Monday, November 24, 2014


Jermaine Jones joined the New England Revolution towards the end of their eight (8) game losing streak. His entry back into the league was decided by a "blind draw." The reason that is in quotes is because, true or not; Bob Kraft got his man. Couple playoff games later, he's made his money back.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Middle East and Safety at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Disclaimer: I value religious affiliation not at all. I value honesty, faith in the human spirit and a world in which every living thing has an equal role in its creation. (Mushy nonsense finished)

The list below is a partial list of those countries which may qualify for the 2022 World Cup. The number to the right of each country is the number of times that country has appeared in the World Cup Finals.

Nigeria 5

Saudi Arabia 4
Tunisia 4
Algeria 4
Morocco 4
Iran 4

Egypt 2
Turkey 2
North Korea 2

Indonesia 1
Iraq 1
Senegal 1

Suppose six of the above countries qualifies to play in Qatar 2022.
Barring a complete disaster the United States will qualify.

Throw in the slim chance that Israel qualifies. (They have qualified one previous time.)

Given the above scenario, on a scale of 1-Infinity (1 being super safe and Infinity being Armageddon), how safe would you feel attending the 2022 Cup? How safe do you think the teams would feel?

Now, ask yourself, from a safety standpoint, does it even matter if any of those countries qualify? 

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Human Game

“Dad, quit sweating on me,” laughed Manish as his father tried to steal the soccer ball from him.

Bikash smiled at his son’s confidence and sense of humor, and then he shook his long black hair side to side, spraying the much too fast teenage boy with drops of the offending bodily fluid. “If I can’t catch you, I’m going to drown you.”

Manish groaned, put his foot on the ball, then exploded past his thirty-five year old father. Bikash was beaten. He watched with pride as his son weaved his way past Bikash’s best friend, Kumar, and rolled the ball into the goal made from old fence posts. Manish spun around, high fived his teammate, Kumar’s son Sunil, and jogged happily back to his own end of the worn, dirt field.

Bikash and Kumar looked to the west. The sun was dropping behind the mountains of the Annapurna range. The two men became very quiet. Each father knew this would be the last night, for at least a year, that they would see a sunset in their home country of Nepal. The chance to share the late afternoon chasing their sons on such a perfect April day was bitter sweet. In the morning the two friends would board a plane and begin their journey to Qatar.

Bikash and Kumar were construction workers. Both men possessed Annapurna mountain stamina and an almost supernatural ability to work at great heights, on narrow beams, with seemingly no effort or fear.

What the two men did fear was the journey to Qatar. Neither man had ever left Nepal. But the promise, in just a year’s time, of wages equal to five year’s earnings in Nepal was enough for the two lifelong friends to swallow their fear like the Annapurna mountains swallow the sun’s light each night.

“Come on, dad, let’s play another game to three. Maybe you and Sunil’s dad will finally win,” kidded Manish. Sunil pointed at the two thirty-something year old men and grinned. “Never happen.”

Bikash and Kumar looked at each other. They knew they should go inside for supper. They knew they should sit around the dinner table with their children and wives until the mountains to the east spit out the new day’s sun. But there had to be time for one more game.

They were going to build some of the most magnificent soccer stadiums in the world. They had been telling their soccer loving sons stories about all the people, from all over the world, who would be sitting in the stadium’s their fathers would build. This was how they convinced their sons that leaving for an entire year was worthwhile. But right now, there was time for one more game.


The flight, on a plane emblazoned with the logo Emirates had been crowded with many men like Bikash and Kumar. Eighteen to thirty-something-year-olds, all hiding nervous anticipation, chasing a dream of money that would allow them to return home and start a business or build a new home. Some of the men had never been on a plane before. Some could not help but be sick. The construction workers of Nepal are a rough-hewn group. Good-natured laughter followed each man’s failure to be tougher than the rising and falling plane.

Now Bikash was sitting on a cot, his bed for the next year. His new bosses had walked smartly down the middle of the long building which housed the stadium construction workers. Each new man from Nepal was assigned a bed in a room which slept four. Two small dressers were pushed up against the whitewashed walls. Two men would share each dresser, two drawers per person. Bikash eyed his surroundings as a tiny drop of sweat rolled off his forehead and slipped past his right eye. He could make do. For a year, he could make do.

The walk across the compound to the sleeping quarters included a glimpse of the stadium site, dirt and sand had already been shoved this way and that. Piles of equipment, steel beams and concrete block waited patiently for the men from Nepal.

There wasn’t much in Bikash’s new bedroom to keep his attention. His mind began to replay the sights he had seen after the plane had landed. Busses with Budweiser, Castrol and Johnson and Johnson painted in giant letters from nose to stem pulled up to the Emirates plane. The Nepalese men walked directly from the plane onto the busses. The air in Qatar, hot, even in April, surprised the mountain men.

Driving through the streets of Doha, the capital of Qatar, the Nepalese men stared through the windows trying to find something familiar. They were unsuccessful. People dressed in white walked the streets. No mountains anywhere. The trip to the construction worker’s compound was short. Bikash did recognize one sign near the entrance to his new home, a giant yellow M on a tall metal pole. Bikash had seen this on television before. It was the sign of an American restaurant. His stomach had rumbled, and he had elbowed his friend Kumar. Kumar had absently nodded without turning away from the bus window.

Bikash stopped daydreaming about busses and McDonald’s. He set his backpack on the floor and sat down on his bed. Night was near in Qatar. The morning would bring work. Bikash tried not to think, too much, about his family and home.


Despite the long and exhausting trip the previous day, Bikash had found sleep hard to steal from his new surroundings. He, Kumar and their two new roommates tossed and turned. Late in the unfamiliar night, Bikash sat up on his cot. He stared at the white wall, his strong leathery hands resting lightly on his knees. Finally, he stood, quietly exited his room, and walked the long hallway. Bikash counted the doors he passed. There were twenty-two, eleven on his right and eleven on his left.

At the end of the hallway he paused to look out the windows in the double door at the end of the building. Bikash pondered the meaning of the windows. There were none in his room. And there were no windows in the rooms he had looked inside the day before, as his bosses marched the men along the hallway. The meaning escaped him.

He tried to open the door. It was locked. “It would be easy to break the door open,” thought Bikash. “It is so fragile, why lock it?” He was tired. He turned around and began counting bedroom doors once again.

When he reached the other end of the narrow hallway, having counted a total of thirty-two bedroom doors this time, he stared out the window and rattled the door handle, locked. Bikash wondered once more about the locked door. “Silly,” he thought. “Reminds me of the tiny cemetery back home.” A smile found its way to his lips.

When he and Kumar were children, they would sneak out of their houses late at night and slip through the metal gate at the entrance to the cemetery. The gate was always locked, but was simple enough to slip through or jump over. The two friends would race in the moonlight, up and down the narrow pathways between the graves, counting the gravestones.

A hand touched Bikash’s shoulder. He almost screamed as he spun around. Standing inches from him was a man he did not recognize. “This man must have already been here when we arrived yesterday. He has probably been working with the crews digging the foundation of the stadium,” reasoned Bikash. The man stared blankly at Bikash. After a few seconds of silence, the man spoke.

“You’re new.” It was a statement, not a question. Bikash nodded. The blank faced man tilted his head slightly to one side. “Go back to your room and go to sleep. Do not ever wake me again. The moments of rest here are like diamonds you cannot touch, and they are the only treasure you will ever find in this desert.” Before Bikash could respond, the man turned and slipped silently back into the bedroom closest to the doors with the windows.

Bikash stood for a moment longer and then walked as carefully as possible back to his room.


Bikash lifted a concrete block from the pile nearest the deep trench that would become the foundation for the east end side of the stadium. He walked a few steps, bent over, and handed the block to a workmate who was standing in the trench. Bikash immediately walked back to the pile of cement blocks and got another. The heat was intense in the middle of the day. “Funny though,” thought Bikash. “I don’t seem to be sweating.” He handed off the next block.

A loud scream startled Bikash as he reached for the next block. All the workers on the site stopped what they were doing and looked over to the area the scream came from. At the north end of the stadium, near a large billboard showing a man drinking Coca Cola, a bulldozer idled in a shallow trench. A crowd of workers stood along the edge of the trench near the dozer’s large blade. Bikash walked quickly towards the crowd. Kumar joined Bikash, and they reached the crowd together. No one spoke.

On the ground, pinned under the bulldozer’s blade was a man that Bikash and Kumar had flown with the day before. Both of the man’s legs were crushed under the blade. The skin, muscle and tendons of both thighs, below where the blade rested, had been ripped away from the shattered bone. Blood spilled freely from the man’s torn legs and seeped into the dirt at the bottom of the recently begun hole. The man was either unconscious or dead. Bikash turned away as the stadium foreman yelled for the men to get back to work.

Bikash and Kumar huddled together. They had seen men injured, and even killed, on work sites before. It was usually very easy to determine what caused an accident like this at a work site. They mumbled to each other about what they had just seen.

“It looks like one of the trench walls crumbled,” whispered Kumar. Bikash nodded. “The poor man must have been watching from the edge of the trench when the ground crumbled beneath his feet,” he replied. Both men pawed at the sandy ground with their work boots.

“This should not have happened,” said Bikash.

“You men, get back to work! This is not your concern,” came a shout from behind the friends. Bikash and Kumar looked around. Most of the other workers were already back to work. Bikash didn’t like it, but he walked back to his pile of concrete blocks.

For three months, Bikash and his friend toiled under the ever increasing heat of Qatar. Both men had lost at least twenty pounds, and neither man had been overweight when they arrived. The ten and twelve hour days were devouring all the men who worked in the unforgiving desert. Two months earlier, Bikash had complained, but the men who had been there longer told him to keep quiet. They told him he would be lucky to get paid, let alone get a shorter work day or a break during the hottest time of the day.

Only a week later, Bikash found out that his wages were not being sent to his home in Nepal, as they were supposed to be, neither were Kumar’s. They had threatened to leave, but were told they could not. Their passports were being held, and they would have to honor their one-year contract. Promises to send wages, soon, were made by the bosses. To make matters worse, small plastic cards with the word VISA stamped on them were given to the men. The men were told that a portion of their pay was on the cards and was deducted each month for their housing and food. In Nepal, Bikash and Kumar had been told that their housing and food were free.

Bikash missed his family.

Some men, “too many” thought Bikash, got to go home to Nepal or India early. Those men were either shipped home in a box or without an arm or a leg. Bikash was keeping track of all the accidents at the building site. It was a gruesome way to occupy his mind, but there were so many, he felt someone must make a record.

In just three months eight men had died building their stadium. Another eighteen had been seriously injured. Many men collapsed from heat exhaustion. Half the men who died, died from that very cause.

Despite the stress, from fear of wondering if he was next, Kumar occasionally found escape from his plight. Sleep was deep. Dreams were vivid. He cherished the moment each evening when his head found the pillow on his cot. Those nights were precious.

More so, because, every two weeks the men would change shifts and work under the lights at night. Construction was most dangerous at night. Men were tired, shadows fooled the usually sure footed. Sleep was not as deep during the day. It was hot in the tiny, windowless rooms. Dreams rarely came to Bikash when he worked the slender metal beams at night.

The things that the bosses thought amused and entertained the workers: rides into the city in Hyundai cars; television on Sony TV’s; and supposedly free Adidas clothing did little or nothing for men who knew tomorrow might be their last.

Bikash didn’t want his last memory to be of his friend, Kumar, looking down on him while Bikash’s life-blood soaked into the shifting sand. He wanted to go home. He wanted to see his family and chase his son around the makeshift soccer field in the back yard. He wanted to tell his son that the stadium he was building was not so special. If Bikash died, he didn’t want his son thinking that this particular stadium was such a meaningful place, not when it was built upon the blood of so many.


Kumar was dead. Bikash could not speak as he held his lifelong friend’s lifeless hand in his own.

A beam, poorly welded, had come loose. It had knocked Kumar from his perch near the top of the west stands. Kumar’s fifty-foot fall ended with his head striking the concrete wall that would someday be a part of the locker room in which the world’s finest and richest athletes prepared to take the field.

Despite loud orders from the bosses to leave, many of Bikash’s fellow workers lingered around Kumar. Bikash picked up his friend and carried him all the way back to their windowless room. Bikash counted the doors as he walked. Ten. He placed his friend on his cot and thought, while looking down at Kumar’s body clad in Adidas sweat pants and t-shirt, “I hope you find one last dream my friend. Maybe a dream of mountains and dirt soccer fields.” A small bead of sweat slipped from Bikash’s forehead and landed on his friend’s chest. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Live in a 'Robbie Keane is MVP of MLS' World

Robbie Keane topped my MLS rating system this year. He was also number one over and Squawka. Castrol Index and MLS fantasy both had him 3rd.

Keane is a special player that had a special year in Major League Soccer, no doubt. What does it mean that a 34 year old scorer went for 19 goals and 14 assists? I have a few (mostly pretentious) ideas, ultimately though - not his problem. He's still playing on an international level and has mastered the art of unlocking MLS defenses.

WHOSCORED.COM Top 10, Age, Position
Robbie Keane L.A. Galaxy, 34, AM(C),FW
Thierry Henry New York Red Bulls, 37, AM(L),FW
Landon Donovan L.A. Galaxy, 32, AM(CLR),FW
Omar González L.A. Galaxy, 26, D(C)
Chad Marshall Seattle Sounders FC, 30, D(C)
Diego Valeri Portland Timbers, 28, AM(CR)
Lee Nguyen New England Rev., 28, AM(C)
Clint Dempsey Seattle Sounders FC, 31, AM(CLR),FW
Aurélien Collin Sporting Kansas City, 28, D(C)
Matt Hedges FC Dallas, 24, D(C) Top 10
Robbie Keane
Lee Nguyen
Chad Marshall
Clint Dempsey
Thierry Henry
Landon Donovan
Osvaldo Alonso
Diego Valeri
Darlington Nagbe

Bradley Wright-Phillips
Clint Dempsey
Robbie Keane
Bill Hamid
Fanendo Adi
Joao Plata
Will Bruin
Omar González
Deshorn Brown
Chris Wondolowski

Landon Donovan
Diego Valeri
Robbie Keane
Bradley Wright-Phillips
Javier Morales
Pedro Morales
Obafemi Martins
Lee Nguyen
Thierry Henry
Dom Dwyer

Robbie Keane (LA)
Landon Donovan (LA)
Obafemi Martins (SEA)
Lee Nguyen (NE)
Diego Valeri (PDX)
Gyasi Zardes (LA)
Stefan Frei (SEA)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (NY)
Bobby Boswell (DC)
Osvaldo Alonso (SEA)

My past winners...

2013 : Darlington Nagbe

2012 : Chris Wondolowski

2011 : Todd Dunivant

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Look at Sports TV Contracts

Ran across this in last week's Sports Business Journal so I thought I'd share. It's TV deals by year on US networks. It's in dollars and I'm leaving the zeros.

Summary $ Per Year -- League, Event
6,570,000,000 -- NFL
2,600,000,000 -- NBA
1,550,000,000 -- MLB
820,000,000 -- NASCAR
771,428,571 -- NCAA Men's Div I Basketball Tourn
637,500,000 -- Olympics (US Rights)
608,333,333 -- College Football Playoff
355,000,000 -- SEC
280,000,000 -- ACC
250,000,000 -- Pac-12
200,000,000 -- NHL
193,750,000 -- FIFA WORLD CUP
192,307,692 -- Big 12
112,000,000 -- Big Ten Conf
93,333,333 -- US Open (Golf)
90,000,000 -- MLS, USMNT
75,000,000 -- US Open (Tennis)
41,666,667 -- Big East Conf
40,000,000 -- Wimbledon
16,571,429 -- Mountain West Conf
12,000,000 -- WNBA

Here's more detail:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode XIX

Hello. Host Rick Gethin and analyst Larry Johnson back this week LIVE! - at the time! We record early mornings because we are busy, but we work really hard to get enough coffee before the show starts.

• Continued missteps of FIFA, reports
• UEFA / Germany threaten to leave FIFA
• We take a peek at the Premier league table
• Beyond just buying the best players
• More on English tables, Bournemouth's rise
• Will Hughes! Derby County! The Championship!

• Podcasting without a net
• Icing on cake to make playoffs after poor midseason
• Familiar faces might not be back, thoughts ('parafrize?')
• "really good dudes," intangibles!
• Berhalter favoring US players?
• No Pogatetz, Gehrig and Wahl
• Did the way the Crew went out undo the good at end of season?
• Helltown Beer Player of the Year: Tony Tchani

• Don Garber audio about Jurgen Klinsmann
• Players being challenged
• Concerns about league stability because of Garber's reaction
• Should have Ethan Finlay used good season as spring board to another league?
• Owners upset at Klinsmann as well

• Liviu Bird comments on Owners discontent
• Zusi's pre-stress, stress fracture?
• Always that next level, players should be trying to find it
• Rick apologizes for Chelsea
• Congrats to San Antonio for winning the Soccer Bowl

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mix Diskerud, The Gently Disappearing #10

United States National Team friendlies often prove little to nothing in regards to the overall quality of the individual players who step onto the field of play. Players may be coming off domestic league ties only two or three days before. Some will be players who struggle to earn first team minutes with their club side. Today's match against Colombia, which took place at Craven Cottage in England, is no different.

Mix Diskerud did play in Rosenborg's final match of the 2014 season. The match took place on November 9th. Diskerud then stepped into the starting line-up for the U.S. today. He promptly became a ghost.

Wearing the #10 shirt, Diskerud rarely touched the ball. He could often be found deferring to Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman played a nice game, one of the few U.S. players who performed well.

Now, Colombia is a very good team and forced the U.S. struggles in almost every aspect of the game. The United States' early 1-0 lead belied the fact that the red, white and blue was outplayed the entire match. Colombia could have won today's match by three or four goals.

If Mix Diskerud had shown up to play today, he would have made a significant difference in the U.S. level of play. Having a #10 be involved as little as Diskerud is a recipe for failure. No rhythm was established. The mistakes the young players were making, both on and off the ball, were not being corrected or minimized by the #10 recognizing their limitations and then adjusting his own play in order to help.

Mix Diskerud is a quality player, he may even be the kind of player who can help out a team like the Columbus Crew Soccer Club. Rumor has it that there is some interest on the part of the Crew. At twenty-four years old, Diskerud is going in the right direction, but adding another central midfielder to the Crew roster, one who scores very few goals and does not have the mindset to improve his teammates play via his own actions, is not what the Crew need right now.

Perhaps, one friendly didn't do Diskerud credit. Maybe he is just what the Crew need. But maybe, just maybe, he is more suited to another team, a team that plays a different style.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tony Tchani: Crew Player of the Year

I would have picked Tchani even if he didn't top my player rating system. The guy was reborn under Berhalter. Many will probably forget that he took something of a $100k pay cut last year, coming off a Generation Adidas contract. Fewer still will remember that he was a player left for nothing last year under Robert Warzycha, Brian Bliss and the Hunt Sports Group. Tony Tchani. My 2014 Helltown Beer, Crew Player of the Year.

On the right hand column of this site is my player ratings. I've used the same system since 2011. If you want to see them all (along with basic stats, go HERE).

Player Score : Player Name

8.0 : Tony Tchani
8.0 : Steve Clark
7.7 : Federico Higuain
7.4 : Michael Parkhurst

Top 10% of all MLS Players (above)

6.9 : Wil Trapp
6.6 : Ethan Finlay
6.0 : Waylon Francis
5.7 : Justin Meram
5.3 : Bernardo Anor
5.1 : Hector Jimenez
4.5 : Giancarlo González
4.1 : Jairo Arrieta
4.0 : Tyson Wahl
3.5 : Eric Gehrig
3.5 : Josh Williams

Top Half of all MLS Players (above)

2.9 : Aaron Schoenfeld
2.7 : Ben Speas
2.6 : Chad Barson
2.5 : Adam Bedell
2.2 : Dominic Oduro
1.6 : Agustin Viana
1.3 : Daniel Paladini
1.3 : Kevan George
0.9 : Emanuel Pogatetz
0.9 : Romain Gall
0.9 : Álvaro Rey
0.9 : Fifi Baiden

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Major League Soccer Players Walk the Picket Line!

January's MLS headline (Should be December's headline, but in order to become December's headline Major League Soccer players will have to WAKE UP! and smell what's being shoveled).

Read Larry Johnson's post (Here)

Larry's concise breakdown of Major League Soccer's offseason schedule puts paid to what the player's union can expect from management (read--MLS headquarters, not each club). The league wants as many players as possible signed/wrapped-up/under contract before the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) is hammered out.

The cacophony of... trade window/dispersal drafts/trade window/dispersal draft/expansion draft/trade window/waiver draft/trade window/re-entry draft/trade window/re-entry draft 2/trade window/super draft is nothing more than management's (read--MLS headquarters, not each club) poorly disguised pooper-scooper full of doo doo. And the scooper is being "waivered" in front of the players.

Major League Soccer players, the ones currently working for not much money, deserve a shot at a portion of what should be a hefty increase in the salary cap. For the players who got the league off-the-ground, and are now retired, it's too late. If the current crop of MLS players, the average guy on the roster making between $50-$150,000 allow management to sign them before the new CBA is worked out, they will have no one but themselves to blame.

And so... Major League Soccer Players Walk the Picket Line!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

MLS OFFSEASON: Go Ahead and Put Sticks of Dynamite Under Your Roster

The MLS offseason is here! Yes it's true. I know the playoffs are underway but look below (and here) as MLS actually lists the MLS Cup Final as part of the league offseason. Supporters' Shield winners are the true champs after all.

With that, here's the list of offseason MLS events coming up. My comments are highlighted in Blue. I didn't put in anything about the new CBA that should get banged out this winter. It's sort of a wildcard right now. I think both sides are sort of hesitant to approach it, which bodes well for the investors and not the players.

2014-15 MLS Offseason Calendar

November 19, 2014
MLS Dispersal Draft for Chivas USA. Erick Torres will not be part of it, just because. There are some good players to be had here but the whole thing is just icky. Teams are not allowed to just bid on players because MLS feels like they have to control everything in order to control costs like this is professional sports circa 1973. It's not. MLS brass making money by not letting others compete for players. 

December 7, 2014
MLS Cup Final. I was asked the other day if the Columbus Crew season had started. Also, as mentioned above, 

December 8, 2014
Half-day Trade Window. Open 9 am ET - 1 pm ET. Teams may trade during that window or may re-sign their own players. Blackout period starts at 1 pm ET, runs through the MLS Expansion Draft. I think (Managing Editor of Massive Report, Patrick Gulden notes contracts might end 12/31), that MLS contracts end on Dec. 1 each year. What this means is that teams have a week to figure out what to do with out of contract players. For the Crew that means Justin Meram, Eric Gehrig and Bernardo Anor (that I know of). If they aren't picked up by this date, means they are likely moving on.

December 10, 2014
MLS Expansion Draft. Oh boy! Orlando City and NY City FC get to pluck away at every other team's roster. Combine this with the salary cap (player yr over yr salary increases over shooting incremental cap limit) - and you get why this is the worst thing in the world.

December 10, 2014
Trade Window opens at the end of Expansion Draft; closes on December 11, 2014, at 5 pm ET. Okay.

December 10, 2014
MLS Waiver Draft. This is where a lot of MLS minutes wind up. It's the mid-roster guys that make more than that warm body about to come in from college land.

December 12, 2014
MLS Re-entry Draft, Phase One. More experienced MLS talent. I expect more activity within this mechanism because of the success DC United had this year.

December 12, 2014
Trade Window opens at the end of Re-entry Draft Phase One; closes on December 17, 2014, at 11 am ET. Another trade window. Got it. Okay.

December 18, 2014
MLS Re-entry Draft, Phase Two. Just to be sure, we need another phase. Come on people. We have guys ready to go, here. Yeah, maybe more money but still though.

December 18, 2014
Trade Window opens at the end of Re-entry Draft Phase Two. Starting to feel like this list is more for team administrators than fans. 

January 2-5, 2015
MLS Caribbean Combine. Good players in the Caribbean but mostly... Woohoo! More time for CONCACAF leaders to spend on the beaches during winter. Not sure they should be doing a lot of that these days though, Chuck Blazer and all

January 9-13, 2015
MLS Combine. Going to stop being an old grouch here and say that I like the combine, or any showcase event for that matter. I just wish teams could sign players then and there.

January 15, 2015
MLS SuperDraft... and I'm done.

Not sure many will be following the events listed above as they happen over the next few months but I wanted to list it. I do not believe it has to be this complicated for each individual team within the single entity structure - but MLS insists on doing it this way. Were MLS just admit that they act as the parent "club" of 20 individual outlets it'd be a whole lot simpler. Maybe we'll get that next offseason.

One thing is for certain, and this goes for most domestic pro sports in the US, each season is a discrete event. Meaning: There is no such thing as re-building or re-loading or re-whatever. If you ever read something along those lines, throw it out. Each year is a new slate in MLS. It's just a matter of how the brain trust in charge of your favorite team approaches the ever changing competitive rules that particular MLS season.

Not listed above are the various European transfer windows opening up around the start of January.

Did I mention that MLS has a CBA to work out this offseason?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Crew 2014; All Done

Nov 9, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Tony Tchani (6), defender Michael Parkhurst (4) and goalkeeper Steve Clark (1) stand on the field as New England Revolution fans cheer a goal during the second half of New England's 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sport

Sunday, November 2, 2014

1st Leg: Crew vs Revolution--Where Does the Fault "Lie?"

When an earthquake sends you scurrying in no particular direction (seriously, where are you supposed to go during an earthquake?), anxiety levels reach unprecedented heights. After the shaking is over, the sweaty, scared and slightly off-kilter survivors can be seen pointing at jagged cracks in the soil and blacktop. They are looking for a reason. Something is at fault. Sorry, pun built-in.

The immediacy of a professional soccer match, like the one which took place in Crew Stadium Saturday afternoon (Columbus Crew 2-4 losers to the New England Revolution), is a little like an earthquake. Unlike a real-life-threatening earthquake, the hometown fans don't run aimlessly about. They watch closely as the small cracks turn into gaping holes; but, often, they still only see the jagged cracks on the surface.

The first reason voiced by the gathered throng for the devastating performance is "That player sucked!" The second reason is often "The coach messed up!" While some bit of blame can be laid at the feet of the Columbus Crew players and the coach, I'm going to argue that the real fault lies within an aspect of the Crew's new-found success.

The 2014 Black and Gold have worked diligently to be successful. Not just successful, entertaining.

With Gregg Berhalter's Crew, success has sprung, some would say oddly, from playing open, risk-taking soccer all over the field. Outside backs fly up the wings for ninety plus minutes, leaving the central backs responsible for large amounts of space and more than the typical number of counter attacks. The Crew also line-up with what amounts to three forwards and an attacking central mid. Add to the above facts the purposeful playing of the ball on the ground between the goalie, the central backs and holding midfielders, and the Columbus Crew, under Gregg Berhalter, have consciously made the decision to be unlike any other team in Major League Soccer.

The 2014 Columbus Crew are not a counterattack team. They are not a two forward, four midfielders kind of team. The 2014 Crew are a team, and individual players, constantly pressuring and under pressure. They are also damn fun to watch. So, what went wrong Saturday, November 1, 2014?

Simply put, there were way too many passes which came-up short of their mark. There were way too many runs off the ball which asked too much of the player with the ball. There was an urgency to score, which way too often did not match the situation in which the player found himself. These simple things were the "fault." The same "fault" could be seen in the last regular season game.

If the Crew are to have a chance of defeating the New England Revolution in this home and away, aggregate goal series, they must rediscover the foundation of what makes their style successful. The foundation of the way the Columbus Crew play under Greg Berhalter is consistent brilliance in the bedrocks of soccer: completed passes, quality first touch, and players reading each other and the game.

If Greg Berhalter and the Crew players are going to continue playing unlike any other Major League Soccer team (Please don't stop, it's damn fun to watch, and the return in the future is unlimited), they must re-commit themselves to the bedrocks of soccer.

There will be time and more money, in the off-season to add to the roster. Now is not the time to panic. Now is the time for Gregg Berhalter to tell his players they have forgotten the part of the equation that goes along with freedom and creative license...accountability for the repetitious and mind-numbing ordinarily brilliant completed pass and simply perfect first touch.

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode XVIII

Host Rick Gethin along with analyst Larry Johnson sit down for an hour to talk these things soccer (domestic mostly). It's an hour straight. No stopping. No breaks. We like it that way. We also like sparkling water.

00:00 - HEADLINES - La Calaca - Amparo Ochoa
• MLS Playoffs! Look at Knockout round results, Conference Semis
• Jurgen Klinsmann, domestic players falling off
• Besler, Zusi concerning performances post World Cup
• Observations based on experience, Professionalism and Dedication
• Robbie Keane MVP
• Garber stomping foot, setting the tone for league
• MLS Players Union vs MLS

• God-awful mess of game
• "sports team falls flat," empty stadium
• New England prepared
• Lineup questions, backline
• Price to pay for selling Giancarlo Gonzalez
• Pogatetz not playing, Tyson Wahl
• Attendance low... very low

• MLS scheduling, travel
• Simplest format probably best
• Comparing to other US leagues
• Sparse attendance across league in playoffs
• Catering to the junkie

• DeAndre Yedlin comments on Supporters' Shield
• Nature of sport doesn't lend self to 'one-offs'