oduro to be a tad bit wasteful and inaccurate in his chance taking.


Oduro was the leading scorer for the Crew in 2013 with 13 goals and also bested his career best. He should have done this, however, because the league's best chance creator (by a long shot) was feeding him the ball in Federico Higuain.

Over the past two years Oduro's Goal per Shot rate of 0.13 ranks 45th out of all players that have a minimum of 30 shots (low, but enough to get general idea). For Dominic Oduro, that works out from 146 total shots and 19 goals.

What that means is that it takes him roughly 7.68 shots to hit the back of the net.

Here are some of the 45 players with a better shot rate over the last two years:

4.80 : Diego Fagundez (NER)
4.88 : Alan Gordon (SJE)
5.30 : Blas Perez (FCD)
5.35 : Eddie Johnson (SEA)
5.40 : Dillon Powers (COL)
6.00 : Mauro Rosales (SEA)

...and 39 more.

If you were to take Eddie Johnson's 5.35 GpSHT rate Oduro would have had 27 goals over the past two years and not 19. This past year, Oduro's total would have been 17 goals instead of 13 if he had Grown Man's rate.

Those four goals alone put the Crew on even goal difference for the year.

It's certainly possible that Oduro's chances came from his flat out speed and that it's quite possible that Higuain benefited from leading the league in chance creation because of Oduro. This doesn't change Oduro's finishing ability, though.

His 7+ shots it takes him to find the back of the net has been a constant though out his career.

7.08 : Last Year
7.68 : Last 2 Years
7.43 : Last 4 Years
7.45 : Career

With the above, you can see the Higuain influence but it still doesn't get Oduro into any sort of elite finishing group.


It'd be really interesting if the Crew went on the hunt for a forward that is good at finding open space and can finish efficiently.

Believe it or not, a player like Danny Koevermans (4.56 shots per goal) or aforementioned Eddie Johnson or even perhaps a chance on a hidden gem like Antoine Hoppenot (5.43 shots per goal) is probably a worthwhile search for the Crew.

Bottom line. A player like Higuain bring out goals from an efficient player. He was able to take a well known MLS quantity in Oduro and help improve his goal per shot rate by a measurable percentage.


For deeper reading on shots take a look at Cartilage Free Captain (MCofA's work). It's excellent.

Adam Uthe also has some great thoughts on Oduro re-signing over at Global Football Today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The 31st Player

Brian Bliss was hired as the Technical Director for the Chicago Fire today and with him goes most of the 'boots on the ground' player knowledge the Columbus Crew had in the midwest region of the US.


Bliss has his hands all over the 2014 Crew roster.

The most notable moves shaping next year's roster were made right before he was let go when he dropped Aaron Horton and Matias Sanchez from the Crew roster ("Those guys are done," was the quote he gave the press).

On top of that, Bliss also orchestrated the signing of C.S. Herediano left back Waylon Francis.

If that were it, you could probably say it was busy and surprisingly well executed work by Brian Bliss in a very short period of time.

But that wasn't it. In fact, his best work is possibly the one team watchers have just found out about...


Reports have recently surfaced that Bliss parked Matt Wiet with the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL Pro division last summer with the intention of putting him in a Crew uniform for 2014.

What makes this interesting is that the Crew don't have any formal relationship with Dayton and signing Wiet last summer made him the 31st player on a MLS mandated 30 player roster max.

Adam Jardy, beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, recently confirmed that Wiet was a summer(ish) Crew signing.

"According to the league, Wiet technically signed with the Crew prior to signing with the Dutch Lions. When Berhalter discussed the signing, he said it was done before he was hired."

What this suggests is that the Crew/MLS were paying for Wiet (or at least a percentage of salary).

I've spoken with a few folks down in Dayton about this and one anonymous source has echoed the fact that Bliss did place Wiet with the Dutch Lions. I've also been told that after his ACL injury Crew representatives were in the locker room with him.

The Crew were the only team in MLS to not officially make any roster moves all season. They sat at 30 players all year long despite season ending injuries to Eddie Gaven and Glauber.

Matt Wiet signing during the summer represents the 31st roster player on a capped roster size of 30 (again, as mandated by MLS).


In his recent "State of the League" address, Don Garber admitted that MLS pretty much makes it up as they go along so something like this Wiet situation isn't likely to ruffle to many feathers or make any major news. Hell, Garber's admission that the league is making up important rules and regulations didn't make news.

Why the Crew didn't wait till this offseason to sign him is up to speculation but it is likely that he had some other offer out there and the Crew had to jump on it.

All of this would have been a shrewd bit of business had Bliss not been let go by new owner Anthony Precourt after the season ended.


There isn't enough information out there to tell me if Matt Wiet is a good enough player to make it in MLS or not. I saw him play during the game he got injured but there wasn't much there to note other than the fact that a Crew target was starting for Dayton. At the time I thought it was Dayton being proactive or Wiet getting impatient with the Crew.

Instead it was Bliss locking down a player for a franchise he is no longer with.

What a tangled web.

Matt Wiet should be back to full training sometime in the the Spring of 2014.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Football Methods, by Tom Morrison

A Scot playing for Liverpool in 1929 recorded his thoughts on soccer tactics for the Inverness Courier. I re-posted his article over at Massive Report - and talked a little bit about Morrison's life.

Tom Morrison went by the name of Jock Anderson after he abandoned both Liverpool and Sunderland (as well as his wife and child) the night he and the Black Cats celebrated their only only League title.

"Jock" worked as a pea picker in Gamlingay. When he wasn't playing snooker at the local pub, he found time to play evening football with the locals. Gamlingay FC picked him up and with him, won every game he played in.

Game day program from around when Tom Morrison was with St. Mirren FC in the 1920s.

Tom Morrison was lost to history after his time with Gamlingay FC in 1936 but his thoughts on the game have not been.

One of the things I liked about his piece in the Inverness Courier was that it was written as if the pitch and players were right there in front of him.

Half-backs and the Attack (Massive Report).

For more on Liverpool FC history please visit

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Crew Roster + Budget Snapshot

The Columbus Crew have had a busy roster move week so it's worthwhile to take a quick look at where things stand with the team.


IN: Waylon Francis
IN: Matt Wiet
IN: Brad Stuver

RE-SIGNED: Josh Williams

OUT: Glauber
OUT: Matias Sanchez
OUT: Jairo Arrieta*
OUT: Eddie Gaven
OUT: Danny O'Rourke*
OUT: Dominic Oduro*
OUT: Andy Gruenebaum*
OUT: Aaron Horton
OUT: Konrad Warzycha
OUT: Kyle Hyland
OUT: Drew Beckie

*Players believed to be in contract restructuring negotiations. Players agreeing to reduced deals with existing team is a moderately rare event in MLS.


Budget Hit : Name, Pos 2013 Base Salary
YES: Federico Higuaín, M 440k
YES: Chad Marshall, D 330k
YES: Tony Tchani, M 130k
YES: Agustin Viana, D 105k
YES: Wil Trapp, M 100k
YES: Waylon Francis, D 100k*
YES: Josh Williams, D 88k*
YES: Tyson Wahl, D 76k
YES: Ben Speas, M 62k
YES: Justin Meram, M 56k
YES: Ryan Finley, F 47k
YES: Ethan Finlay, M 47k
NO: Matt Wiet, D 46k*
NO: Aaron Schoenfeld, F 47k
NO: Bernardo Anor, M 47k
NO: Chad Barson, D 47k
NO: Eric Gehrig, D 47k
NO: Kevan George, M 47k
NO: Matt Lampson, GK 47k
NO: Brad Stuver, GK 47k*
NO: Daniel Withrow, GK 47k
NO: Shawn Sloan, M 47k

*Estimating new or re-signed player salaries.

Budget hit is what counts towards the league mandated "salary cap".

Only players 1-20 on each roster count towards the cap (1st team players). Teams fill those slots with players making about $80k and up with projected starters making >$100k.

Isolating the player that count to the MLS Budget along with projected 2014 wages (YOY wages, on average, increase between 10-15%):

$369k Federico Higuaín (DP)
$363k Chad Marshall
$143k Tony Tchani
$115k Agustin Viana
$110k Wil Trapp
$110k Waylon Francis
$88k Josh Williams
$83k Tyson Wahl
$68k Ben Speas
$61k Justin Meram
$52k Ethan Finlay
$51k Ryan Finley
$1.62 million

The players above are who Gregg Berhalter and company are planning to have locked in the 18 each game day. Since there are only 12 players here that leaves about 8 more open spots for "MLS level" players (>$80k).

This fits perfectly with the roster already at 22 players.


So who and what type of player will be filling the final 8 to budget spots?

SLOTS 1,2 maybe 3: Forwards. Crew only have Schoenfeld and Finley right now (Meram should be there, but will not). They will likely be spending big here. Oduro, Arrieta are still out there, yes. Wouldn't be surprised to see new faces though.

SLOT 4: Easy one: the 4th overall draft pick in the upcoming SuperDraft (he will likely be in the 60-90k pay range).

SLOT 5,6: Midfielders. The Crew are already crawling with mids but lack solid starters. Wil Trapp and Higuain are the only two that are locks. Anor? Maybe. Personally would like to see Speas get full games. I believe Berhalter will be looking for another CDM to push Trapp (or start over him) as well. Either way, MF weakest area in '13, needs improved. They will be shopping here.

SLOT 7,8: Defenders. With Marshall the only player to be locked into the starting back line the team will be on the hunt for defenders. Heath Pearce or Brad Rusin were just released and could be options. I would expect him to be a target to play next to Marshall. On the wings I think it will be Williams on the right and Francis (or Viana) on the left.


I have a few MLS budget sheets that I mess around with, even one's for other teams. This might be blasphemy in the world of sports blogging (particularly MLS where very few step out of their own team's bubble). Never the less, I do it. Reason being: a general understanding of a team's cap position is the single most important thing in MLS. Team budgets are ever present and is behind everything.

It's not perfect but I think it gets me close enough.

Questions, comments? Feel free to email me at ljbaby654(at)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Josh Williams, Returning for 2014

Word came down today that Williams will be playing in Columbus next season for the Crew. Big pick up for new owner Anthony Precourt and new head coach Gregg Berhalter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Viana Tackle

Neither of these guys are winning any track meets but that is an excellent tackle on Jeremy Brockie by Agustin Viana earlier this year.

After playing off and on as a holding midfielder (more of a secondary position for him), Viana settled in very well to his LB roll this past year where he proved he has above average technical skill and excellent decision making ability in defense.

The Columbus Crew are bringing him back for 2014. It depends a bit on what type of formation new head man Gregg Berhalter wants to play but I would expect Viana to be a regular starter for the 2014 Crew.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shawn Sloan: Part 1 of 6 !

During a damp summer Sunday Ohio morning reserve match at the Obetz training facility I joked with Fox Sports Ohio writer Rick Gethin that I was going to write a six part series about first year Crew player Shawn Sloan.

Rick rolled off a laugh as I made my case. I had seen Sloan play a couple times previous and thought he had something but the joke was that no player like him could possibly make it in a league structured like MLS. As the game progressed... I think both of us became more of a believer.

Sloan started in the back line but was moved up into the middle part of the field later on in the match. This type of thing is the hallmark of a player that is being used as filler on this less than glamorous Crew side. A competent warm body that fills the role of MLS reserve dummy. Or cone. Or what have you.

Seems there was something different in Sloan, though. It wasn't uncommon to see him barking at other players, frustrated that they were not where he thought they should be. In the wrong hands this type of behavior would earn him a spot on the bench. Or worse, disapproval from teammates. I'd seen it before, but neither happened.

I've been around MLS quite a bit since the size of rosters jumped from the low twenties to the thirty it is now back in 2010. Dozens of players like Sloan are left behind to continue on to whatever career track they were on in college a year before (in Shawn's case he could probably make more money not playing soccer).

Turns out, Shawn Sloan has been picked up by the Columbus Crew for the 2014 season.

After a year in which the team saw a new owner and along with a brand new coaching staff, this is pretty remarkable. All of the non-budget/cap players the old regime picked last year (Drew Beckie, Kyle Hyland, Konrad Warzycha) were let go after just a year with the team.

The decision to keep Sloan is a good one and tells me that new head coach and director of soccer ops Gregg Berhalter isn't moving about the early off season flippantly.

What's interesting to me is that Sloan likely matches Berhalter's thinking mind the most out of anyone on the team. Excited to see what's next.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I can't quite remember where I found out about the Kickstarter campaign to get this documentary made a couple years ago, but I'm glad I did.

"Medora" is a documentary that was created under the direction of Davy Rothbart and Andrew Cohn. It is something well worth your time.

Growing up with the sport of basketball I always find myself seeking out stories about basketball in Indiana. Most basketball playing white kids growing up in the 80's were heavily affected by the movie Hoosiers. At the time of it release, the mystique of Indiana basketball was only further enhanced by Larry Bird and his legendary career and Bobby Knight's time with IU.

I've read that "Medora" is some sort of "anti-Hoosiers" movie. A film that Jeannette Catsoulis of the NY Times calls, "a mournful Midwestern ballad devoid of grace notes, “Medora” views the crumbling of small-town America through the eyes of the Hornets"

That's elegantly put but this doc only pulls the curtain back for this generation. A lot of small town Indiana crumbled almost a half century ago now after a somewhat brief industrial boom that brought in laborers from all over the country.

Larry Bird was born just a couple years after the small town team depicted in Hoosiers won the state championship and he grew up on punishing poverty. His folks split when he was a teen and his father took his own life a couple years later.

No HD cameras back in the 70s to capture Bird's legendary plight in French Lick (some of the themes can be seen in the 1979 film Breaking Away, if your are so inclined), but thankfully there are excellent documentarians in Rothbart and Cohn to capture things as they are now in Medora.

What we see with "Medora" is exactly what is left after all this time. The destitution is generations old now and it's through the prism of that hopelessness that we see the simple joy a single win can bring a lost community in a forgotten corner of the world.

It is beautifully shot and the story is masterfully crafted. Highly recommended.


Though my contribution might have been small, I am proud to have my name listed among the many contributors to this movie in the credits.

"Medora" can be watched now through iTunes or at

If you live in Columbus, Ohio you can check a screening (I'm planning to be there!) on December 10 at the Wexner Center for the Arts.


On a family trip back when I was a teenager with big dreams of playing for Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers I came to Bloomington, Indiana to visit extended relatives. I'll never forget one night heading out back to play some pickup ball with cousins.

At first it was just a couple folks out there watching. Before I knew it there were well over a dozen people from around the neighborhood pulling up lawn chairs to watch a normal game of pickup between a bunch of complete strangers. As a kid from Northern Virginia this might as well have been a scene from another planet.

I went on to play basketball for a while, even some in college, and have some great memories from it. But that night in Indiana. It wasn't about the celebrity that has always seemingly dominated the sport or the skill of Larry Bird the legend of Bobby Knight.

It was about the sport itself. How it is in the blood of every Hoosier. I'll never forget it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Final Crew Player Rankings

Summarizing an entire season in one score is unfair to any individual player but it can tell a story.

Below is how things played out for each Crew player according to the only four player rating models that I know exist. HELLTOWN (me), WHOSCORED.COM (they hammer away at Opta data), CASTROL (they go their own way), FANTASY (MLS fantasy scoring, a rating is a rating).

So, there it is. Why is this not greeted with more fanfare? Maybe a giant post at Massive Report or even petition On the Fire to do it? Because it is basically a list of top minute earners to least.

For me, personally, this is something I noticed the first year I started tracking. The better players get to play more. So much is dictated by the coaches and the league. It's not so much the players ability that is being judged here but more the player's ability to fit into the league system that the play in.

Peel back another layer and you get to the place where Major League Soccer's competitive structure can be so frustrating. In this sport, above all others, good players need other good players to truly rise above the scrapheap of mediocrity (which is sold as parity in the United States).

Food for thought and all that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lenhart and Heinemann, Aug 2013

Aug 10, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps forward Tom Heinemann (29) and San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart (16) during the second half at BC Place Stadium. The Vancouver Whitecaps won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports. Edited by me using Google+ and Gimp


Steven Lenhart played for the Crew between the 2008 and 2010 seasons. Tommy Heinemann wore the black and gold in 2011 season and was injured for all of the 2012. Lenhart now plays for San Jose, Heinemann for Vancouver.

I ran across this picture while researching player performance data. For anyone that has followed this team over the past five years or so... what a random/great find. Wonder what they are talking about.

Both could, and should, still be here in Columbus. Man, I love this picture.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oduro, Gruenebaum, Williams Returning?

Gregg Berhalter's press conference was the big Crew news of the day but there was something that Mark McCullers said that is much bigger news to me.

In today's Covering the Crew, Adam Jardy brings up that Dominic Oduro, Andy Gruenebaum and Josh Williams are about to be without a MLS contract. Along with Bernardo Anor, these are the three guys that have the most question marks surrounding their futures.

From Jardy's Dispatch blog:

"McCullers said Berhalter has been handling the ongoing negotiations with the trio and that he feels each will return to the Crew next season."

I sort of did a double take on this little bit of information. I'm sure that Berhalter would rather not anyone in the organization say anything about any player. Let alone the guy that Anthony Precourt made a point to pry off roster decisions.

Oduro, Gruenebaum and Williams made up about $290k to the cap in 2013. Two of them, Oduro and Williams, are likely working on larger deals.

To keep Oduro it will likely take around $200k and Williams is probably seeking about double ($100 to 130k). Gruenebaum would probably move on to the next standard veteran contract, whatever that is (130-150k maybe).

It turns three players at $290k in 2013 to $450k in 2014.

This affects next year's roster a great deal and something I know Berhalter and Precourt have barely started looking at.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

MLS Witchcraft, Crew Budget Breakdown

Dug into the Crew budget/cap over at Massive Report.

You can check it out there if you want. If not, check out some of this HAIM. Your deal, man.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Final 2013 Crew KRAMB Scores

Kramb is a measurement / valuation I've been keeping track of over the past few years that helps tell me who is contributing to the success or failure of the side.

What it does is take an individual player's record when starting (PPG) and on pitch goal difference (GD) above or below team average. It looks like this:



0.04 : Tyson Wahl (1.21 - 1.21) + (-0.04 - -0.08)

The TEAM here is all the starters. TEAM GD of -0.08 is that of the starters only, compared to -0.12 overall team GD on the year. The drop indicates that subs lost ground (I'll look at that some other time)

Tyson is a good example because he is the replacement level player on the team. 12 players finished above him, 12 below. Here is the complete list, I'll use a five start minimum. At the bottom will be the lower start guys.

+0.77 : Eddie Gaven 10
+0.56 : Matt Lampson 13
+0.37 : Agustín Viana 20
+0.31 : Justin Meram 9
+0.29 : Bernardo Anor 19
+0.25 : Tony Tchani 13
+0.13 : Dominic Oduro 34
+0.11 : Federico Higuaín 29
+0.10 : Gláuber Berti 13
+0.09 : Chad Barson 18
+0.07 : Chad Marshall 30
+0.04 : Tyson Wahl 24
-0.13 : Wil Trapp 16
-0.13 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
-0.17 : Joshua Williams 25
-0.18 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21
-0.30 : Eric Gehrig 6
-0.34 : Danny O´Rourke 19
-0.42 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
-0.53 : Ben Speas 10
-0.83 : Matías Sánchez 10

(not enough games)
-0.13 : Konrad Warzycha 2
-0.46 : Ethan Finlay 3
-0.80 : Ryan Finley 3
-1.46 : Kevan George 3

I'll split it out now, starting with PPG (split will be at replacement level):

0.41 : Matt Lampson 13
0.35 : Justin Meram 9
0.29 : Eddie Gaven 10
0.29 : Konrad Warzycha 2
0.18 : Chad Barson 18
0.14 : Agustín Viana 20
0.12 : Eric Gehrig 6
0.10 : Wil Trapp 16
0.10 : Federico Higuaín 29
0.10 : Tony Tchani 13
0.05 : Bernardo Anor 19

0.02 : Gláuber Berti 13
0.00 : Tyson Wahl 24
0.00 : Dominic Oduro 34

-0.01 : Chad Marshall 30
-0.09 : Joshua Williams 25
-0.11 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21
-0.21 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
-0.21 : Ethan Finlay 3
-0.21 : Ryan Finley 3
-0.26 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
-0.26 : Danny O´Rourke 19
-0.31 : Ben Speas 10
-0.41 : Matías Sánchez 10
-0.88 : Kevan George 3

...and here's Goal Difference above/below replacement

+0.48 : Eddie Gaven 10
+0.24 : Bernardo Anor 19
+0.23 : Agustín Viana 20
+0.16 : Matt Lampson 13
+0.16 : Tony Tchani 13
+0.14 : Dominic Oduro 34
+0.08 : Gláuber Berti 13
+0.08 : Chad Marshall 30
+0.08 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
+0.04 : Tyson Wahl 24
+0.01 : Federico Higuaín 29

-0.03 : Justin Meram 9
-0.06 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21
-0.08 : Danny O´Rourke 19

-0.08 : Joshua Williams 25
-0.09 : Chad Barson 18
-0.16 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
-0.22 : Ben Speas 10
-0.23 : Wil Trapp 16
-0.25 : Ethan Finlay 3
-0.42 : Konrad Warzycha 2
-0.42 : Eric Gehrig 6
-0.42 : Matías Sánchez 10
-0.59 : Ryan Finley 3
-0.59 : Kevan George 3

Something that sticks out is the where a player falls on each list. This points to substitution patterns in most, but not all, cases. Next list will be the difference between (absolute value) the player's spot on each list.

18 : Konrad Warzycha 2
14 : Eric Gehrig 6
11 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
11 : Chad Barson 18
11 : Wil Trapp 16
10 : Justin Meram 9
9 : Bernardo Anor 19
8 : Danny O´Rourke 19
8 : Dominic Oduro 34
7 : Chad Marshall 30
5 : Ben Speas 10

5 : Tony Tchani 13
4 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
4 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21

4 : Ryan Finley 3
3 : Agustín Viana 20
3 : Gláuber Berti 13
3 : Matt Lampson 13
3 : Tyson Wahl 24
2 : Eddie Gaven 10
2 : Federico Higuaín 29
1 : Ethan Finlay 3
1 : Joshua Williams 25
1 : Matías Sánchez 10
0 : Kevan George 3

The guys toward the top aren't matching up. In Konrad's case it is more of a function of having only 2 starts.

Chad Barson is a good one to look at. He ended up 5th in PPG but 16th in GD. What this means is that the team scored after he was subbed out (which happened in Dallas late in the year). He got the win but was not part of the goal.

Fine margins, for sure, but it points to the enormity of a goal in this sport. A goal prevented here, another scored there... it's not just the difference in a single game but the difference between making the playoffs or not in MLS, particularly this year.



This measurement is just one way to look at things but it is something I find valuable and helps me to ask questions that lead down paths of better understanding of the team.

The largest, most direct path being the difficulty of opponent each starter faced. For example, Glauber ended up facing the easiest competition overall with an average opponent difficulty of 12.7 on the overall combined table.

Breaking Glauber's starts further tells us that 6 of his 13 total starts were against bottom 5 competition.

If you look at the ratio between a player's starts against top 5 and bottom five I see that Lampson, Barson, Anor, Trapp had the most difficult opponents.

For the guys with only a few starts, Kevan George sticks out. His only three starts were against top five teams. Talk about a tough row to hoe; New York, Sporting, LA.

Anyhow, assessing the difficulty of opponents is also affected by where the game is played (even what time it is played).

Gaven overall had easier opponents (only two in top 5) but 6 of his ten games were away. Guys like Anor (11/19 at home), Arrieta (12/21), Trapp (9/16) and Barson (10/18) benefited from home cookin'.

One callout here is Matias Sanchez who was like Gaven in that 6 of his 10 games were on the road (Viana also). Very difficult to get a decent GD this way.

So you can see that there are many ways to look at it.


I call it KRAMB after Ryan Kramb (PhD, MS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BS University of Dayton) who once asked questions about such wild things.

More to come on this topic over at Massive Report so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

If you have any questions you can email me at or find me on twitter @helltownbeer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

2013 MLS Table, Columbus is Yellow

Above is the MLS table week by week for the 2013 season. I usually update it about twice a week or so to keep up with things - so I decided it'd be fun to put them all together here. The Go! Team won out for this post but I kinda liked it with some Yann Tiersen as well. Do whatever you like, though. Go Crazy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


For whatever it's worth to you, the only independent voice on the Crew in Columbus.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reviewing My Preseason Crew Prediction

Way back on March 2nd of this year I contributed to a post at Massive Report that outlined Crew season predictions.

Pretty basic stuff. Record, Expectations, MVP, Biggest Surprise, Biggest Disappointment.

Indented in teal will be what I wrote and underneath will be comments on what actually happened.

15W, 4D, 15L (49 pts, 6th in East -3 Goal Diff)
Did pretty well here. I think I would have been closer were it not for Eddie Gaven going down. I don't think Glauber staying healthy would have added much above replacement. My Goal Diff was almost dead on (-4 was actual).

How the season plays out: The Crew will appear hot and cold this year because they will be able to handle lesser teams regularly but struggle with clubs equal to or better.
This was more or less true. Not hard to be wrong here. Teams always struggle with better competition. Lesson learned.
Over the past 3 years the Crew tend to start slow, do well in the middle and taper off at the end. Looking over the way the schedule is laid out there is no reason to think that will change this year (though, the Crew really have an opportunity to come charging out of the gates with 3 wins).
This wasn't that hard to predict. Under this Crew regime, it's same old song. Don't want to get into next year if they keep Bliss and Lapper but, well.. same regime. Not necessarily a bad thing, however.
I think that the Crew will fly up the table in June/July, possibly climbing to as high as 2nd or 3rd but struggle greatly late August and September. The Sept 14 (MTL), 21 (CHI) and 29 (FCD) games will likely be must wins to make the playoffs.
I was wrong about moving up the table. While they were higher they didn't really grab hold of anything. Those games in September were fairly key but the team was pretty out of by then.

MVP: Higuain. There really isn't another choice here right now, the attack is dependent on him and he has the talent to deliver. I think Williams and Arrieta have a shot at as well.
Well, Higuain was right. Arrieta different story but I felt he was more due to poor man management.

Biggest Surprise: Change(s) amongst the assistant coaching / technical staff during the season - also, Eric Wynalda will address speculation about coming to Columbus during the USA v. MEX qualifier.
Ah, Duncan. Even deep down in my cold analytic heart did this hurt. The Wynalda thing sort of kicked in to gear and a fake twitter account of his addressed it. I'll give myself a check for that.
Biggest Disappointment: Overreacting / correcting. Crew will play games safe with 2 DMs and struggle to score goals - than experiment with just one to try and chase goals - then go back to starting 2 different DMs. Rinse - repeat.
This last one sort of makes me angry because it is exactly what happened and it was so predictable. I have on idea why adjustments were not made to improve this philosophy. It's puzzling, really.

I'm fairly pleased with my prediction. Looking forward to doing this again in a few months. Quick Preview: this franchise will finish around the same spot next year unless drastic improvements are made.

Lots to happen between now and then, however. We'll see.

Friday, November 1, 2013

With Injured Gaven Photo Comes a Story

On May 29th 2013 the Crew were facing USL Pro side Dayton Dutch Lions for the 2nd straight year in a row in front of a few hundred folks.

Since the Crew had been knocked out the previous year by them Robert Warzycha and company decided it was important to field a very strong side that featured Federico Higuain, Danny O'Rourke and Eddie Gaven.

This was an exciting match for me as I had been watching a lot of the Lions before this game. Dayton had to play a couple USOC games just to get to this point and were starting to find some form.

In fact the Lions had already taken on the Crew not long before in Dayton for a Reserve match. That game was hotly contested so I expected a good one for the USOC.

The Crew ended up dominating most of the first half and not long into the second Eddie Gaven scored off a beautiful assist from Higuain to put the Crew up 1-0.

I think Warzycha thought this game was won by that point, so he took Higuain off the pitch to keep him from getting injured.

What happened as Higuain was jogging off I will never forget.

He took a detour and found Eddie and forceably applied the captains armband on him. He must have tried this before because it wasn't a hand off it was grabbing Eddies arm and looping it in. Higuain would then give a couple claps to the crowd and jog off.

Eddie, in true Eddie form, would drop his head and quickly slide off the armband and take it over to a nearby Danny O'Rourke. Danny didn't seem to hesitate in accepting it, almost like he expected it from Gaven.

Shortly before the game ended Eddie was chopped down, no foul was called but he tore his ACL.

The picture of Danny over Eddie reminds me of this exchange because you can see the captains armband sort of half put on, comforting Eddie.

No doubt a sad moment captured forever but it will always remind me of the armband exchange which has quickly become a favorite Gaven memory.

This is the type of player that he was, the kind of person he is. Wishing him the best in his post soccer career.

The top photo is one I took before the game started and the bottom one of an injured Gaven was taken by Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports but with my liberal use of filters, cause I'm addicted to them right now.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gaven Retired Today

In a surprising announcement, Eddie Gaven retired from professional soccer today. I wrote about it here.

I'm trying to digest the news at the moment. Eddie has been a larger than life MLS figure for over a decade, much of that here in Columbus. He will be missed.

Hey Precourt, big Crew news today. A MLS legend retired just now > Let's do something besides talking about superficial changes. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MR Post: In, Out or the Space Between

Patrick and I ran up and down the roster looking at which players will / will not be back next year. We are always looking at the team and the future but a lot of it doesn't make it to MR. This was an attempt to get things out before they changed during a busy off season (highlighted by the fact that Sanchez and Horton were let go in the middle making the post).

Crew not wasting time. Part of this feels rushed on the business side of the Crew for whatever reason. Shouldn't they have a coach before doing this? Anyhow, check out the post. It'll be interesting to see how things look in a month's time.

In, Out or Somewhere Between

...or These fickle, fuddled words confuse me, Like... Will it sort of came back to me because a long lost Luscious Jackson is putting it out there again but drives memories from a crummy video to one of my favorite songs from a generation ago. If I could go back in time and somehow change time, I'd make it so I could see this song live, Long Island-ish. If memory serves I did see them at RFK or 9:30 in DC... Or was it in Hampton Roads? Richmond? Fuzzy. Either way; That beat.. gah.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Revs goal vs Crew was nice

The kid behind the goal really liked it. Another thing I like about this is the time of day and time of year. Really great shadows in the fall, see it a lot in NFL games (well, the outdoor ones). This time of year feels very more like soccer to me. Speaking of which...

I took a bunch of pics at the game it was so nice. Here is one of the Nordecke before the game:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Revs

New England is in Columbus today to try and extend their season into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Whistle blows at 4:00 PM EST.

CLB: Reports - Gruenebaum likely getting start over Lampson
CLB: Josh Williams might play as well.
CLB: Crew have played well at home as of late after bad start
NER: A win extends season
NER: Have Nguyen back after suspension
NER: 8 pts in last 6 way, -2 GD isn't bad


I do believe this is the first time the away side has been favored at Crew Stadium this year. Revs getting 6/4 odds. Crew 9/5 (draw 23/10)

Just picking the home team is right most of the time, especially in MLS this year.

No write up from the guys at this week. The 'reader's predictions' has the Crew at 60% picked. We'll have to go with that.

Managing Editor Patrick Guldan thinks this going to be a tight 1-1 draw. "The game likely won't be as open as the stakes are lower and will be played on grass."

Man in Japan Adam Jardy thinks the Revs are the team to beat today. Playoffs vs Pride basically. "Whether or not [pride] will be enough to end a disappointing season on a high note remains to be seen." Go pick up a Dispatch anywhere around town. Jardy also has a good piece on three player contracts up in the air.

Appears Graham Ruthven has sort of checked up like the folks at He likes the Revs 2:1 but notes that the Crew are out of "Western Conference" playoff hunt.

Ball don't lie.

Looks like the betting masses like a 0-1 Away win. "Your Votes" is going Revs as well with 42% (Crew 25%). Pretty tight though.

Three of these folks going Revs, one Crew. Last two like the draw. So, mixed feelings on this one here. Bourbon hater ("a children's drink") Matt Doyle is still the lead dog over there with a 49% hit rate. Nick Rosano not far behind at 38%.

"Too many players there playing for 2014 and for their jobs not to get it done." - Drew Epperley. I'll have more on this right below in the "My Thoughts" section.


Last games can often be frustrating affairs when your team isn't going any further. This year is no different.

Also, last games can be telling affairs though and most of the things I see in regards to this match are frustrating. Here is a list:

1. Starting Andy Gruenebaum. Andy should have gotten his job back as soon as he was able. If he didn't want it then send him home for the rest of the year. Instead, we have this horseshit situation where the Crew are trotting him out for what is likely his last game. He hasn't played in months. Lampson has been lights out at home, an amazing 5 shutouts in 7.

2. "Fighting for Jobs". If one game is going to make a break a player in this sport than the Crew have some serious problems. We hear this sort of sports jargon a lot. In the N.F.L. it sort of makes some since as they play so few games and the likelihood of getting maimed is high. It has no place in soccer. The fact that WV Hooligan mentions it is disappointing but I know a lot of decision makers in MLS do this. Grr.

3. Josh Williams. Josh is another one getting trotted out today. His doesn't quite feel like Gruenebaums in that it is his last game but it does feel a little fishy. There is a high degree of difficulty to this game today. I'm sure Josh is chomping at the bit to face this type of situation but there is a high percentage chance that the Crew lose this one, therefore damaging his leverage at the table to renegotiate contract. And if he makes a mistake on a goal than I have to hear a bunch of people I respect telling me that he should be cut based on what they saw last. Williams is an MLS starter, he still has upside and his soft skills are off the charts.

4. Nobody in place to make personnel decisions. Well, Mark McCullers is there but after the last three off-seasons he has proven to be incompetent at this part of his job. Last season, in particular, was terrible. Notably: They cut Miranda and Mirosevic just decided he wasn't coming back (after the Crew spent loads of time saying otherwise). Carlos Mendes was another one who just sort of drifted off to the NY Cosmos (where he has played very well). In the case of both these players the Crew overspent to replace them.

5. Out of race since Toronto. The Crew have been out of this season since the loss up in Toronto. Change should have been made then and the process of building for 2014 should have started. This impotent chase for the playoffs over the last couple months only shortened the window to prepare for next year. Pre-season starts mid-January and the Crew are going to be, again, short on warm bodies. I remember Eddie Gaven saying last year that he felt they were missing players in the preseason. I expect it again this year.

16 OUT OF 19

This team has fallen down the table each year since 2008. Losing only a little bit at first but now is in complete terminal velocity free fall and I've seen nothing in the way of change to keep me from thinking that the bottom of the table the only way of stopping the Crew from getting worse.

Alright, that's what I've got for now. If I can't unleash for the last game then when can I? It's a very grumpy post but I lean heavily on the side of performance (over just enjoying a day at the stadium). With that I get all worked up when a team tells me it's sunny when it's raining outside.

Friday, October 25, 2013

MR Post on Key Passes, More Info

I put together a look at two stats that tend to point towards productive attacking activity in "Key Passes" (shot assist) and Shots on Goal for Massive Report this week. Key Passes is something that is getting more attention as time goes by, especially in MLS where finishing from open play can be elusive.

Here's the post: Makers, Takers and The Hunt for Goals

For key passes I built it up from game by game totals instead of just looking at the cumulative Opta stats because I know that, at least for the Crew, some games are missing. To fill in I had to go to the MLS 'chalkboard'.

Anyhow, here are the top 20 performances as far as Key Passes (KPs) match to match.

Total KPs : Name : Round : Opponent
8 : Will Trapp : 26 : SEA
7 : Federico Higuaín : 13 : HOU
7 : Federico Higuaín : 15 : MTL
7 : Federico Higuaín : 16 : CHI
7 : Federico Higuaín : 19 : PDX
7 : Federico Higuaín : 23 : NY
6 : Federico Higuaín : 10 : COL
6 : Federico Higuaín : 20 : NER
6 : Federico Higuaín : 24 : TFC
5 : Federico Higuaín : 4 : DCU
5 : Federico Higuaín : 6 : MTL
5 : Federico Higuaín : 9 : NY
5 : Federico Higuaín : 11 : TFC
5 : Federico Higuaín : 32 : SKC
4 : Jairo Arrieta : 13 : HOU
4 : Federico Higuaín : 14 : PHI
4 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 14 : PHI
4 : Justin Meram : 27 : HOU
4 : Ethan Finlay : 27 : HOU
4 : Federico Higuaín : 29 : MTL

Trapp's Seattle performance is notable but it also should be remembered as the one where the Sounders went down a man and still beat the Crew. It was a very strange match. Robert Warzycha would be let go not long after. Trapp didn't record more than 2 KPs in any other match.

Higuain shouldn't be much of a surprise but does bring to mind a conversation we had with Major League Soccer contributor Simon Borg on the Massive Report podcast. Simon mentioned sitting Higuain in order for the team to shake out of a slump they were in. There is a lot of sense to that as I don't think Higuain is a player that most coaches, technical directors or GMs in MLS quite understand. I dunno, it's complicated I guess. Larger conversation for a rainy day.

Part of me is just trying to comprehend, appreciate and downright savor the fact that a player like Federico Higuain is in Columbus.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crew Rd 33, Nothing to Lose (or Gain)

In somewhat symbolically mix-matched uniforms the Columbus Crew go for broke away in New England and lose 3:2.

I was out of town visiting family in Virginia this week. Both to see them and to take in the beautiful scenery my home state has to offer. My perspective is a little different for this one.

The first time I watched this game I was in Harrisonburg, VA with my brother and his family. While spending the afternoon there my niece made me what's in the picture on the left (my favorite thing of the 2013 Crew season).

Going through it the second time was about the same as the first. Right off the bat the Crew played exactly the same as they have so many times this year. Overly active and looking for a lucky bounce or through ball to get the up in the opening 10-20 minutes.

High pressure, chasing the ball, looking for through ball opportunities. It was all very familiar. What's also familiar is when they don't get one early they struggle later on in the match.

Around the 30th minute, when the game was being controlled by NE, Ethan Finlay had a bad touch and subsequently made bad challenge after a string of bad challenges by a desperate Crew side.

This opened up a good opportunity on the corner of the Crew's 18 yard box. New England took advantage and scored.

Brian Bliss pulled Ethan Finlay for the Crew's only big attacking target in Aaron Schoenfeld.

After wrestling control of the match from the Revs in the first 10 minutes of the second half the Crew got a few good bounces. One off Wil Trapp that fell to Schoenfeld who pushed it over to Dominic Oduro who put it away to tie it up 1:1.

This really started off some craziness. Shortly after the Revs started pressing again and earned a penalty off some chippy play in the box. Tony Tchani was sloppy and hacked a Revs player down. Chris Tierney finished off the penalty.

The Crew responded as Aaron Schoenfeld gathered nicely just inside the box and finished on the turn with his left foot in the upper corner on of the net.

Seemingly surprised, the Revs responded quickly and Diego Fagundez found another goal for the Revs off a cross from Andy Dorman.

NE coach Jay Heaps would go ahead and make a couple of defensive subs in Kevin Alston and Stephen McCarthy to put away the game. It could be argued he should have done this earlier but, regardless. This ended the match in his favor.

• I've seen Aaron Schoenfeld play a lot of the past couple years. Mostly in reserve matches. I've seen him play pretty well but never have I seen him hold up and turn for a goal like he did in this game. Really great and happy for him and his family.

• The turf at Gillette will forever bother me. My theory is that the the Football God's, both types of the game, have forsaken their tenents. Did you know the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since switching? All the money that team pulls in and they can't play on a natural surface? THE FOOTBALL GODS DOTH SMITE YOU.

• The Crew were 'mathematically eliminated' from playoff contention after this game. It didn't matter if they won or lost, it turned out.

• The Crew have been statistically eliminated for some time. They should have approached the last couple months of the season with this in mind. Hanging on to hope left this team with Tyson Wahl at CB and Chad Barson at RB. It also kept Tony Tchani in the starting lineup and Dominic Oduro playing in a right mid spot where opposing teams seemed to find goals. Challenges for the Crew await over the next few months.

• Despite being subbed off, Agustin Viana was awarded the Man of the Match star from This is something I follow, so should you. It's objective and that is very, very rare in MLS.

• Did I mention I was in God's country this weekend? Here's what that looks like from my folks front porch:

• Recharged and happy to be back in Columbus. Ready to take on the last game of the year and a fun off season!