Saturday, August 31, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Sounders

A star studded Seattle Sounders team is in Columbus this evening and taking on the hometown Crew up at the fairgrounds (off I-71. You can't miss it, there is a huge billboard with Clint Dempsey's picture on the side). Kickoff is at 7:30 PM EST, 4:30 PM Cascadia time.

-CLB: Higuian out next 2
-CLB: Ryan Finley expected to start
-CLB: Lost last week 4-0 away to RSL
-SEA: Only 1 quality road win this year (5-15 SKC)
-SEA: 6 Red Cards in 12 away fixtures
-SEA: Important match, need wins to keep playoff pace

(in no particular order)

Reporting an Away 0-1 win and the accurate predictor 'your votes' section shows 45% Seattle (24% Crew).

Adding in a new one this week with They have all the data and he has all the data wins, after all. They like Seattle today 2-1 over the Crew.

Patrick Guldan, the Editor and Chief of the site I contribute, thinks Seattle has the upper hand today, "Seattle is starting to find their stride and the Crew are nearly to the point were only pride is on the line." Go check out his preview.

We've got 5 of the 6 picking Seattle with the other picking a Draw. Matt Doyle still leads the bunch with nearly 50% (116/239) accuracy. That's pretty remarkable actually.

Thomas Floyd is on the call for this preview and once again the Crew get a short write up. Floyd doesn't show a lean either way today, "Clint Dempsey will look for his first goal in a Sounders uniform as Seattle travels to face a Crew side without Federico Higuain." However, the prediction poll does lean Seattle.

6. BET365 ... EVEN
We've got both the Crew and Sounders at 13/8 odds (23/10 draw) here today. Most likely scoreline is 1-1.



"...with Columbus missing Federico Higuain in this one, I just don’t see them staying with the Sounders," say's league watcher Drew Epperley. Score prediction? 2-1 Seattle.

Last up on the list today, but certainly not least, is team beat writer Adam Jardy's thoughts... "These teams appear to be headed in decidedly different directions."

Rouge Fire Hydrant (pic @AdamJardy)
Crew fans will finally get to see how the team plays without Federico Higuain. Personally, I think there will not be too much change. Nothing to do with Higuain's quality as a player (he's one of the best in North America) and more to do with how the Crew are set up tactically.

Seattle hasn't been all that great on the road this year and it is hard to expect much different until they prove different. They do have that notable recent event of Clint Dempsey signing up as well as Clint playing again at Crew Stadium on September 10th.

A motivated Dempsey is an extremely dangerous Dempsey. Chad Marshall and Josh Williams will have their hands full today (in the understatement of the year).

With Higuain out, many are expecting college draft pick and scorer of 8 goals in the reserves Ryan Finley to get the nod. I gotta admit, I am excited about this idea.

Finley knows his way around the 18 yard box and has scored tons of goals at all levels in this country. Now it's time to see if he can do it on the MLS level.

Seattle are the clear favorites and they have the talent to completely over run the Crew in the midfield. Can the Crew pull out a huge upset in front of a packed house? Should be a fun watch.

Enjoy the game.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MLS Ladder

Here's a look MLS teams on the MLS table by PPG. I've separated by just 0.05 of a point to illustrate how close teams are this year.

People like to argue over whether this is parity or mediocrity at work. I think it is more a function of a summer league with a playoff system where teams do only what they have to during a World Cup Qualifying year.

Coach Trapp

This is something you don't normally hear from a Crew player. It comes from young Wil Trapp over at site:

“[Barson] and I were talking, and [the RSL match] was kind of like playing Akron,” Trapp said. “When we were at Akron, that’s what we did to other teams, and to have it done to you is pretty frustrating… I think that’s something here that we could definitely implement a little more [in Columbus]. Just a little more off the ball movement and trying to get guys freed up in good spots.”

You've got to think that other players know this and say it but it never gets printed (reported). Trapp is spot on. The Crew have been overrun by better midfields for the past three years.

Warzycha tries to echo what Trapp said but clearly doesn't understand it is the philosophy the opponent took more than the talent.

“I think he can see what he has to do better,” he said. “He’s going to learn, and the next time he plays these guys he’s going to know what to expect. The next time we go on the field, he knows that the way we played last time wasn’t right.”

As normal, the coach is singling out an individual and not the chosen tactics. "He" needs to do better. "He" didn't play 'right'.

I'm hoping Trapp and others talk more like this. Crew have the talent to be competitive but are stuck with the wrong playing style.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Looking north east from 'round about Lindey's. German Village in Columbus, Ohio.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Crew Rd 25, Pinned Down and Beaten

The Columbus Crew could do nothing to stop Real Salt Lake last night.

Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha came out in what was his primary and preferred dual defensive mid lineup last night in clear attempt to get at least a point. Danny O'Rourke and Wil Trapp will given the unfortunate task there.

On the RSL side we save Jason Kreis come out with is somewhat familiar diamond midfield with Kyle Beckerman at CDM and both Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia up top.

With two CDM's clogging the middle RSL found it very easy to get wide and retain possession all through the first half. RSL was getting corner after corner and free kicks around the box with ease.

The only thing the Crew were successful at was keeping RSL out of the goal. That is until the first one came right at the end of the first half.

Chad Marshall gave up a free kick via handball right outside the 18 yd box. Kyle Beckerman took the shot that deflected off Wil Trapp (lined up in the wall) then took a second deflection off Javier Morales for a goal. Crew defender Chad Barson was lined up behind Morales.

No changes from the Crew meant the onslaught continued. The inevitable goal that fans on both sides saw coming from miles away happened off an easy cross and goal right in front of GK Matt Lampson.

Even up by two, RSL kept pressing Columbus. Even going as far as making a offensive minded substitution around the hour mark by bring in Robbie Findley (six goals on the year).

Warzycha appeared to be caught off guard and completely over reacted by bringing on not one but TWO fresh holding midfielders in his son Konrad Warzycha and a out of form Tony Tchani.

The changes changed nothing. RSL ended up scoring two more goals from the run of play in the last 10 minutes.

Yesterday, in my game preview, I said the Crew would go back into their shell. They did. I also said that doing so would jam up Federico Higuain. It did.

Ever been in a fight and been pinned down or held by another as punches came your way? If I can predict these simple minded tactics then sure as hell Jason Kreis can - and he did. What RSL did was the equivalent of sitting of the chest of the Crew, knees on their shoulders pinning the arms down and pounding the ever-living daylights out of them.

Shortly before the game started the Crew Digital Content Producer tweeted out the following: "FOUR... Count them, FOUR Homegrowns in the XI for #Crew96 tonight: Lampson, Barson, Trapp, Speas."

In a game like this, where you are playing one of the three best teams in the league - at their place - when they are at full strength... you take your warriors. Your fighters. Not four inexperienced local kids with little to no league experience on the road.

The Crew have now lost six straight on the road. Goes without saying, but worst in the league.

By the end of the match you saw some (the fighters) on the Crew visibly frustrated. Dominic Oduro on a late tackle, Josh Williams should barging a player 10 feet out of bounds and Higuain just playing coming unglued (and picking up two more yellow cards, suspending him for at least one game).

Inexperienced players making up half the starting lineup and employing a tactic that has not worked all year.

I don't get it. I really don't.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v RSL

Good Morning,

The Crew play away to Real Salt Lake today. Kickoff is at 9:30 PM EST, 7:30 MDT.

-CLB: Lost 5 straight on the road
-CLB: Worst 6 game road form in MLS
-CLB: Anor, Meram Out (starters in last 2 wins)
-RSL: 4-1-1 +7 GD in last 6
-RSL: Rimando, Beckerman, Saborio should be in lineup
-RSL: Only two loses at Rio Tinto this year.

(In no particular order)

"RSL looks to get back on track here as they pursue the Supporters’ Shield trophy". Drew Epperley's prediction: RSL 3, Columbus 1.

2. BET365 ... RSL
Strong odds for Real Salt Lake today at 3/5 (Draw 14/5, Crew 19/4).

The tone of Adam Jardy's "How it might play out" summary certainly suggests that RSL is the team to beat tonight but he does mention the fact that RSL have played three games in seven days. Pick up a paper if you are in town. If you are out of town? Good luck on navigating this paper's website.

4. TABLE ... RSL


Real Salt Lake across the board. "Armchair Analyst" Matt Doyle still leading the way over there (111 of 230 correct, picking result).

Surprising one line summary from regular Keith Hickey today... "RSL will have to overcome history and the hot foot of Federico Higuain to stay comfortable in first place." On top of that and for the first time all year there is a actual preview write up of the match. Reader prediction has RSL 68%.

Large Stake on Home Win, 2-0 and the 'your votes' section is heavy RSL (56%). Crew only getting 12% of the vote.

Can't stop looking at this pic.
Despite recent success at Rio Tinto, it's gonna be a tough one for the Crew tonight. Not having Bernardo Anor in the lineup (fatigue) is likely going to force Robert Warzycha back into his two holding mid shell.

If that's the case then Federico Higuain (scorer of all four goals in last two wins) will go back to being jammed up and chasing the game.

Real Salt Lake is a good team this year. A very good team. And they will be hungry tonight to stay in the race for 1st place in the league now that we are in the home stretch.

Personally, I really, really which Anor was in this lineup and the Crew were facing them as an in form side because a win would sell me on how good this team can (could've) be (been).

Later start tonight allows me some time to catch afternoon show of "The World's End". Pretty excited about that.

Enjoy the game.

Friday, August 23, 2013

KRAMB Score, Updated (surprises)

It's been a few games since I've posted updated KRAMB for Crew players (Pts Earned per Start above replacement level* + Goal Difference per Start) and boy are there some changes.

Justin Meram has crossed the magical five game barrier and has found himself on top of the team. Six total starts. Three wins, two draws and only one loss. I'd be lying if I said I saw this one coming.

Last year Meram was a 'super-sub' of sorts (+7 goal diff) with a bad starting record (won't go there). I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that two of the three wins he has this year have been against Toronto. But then... A win and draw against NY plus another draw against the Dynamo? I'll say; well earned overall.

Here we go.


+0.79 : Justin Meram (6)
+0.71 : Agustín Viana (12)
+0.69 : Eddie Gaven (10)
+0.29 : Wil Trapp (6)
+0.25 : Dominic Oduro (24)
+0.19 : Bernardo Anor (10)
+0.15 : Joshua Williams (22)
+0.04 : Chad Marshall (20)
+0.02 : Gláuber Berti (13)

-0.01 : Chad Barson (10)
-0.13 : Federico Higuaín (24)
-0.15 : Danny O´Rourke (17)
-0.21 : Jairo Obando Arrieta (13)
-0.32 : Ben Speas (9)
-0.34 : Tyson Wahl (16)
-0.35 : Tony Tchani (7)
-0.41 : Andy Gruenebaum (20)
-0.91 : Matías Sánchez (10)


+1.79 : Matt Lampson (4)
+0.79 : Aaron Schoenfeld (2)
-0.21 : Konrad Warzycha (2)
-0.46 : Eric Gehrig (4)
-1.54 : Kevan George (3)

Other changes that are driving KRAMB change are Matt Lampson starting. The results he has gotten as starter have pulled Gruenebaum way down the list.


Lampson is a little untested. He is a local kid about to be thrown into the fire out west against Real Salt Lake. Three of his four starts have been close to home. The one away match he has had was a disaster against Houston. Well see how things go in SLC.

Another player driving results in regards to this measurement is Wil Trapp. Some of the folks I know closest to the club say he is the real deal. Like Lampson, he is getting the results near home. Notable is the loss he started away in Toronto and in Houston. All three of his wins (Portland, New York and Toronto) have been in Columbus.

Agustin Viana's return the lineup, while understated, is probably the most reliable indicator of a individual player contributing to recent team performance. Having him healthy and starting at a critical Left Back spot has certainly helped the team.

All I got for now. Remember: numbers don't lie. Trust the numbers. Also... understand what it is you are looking at.


*Replacement level is what a average player on the team will theoretically give you, team average (0.00).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

2 New MR Posts, Notes


This one started off as a sort of running postmortem commentary on the season I wanted to get out of my head. It's been both a fascinating and disappointing season for the Columbus Crew.

Focusing on mistakes is only part of a postmortem assessment but it is the most important. A critical assessment of performance, no matter what, is vital to success. For the past 36 months the Columbus Crew have had their head buried in the sand and that is playing out in results.

It's also resulted in the hasty sale of this MLS Franchise to an outsider. Most telling thing to me so far? I get excited and can't wait to crack open a $60 dollar video game. Anthony Precourt bought the team for $68 million... And how much time has he spent in Columbus? How many games has he been to?

Always, always, always look at mistakes as a way to get better.


One of these days I'll get Massive Report's Patrick Guldan to start doing his player ratings again. Until then, all I have is what the folks at put together.

I decided to summarize them in box plot form because I like to look at consistency of performance. Overall, for the sport of soccer, I think it is important. For Major League Soccer teams? You can't live without it.

One of the things I liked about Chris Anderson and David Sally's book "The Numbers Game" is when they talk on improving the weakest link as vital. In MLS, improving your weakest spot is probably the most important things because of the scarcity of top talent (self inflicted by MLS with Designated player rules and team 'budgets').

Using rating systems like gives fans a good starting point for determining which players are doing well and which are not. What's great about the site beyond the ratings is the fact that they also have all the Opta data.

Anyhow, go give 'em a read.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Crew Rd 24, Compendious Victory

The Crew never looked like they would lose this one. Toronto never looked like they could win.

The pace of this game was enjoyable. Not too fast, not too slow and the Crew were creating good chances.

One such chance ended in a goal off a Chad Barson cross and Bernardo Anor shot that rebounded for Federico Higuain in the 18th minute.

Columbus kept the pressure up on Toronto from there and were successful at breaking up anything they were trying to build in the midfield.

It became clear the Toronto were trying to get something going by controlling the match through possession. In fact it seemed as if they were more interesting in that then trying to create the off chance on goal through some Crew mistake.

Because of that, the game remained more fluid and enjoyable. It also finally allowed for players with superior footballing talents to shine a bit more brightly. Case in point was Federico Higuain.

Higuain was able to find yards of space around the box all evening and in the 67th minute dropped a sinker over the reach of the Toronto GK Joe Bendik.

With Danny O'Rourke having come on the the minute before, Higuain's goal sealed it for the Crew. Toronto played as a beaten team and only got off two shots from there.

• That wasn't your typical Toronto team out there last night. They tried to maintain possession and they were not hacking players down every other pass (Toronto is not alone in this tactic).

• It was Columbus that was doing all the fouling (17 Crew, 7 TFC).

• Higuain has three open play goals in two games. It has been a long time since any Crew player has done that.

• With Arrieta up top and Anor in the middle, Higuain is playing more like the player Crew fans expect and more to his talent level, frankly.

• This was the most watchable Columbus Crew game of the year for me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Toronto

There is a soccer match tonight at Crew Stadium as the Major League Soccer franchises from Ohio (USA) and Ontario (Canada) fight for Great Lake Erie Superiority (GLES). Kickoff is at 7:30 PM EST or 11:30 PM GMT.

-CLB: Home form last six = 13th in MLS
-CLB: less than 3% chance of making playoffs, trying new things
-CLB: GK Gruenebuam likely out again.
-TFC: Away form last six = 8th in MLS
-TFC: Getting better but trying new things

(In no particular order)

In a bit of a surprise the Pick 'em team thinks that TFC will take this one. 4 of 6 saying so (1 Crew, 1 draw).

Drew Epperley likes the Crew straight up, " surprises here as they win a rivalry game at home." Crew 2:0 Reds

Home team getting better than even odds today (8/11) followed up with 5/2 draw and 4/1 TFC. Two most likely scorelines are 1:0 Crew and 1:1 draw.


Whoa.(!)? The author of the one line summary isn't listed today (my money is on Hickey though). Whomever it might be, they like the Crew... "Columbus snapped a losing streak last week and will be looking to build on that win with another against TFC." Lower down the column sees fans picking the Crew to win (50%).


A little different here today. Large Stake is on a 1:1 draw and the Your Vote section follows suit as draw gets 41% majority. Columbus 26% and Toronto 31%.

"The Crew is 0-4-2 after a victory this season, and Toronto seems to be the type of team to help end such a streak." - Man on the Crew beat, Adam Jardy.

I was thinking about adding form as one of the game predictors but decided against it (for now). Biggest reason is that the Crew have not won two games in a row since the middle of last year. They are now far and away leading the league in this very simple fact and that sort of overrides any short term form, right now.

Toronto was with them but they finally crossed that bridge three weeks ago. In fact, TFC have two wins and a draw in their last four. That puts them above the Crew as far as recent form.

So, form = TFC? Not really. Only one team in MLS is in road form right now. Sporting KC 11 pts / 6 games is tops then RSL with 10 in 6. Everyone else is below 8pts in 6.

Tonight is good opportunity for the Crew before they take their league worst road form (1 pt in last 6 games. Have allowed 15 goals and carry a -8 goal difference) on the road next week.

Anyhow, the above is why I'm not adding form to my list.

On to the match: Not looking for many changes to the Crew lineup this week. We'll probably see same formation as well with Trapp at the CDM and Anor playing the CM spot. There is a possibility that fans see Speas jump in over Meram, I guess. Otherwise it will be the regulars in Higuain, Arrieta, Oduro, Barson, Williams, Marshall and Viana rounding it out.

The lineup is fine. I think Oduro should be a weapon used coming off the bench if the team is down at the hour mark but it'll never happen. As it stands, the Crew don't really have anybody to bring on the shake it up in the middle and Ryan Finley is extremely green.

The Crew are built to jump up by a goal and then defend it through shear number of defensive players on the squad, if that goes off plan the team has trouble.

Tonight's game will be jumpy, choppy and foul riddled. Most matches involving the Crew are this way now. TFC only makes the preceding statement more likely. There is not sugar coating this game. It is a match between two teams way down the table.

Less jumpy, choppy and foul riddled were the games filling up my screens this morning. Welcome back Premier League.

Billy Sasquatch, Master English Breakfast Chef.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Conan, Oliver Stone and the Crew Reserves

The Crew and Impact reserves met up a day after the 2:0 victory by the senior team on June 15th. They wound up losing 1:0 but standing there on a cool damp Sunday morning in Obetz watching a bunch of players working their tails off for practically nothing gets your mind going.

A couple years ago I decided that I was going to jump all in on the Crew. I wanted a team to follow and look at analytically and critically to see if I could apply some of the manufacturing tools I was learning at the time to something outside the industry. No time table was set as I wanted to follow for as long as the fire burns hot enough.

This sort of brings me back to the image above and to something Oliver Stone said during an interview for a documentary about the making of Conan the Barbarian (the 1982 one, Stone was a writer).

The interview was done during the peak of Stone's powers and long after Conan The Barbarian came out. I remember wondering why he would be taking the time to talk about this movie. Turns out he loved it. He wanted to make twelve of them. Difficult to explain but it was refreshing to hear a movie I loved as a kid being loved by a giant in the industry. I had expected the complete opposite from him.

Robert E. Howard
During the interview he told a great story he knew about the creator of Conan, Robert E. Howard. He said that when Howard got tired of writing or near exhaustion and wanting to quit he would imagine Conan standing behind him with a battleaxe, waiting to split him in two if he got up from his desk.


There is something dense, raw and complex occurring at these Crew reserve matches that I like. In a lot of ways it is competition her most basic sports form. It's a chance for a fringe player get promoted to the senior team or a wilting vet finding himself after a bad string of 1st team matches.

There is a sharp type of energy that you only find where failure means ruin and success means riches ("riches" in quotes for most in MLS).

I've been to a few reserve games at the Obetz training facility and can't help but imagine imagine the Nordecke in all her glory ghosted in north east corner. Larger than life. Louder than bombs. Urging the players on in the same the fear of ruin and lust for glory that kept Robert E. Howard tied to his desk.

Here's some Basil Poledouris to listen to.

"We are just men, not gods, not giants, just men. And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, you must learn its discipline, for no one, no one in this world can you trust, not men, not women, not beasts... This you can trust."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Talking, Thinking (podcast)

New Massive Report podcast tonight where a lot of Crew topics were covered. I've been to a number of these now and on of the things I've come to enjoy is the conversation off mic between segments.

Tonight was a good one and I think most of that 'between segment' banter was captured. One of the things that might not have been fully covered was the discussion on how well Ryan Finley has shown himself this year. Particularly in the Houston game last week.

Give it a listen if you have the time. Dan Bidmead of UK is in town and talks. Fun. Crew.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Crew Rd 23, Win at Home

Federico Higuain puts on a great show as the Columbus Crew take down a NY Red Bulls team who were missing a couple of their brightest stars and head coach.

With only one defensive mid in Wil Trapp and Bernardo Anor playing in the central attacking mid role the Columbus Crew opened up play in a way normally only seen in team reserve matches this year.

It might have been a little wasteful and no goals were scored but the Crew kept NY on their back foot most of the first half.

Started out looking much like the first. It was clear that the absence of head coach Mike Petke meant the Red Bulls were going to keep it simple and defensive minded.

That changed in the 62nd minute with Jamison Olave committed a foul in the box on a restart. Federico Higuain stepped up and converted, putting the Crew up 1:0.

The game got a little more interesting from there as NY started venturing forward more. Unfortunately for them Peguy Luyindula and Ibrahim Sekagya (new signing) are no Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.

Later, in the 76th minute, a bit of magic from Higuain as he chipped / dropped an amazingly skillful shot over the head of the NY goalkeeper.

The game sort of died from there.

• Higuain has been trying to hit a goal like his second one all season. He finally got it. Surprisingly, only his 2nd goal outside of penalties this year.

• NY was crippled without Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Kosuke Kimura, Lloyd Sam or coach Mike Petke in this game. All are listed as injured but really only Kimura was legit for this game. Were Columbus in NY; Henry, Cahill and Sam would have played.

• Columbus has developed somewhat of a reputation with star players. They don't make the trip. It's a unique issue that new owner Anthony Precourt will have to work out.

• The extra midfielder freed up Higuain like most team watchers expected. Bernardo Anor had a great game in the CAM role. He was giving new Red Bull Sekagya fits. Last night was one of Higuain's best games in a Crew uniform and a lot of that had to do with Anor in the middle (and Arrieta up top).

• NY's bench was very thin last night. Their subs; Akpan, Bover, Obekop have a combined 305 league minutes after last night.

• Wil Trapp had a splendid game. Not sure how else to describe it but I think splendid covers it. It's one of those performances that are fun to watch but get even better the next day when mulling over stats. 66 total passes and only four off the mark (94%). He plays within himself and all four of his misplaced passes were going forward but that one he connected on to Higuain for his goal worked.

• Crew are not making the playoffs so watching Trapp for this rest of this year will be one of the things to look forward too. Where does this leave Sanchez? Not sure. It could very well be that just the face the Crew were playing with one DM is what freed Trapp up and that Sanchez would have done just as well.

• Last night was the first game Precourt attended as owner of the Crew. He did a halftime interview on the Fox Sports broadcast where he looked like he was having fun as the owner of a pro sports team.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Red Bulls

Good Morning,

Nestled on the north east corner of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair Grounds you'll find Crew Stadium and at 7:30 PM tonight NY Red Bulls are there playing soccer.

-CLB: 9 games since a draw
-CLB: Likely lineup changes/shakeup
-CLB: 16th in league
-NY: Only 3 clean sheets away this year
-NY: Looking to keep pace for Supporters' Shield
-NY: 3 Wins, 2 Draw in last 5.


(In no particular order)

"Sometimes when your backs are up against a wall you fight hard, that is what I am hoping to see out of the Crew in this one. The thing is, I’m not expecting it." - Drew Epperley. He thinks the final will be 2:1 NY.

Large Stake on Away Win, 0:1 and NY gets 51% of the 'Your Votes' to win (29% Draw, 19% Crew).

MLS Team Pick 'em Six sees four votes for NY and the other two going Draw.

Keith Hickey on the mic today with the one line game preview: "New York is riding high, and victory over Robert Warzycha's side could put Mike Petke's men top of MLS." Also, further down the page NY is getting over 80% of the fan's predictions.

First time this year that the Crew are not favored at home. While parity might exist within records on the table the back half of the season the betting lines become more predictive. Parity in MLS is a falsity. The league is more interested in burning teams down in the offseason and having them pick up the pieces during the 1st half of the year. By this time, the order of things is more or less set. 11/8 Red Bulls, 2/1 Crew (9/4 Draw).

Adam Jardy puts it best this week, "New York has shown a propensity to not show up on occasion, meaning the Crew has a chance at an upset, but predicting anything but a Red Bulls win would be blind optimism."




The Crew are on a bad enough run that it is okay to start making sweeping generalizations and conclusions. One big one that will dog this franchise for years to come is stumbling through league expansion since 2009, not correcting and finding themselves in 16th place in the league. Not just in 2013 standing but as an overall organization.

Not correcting has put this team back at square one with new owner Anthony Precourt and is mysterious merry group of investors. Previous ownership allowed roots to run too deep and pulling them up will be difficult.

Now, with all that good cheer out of the way it will be refreshing for many to once again roll the ball out and play some soccer.

The Crew are still in a limbo period but I fully expect the players to give it their all tonight. Key to this match: Andy Gruenebaum is out again with a nagging shoulder injury and Matt Lampson is in.

Lampson proved last week that under sustained pressure he might let a few in so it will be important for the Crew backline to be solid tonight. Better than solid.

Should be an interesting and enjoyable game.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Following up on the 2013 MLS 'SuperDraft'

1st Round MLS "Superdraft" picks are below, listed with minutes, goals and assists. Before the season started, I wrote about what the production of these players might look like (HERE).

Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss was somewhat famously quoted as saying "...evening before the Draft in the bar, and it's usually four beers and a prayer at that point."

I didn't think it is that unpredictable. Going over the basic stats through 70% of this year, it looks like 1st round picks are getting similar minutes and producing about as much as years past.

It's all about roles and situation but one big call out this year is Colorado. They really have gotten a lot out of their picks with Brown and Powers.

List is in order of 'superdraft' selection.

1733 : Andrew Farrell (NER) : 0 : 0
1393 : Carlos Alvarez (CHV) : 1 : 1
145 : Kyle Bekker (TFC) : 0 : 0
339 : Kekuta Manneh (VAN) : 2 : 2
438 : Erik Hurtado (VAN) : 0 : 0
1625 : Deshorn Brown (COL) : 6 : 6
231 : Walker Zimmerman (FCD) : 2 : 2
229 : Blake Smith (MTL) : 2 : 2
88 : Ryan Finley (CLB) : 0 : 0
10 : Eriq Zavaleta (SEA) : 0 : 0
1888 : Dillon Powers (COL) : 4 : 4
33 : John Stertzer (RSL) : 0 : 0
144 : Jason Johnson (HOU) : 0 : 0
#N/A : Mikey Lopez (SKC) : #N/A : #N/A
#N/A : Tommy Muller (SJE) : #N/A : #N/A
5 : Emery Welshman (TFC) : 0 : 0
350 : Taylor Kemp (DCU) : 0 : 0
#N/A : Fernando Monge (MTL) : #N/A : #N/A
128 : Charlie Rugg (LAG) : 1 : 1

The Crew went for a goal scorer in Ryan Finley this year. He has seen some time but the Crew have tried to explore the talents of 2nd year man Aaron Schoenfeld instead.

With him (Schoenfeld) hurt, Crew fans should expect Finley to find more time in the coming weeks and nab a couple goals. 'Tis his destiny.

Expect Ryan Finley to finish in the 0.30 goals + assist range if he does see regular minutes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

86th Minute in Toronto

Ethan Finlay prepares to take the field against Toronto FC at BMO Field. July 27, 2013. OOOO

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Crew Rd 22, Lose and Open Space

Houston put away a Columbus team in limbo 3:1 last night.

Both teams came off the first whistle pretty sharp despite the reportedly oppressive 90+ degree heat. Setting aside the unfortunate foul in the box that Chad Marshall committed the first 25 minutes of this game saw the Crew playing just about as well as they can.

In that first 25 the Crew possessed well (which was opposite of what I expected) and ripped off four shots, two on target.

From there, though, some of the Crew players slowed and Federico Higuain started to show some early frustration. Moving on past the 25th, Houston started to gain supreme control of the match and were full of confidence.

Crew players just couldn't get to the ball as if in quicksand. In fact, the 2nd Houston goal was directly because of this. Boniek Garcia who basically toyed with Agustin Viana all night, dispossessed him and started a break on a slow Danny O'Rourke and slower Chad Marshall. It finished with Will Bruin, fresh off international duty, cutting across O'Rourke and finishing it nicely.

This was the 32nd minute when it happened and it appeared that some of the Crew players shut down part of their operations.

In attempt to get a shot of energy, Robert Warzycha subbed in a couple. One was Kevan George for Matias Sanchez and the other was draft pick Ryan Finley for Jairo Arrieta (unclear if Arrieta was injured).

While fresh is good, the double change predictably made the game a sloppy affair. In fact both team seemed to try and figure out what Warzycha did. This shows in general activity off the half time restart.

Both sides were ripping off about 5 passes per minute but in the restart after half the Crew dropped to 4 and the Dynamo 6. Sloppy possession for the Crew during this interval.

You could start to feel that the Dynamo would get another but before that happened Ryan Finley started to apply some real pressure to Houston defenders in the box. He got the ball in there a few times and tried to walk it in the goal. On one such time a Dynamo defender kicked it directly into his own net and the Crew pulled one back in the 75th minute.

Crew looked hungry for more but just didn't have the energy. Late in the match around the 85th minute Houston's Cam Weaver put it away from the top of the box and sealed it.


• The Crew didn't actually look as horrible as they did in previous handful of weeks. They had good spells of possession and really great opportunities. Houston certainly looked a better side but the Crew played alright on the 2013 Crew scale.

• Federico Higuain's frustrations. He needs to control them, especially now with an ownership change. Of course he is pissed and mad but to show it as much as he did last night (and frankly, over the past half year) is not acceptable for a leader. This is something that the team should have addressed ten games ago. But they didn't because the are conflict averse and now they have a massive issue on their hands.

• Fan reaction to the players last night on social media or even some of the media has me frustrated, even upset. They go from pointing fingers at coaches and the front office to blaming players in an instant. An important thing for some of these people out there to remember is the passing of Kirk Urso was one year ago this weekend.

I guess the soulless race to occupy the free space under Anthony Precourt's desk is officially on. For all those participating; let me know how that turns out.

• Finley's efforts inside the 18 yard box in the second half were oddly refreshing. He was taking too many touches all over the place but, well... two things about that (while I'm on lists):

1. It eventually lead to a Dynamo own goal.
2. Players can 'dribble' big 'keepers in MLS

You really don't see players trying to dribble the GK in MLS. It takes a ton of confidence and bad college habits (perhaps) but a lot of the keepers in MLS are big and slow and are mistake prone. Banging shots from 20 yds will not work (the Crew have proved that). Anyhow. Of course Finley took too many extra dribbles but I liked the activity.

• Oduro was pretty invisible most of the night, especially in the 2nd half. Would have liked to see him come charging off the bench in this one, especially with fresh legs in this heat. Would have been stealin' candy from a baby.

• Overall, Dynamo are a better team and the Crew are operating under a lot of distractions. Tough match.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v Dynamo

Good Morning,

The Columbus Crew travel down to BBVA Compass Stadium today to take on the Houston Dynamo. Game start is 9 PM EST.

-CLB: Lost 6 of last 8. Worst form in MLS.
-CLB: Ownership change last week.
-CLB: Lost 4 straight away.
-HOU: Will Bruin back from USMNT duty.
-HOU: 2-2-2 in last six. Average
-HOU: Fighting to keep playoff pace.

(In no particular order)

"The Crew have been dreadful to watch as of late... Houston should control this one fairly easily." -Drew Epperley. He has the final score at 2:0 to the Dynamo.


Large stake on a 1:0 Home win. Dynamo also getting 56% of the "Your Vote" while the Crew only pull 12%.

The team over there likes the Dynamo, 5 of the 6 votes went there. Only one Draw pick coming from Kristel Valencia, FutbolMLS Editor in Chief. Kristel is trailing everyone in pick accuracy (39%). Matt Doyle "Armchair Analyst" is most accurate at 47%.

Avi Creditor graces the one line summary this week: "The Dynamo have fallen out of the Eastern Conference's playoff places but can make headway with a home win over a Columbus side that was just sold to new ownership." Further own down the page we see that only a few fans have selected a winner but those that did go Houston.


Dynamo getting better than even odds this week at 4/5 (Draw 12/5, Crew 18/5). Scorelines are a little different this week. 11/2 for 1:0 Houston... 2:0 is at 7/1... 15/2 2:1 next up.

Pick up the Dispatch today, Jardy talks about the impact of Precourt on today's match in his game preview, "...unless Precourt can provide a steadying presence during the final minutes of games, it is unlikely that the transition will have much impact on this one."

We are on the backside of the MLS season so results start to become slightly more predictable. While Houston should be favored, I don't think they are world beaters. In fact, they are pretty average this year to date.

Houston is actually up against the wall a bit with the New England Revs battling them out for a playoff spot. The 'must wins' are over for the Crew, they are not for the Dynamo.

The Crew? The Crew.

The Crew are in a bit of no-man's land right now. The ownership handover desert, as it were. It reminds me of a wonderful part of a wonderful Uncharted 3 video game.

About midway through the game writer Amy Hennig along with designers Richard Lemarchand and Jacob Minkoff of Naughty Dog (the game makers) have you crash landing in the desert. No instructions, no direction, no nothing. Only sand for as far you can see in every direction.

I've mentioned here before that I have been through a few ownership changes (buyout/mergers). More recently on the side doing the buying past couple times but not long ago was on the other side. There is so much uncertainty. Rumors, backstabbing, tears, broken friendships, rubber burned in the parking lot...

I was the only employee from the floor retained when the company was bought out in a merger years ago. I didn't know it at the time but looking back I see that in a lot of ways it was like Nathan Drake in the middle of the desert.

Real or fake, bizarre video game blogger metaphor or actual situation... life really simplifies things for you when you are in that spot. You really only have two options.

Today, I'll be looking for the guys that fight.