Friday, January 31, 2014

Reported Arrieta Salary Drop, Common?

Sources have told the Columbus Dispatch that Jairo Arrieta's 2014 salary will be half of what it was last year.

It seems like a lot so I pulled up MLS salaries since 2010 to see how many examples there are of a player taking a 50% pay cut year over year. Turns out there are a handful every year (including new head coach Gregg Berhalter in 2011).


Jairo carried a guaranteed 2013 wage of $225k so we are likely looking at a new deal of around 110k or so. From a team perspective this takes my estimated open cap space from $600 to 700k.

On the right nav of the desktop version of Helltown is my updated summary. I'll try and keep it up to date throughout the rest of the offseason.


But they do happen. Year to year from 2010 to 2012 I see about 10 players that saw their wages get slashed in half (well, redo a deal that cut it). Things changed a bit last year as 14 different players had salaries cut in half (about 2% of all league players).

Notables 2012-13: Shalrie Joseph, Corben Bone, Chad Barrett, Blair Gavin, Michael Nanchoff, Conor Casey and Danny Mwanga. Others like Kevin Hartman, Brian Ching, Jamie Smith and Ramiro Corrales were last year victory lap deals.

One cut I didn't notice was Rich Balchan. He went from $69k in 2012 back down to the league minimum of $36k last year.

The player most like Jairo might be Chad Barrett who went from 253k in 2012 to 111k last year.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Adding Indy Eleven to Crew, Dayton Coverage

Expect more Indy Eleven coverage along with the Columbus Crew and Dayton Dutch Lions this year on Helltown.

MLS is has really gotten tangled in their own web of rules, regulations and restrictions. Commissioner Don Garber recently went as far as to state on national television that they (MLS) are making it up as they go. This was infuriating and completely unacceptable to any fan that was there with the league when it took shape back in the mid-nineties and bought in to the spunky, can-do league hellbent on soccer survival in the US.

I'll keep pondering, analyzing and picking apart the Crew but Indy will be getting some coverage in this space. Not only because they are a pro team in my local region but because I like what the NASL is doing.

I watched a number of NASL games last year (Railhawks still my first love) and the level of play is very good, the fans are passionate and they are a breath of fresh air to these increasingly clogged MLS lungs.

The league also trusts ownership and spend wisely and does not put a cap on wages.

Ersal Ozdemir CEO of the Keystone Construction Company is putting this thing together. The official announcement came last April and the team starts play this year in NASL play.

There is a lot to get excited about with this team. They've got a ownership group that is well rooted in the state if Indiana (their logo reflects this) and an experienced team of people running operations.

Indy is thinking big having already taken deposits on 7000+ season tickets (putting them at Columbus Crew levels), so they have some right to shoot for the moon. Hopefully without massive taxpayer help, however.

Indy Eleven is still working on a roster but they do have a good group signed up right now. One of which includes former Crew draft pick and Cleveland, Ohio native Kyle Hyland.

Kristian Nicht (Bundesliga, USL Pro)
Nathan Sprenkel
Kyle Hyland (Columbus Crew)
Erick Norales (Los Catrachos)
Baba Omosegbon
Chris Wey
Walter Ramírez (San Antonio Scorpions)
Brad Ring (San Jose Earthquakes)
Mike Ambersley (all over, USL, NASL, MLS)
Pedro Ferreira-Mendes (on notorious Cal FC team)
Don Smart

Things are moving fast before the club's first opener on April 12th.

Which reminds me... even though Indy has a small budget, they will be competing for players 20-30 on the MLS rosters in the region. Namely the Chicago Fire and the Columbus Crew.

With Dayton affiliating with the Crew this should get real interesting, real fast. Stay tuned.


For an excellent primer on the league head on over HERE. Dcn. Joseph Suaiden just wrote an excellent two part piece on the NASL and where it is within the landscape of US Soccer.

On Independent Coverage...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Short Follow-up to MLS: Is It Worth Watching?

By: Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

Are we as fans supposed to go to games and root for the league instead of our team?

I ask; because, some of the recent moves by the teams league seem to imply that we should be happy to construct intricate mind-numbing justifications for Major League Soccer's personnel moves based on the idea that the moves are good for the league.

Thus the unmistakeable contradiction inherent in single-entity Major League Soccer, which makes business decisions for the league's benefit, while those decisions simultaneously give a handful of teams a distinct advantage over most other teams.

I hate to simply complain; so, here's an idea. The money is flowing. Double the salary cap. Reduce the number of Designated Players each team can sign to two...and flipping stick to that number.

And, here's the result (I base this on watching the league operate and what certain amounts of money have been able to buy over the years). $7 million dollars could easily see each team signing four or five players of Guillermo Barros Schelotto's class. This would still leave in the range of $3-3.5 million for the rest of the roster, and no one player would have to be earning only $40,000 a year. Players around the world, I think, would jump at the chance to come the States to play for about $600,000 a year.

If the NFL can create a structure that makes it so its fans aren't having to, constantly, make up fairy tales as to why it's okay that those other teams in their league are spending ten to thirty times what we are spending, then crap, Major League Soccer should be able to achieve the same level playing field.

I despise the discussions that I am still forced to have with both my MLS loving friends and my only marginally aware of MLS friends. You know the discussions where someone says "Bradley and Defoe sure make Toronto FC a much better side. Wish we had those kind of players." And then you say "Yeah, but it's good for the league and we get to watch them play."

That exchange makes me feel stupid, really, really stupid.

How bout this discussion with a less MLS interested friend.

"I read something online this morning about Major League Soccer. You're into the Crew. How come Toronto, Seattle and NY get to spend so much more money than the Crew?"

And you reply, "Oh, well, each team is allowed three designated players. And it's up to the owners of each team to pay for them."

Your friend comes back with, "I thought the league was single-entity, and like the NFL there is a hard salary cap?"

"Oh, sure, there's a salary cap, but there's also this stuff called allocation money. Of course, no one really knows how the allocation money thing works."

"Wouldn't the league be better for the fans if they just stuck with a hard salary cap and let the owners, managers, and players compete to see who's best?"

".................Ummm, yeah, but you see..............Oh, f### it. This shit makes me feel like an idiot. Lets go get a beer."

Sometimes I feel like all of us Crew, Fire, Timber's, etc. fans are Sgt. Schultz and Major League Soccer is Col. Hogan. It's funny for a while, and then...not so much. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Major League Soccer: Is It Worth Watching?

Painting: Death at Sea
Artist: Georg Luhrig

Blog By: Vidda “JibJab” Grubin

Major League Soccer, our team the Columbus Crew, and sport in general offer all of us something which is often hard to define, and mostly forgotten or misunderstood in modern society. As spectators, our sport (in its purest form) provides us a chance to escape into what should be a competition free from the anxiety and occasionally crushing reality of human existence.

The above statement is the liberally educated, and annoying way of saying “Life sometimes sucks.”

With its rules, regulations, stop lights, yield signs, and “ism’s”: capitalism, socialism, communism, religionism, and fanaticism’s of all shapes, sizes and delusion... modern life can be all sorts of big bouncy balls of misery inducing suckage.

Picture your world as a tiny room filled to knee level with smooshy rubber balls. Each ball is approximately the size of those wonderful red dodge ball balls of your long ago elementary school days. (For those of you squirming and mumbling “When is this jib jabbering bastard going to talk about Major League Soccer? It’s in the damn title!” Please be patient, and keep your “Stand Your Ground” spastically twitching finger off the trigger)

Back to the room full of red rubber balls. The balls represent facets of our, oh so fascinating, human condition. Upon each red elastic potential projectile is stamped concepts such as: ‘Get Ahead’ ‘Pay the Bills’ ‘Be on Time’ ‘Walk-Don’t Run’ ‘Private-No Trespassing’ ‘Pre-emptive Attack’ ‘Drones’ ‘Nosy Spying Assholes’ ‘You’re Fired’ ‘Bankruptcy’ ‘Divorce’ ‘Mom, Dad, My Girlfriend is Pregnant’ and my all-time favorite ‘Dirty Diaper.’

Whenever one of these “life-events” pops magically into our everyday world a red rubber ball starts a-bouncing. The norm for most of us sees at least four or five of the wicked red monsters bouncing crazily around our tiny room at any given time. Sometimes we attempt to catch one or two while artfully dodging the others. Some days we simply plop our overwhelmed asses down in the sea of red balls and let the ricocheting responsibilities wack us over, and over, and over. I don’t advocate this docile tactic with regard to the ‘Dirty Diaper.’ It’s just not a good idea. On the other hand, when faced with ‘Mom, Dad, My Girlfriend is Pregnant’ I highly recommend at least a day of lying prone and unmoving amidst the red rubber. Oh, and keep a pint handy.

Certainly all is not doom, gloom and red rubber missiles? You are correct. There is lots of space in your room, space filled with joy and happiness; but, what’s the point of talking about that cuddly kitten, heart-string tickling nonsense? Let’s talk soccer.

Because of crushing, anxiety inducing, reality, we humans crave escape. More precisely, we yearn to find a place where, whether participating or spectating, we know the playing field is level and our deep-seated unconscious understanding of the random competitive nature of life can play out as un-redballaffected as possible. Soccer contains within it the tantalizing promise of just such an escape.

That “tantalizing” promise is not an empty promise. Put a group of human beings on a 120 yard by 80 yard pristine green field, or upon a rock-strewn dirt playground. Throw out a soccer ball, and let un-redballaffected nature play-out. This is what each of us yearns for deep inside our soul. This is why we watch. This is why we play. When something crosses over from the red rubber ball side into the humans, a patch of dirt, and a soccer ball side we get pissed, and rightfully so.

(As an aside, I do realize that we all get lots more out of sport than the topic I’m addressing, things like exercise (which most of us need more of), camaraderie and the odd ego boost)

We don’t shrug our shoulders and smile when hearing about the latest athletes to test positive for PED’s. Well, some of us might, but that’s a blog entry for the Psych Profile of the Pathetically Justifying Personality Disorder blog. Those PED users are spitting on our escape seeking souls. Worse, they are tearing apart the heart and mind woven tapestry which leads us to endeavor to participate or spectate.

When Lance Armstrong doped in order to win the Tour De France, he stepped over the ancient line which separates our everyday lives and the part of our lives where we hope to experience life untouched by the everyday.

When FIFA broker’s back room deals for where World Cups will be held, we are offended. We instinctually know that FIFA is messing with the sanctity of the hoped for playing-out of un-redballaffected nature.

Other examples from soccer of cheating our soul of what it yearns and seeks escape within: Betting scandals; players who twist the outcome of a game by means such as purposely attempting to be shown a red card; owners bribing officials to make favorable calls for their team; players diving in order to draw fouls not commited; leagues which manipulate the distribution of players to its teams or change the rules under which the league and teams play.

The last item in the list above is an inelegant dig at Major League Soccer and its structure, or, in some instances, lack thereof. It is why this Helltownbeer blog entry exists, and is the sole reason for the preceding, mind numbing, paragraphs. What I’m trying to say is, Major League Soccer has begun to increase the number of big bouncy balls of misery inducing suckage within its tiny room.

Before I continue let me state, without reservation, that I have been both a supporter of the single entity structure of Major League Soccer, and impressed by the deftness with which the people who run the league have handled the ups and downs MLS has encountered over the years. This past perspective does not preclude me from being baffled, and even upset, by some of the recent happenings within our league.

Throughout most of our league’s history the playing field has been relatively consistent and level. There may have been things done to try and prop-up some franchises over the years. (Miami Fusion, Tampa Bay Mutiny) There may have been instances where allocation rules were bent or manipulated to allow certain players to go to certain teams. Some of these happenings have bothered me, as I’m sure they have bothered other MLS fans; but, the end result has generally been an honest, competitive, game on the field of play.

If the field of play is to stay honest and competitive, and MLS is to continue growing as a single entity business/sports league, then the people making the rules must understand they are at a significant moment in the league’s development. This moment has been brought on by the usual

Gobs and gobs of money, in the form of billionaire owners and hundreds of millions of dollars in TV and advertising revenue, has invaded the American soccer scene. The Dark Lord is knocking on the front door. It’s decision time.

Choices recently made by our league point in a disturbing direction. One team spending $100 million dollars, while others spend $3.5 million? MLS fronting the money so that one team can pay a whopping transfer fee for a single player, while other teams sign, perhaps, one moderately priced designated player. When decisions like these are made, especially within the context of single-entity, they tear apart the heart and mind woven tapestry which leads us to endeavor to spectate. If the murky temptress fortune has arrived (don’t kid yourself, she has), a clear headed evaluation of what Major League Soccer hopes to look like thirty years from now needs to be undertaken, and the resulting conclusions carefully considered. Only then should significant decisions be made.

Does our beloved league open the front door, accept the cash while politely denying the Dark Lord admittance, and become a transparent, aboveboard single-entity juggernaut hell bent on creating a level playing field upon which the managers and players can compete for our escapist needs? Or, does our beloved league open the front door, invite the black-robed death merchant in, and stumble sickly down a path of back-room decisions made on the pretense that they are good for business? Or, does our beloved league open the front door, take the cash, toss aside single-entity and see how far the individual owners can ride the flying coffin that is unchecked ego-driven capitalist competition?

I sure hope those in charge of Major League Soccer choose kicking the creepy bastard out after accepting the money, while simultaneously keeping single-entity, shining a light on the process of running the league and sticking to a model which gives each team an unwavering amount of the new found greenbacks. If this is the choice made at this crucial moment in American soccer’s history all of us can stand proudly wearing our scarves, hats, and team jerseys knowing that what we watch in our stadiums is as un-redballaffected as possible.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crew Roster Development Gap

(After taking a look at the Crew / Dayton affiliation in my last post, I am now taking a wider view of what all MLS teams are doing to develop roster players and where the Crew fall in).

The recent announcement between the Columbus Crew and Dayton Lions has had time to soak now and after considering the pros and cons of the affiliation I believe it has to be in intermediate step, not the final goal.

After looking though each Major League Soccer team's college age development programs I've discovered that with the loss of a full reserve team and the lack of a U23 team the Crew have set themselves back from most of the other teams in the league.

As things stand right now, the Crew are one of just four MLS teams with no post high school development team of their own.


This is an issue for the Crew because of the big number of college age players they have brought on (having only an affiliation with a USL Pro team severely cuts opportunity for mins, looked at it in last post).

Ross Friedman, Matt Walker, Ben Sweat, Matt Wiet are players just added that could use a full reserve team season. There are other players, like; Brad Stuver, Justin Meram, Ryan Finley, Ben Speas, Shawn Sloan, Aaron Schenfeld that would benefit as well.

In recent years these players would have been able to gain competitive minutes on the reserve team.


Since MLS announced that teams had to either field a "B" team in USL Pro or affiliate by 2015 we have seen only one side decide to go with the first option (The LA Galaxy), and another 10 go with the 2nd. The rest are still hanging on to the MLS Reserve League for one more year.

If you were to quick score on post high school development opportunities for each MLS team by their U23 (or anything beyond U18) and their reserve preferences on a 1 (worst) to 4 (best) it would look like this:

8 : New York (NPSL Team, MLS Reserve Team)
8 : Chicago Fire (PDL Team, MLS Reserve Team)
8 : Montreal (PDL Team, MLS Reserve Team)
8 : Seattle (PDL Team, MLS Reserve Team)
8 : Los Angeles (New U23 Team, USL Pro B Team)

6 : Chivas USA (U23 SoCal Premier, MLS Reserve Team)

5 : Vancouver (PDL Team, USL Pro Affiliation)
5 : Sporting KC (PDL Team, USL Pro Affiliation)
5 : D.C. (NPSL Team, USL Pro Affiliation)
5 : Portland (PDL Team, USL Pro Affiliation)
5 : San Jose (PDL Team, USL Pro Affiliation)

4 : FC Dallas (No dev post U18, MLS Reserve Team)
4 : Real Salt Lake (No dev post U18, MLS Reserve Team)
4 : Colorado (No dev post U18, MLS Reserve Team)
4 : Toronto FC (U23/College Team, USL Pro Affiliation)

1 : Columbus (No dev post U18, USL Pro Affiliation)
1 : Philadelphia (No dev post U18, USL Pro Affiliation)
1 : Houston (No dev post U18, USL Pro Affiliation)
1 : New England (No dev post U18, USL Pro Affiliation)


There are a lot of benefits to the Dayton / Crew affiliation but it cannot remain the only developmental program for Crew players near starting MLS level. Look at the team at the top of the list up there. Look at all the players those teams will have their hands on, all the experience and even places for players recovering for injury to go.

The Crew have fallen back very quickly when it comes to this. Sending a few players out to Dayton and relying on college programs is not enough.

The less you have of that in relationship to the other teams in the league the further behind you will fall.

The ideal goal for the Crew should be to field both a PDL or NPSL U23 team and a full reserve team in the USL Pro division. Having a full USL Pro team gives a MLS team the ability to effectively increase their roster pool size from 30 to somewhere around 56-60.

For those that state money as a concern, a roster of 26 players in USL Pro would cost around $500-750k a year (median salary of around $25k per). Add in coaching and team travel and you are looking at something close to $1 million a year.

With the new USMNT / MLS TV deal in place and a reported extra $3 million going to each team, a full reserve team should be a priority.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

MLS / USL Affiliation, Critical Look

MLS / USL affiliation is making news with a few more teams joining in, taking the total up to 10 MLS teams and 10 USL.

Last year Major League Soccer corporate instructed teams to either link up with a USL Pro team or field a team of their own in the division by 2015. After a couple stabs at running a reserve league of their own MLS is trying another direction with the program.


Four teams participated in the the first year of the program and one of the relationships (KC and Orlando) saw each team winning major trophies. With this fact in mind and the the recent partnership between the Columbus Crew and the Dayton Dutch Lions I wanted to take a closer look to see what they did right.

KC handled sending players back and forth with Orlando smoothly but then something struck me when I pulled down total minutes of all roster KC players...

The affiliation means that KC lost competitive minutes for players on the team. How? Fielding a reserve team last year the Crew played a total of 14 games which makes for a total of 13860 available competitive minutes on the season.

League Games x Match Length x Positions = Total Mins
14 x 90 x 11 = 13860

With an affiliation MLS teams can send 4* (see update bottom of post) players "down" which means there is only 9360 minutes available for players down the bench.

26 x 90 x 4 = 9360

What that amounts to is nearly a 33% drop in available competitive minutes for players down the bench on MLS rosters. This also means a lot less exposure for these players. It's significant.

11 of the 34 players to be listed in a Sporting KC jersey never saw a single minute with the senior team or with Orlando.

Compare that with a total of 42 players that wore a Crew jersey in competitive matches (a healthy number of trialists) and saw competitive minutes. No Crew player on the senior squad was left without some sort of professional minutes, either in MLS or the Reserve team.

Recap: # of players without competitive mins: Crew 0, KC 11

Recap: Total players playing competitive games: Crew 42, KC 34

Columbus loses the luxury of a critical 4500 extra minutes where players can work themselves back to health, trialists can showcase or middling players can make a mark.

Last July, when MLS announced the partnership with USL, Jeff Di Veronica (Democrat and Chronicle) wrote something that has gone largely overlooked, but will play a much larger part as teams join together:

"Holt said if an MLS team needed a player, it can call one up from its affiliate even if the player is owned by the affiliate. “We’ve given the affiliates a high degree of latitude this year to do what makes the most sense for both sides,” he said."

I've reached out to MLS for clarification on who the USL team would be compensated but they refused to put me in contact with a corporate representative (I asked nicely twice) and pointed me to Alex Caulfield of my local MLS franchise.

Earlier today CHS SOCCER.NET interviewed the president of newly affiliated Charleston Battery (Andrew Bell) and asked a similar question; "Does this mean that the MLS club in an affiliation like this would have first-dibs on a player like Colin Falvey if he moves up?"

"It’s a great question. I think that that’s still a part of the affiliation process that’s in process. We still want to encourage and help as many of our players as possible to make it to the netxt level, Colin included. But the other part of it is, for this to work properly, you have to have some veteran and experienced players on the USL PRO squad, to help the younger players that are coming from Major League Soccer, and our young players, to develop as professionals. So we’re always going to have to keep an eye on the balance there."

What this tells me is that the relationship is probably like most other things MLS does in that there is this bizarre front of complete control. Loads for rules, regulations, restrictions... but when you pull back a few layers you just get a bunch of goo.

What Major League Soccer is doing here is probably the same thing any midsize company in the US does... buy out or control market competition. With USL now under the MLS wing they are at the mercy of their masters.

Reading the interview with Andrew Bell you clearly get the sense that they want to maintain a independent club feel. Unfortunately, he has put himself in the servant role here.

This is very frustrating to me as I believe things are just finally getting good in US soccer but not because soccer has finally "made it" (I've been hearing that since the 80s), no... soccer is riding the sports mad wave of live sports in the US. Week after week for the past handful of years live sports has dominated TV ratings.

MLS / USL / NASL are still last is just about every measurable category on TV and online but they are rising with the tide.

To me, it's looking more and more like USL settled for a servant type minor league role. A short term decision that they may regret as seasons go by and their teams are nothing more then the local AA Cleveland Indians affiliate.


I'll be writing more about this affiliation as it progresses (grows?) but for right now it's looking like Crew will have a number of players, like KC last year, that don't see any competitive pro time. It's a virtual no man's land. You're not off in Dayton, just practicing all year and filling in the gameday 18 when a first team player is hurt.

Which Crew players are looking to be in this no man's land this year? Guys like Brad Stuver, Tyson Wahl, Ethan Finlay, Aaron Schoenfeld, Kevan George, Eric Gehrig, Shawn Sloan.

MLS/USL PRO Partnerships:

D.C. United/Richmond
New England/Rochester
San Jose/Sacramento
Sporting KC/Orlando City-OKC Energy FC
Toronto FC/Wilmington

*Had a good discussion with Chad Hollingsworth, Ryan Kramb, Brandon Gee and William Brown for pointing out that reported rules state that an MLS team can send more than four but have yet to send more than that down at any one time. Program still in infancy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crew Pick Up Two, Astute Selections

The Columbus Crew picked up Kingsley Baiden and Adam Bedell today before the end of this year's MLS draft.

While not much is expected of either player they are sharp selections by the new Crew leadership.

Baiden is being described as a holding midfielder and the team lacks depth there with only Wil Trapp and Kevan George currently filling that role. Tony Tchani and Agustin Viana can also play there but there services will be required elsewhere this year.

Detroit native Bedell has been pegged as a forward. Most likely a target forward, given his 6'6" frame. The Crew also lack depth in that role as well (Aaron Schoenfeld, basically...).

Both of them have opportunity to make the team of course but I would think that Bedell has a better chance to make it past March 1st, if only out of basic need.

These two selections take the team up to 32 players listed. 31 of them (minus injured Matt Wiet) will be reporting to the the Obetz training facility later this week for their physicals and prep to head down to Florida for training camp.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Father Float the Magic Qualities of Childhood

By: Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

Without knowing, each father allows the infinite possibility and imagination of their child to enter his increasingly rigid vision of life. This blessing forces each father to choose between...

Standing aside, unnoticed

Towering over, attempting to mold young mind to certainty of past experience


Crouching beside, while trying to perceive the world through his child’s enchanted sensibilities

To stand aside unnoticed: The perfect choice
To tower above: The selfish choice
To crouch beside: The child’s choice

Voices in the Warehouse

By: Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

The door of the old warehouse was stuck. Kyle stood, holding the handle of the door with his bare right hand. His left hand was still snuggled inside a warm mitten. At some point, while trying to open the door to the warehouse where all the kids in the neighborhood played pick-up soccer, Kyle had taken off the mitten on his right hand. His right hand was so cold he could barely move his fingers.

Why Kyle was at the door to the warehouse, which smelled like moldy gym socks, at 4am was a mystery to Kyle. He nervously scanned the gravel parking lot. Snow, swirling in the harsh December wind, worked in concert with the early morning’s lack of moonlight and stars to make Kyle feel like he was inside a sub-zero cocoon made of stinging ice petals. Kyle couldn’t see much.

While no boogeyman emerged from the frigid night, Kyle did hear muffled groaning and scraping coming from inside the warehouse. “That must be the wind forcing its way through the cracks in the warehouse. Someone should fix those cracks so the cold can’t get in,” murmured Kyle quietly to himself. Despite the odd sounds, Kyle figured it had to be safer inside the building than outside. He thought about trying to open the door one more time. Before he could turn the handle, the door creaked open a crack, as if someone had pushed ever so softly from inside. Kyle, his numb fingers gripping the handle with all their frozen might, took a deep breath.

“Is anyone in there?”

The scraping and groaning ceased. Kyle heard nothing but silence, cold, dark silence. Questioning once more why he was at the warehouse at 4am, Kyle shuffled his worn sneakers, pulled his red winter hat farther over his ears and pushed the door all the way open. Kyle’s nervous imagination had expected a crazy wild man to jump out at him; no such thing happened. Kyle was greeted by complete darkness, darkness that made the lack of light outside seem like a neon motel vacancy sign.

Eyes wide as saucers and lips trembling, Kyle forced his sneakered left foot into the unwelcoming building. The weight of his backpack, packed with cleats, water bottle, and ball, felt like all the Harry Potter books combined. Kyle’s right foot followed his left. The door slammed shut behind him.

A small scream exploded from Kyle’s mouth and echoed through the warehouse. Kyle spun on his heels and lunged at the door. The knuckles of his right hand slammed against the handle, peeling off a thin layer of skin; Kyle felt no pain. He gripped the door handle and turned. The door wouldn’t budge. Despite the icy temperature, Kyle began sweating. He threw his shoulder against the door…nothing.

Laughter floated from the opposite end of the warehouse. Kyle began to cry. His tears froze on his face. With both hands, Kyle banged on the unmovable door. The door felt as if it were made of ten inch thick steel, instead of the thin aluminum he knew it was made of. Scraping noises, like someone dragging soccer cleats on concrete, accompanied the laughter coming from the far end of the building. Kyle spun back to face the overwhelming darkness.

“Dribble, Kyle,” came a whisper from the stale darkness. “Yeah, Kyle, dribble,” came a second whisper.

His mind consumed by fear, Kyle suddenly remembered why he had come to the warehouse. He had come to practice before the other kids arrived for pick-up, but he couldn’t remember how he had gotten from his home to the crappy old warehouse. Tears streaming down his face, Kyle screamed into the black void.

“Shut up! Leave me alone!”

Giggles joined Kyle’s scream, and the whisper, “Dribble, Kyle, dribble fast.”

Kyle threw his backpack to the floor and started to hammer on the door again. His hands began to bleed.

“You can’t leave, Kyle, until you dribble.”

Dropping to his knees, Kyle sobbed, his face against the unmoving door.

“Please, leave me alone.” The laughter continued. “Please, go away; you’re not real,” he pleaded.

“Oh, Kyle, you know we are real. You came here to practice. Now, dribble!” the voice commanded. Many voices began chanting and laughing. “Dribble, Kyle, dribble.”

Barely able to speak, Kyle begged, “Please, stop.”

Kyle’s plea was greeted with louder chants and more laughter. “Dribble, Kyle, dribble fast. You’re no good, Kyle. Why are you here, Kyle? Dribble, Kyle, dribble fast.”

Still on his knees, Kyle turned and unzipped his backpack. He pulled his soccer ball out of the pack. Kyle tried to stand up. His legs were like jelly. He fell back down.

 “You suck, Kyle. You can’t even stand up.”

Kyle pushed up from the floor of the warehouse. The mitten on his left hand slipped off. Kyle’s wobbly legs held him up. Ball in hand, Kyle began walking with halting steps, toward the wall of the warehouse on his right. The switch for the lights was there. Kyle knew if he could get to the lights he could turn them on and he would see no one was in the warehouse with him. His mind was playing tricks on him.

“No lights, Kyle. Dribble, dribble fast.”

Kyle ignored the voices. He felt along the wall and found the light switch. He flipped the switch...nothing. He tried again...nothing.

“We told you, Kyle, no lights. Dribble, Kyle, dribble fast.” Kyle’s tears started again. His legs shook, and snot ran from his nose. “I can’t.”

“I can’t. I can’t,” the voices teased Kyle. “Oh, poor Kyle, you came here to dribble. Now, dribble, Kyle, dribble fast.”

Kyle still held his soccer ball in his hand. He had brought the ball with him to the light switch on the wall. Kyle knew all along that he was going to have to dribble the ball. Leaning over, almost falling down, Kyle placed the ball on the floor. He put a foot on top of the ball, and then he began to dribble.

“Faster, Kyle, dribble faster.” Kyle sped up. He couldn’t see the ball, but he could almost feel it. He was jogging now. All the voices became one.

“Faster, Kyle, faster!”

Kyle sped up again. He got closer to the voices, and then he turned around. He worried he was going to run into a wall.

“That’s not fast enough, Kyle. Go faster. Kyle, go really fast.”

Kyle began sprinting. His shirt and coat became soaked in sweat. Tears streamed down his face; amazingly, he wasn’t running into any walls. Through the thick darkness, Kyle sprinted faster than he ever had before. He felt like a rocket ship ripping through space, a rocket ship with a soccer ball at his feet. Through the fear, darkness, and tears, Kyle knew deep inside he was dribbling like a pro.

 “That’s still not fast enough, Kyle. Go faster!”

Kyle tried to go faster, but he couldn’t find more speed.

“You suck, Kyle! Go faster!”

Kyle’s lower jaw hung down and to the right. His lips were stretched across his teeth as he sucked in the rancid air of the warehouse. His brow was a thousand creases. His lungs burned. Kyle tried to go faster. His legs got tangled together. He tripped over the ball and fell in a heap on the floor.

Deafening laughter filled Kyle’s ears. He tried to untangle his legs; they felt as if they were wrapped in the smothering darkness. The laughter faded, and then was gone. Kyle caught his breath. Eventually, he stopped crying. His lips were split, and his jaw ached.

A small glimmer of light shone to Kyle’s left. There, only inches from his face, was his Spiderman nightlight. Wrapped around Kyle’s Spiderman pajama bottoms was half of his blanket. Kyle gave up trying to untangle his legs. The other half of the blanket was still atop his bed. Pajamas, sheets, blanket and bed were soaked in sweat. Kyle’s face was sticky with tears and snot. He closed his eyes.

From the hallway, Kyle heard the heavy footsteps of his father. The footsteps stopped outside his bedroom door. “Kyle, stop messing around in there, and get up!” commanded his father. “We are going over to the warehouse to work on your dribbling. I’m going to teach you how to speed dribble. You have to be dedicated. I’ve told you that a million times.”

Eyes still closed, Kyle began to cry again.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Roster Compliance Date, Whitecaps, Cosmos

Among the many (many) interesting MLS things that came out last week, the one that might have been missed is that the league's roster compliance deadline remains March 1st.

This is an important date to Crew fans to mark on their calendars because Gregg Berhalter and team will have to have their roster at 30 by then.

Going into the start of preseason training the Crew are already at 30 players. Most MLS teams are carrying a group between 30-35 players from now, through February. I would expect the Columbus Crew to have between that many this year.


I was reminded of the roster deadline when I was reading about a player named Andre Lewis, who was selected 7th in the MLS college draft by the Vancouver Whitecaps.

About a day after the draft reported that Lewis was already under contract with NASL side the NY Cosmos. It became a big US soccer story very quickly.

I'm fairly certain that none at MLS HQ knew anything about the situation with Lewis (or if they did, didn't care) - and almost 100% certain no one in Vancouver did which is why league followers are getting treated to steady stream of message controlling articles.

MLS can try and spin it anyway they want but doesn't change that it's an embarrassing oversight by a league that has more and more as it expands.

What's next? MLS is trying to save face either way. One outcome has the Whitecaps not signing him and the Cosmos will get him. MLS will say he wasn't good enough to play in the league.

Since the NY Cosmos returned last year they have signed a few former MLS players but what most don't know is that they actually signed away one player from the Columbus Crew last year in Carlos Mendes.

Mendes was lined up to play for the Crew in 2013 after a pretty solid year in 2012. Former director Brian Bliss (now with Chicago) wanted Mendes back and were surprised when he left for NY a little over a year ago.

Mendes was one of my highest rated players in 2012 (despite a nagging injury that slowed him). He ended up being one of the cornerstones for the Cosmos this past fall.

Expect to see an increase of issues and problems like this from Major League Soccer as they continue to try to expand. Their single entity structure cannot sustain a very big league in a global market, especially in a country the size (population and money) of the US.

Vancouver / MLS trotted Carl Robinson out to talk to the press about both the Lewis and Camilo situations, interview here. It's the Welshman's first year as a head coach. Guy just started. Welcome to the admin side of MLS, which is about 99% of it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crew Pick Sweat, LB Situation

The theme of today's college MLS "superdraft" was that of, well... nothing really. There were a few that said it was a weak draft, others (like the Columbus Crew) were doing most of their business away from the draft.

After a couple trades with New England (to get Parkhurst) and LA (Jimenez) the Crew wound up with the 14th overall pick and the used it to pick up... Ben Sweat.

Sweat qualifies for the draft because he played college ball for the University of South Florida. Looking down his bio it appears he is a durable defender (most apps in school history with 78) and has a good left foot (MLS teams always need left backs).

Another notable note of Sweat is the fact that he won a lot with the Crew Juniors Super-20 side that won the 2011 National Title with Wil Trapp and recently signed Homegrowns Matt Walker and Ross Friedman.

If you want you can check him out playing against MLS level talent during the third round of the US Open Cup just last May HERE. He holds his own here for Reading United. I'll be giving bonus grades to anybody who watches the video (couple good rips with his left later in the first half into the box, NY fielded a good team that day).


There have been many to play the left back role for the Crew in recent history. Here is a quick list:

1. Nemanja Vukovic
2. Agustin Viana
3. Josh Gardner
4. Josh Williams
5. Shaun Francis
6. Tyson Wahl
7. Bernardo Anor
8. Rich Balchan

That's about the order in which I think are the best.

This year Crew fans will likely see a LB spot up for grabs between Agustin Viana, Waylon Francis and now Ben Sweat. Probably in that order, for now. Unless Waylon is extraordinary, I'd expect him to be a one year and out player while Sweat sticks around for a couple years (especially with the Dayton affiliation).


The Crew roster is up to 30 players now. HC Gregg Berhalter will probably bring a handful more into camp but it's looking like the team is pretty much set for now.

Not entirely sure when the first 2014 MLS team registration date is where they have to trim to 30 but I reckon it's sometime around the end of February. So, about a month in a half to finalize this sucker.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Crew Crest and Puzzle

By: Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

The above is my humble attempt at creating a new crest for The Columbus Crew. Let me know what you think. Keep in mind, there is a reason I write instead of draw. Nuff said.

The puzzle that is the 2014 Columbus Crew is beginning to take shape. Our new owner, Anthony Precourt, and coach, Gregg Berhalter, most certainly deserved the benefit of time and patience from the Crew faithful. Only a few months ago the Hunt family still owned our team and stadium. Not long after Mr. Precourt took control of the Black and Gold there was a long overdue coaching change. Finally, a permanent coach was appointed in the person of Gregg Berhalter.

The whirlwind honeymoon between city, owner and coach is over. The pints of beer shared with a California business man, ballsy enough to snatch up a Midwestern professional soccer team, are nothing but fond memories now. Putting together a jumbled, partially complete, roster, coaching staff and front office, while simultaneously slogging through the equatorial jungle that is Major League Soccer’s bizarre, ever changing rules, requires imagination, creativity and possibly some machetes.

Glimmers of civilization and progress can be seen through the dense allocation and salary cap rules, as well as the thick undergrowth which hides our sporting director’s philosophy of the game.

The trade of Chad Marshall and the acquisition of Michael Parkhurst signal a subtle, yet significant change in philosophy. Parkhurst is a more nimble defender than Marshall, able to link with his midfield in a more dynamic fashion than Marshall and capable of stepping up or wide to defend and attack. Chad Marshall will be missed in Columbus; he is one of the Crew’s best ever. But, if Gregg Berhalter can craft a defensive mindset around quick, smart, agile players who possess the ability to end opponent’s attacks before they become dangerous as well as the ability to flow seamlessly into attack, our Columbus Crew of 2014 should be well on their way to becoming an attractive side.

The re-signing of Dominic Oduro was incredibly important. Oduro’s versatility, his skill as an attacking player and his capacity to unbalance a defense with his speed cannot be over-emphasized.

The signing of Hector Jimenez, from the LA Galaxy, and Daniel Paladini, from the Chicago Fire, seems to strengthen the notion that Gregg Berhalter wants to see our Crew play a free flowing brand of attacking soccer. These two players add numbers to an already crowded midfield picture. The goal might be to see which of the midfield puzzle pieces work best together during pre-season, and then possibly cut ties with those players who don’t fit Berhalter’s philosophy.

Can we be sure the above is our sporting director’s goal in terms of attack? It’s still difficult to know, due mostly to the fact that acquiring one more proven finisher seems to be a priority given goal production last year. Will the Crew sign another goal scorer? What type of player will that goal scorer be? A target player, back to the goal? A deep lying attacker? An outside/in wing type?   

Looking at the squad so far, Gregg Berhalter appears to be assembling a team which will place five attacking minded players on the field, as a group, without much thought as to position. The likes of Frederico Higuain, Justin Meram, Bernardo Anor, Oduro, Jimenez, and Jairo Arrieta, give the impression of a Coach who wants his attack to be diverse, not rigid or reliant on a certain formation with strictly defined roles.

If the Crew does sign a proven goal-getter evidence points to either a deep lying attacker or an outside/in kind of wing. In other words, another player who can fit in with the existing crew, someone who is smart, versatile and able to be dangerous wherever he finds himself in the attacking third.

The Columbus Crew is slowly coming together. Much is new, yet a significant number of pieces to the puzzle are familiar. I haven’t even mentioned youngsters like Chad Barson, Wil Trapp, Waylon Francis, and Ben Speas. There is promise and youth about our Crew.

Héctor Jiménez Joins Crew, Roster at 29

Another player pickup for the Columbus Crew today as Gregg Berhalter does some business with his old boss to pick up Hector Jimenez from the LA Galaxy.

With a $47k a year MLS contract, Jimenez comes to the Crew as one of the most undervalued players in the league.

Last year Jimenez ranked 8th in G+A per 90 minutes played last year among midfielders with a minimum of 900 minutes played.

G+Ap90 : Name
0.91 : Landon Donovan
0.87 : Diego Valeri
0.74 : Diego Fagundez
0.64 : Tim Cahill
0.63 : Javier Morales
0.62 : Joel Lindpere
0.56 : Russell Teibert
0.53 : Hector Jimenez
0.53 : Kelyn Rowe
0.50 : Mauro Rosales
0.49 : Brad Davis
0.49 : Federico Higuain

That's some really good company (better than Higuain) but for some reason Bruce Arena didn't like playing him a full 90. In fact, only one of his 14 starts last year went the distance. Despite making 14 starts and 13 appearances as a sub, Jimenez only played 13.1 (1178) ninety min matches.

Arena clearly used him as a part time player but he took full advantage of it.

Berhalter and team appear to have been doing their homework here. The only question marks might be that that Jimenez was playing with far superior talent with LA than he will be here in Columbus and he was playing with a fairly stable midfield right near his hometown in California.

Jimenez is likely to play a large role with the Crew in 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Parkhurst to Crew, Updated Depth Chart

The Columbus Crew announced today that US international Michael Parkhurst has signed with the franchise.

Bundesliga side FC Augsburg had terminated Parkhurst's contract but the Crew had to give up their 4th overall pick in the upcoming college draft and an undisclosed amount of allocation funds to the New England Revolution because they owned his league rights.

New England made it clear that they didn't want to carry his heavy contract (likely to be around $300k). Parkhurst was making around $150k when he left MLS for Denmark back in 2009.

There are some open questions still. Biggest one for me will be Paladini or in the MF or slide Oduro or Arrieta over there. I happen to think that Gregg Berhalter will be hesitant to put a forward in the middle of the field.

GK: Steven Clark

RB: Chad Barson
CB: Michael Parkhurst
CB: Josh Williams
LB: Agustin Viana

CDM: Wil Trapp
CM: Tony Tchani

RM: Daniel Paladini
CAM: Federico Higuain
LM: Bernardo Anor

F: Dominic Oduro


GK: Matt Lampson, Brad Stuver
CB: Tyson Wahl, Eric Gehrig
L/RB: Waylon Francis
CDM: Kevan George, Shawn Sloan
MID: Ben Speas, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay
F: Jairo Arrieta, Ryan Finley, Aaron Schoenfeld

Ross Friedman, Matt Walker, Daniel Withrow, college pick, Matt Wiet (injured)


Columbus says they are still on the hunt for a goal scorer. Perhaps it's a bit of wishful thinking but it might be in the form of a central or right mid. Seeking an upgrade for both Tchani and Paladini should be high on the list.

It's also possible that Berhalter goes with two up top. If that's the case this team is nowhere near where it needs to be. With two up top, they will likely have to slide Parkhurst over to RB and look for another top CB as well as a target type forward for him to whip crosses into (which is what he did well in Denmark at RB and got him a deal in Germany's top league).

Expect more news from the Crew in the next few days leading up to the draft.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's the Root? And, Why is It Snowing In Here?

What? Huh? No way? That can’t be true, can it?

The deluge of news coming out of Major League Soccer in regards to TV deals...($70 million a year/8 years for just the English language rights!!), player signings galore (Bradley, Defoe, Gilberto (and that’s just Toronto FC!), Brazilian Samuel to the L.A.Galaxy, Gaston Fernandez to Portland Timbers), possible player signings (Xavi, Drogba), and new teams/stadiums (NYCFC, Orlando, DC United...well, maybe there, but we certainly hope so even though the rats living in RFK stadium will have to make new friends), possible new teams/stadiums (Miami, Atlanta, Minnesota) ...It’

But, what the hell, let’s take a stab at what it might mean.

Clearly, it signifies that Major League Soccer has more cash at its disposal; or, at the very least, the lever pullers know the magic television and sponsorship money faucet is about to be cranked wide open.

Most indubitably (Love that word) it screams “I’m a Major League Soccer owner, and I’m-a-gonna show you my thingy!” at least in regard to some of our beloved league’s big boys.

Underneath, though, where is all this craziness getting its sustenance? What’s comprises the nourishing root structure?

Maybe, just maybe, it implies that our fearless leaders couldn’t stand the pressure of having to step carefully through the dung-filled field that is the American Professional Sport’s Landscape. Maybe keeping their ego’s in check for most of eighteen years has driven them to the brink of their usual CEO/Psychopath selves. In other words, as I worried in my previous post, maybe they’re drawing sustenance from their own deep roots. This is a credible theory, especially given the success their patience and diligence has awarded them.

But owners acting like owners, finally, seems only to be a symptom of something more meaningful.

So, what is the essential element piercing, supporting and extending its stringy molecules throughout Major League Soccer and the beautiful game in these United States of America? What element has suddenly turned Major League Soccer and its owners into a bunch of horny frat boys, pockets stuffed with dollar bills, at Boom Boom’s Big Boomers Strip Club?

How about you, me and millions of other American and Canadian fans watching games, surfing random soccer blogs (instead of the usual, Blonde’s In Bob’s Bedroom, pron sites), buying our teams’ scarves and jerseys, and debating the merits of whether the United States will beat Germany this summer (I personally think we will lose that game, but will already have beaten Ghana and Portugal)?

It’s us. It really is us, all of us. We are the essential element.

In my previous post I hinted at the possible gaping ditches in that dung-filled sports landscape. These ditches and piles of steaming excrement are not going away anytime soon; because, those ditches and piles are often self-made.

Even if the boy’s club that is the SUM of MLS owners does everything right, they are going to step directly into a few of those stinky landmines. One or two teams will relocate over the next five or ten years, almost without a doubt. One team may even just fold-up shop; although, I doubt that will happen.

It’s amazing to watch what’s going on right now in our sport. For those of us who have followed along from the time of the NASL, it’s like looking at one of those old-fashioned paperweights, you shake it and little flecks of snow fill a winter wonderland. You want it to go on forever, but you know you have to keep shaking it occasionally. 

Hopefully Major League Soccer keeps picking up that bastard, and hopefully they shake themselves vigorously on a regular basis. If they don't or they can't, maybe, just maybe we will be able to do it for them.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

On Mega-Corporations, Hedge Funds, Risk Management, and Faith in Major League Soccer

By: Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

If you have failed to recover sufficiently from your New Year’s celebration and the blue-ball shattering cold of early this week, you may not have heard, Michael Bradley of U.S. men’s national team fame has decided to return to Major League Soccer. Bradley will be playing for Toronto F.C. Your opinion of Bradley’s move undoubtedly falls somewhere at or between “OMFG! Awesome!” and “What a dumb-ass move, we just lost the World Cup.”

While both of the above opinions are equally extreme and speak to your need to get off the internets and find a significant other, I have no intention of addressing Mr. Bradley’s wanderings from that particular perspective. Rather, I would like you to give me a few moments of your precious soccer-blog reading time as I neatly couch this most recent Major League Soccer signing in terms of our league’s past, present and future.

First off, I have a great deal of faith in Major League Soccer and the people in charge.

Beginning in 1993 in Lamar Hunt’s cheap whiskey smelling, smoke filled, subterranean lair, where a handful of really rich guys played Texas Holdem to see who would own the rights to the Los Angeles franchise, through the lean years of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the cabal known as Huntgarbschutz has navigated the peaks and valleys with amazing dexterity and forethought.

Many new owners, teams, stadiums and players later, Major League Soccer is truly poised to join the big boys of American professional sports. And yet, the Michael Bradley signing has tapped into a deep, long forgotten well of pessimism inside my head. (Ahh, you instinctually clever individuals are saying “Pessimism is never far from the surface with this one.” And you would be correct, but that is of no matter presently)

To get to the seething river of pessimism let’s establish a baseline. Your mileage may vary. 

1. What constitutes the solid base of MLS? A number of factors, obviously, but let’s find two. A) The well managed fiscal structure of the league and B) The growing physical presence, i.e. soccer specific stadiums.

2. What springs from 1? A) Consistency, which allows the league to acquire/develop better players, sponsors, tv contracts and B) Permanence, which gives team supporters/fans a warm feeling in their soccer loving souls.

Now that we have established what the significant foundational factors are for MLS (I realize there’s more to it. Do you want this column to be twenty pages long?), why the pessimism?

Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and other similar signings in the future are so out-of-whack with the general structure of the league that it’s hard not to be a bit worried. Consider a quote from a Wall Street Journal article from September 24, 2010.

“David Beckham and Landon Donovan of the Galaxy and Rafael Marquez, Juan Pablo Angel and the injured Thierry Henry of the Red Bulls make a combined $21.7 million in guaranteed compensation from their clubs. This represents about 30% of the entire league payroll of $71.3 million, according to MLS Players Union figures.”

The above quote throws cold water on my seething pessimism and lends it credence. Most of those signings went well for Major League Soccer. The Beckham cult of personality paid for itself, but only a few players in the world can have the same effect. Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe do not fit into the Beckham category, and therein lies the rub.

The incredible difference between the haves and the have nots, can’t be good for the long term viability of the league, right? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t make it so, unless I can convince you. The MLS players who produce at the same level as the Bradley’s and Beckham’s surely aren’t too happy when they see the fifty-fold discrepancy in pay. And when taken in context of what is possibly the most player-driven-team-oriented-sport on the planet, the feelings of inequality seem inevitable and counterproductive.

Certainly a handful of Major League Soccer players moping like five-year-olds who lost video game privileges because they don’t make the dollars they think they should isn’t going to fly the league into a tailspin; but, what about peering at the issue from an owner’s point of view. Again some background.

The North American Soccer League (NASL) of the 70’s and early 80’s, the one which attracted players like Cruyff, Pele, and Best is the cautionary tale which has kept the current owners of Major League Soccer from reaching too far, too far.

Why did the NASL fail?

Most importantly they didn’t take care of the base, that part I mentioned, you know, the fiscal and the physical. Yet, even without having built from the ground up, they might have survived if not for the hubris of the league’s owners. There were no curbs in place to keep the egos which accompany those who so often succeed in the realm of big business and finance from veering off the proper path.

Those owners drove their own league into the ground because they couldn’t control themselves. I have an inkling that you and I are seeing what just might be the beginnings of the same problem for MLS. Like the NASL owners of thirty years ago the Major League Soccer owners of today are fudging their own risk averse rules and starting to throw money around like its so much toilet paper.

Do you think the NASL owners personally went broke, and thus the league went away? Maybe one or two did, but what really happened was a bunch of rich guys got tired of losing money, and so, they stopped; because, that’s what rich guys do. If enough of the billionaires running MLS lose money long enough, they will get bored; they will find other outlets for their egos. (Pro Tiddlywinks League?)

In short, I hope my faith in the Garbers, Precourts, Leiwekes and Hunts of the world is justifiably placed. I hope they have hedged their big money moves, i.e. Michael Bradley, with more foundation building. You know, downtown soccer specific stadiums in places like Orlando, Miami, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston, Columbus (please, Mr. Precourt, Brewery district is my fave), big money long term broadcast and sponsorship deals, and a significant increase of the salary cap/minimum salary (Say to a cool $5/6 mill/$75 thou) so that the overall quality of the league leaps forward.

If the only thing happening is individual owners spending their own money for a few big name players, that’s not good. That’s really not good. Solely trusting the vanity and perception of the human individual has always, always, led to disaster. There must be balance, and when I say balance, I’m talking balanced books and balanced perspective...Because  

Nothing ruins the beautiful game in the long run like a handful of prima-donnas (owners and players both) trying to convince knowledgeable fans that the game is about personalities and strutting egos. It’s not. It never has been. It never will be.

Crew Add Players, Coaches

The Crew added two academy standouts Ross Friedman and Matt Walker yesterday to the 2014 roster. They have also added Robert Maaskant as an assistant and Pat Onstad as a goalkeepers coach.


Both players are Ohioans. Friedman is from the affluent Columbus suburb of Bexley, Ohio was most recently with Harvard University (Ivy League, same as Dartmouth grad Anthony Precourt) and Walker with Xavier, a Cincinnati kid.

The signings add to the already overflowing Ohio born Crew roster. In fact the Crew now have 9 players from Ohio and another 6 from the region.

15 : From Ohio or Midwest Region
12 : Foreign or somewhere else in US


Maaskant, a Dutchman, has been moving from team to team for most of his playing and coaching career. It appears he crossed paths with HC Gregg Berhalter in his travels. He comes with extensive experience all over the place really. Notably with the Texas Dutch Lions a couple years ago (Crew recently announcing Dayton Dutch Lions as an affiliate).

Onstad is a name that most MLS fans will recognize. He was most recently on Ben Olsen's DC United staff with Josh Wolff in DC (though many would like to forget that year). He'll be in Columbus to handle the Crew goalkeeping group.

Bradley to MLS Franchise TFC, Team Wages

USMNT star player Michael Bradley returning to Major League Soccer, says multiple reports.

The wage figure of $6.5 million would put Bradley at David Beckham's level as the one of the highest in league history. What does this do as far as team wages for TFC?

What this chart shows is how each team finished each year, in regards to guaranteed salary, the last four years. I've indicated where TFC is right now (still a few slots to fill even).

Traditionally, MLS has allowed NY and LA spend around the $10 million dollar range with everyone else in the $3.5 - 4.0 mil range but recent years show Seattle Sounders and even Montreal Impact breaking free from the pack.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Early Crew Goal, Mins Projection

Any player, when given enough time, can score goals. When your looking at how many goals a team might score a good place to start is how many minutes any given player might get.

Team watchers should be able to look up and down the current Columbus Crew roster and come to some pretty solid conclusions as to how many minutes players will be getting. I did this last year with a reasonable amount of success.

Here's how my projections looked on a positional level:

MIDFIELD : 14,6 : -8 (Gaven)
FORWARDS : 30,29 : -1
DEFENDERS : 4,6 : 2

From a goal scoring perspective, Gaven's injury really set the team back but even with him the 2013 Crew were just not equipped to get enough into the back of the net.

What I did last year was just plug in expected per 90 goal outputs based on past performance. This year I've done the same.

So the big question is, do they have enough this year?

8 : Dominic Oduro : 3000
8 : Federico Higuain : 3000
7 : Jairo Arrieta : 2000
6 : Bernardo Anor : 2500
4 : Daniel Paladini : 1500
3 : Josh Williams : 3000
2 : Ryan Finley : 1000
2 : Tony Tchani : 2500
1 : Justin Meram : 500
1 : Ben Speas : 1000
1 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 500

0 : Agustin Viana : 1500
0 : Wil Trapp : 2500
0 : Chad Barson : 2000
0 : Ethan Finlay : 500
0 : Eric Gehrig : 1000
0 : Tyson Wahl : 1200
0 : Kevan George : 500
0 : Matt Lampson : 0
0 : Brad Stuver : 0
0 : Steven Clark : 3000
0 : Waylon Francis : 1500
0 : Daniel Withrow : 0
0 : Shawn Sloan : 0
0 : Matt Wiet : 0

This works out to be around 43 goals as the team is built right now. There are too many players that have to achieve above what I think they are capable of in order for the team to get get over the magic number of 50 goals on the season (playoff level).


• ONE GIVER: Dominic Oduro and Jairo Arrieta are going to be sharing key passes from Higuain. There is only one Federico on the pitch at a time.

• BROKEN RECORD: I'm in pre-season year two of saying Meram can get goals and be dangerous. The will need him this year, but the question remains; will they use him?

• MF: Goals (or threat of goals) are still missing from the midfield.



Gregg Berhalter is going to have to be patient and stand by some tough early season lineups because it's looking like the key to this season isn't players like Oduro, Arrieta or Higuain.. they will get their stats, it's about the other guys. The role players. They are are going to be the key to the 2014 season.

They happen to also be the biggest unknown though.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January Crew Roster, Budget Update

January's updated Crew budget / roster is up over at Massive Report.

Crew Roster + Budget Snapshot, January

Quick highlights:
• Five open roster spots
• Crew probably have between $700k and 1 mil free
• Top needs still another Forward, CB

The main takeaway from this month's analysis is that the team has more money than roster spots to fill. Close to a million dollars is great but it sort of puts the team in the proverbial no-mans land.

Three (or even four) of the five spots left will probably be college draft players with the 1st pick pulling in $70-100k.

There are needs all over this team in terms of quality, experienced players and after the draft it still appears the might only be able to pick up one or two.

The remaining possibility is to bring in a number of quality trialists to camp in a few weeks and force a few players currently not tethered down for 2014 to compete for spots.

Outside of that, it's looking like the next significant move might not be till we are into the 2014 regular season.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013, The Year In Soccer (Sort Of)

2013, The Year In Soccer (Sort Of)

By: Vidda “JibJab” Grubin

So, I promised this guy I know that I would write some pieces about soccer, the Columbus Crew, and well, stuff I write about in the way I write about...stuff. So far, I think I’m off to a good start.

Let’s set soccer aside for a moment. (I might get back to the bitch of a sport later. I can’t promise though) 2013 has been like the following for me. You know that “moment” when you’re with friends, sharing a pint of Guinness plus five or six plates of oven-warm bite-sized appetizers, all of you sitting or standing around thick oak tables of such permanence they seem to have been carved from the trunk of an eight foot in diameter, two hundred foot tall tree growing through the floor of the pub? That “moment” when the friend next to you says “Cathy and I are going to split up.”

You say (because you’re really not surprised at all) “Oh, man, that sucks! You guys are such a great couple.”

And then you spend the next five minutes trying to judge whether your friend wants to unload his underground cave full of mucous like misery on you or enlist you to begin the process of turning (the not present) Cathy into a psychopathic, homicidal, syphilitic whore. You know that moment, I know you do.

Well, for all of 2013, I’ve been the guy breaking-up with Cathy.

I’ve been the guy who’s like a ghost when you’re around him. You pretty much want that guy to turn Cathy into the psychopathic, homicidal, syphilitic whore: because, damn-it, that’s some fun-ass shit. Instead, for all of 2013, I’ve been the guy who you can’t quite figure out in that incredibly important five minutes after you said “Oh, man, that sucks! You guys are such a great couple.”

I don’t really care. Sometimes being the “ghost” is the only role available. So, I guess that’s the point, if there is one. (Which there’s not)

The nice thing about 2013, for me, soccer has been my “ghost.” I’ve wanted to hang out with soccer, but I can’t figure the bitch out. Does she want me to sit and listen to her underground cave full of mucous like misery (match fixing scandals; player cannibalism; Brazilians, rightfully, protesting the billions their country is spending on stadiums while millions are still living in squalor; the continued decision to send her most important moment to countries full of homophobes, close minded jerk-offs, and religious zealots in 2018/2022; referee beheadings, and a Major League Soccer Championship which resembled a UFC battle for an entire half)? Or, does the arbitrary, indiscriminate, erratic bitch want me to join her in painting the rest of the world as a psychopathic, homicidal, syphilitic whore?

I don’t know what the unpredictable “ghost” of soccer wants. Therefore, I have wavered between avoiding her and sneaking-up on her at opportune moments of my own choosing, much like my friends have done with me.

Like a sweet riff by Prince, maybe a bit of Let’s Go Crazy, I enjoyed the United States’ campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. A campaign capped off with another resounding victory in Columbus, Ohio. Eddie Johnson, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and the boys finished the final round of six with confidence.

I mostly hated watching EPL; although, seeing Luis Suarez resort to cannibalism on the pitch brought new meaning to “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Perhaps “You’ll Never Eat Alone,” or “You’ll Never Eat His Liver With Some Vava Beans and a Nice Chianti If You Start With the Arm...Alone.”

I did enjoy watching Major League Soccer games broadcast from Portland and Seattle. Now, I’m a Crew fan, but that doesn’t (necessarily) make me stupid. I wish the Crew were on national broadcasts more often, yet how can you argue with putting MLS sides on TV that pack their stadiums full of boisterous, passionate fans. It’s simply good for the sport, which leads me to my “ghostly” wench’s next bit of 2013 irony. (I realize there’s no irony above)

With all the expansion going on in here (Sheikhy New York City FC, The Orlando Purple Pride, the probable addition of Beckham’s Miami David Beckham United Beckham’s FC and the Atlanta Gorillas) one can easily miss the elephant in the room. TV and Internet broadcast partnerships bringing in large SUMS of money are the next logical step for MLS. Nothing else comes close. Attractive, intimate stadiums in big city downtown environments, filled to capacity with the above mentioned passionate fans are of huge importance to the continued rise of the, bitch, soccer in this country.

Finally, 2013 saw the end of an era here in Columbus. As of right now, not a single player remains from the MLS Cup winning side of 2008. It’s weird, changing coaches was long overdue, but I have a hard time coming up with a professional soccer team anywhere/anytime in the history of the world (bold statement, probably the smallest bit of hyperbole) that only five years after winning their domestic championship sports not a single player from said championship. There’s something so wrong about this particular situation that I want to sit down with the cantankerous wench, pour a few pints and figure out just what the hell is going on.

Maybe in 2014 she’ll fess up, show her true colors, take off the mask, drop the pretense of mystery. Maybe, but deep inside you and I both know that’s not going to happen. You may as well get used to her the way she is; because, that moment I was talking about earlier, the one where your friend tells you a secret that’s not so secret, that’s the bitch, or bastard if you like, soccer. She’ll always be the “ghost” and you can’t do a damn thing about it.

Happy New Year!

Photo: Ghost-the movie

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 HB Player of the Year

Darlington Nagbe wins my MLS player of the year 2013.

Nagbe finished best on my player rating model over the 2013 MLS regular season. He was the persistent quality presence on the Western Conference winning Portland Timbers.

2012 : Chris Wondolowski
2011 : Todd Dunivant

PHOTO: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports