Sunday, July 31, 2011

Up, Up and (a victory) Away!

what follows are the thoughts i had and then emailed to my fellow Helltown compatriots after the Crew's win over Real on Saturday:

"much respect for warzycha.
running out onto the pitch to grab James at the final whistle to make sure he didn't end up in a fight with espindola. awesome. those two were chirping at each other all game."

I haven't been a solid Warzycha supporter, to be honest. many a game has ended and i've wondered what his game plan was. i've wondered about his decisions. about his substitution choices. i've wondered why the boys didn't look fired up enough. why there seemed to be confusion on the field. why a player was so far out of position. did Warzycha have a handle on his team?

but at the end of the match when he ran out to grab James off, that was a big moment. a coach moment. protection. not protection from injury. from a fight. protecting him as a professional. keeping him out of a potentially embarrassing ruckus that could overshadow the game and his performance in it. and James was in a zone all night. and he had Espindola. had him. and Espindola knew it.

Saturday night I think we finally saw a Crew team that can dominate. and dominate away from home. they played smoothly, yes. Gaven was solid, absolutely. Rogers couldn't stop creating chances. Heinemann was running running running and getting physical. you can't ask for more than that. he was tracking back to defend, too, which was so important (i'm looking at you, Mendoza). Anor came in and looked comfortable.

I was biting my nails at bit when Gehrig was subbed in for Rusmir but he settled in and kept the midfield tight.

also in those emailed thoughts was this:

Ekpo is becoming a force.

aaaaaand how.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Average Team v. Above Average Team in MLS Action Tonight

The intensity of the MLS season has dropped a few notches due to the bloated friendly schedule. A lot of teams are in league match action tonight so hopefully the fire can start burning again.

Too many friendlies especially when you toss in an international tournament going on here in the country. It's a lot to chew on but it'll matter little to fans as months tick by I guess. Stepping back I think it is great for the game and creating interest in this country but bad for MLS.

I'd venture to say that more soccer has been watched this year on North American soil then any year previous. Let's run down the list: Women's WC, Gold Cup, friendlies, World Football Challenge, and Copa America (plenty of folks following that in the US for sure). Not bad for summer time in the US opps... forgot Major League Soccer in my list, duh. Yes, that league is going on right now too.

With all this interesting soccer now going on in the US I truly hope that MLS realizes the needlessness of a playoff system. The playoff thing has cheapened just about everything this summer for MLS teams involved. Why? Besides rewarding and fostering mediocrity, if there were no playoffs, teams would go after some of these friendly matches. They would also REALLY go after the Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and even the Canadian Championship (hopeless TFC pressed for it this year). Priority at the moment: Teams simply need to prioritize the CCL.

Now that our English and European guests are leaving soon (and we finally have that all-star abomination behind us) MLS is now left with the task of hitting the ignite button to get that fire going again.

So, as it stands, a slightly Above Average team in our domestic league beat an Excellent team away last night and my favorite hometown Average Team is taking on a near excellent one tonight.

I hear first place in their conference is on the line. Well, 1st in points anyway. Don't want to get too excited here. How about we just go with improving playoff position for now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


to say that i watched last night's MLS All-Star game against Manchester United is to say that I watched the game up until United scored their 3rd goal. that was for two reasons. the first reason was because I had told my sweet lady, who was itching to hang out and watch a movie, that if United scored again I would stop watching my silly soccer game and give her all my attention. but the real reason is because I had seen the monster attacking the city and i didn't need to stick around to witness it's total and complete destruction.

now, before we go any further let's do some full disclosure.
I am not a Manchester United fan. in fact, I find the Red Devils to be a wholly despicable army of imps led by a wholly despicable dark master. I am a Liverpool fan. it is my job, my duty, my responsibility to despise them. but, if I may say, I am confident I would hate them no matter where my support lie.

But, yes, Man U are a powerful team. and Sir Alex Ferguson definitely knows what he is doing with his club. they are a well-oiled machine. and last night they fielded a team that has played together for seasons on end. played together in the Champions League. won and lost and fought hard together. this team. this army. this machine. they came to town and played our MLS All Stars. the best players plying their trade on American soil. but players as far removed as D.C. to Seattle. thousands of miles. these were players who've maybe only seen each other once or twice before.

the boys did have a strong start and there was much made of their attacking formation, which some found just absolutely audacious. "against United?!... blah blah blah!" but it was never gonna hold up. and sure its a friendly but 4-0 is a hard pill to swallow no matter how big of a piece of bread and peanut butter you bury it in.

so, i've come to a question. who is this benefitting? this All Stars vs Manchester United match. the MLS? the All Stars themselves? United?

and is it worth it ?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Newcastle Slingshot

Newcastle struggled in the first two friendlies here in the US but made pretty sure that their last one would be a good one.

Columbus came out with a mixed line-up. Meaning, half the starting side was good and then, after mass subs, half of the 2nd half side was solid. I think MLS thought it was a good idea especially after the Seattle thrashing by Man Utd. (7-0),

Most of the game was dominated by Newcastle. They owned the tempo. The Crew couldn't get more then a few passes strung together in the first half. I could tell the Magpies meant business. There was not any experimenting or laziness on their side. They were gearing up for a long EPL season. I was gearing up too. So thankful to be able to see Newcastle in the flesh. Good supporters group on hand.

A silly red card by Andy Gruenebaum (um, charging the ball 30 yards out and falling on it?? Only in Columbus) cost the Crew a man going into the second half. Gaven came in and settled the Crew but it was too late.

It was interesting to see Meram playing up top by himself with 10 men. What a waste really. Nothing, of course came of it. Newcastle tucked a few away and are going home 3-0 winners.

I've watched all but one of the Crew games this year (brimming with pride over here). I wish I could say this game was just a fluke or something. The line-ups might of been different but Newcastle really exposed some of the weaknesses that the Crew have had all year.

I wish the Crew (and other MLS teams) took these games head on to win. It would really go a long way with the rest of the world.

Final thought. Eddie Gaven looked completely natural out there in the 2nd half with the Magpies. Completely.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Through These Gates

I lost a couple hard working employees to a local foundry that has recently begun rehiring. I live not far from this foundry. It's a place called Columbus Steel Castings (formerly Buckeye Steel). It has a history that goes back over 100 years.

The above picture is from her front entrance.

I picked up a new black Crew jersey today (hopefully for the Newcastle game, my canary yellow one just didn't feel right for that game). Below is what is written on the inside of the collar.The game of soccer was born behind places like Columbus Steel Castings and in towns like Newcastle Upon Tyne. The "Through these gates..." like sign is not uncommon around union halls and other mfg facilities around town. "America's hardest working team" comes naturally to this part of the country.

I asked the son of a man that works at a place called Griffin Wheel, a ductile iron foundry, once what he knew about the team. He stood there, clearly not knowing much about them and said; "Hardest working team, right?"

Columbus looks at the rustbelt as a cancer that they are trying to cure. It so desperately wants to shed this image. I don't see it that way. It's jobs that have to be done. Jobs that Americans have always performed better then any other nation on the planet. Working environments have gotten better in foundries but they can only ever be so good when you are working inches from 2000 degree molten metal.

Columbus doesn't quite know what it has around here in the Crew. What it could mean to this area. I wish I were smarter and could write (more) better to make the connections.

I guess I'll just say that seeing that in the jersey today put a smile on my face.

I've put up a lot of little bits of art/design work for the Crew this year. I'm organizing a place to put it all up. Since I work with posters all day here is one I made up for the team based on this post. The other two writers that come around Helltown are much better then I at this but the Crew deserve a poster of some sort so Sasquatch make poster.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gaven Great Crew win 1. Timbers 0.

The first note I jotted down in my little notebook around the 8th minute was "Lot of energy from Gaven." The guy was all over the place and showed even more hustle then he usually does. He was rewarded right before the 80 minute with a goal that proved to be the only one needed to put away a toothless Timbers team.

I ran over to MLS website and checked out the "chalkboard". I wanted to see what Eddie Gaven and Jewsbury were doing all night. I felt it was two field commanders going at it. Turns out they were basically playing the same way. A couple of the best midfielders in the country. Fun to watch.

Other notes from the Game:

- Gardner is coming along. He has developed above average crossing ability and a savvy about when to push up and when not too.
- Rogers had a good game. Back to his old self. He is still 'nervy' around goal though. It's a mental thing he needs to work on.
-Crew really goal hungry all night. The Timbers did everything they could to pack it in and in doing so they were zero threat most of the game.
- Crew pushed both right and left defenders up all game then eventually just went to a 3-4-3 at the end. They got a goal out of it but they probably should have had a couple.
-Cunningham had zero contribution after the first 20 minutes. I read somewhere that he hasn't committed a foul this year. That about sums it up for me.
-Jewsbury (and Cooper) are good players on a bad team
- Happy to see Renteria back. He played well, didn't look rusty at all.

Two final notes:

1. Marshall is really, really shining now. The guy is a bulldog out there. Man of the Match for me (edged out Eddie by .00001 %). He and Eddie were fired up this game. They were not going to let this team lose.

2. Crew games end on time because the fans DO NOT tolerate injures. They will BOOO your ass. Crew games are the shortest games I watch. Warms this SCFC fan's heart!

Dispatching the Crew

I wish I could debunk the numbers and data reported in today's Columbus Dispatch. I've got game by game data here in front of me. No matter how you slice it; Crew attendance is down. Way down. Since I am in agreement with the paper about the numbers (and I enjoy the local beat writer) then why am I still a little angry?

"Thanks to roster turnover, a prolonged economic slump and some rotten weather, the Crew's average announced attendance is last in the league - 22 percent lower then last year."
(hope Bleeno likes my title up there).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Developed Process Measure, Run of Play and I need a Trophy Name and Logo

We are in trouble if the remaining manufacturing facilities in the United States measure performance the same way the club front offices of Major League Soccer does.

Here are the top goals scorers during the run of play. In other words, I've taken out penalty kicks.

10: Thierry Henry (NY)
9: Brek Shea (DAL)
8: Chris Wondolowski (SJ)
7: Landon Donovan (LA)
6: Fredy Montero (SEA)
6: Nick LaBrocca (GOATS)
6: Luke Rodgers (NY)
6: Camilo (VAN)
6: Maicon Santos (TOR)
6: Carlos Ruiz (UNION)

I need two trophies. One for the player that scores the most during the run of play and one for the guy that gave him the most assists.

HB Boots? no. Beer Boots? nah. hmmm. Schaefer pops? Yes and bend thy knees before my Schaefer beer ad upload that has 78k views on youtube. Who knew?

Part one of a series of journal posts titled: "How to Create the Best MLS team in History" could possibly end at part one. But if it doesn't maybe I'll name the next one part II: "the search for part I". Regardless. In all seriousness, Part III will simply state the following:

Why talent is negligible in a league that's capped lower than a rich kids weekly allowance and how to spend your DP money on a group of coaches that know the game.

I will defend this thesis in front of the Manatee aquarium part of the Columbus Zoo.

Loss to Galaxy. But Better from Crew.

Late night for the Crew and Crew fans alike. In it, the LA Galaxy proved too much for Columbus.

The LA Gear were organized and confident. Impressively so. Bruce Arena has a championship team here.

Even though it was a loss, I gotta say that Columbus looked the best they have all year in a 4-5-1 (at least I think it was that formation. Anor and Ekpo seemed to drift). Important to note that Mendoza went out early (4th min) and was replaced by Tom Heinemann up front. While it didn't net anything for the Crew, at least they were not tripping over themselves in the mid.

Tommy had his best game with the ball at his feet - which was nice to see. Good touches. As for the team core: Robbie Rogers was active (good). Gaven was solid (as always). Marshall, Miranda and Hesmer were zz tops (Marshall had standout game).

So what happened? How can the Crew play solid football and lose? First off. The Galaxy is a better team. 2nd off: Two players. Anor and Gehrig. Gehrig is all hustle and heart but might not be ready for this level (uh, ouch). Check the 30th and 38th minute. Ugly. Donovan made him look goofy on the first and the whiffed clearance at 38 was beyond embarrassing. Anor had a muggly one at 50. I'm calling out specific moments here because the Crew (including these two guys) played an otherwise solid game.

Donovan did his thing in the first half but disappeared in the 2nd. Beckham was involved the whole game which was nice to see. I fear this will be the last time I see him against the Crew. I appreciated the moment though. Ultimately, LA's Franklin came through with a screamer and a deflection off (who else) Gehrig.

Other Crew play.

Ekpo... I'm going to ask the same question with him as I did with Cunningham earlier this year, what is going on here? I'm curious if the Crew management brought in Tchani to start over Ekpo at this point. I'm not sure where Ekpo belongs. Good player but roams all over the pitch (sort of like Gardner did earlier in the year, hmm going to have to think on this issue more. coaching?). I'm hoping, Justin Meram will get some more chances as the season goes on.

One last note. Julius James was also noticeably a step off. Not terrible, but maybe the weakest link in the back 4.

Predictable loss for Columbus, but memorable for solid football and the perspective angle that it good to see what the team might look like in the future without hired gun, Mendoza.


Quick turnaround for the Crew. Back home Saturday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sporting Event of the Year

Catching the WPS game; Western NY Flash vs. magicJack on Fox Soccer. First club game for the USWNT after the World Cup. Biggest crowd ever for the Women's Professional Soccer League (15k). Rochester, NY. Amazing. Marta and Alex Morgan teaming up for WNY. My favorite women's player on the other (Ella Masar netting one!).

Abby Wambach at the game for magicJack. A hero's welcome back to her hometown. What a great moment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crew v. Galaxy Master Component

-NASL Google Timeline, lots of good documents to be found under this lesser known google feature

-Excellent, excellent NASL resource for old photos, documents, game guides, etc...

-Mountains of fan journals on old NASL teams. Here is a very good one, Tampa Bay Rowdies. "Soccer is a kick in the Grass."

-Pretty comprehensive book list on the NASL here.

-Note for Smitty: Unlucky: A Season of Struggle in Minor League Professional Soccer. An insightful account of the struggles of players of the 3rd division Northern Virginia Royals of the USL (1998)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hans Backe, Respected. MLS All-Star Team

Major League Soccer should feel pretty lucky to have Hans Backe. I respect him a great deal. A big thanks to Notts County for being disorganized whilst he was there a couple years ago. Had it not been for you bouncing checks we'd never have Mr. Backe here in the USofA.

Mr. Backe has a great deal of freedom in choosing his squad that will take on Manchester United here in about a week. I think he did a pretty good job considering that teams are entering into a busy part of the year. Championship League games and EPL friendlies on top of league games. Tricky stuff. Since the MLS is a centrally controlled animal I'm going to say his list is good (even if Swedes have a hard time differentiating a defensive mid from a straight defender. ahhh ziiiinnnng).

The first group of players here are Mr. Backe's. On the left is my rank at that particular position.

04: Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)
06: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo)

08: Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy)
14: Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo)
18: Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)
21: Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake)
29: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
39: Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
35: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo)
45: Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes)

05: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
08: Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)
12: Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers)
14: Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo)
15: David Beckham (LA Galaxy)
31: Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution)

01: Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
07: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
09: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
53: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls)
43: Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City)
87: Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids)

Inactive All-Stars (Note that another six inactive All-Stars will be chosen via player voting): Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Rafa Márquez (New York Red Bulls), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Okay. Now here is my list. Note the ++. That means they are not available. I went with a traditional 4-4-2.

Helltown Beer All-Star Starting XI
++Note++ Eliminating Sounders, FC Dallas, Rapids, Galaxy players can't play due to Champions League games.

++: Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders)
++: Kevin Hartman (FC Dallas)
03: Nick Rimando

++: Todd Dunivant (LA Galaxy)
02: Sheanon Williams (Union)
++: George John (FC Dallas)
++: Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas)
05: Roy Miller (New York)
06: Carlos Valdes (Union)
07: Danny Califf (Union)

++: Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
02: Joel Lindpere (New York)
03: Kyle Beckerman (RSL)
++: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle)
++: Marvin Chavez (FC Dallas)
++: Juninho (LA Galaxy)
++: Daniel Hernandez (FC Dallas)
08: Nick LaBrocca (Goats)
09: Ned Grabavoy (RSL)

01: Sebastien Le Toux (Union)
02: Thierry Henry (New York)

One added note is that Eddie Gaven, Chad Marshall and William Hesmer missed the cut by one spot. ONE. Hoping at least one of them gets the call to replace the players who can't make it to the game. I know they have the Newcastle game the day before (MLS. Not on TV and not even listed in the homepage top page crawl) but they have earned it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

XIII. Only Interesting To Moi

1. Since I spent the evening with Daryl Stuermer (Genesis/Phil Collins fame, anybody?) at Picnic with the Pops and not at or watching the game I was thinking of mixing up some Crew highlights to one of those early progrock Genesis songs.

1a. I'm not going to do that. But I will link to the really creepy 'Spitting Image' Land of Confusion video.

2. Caught the 2nd half of the (real) Real Madrid / Galaxy friendly.
Ronaldo rolls in and generates the best goal on US soil this year. He beat 4 Galaxy defenders and sent LA 'keeper Perk face planting into his own near post.

3. Man Utd sold Ronald for a sum (81 million pounds) greater then all MLS salaries combined. It's interesting to ponder the fact that United could have covered the yearly salaries of all 528 MLS players this year with that one transfer.

2a. Liked following the comments on the MLS site while the Seattle / Colorado game was going on. I'm noticing more and more folks from Germany and England dropping by. They are enjoying MLS. It's refreshing.

2b. Don Garber believes that future riches are south of the border but they are probably in getting players from lower English and European leagues (Luke Rodgers type, not Beckham type). English and German fans will follow them.

2c. Schedule more games during the 1pm - 6pm EST time slot on the weekends. It'll allow Europe to tune in. Garber came over from the NFL, he should know this.

2e. I Reckon I need to organize my thoughts and post out 5 things to improve he MLS.

4. CREW stuff:Has Hesmer been making saves like this his whole career? No, at least not this consistently. He has always been an above average 'keeper. The saves he's made over the past few weeks are world class. I'm in the camp that thinks this is more then form. It is player improvement. He's at the stage in his career were he should be coming into his own. He is doing just that. Columbus will have to fight to hold on to him I think. What I saw in highlights last night was quality.

4a. I read that Iro and Griffit were hangin' in the Nordecke last night. What a great thing. Columbus loses a tad more players then some other clubs because the weather is rough, smaller city, no beach nearby or whatever. It's a hard fact for the team to come to grips with. Lots of young players on the team this year from the mid-west though. I think that goes a long way. Iro showing love to Crew fans was just awesome.

4b. When I heard Iro was leaving the first thing I thought was "don't trade away players that like to live in your city" because the skill difference betwixt most players at this level is minimal. Iro often spoke about liking it here. You can't teach that to a player. It can be infectious, that attitude. I think Barros Schelotto brought that to the team. It creates a powerful symboyotic relationship with fans. It's one of the important ingredients it takes to win championships.

If you're ever in Columbus around the end of the season stop by a Crew game on a chilly fall Ohio evening. Magic to be found there because of players like Iro.

Best of luck to him. From where I stand he has a lifetime pass to return to Columbus for the class he showed last night.

5. Next level Genesis. Live at Shepperton, 1973. Life again destroys liiiifffe. Didn't realize Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins got that deep into progressive rock. Watcher of the Skies is epic.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Newcastle United Supporters in Midseason Form!

"this is what 50 days without a football match does to you toon army."

They invaded the pitch last night during a friendly with Darlington. Nice work fellas. If I've heard about this, then no doubt the good folks down on Hudson Street have as well.

Wish I could have caught that game. Thankfully for fans here in the US there are EPL v. MLS match ups this summer are on national TV. However, (sadly yet predictably) the Crew v. Newcastle is not one the games televised. Actually. It's the one not being televised nationally.

Why? Perhaps it was the last time the Crew played a PL team in 2008. You know, when the Hudson Street Hooligans got to meet their real life Green Street heroes from West Ham? Don't remember that one? Let's jog memories:

Fans of West Ham, Columbus Crew Behave Just Like You Think They Would

Official condemns violence after West Ham, Crew fans trade blows in stands

Of course word got out about what happened a couple years ago (ICF still wants blood) and Newcastle supporters, I'm sure, have taken note. I guess the next logical question is; 'are there any Magpies in toon going to the game?'

All of this scrappin' feels like little brother / big brother stuff to me. It's no coincidence that most of the modern Crew supporters' groups were formed shortly after Green Street Hooligans film came out. That shoe comfortably fit and it now is what it is.

**Helltown wholly recommends staying away from English supporter groups that go by "Firm".**

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Secondary Assists and No PKs. Crew v. Quakes Preview

Only two teams left that haven't had a goal off PK this year in MLS and San Jose is one of them! Very exciting, I know. I don't like it when I find a stat like this. Normal distribution of data starts coming into play along with Lady Luck and Charlie Chance(?). The likelihood of a team going through the entire season without a PK is, well, very low. Let's just hope it doesn't happen this weekend against the Crew.

On to that other thing.

I'm not a fan of awarding 'secondary assists' in soccer, but (surprisingly) the MLS is still doing it. Though, not as much as they did pre-2003. With this revelation I see that half the teams in the league have equal to or more assists then goals. Conversely, half with less. Obviously the Crew are in the latter category.

I'm going to look at the glass half full here and say that one thing that secondary assists can tell us is quality of play before the goal. Why do I say that? Lets look at assists per Game (LINK to all). Top 4.

1.8:New York
1.4:FC Dallas
1.2:Chivas USA
1.2:San Jose

That gives you a good idea of real offensive quality. No need to drill way down with soccer stats like assists. A team is either Good, Average, or Bad. Note - Crew opponent San Jose in top 4 (Good). Columbus is 4th from last (BAD. 0.72 assists p/Game). Combine that with the Crew scoring less then a Goal per game (BAD) during the run of play and you get some frustrated fans.

So what is this leading us too? My advice for the Crew of course.

Bottle up the remarkably efficient Quake goal scoring bunch of Wondo, Lenhart, and Dawkins and leave the SJ mid-field to their own devices. No need to load the MF with 5 like last game. SJ feeds off crossing heading chances and placement in the box, i.e. headers by Lenhart and savvy box play by Wondo (the guy is always in the right place at the right time).

San Jose will probably get one. Just make sure you keep your MF pushed up front so you can get two. Which should be on order. The Earthquakes have let at least 2 go by in 8 (of 18) games this year.

Or Three... but not likely.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Event Bigger. Brian McBride

Every once in a while you have a game overshadowed by something bigger. This weekend, while I'm stuck at something called Pops in the Park for work, a one; Brian McBride will be honored at Crew Stadium. He will be the first person inducted into the Columbus Crew Circle of Honor.

McBride was the first pick in the first ever Major League Soccer draft in 1996. I hope future generations remember that. Love it or hate it; There couldn't be a more fitting player to represent United States Soccer.

When I heard that the Crew were going to be honoring McBride this year I searched around trying to quantify what it might mean, the significance of it. Its place in MLS and Crew history.

I hear and read about 19th century football history in England quite a bit and I can't help but think of the similarities to where the MLS is now. I think of my Grandmother first. She was born in Kettering, England the 1920's when English soccer was only a few decades old. We here in the United States are crossing that threshold now, only it is a century later. I'll be curious as to what kids born in the 21st century have to say about the league when they are my nana's age. Just as I wonder what my grandmother and her peers thought of English soccer in the 1930's.

I'll be following the game on my phone Saturday (arg). I know who the crew is playing, I know the players, I know the stats, the minutes, the matchups. The holes, the gaps and the likely outcome... and will even make up a game program.

But as it stands in history --- this game matters little.

It will be Brian McBride's night. His name and accomplishments will be etched into Columbus Crew history for generations to come.

My video marking the event. You'll need to carve out 7 minutes of your life to watch it, which is a bit long but why not. Turn it up and enjoy, if nothing else, the music (and not my editing hack job). Watch it on youtube here.



About the video:
It's pulled from 4-5 (or 10-20) other vids out there. Lots of good McBride highlights on the internets. Not much on the Crew in 1996 though. I stuck with Hans Zimmer instead of going with music popular in 1996. For McBride it was Zimmer or friggin' Basil Poledouris "Riders of Doom" (Conan). Both composers fitting McBride, uh, fitfully.

Note to the HSH, Union, Yellow Nation Army and other Crew Supporters groups in the Nordecke: McBride punched his time card every morning for 8 years here in Columbus. Years before y'all got organized. I love the Nordecke. I was upset when he came back from England and played for Chicago too. But the way you all acted last year when he came back into town is unforgivable. It's one of the reasons the Crew doesn't have any nationally televised games this year (Crew only team snubbed). We can't change last year but we can make sure he gets respect this weekend. Show it to him.

If you don't then I'll come smack that pacifier out of your mouth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BLEENO says...

first of all, great job to everybody. it's been really good and everything so far. just keep it up and that's all we can ask. so, really, just don't let anybody down, everybody.

second of all, hi, smitty. you're a nice person. not the nicest, of course. but certainly up there on the heels of the best of them, who edge you out in a few keys places. namely, face and body. and also, teeth not resembling a jail cell.

thirdly, some EPL news.
Stoke have gone in for Carlton Cole which, if the medical and personal terms are met (ie: will you agree to be on the receiving end of a continuous barrage of long balls and long throw-ins?) would likely be good for both the club and the player. Cole had a lackluster performance last season, but then so did most of your West Ham players. (but not you, Scotty P.) so, it'll be interesting to see how he does with the Potters. word has it that Pulis loves him. so, there's that. he should see a lot of playing time if he can stay fit.

on the Liverpool front i have some very exciting news. the boys are in China, Malaysia and other -sias for a couple weeks. and FSC will air their first pre-season friendly at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning EST. they play local outfit Guangdong Sunray Cave.
so, get up, wipe the sleep from your eyes, aim to head into work late and catch new boyz Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson in action with the tried and true Reds.

...and, i guess, if you want to, some love to Guangdong.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Love Womens

DCU had their best win this year (on the road vs. top of the table NYRB) with DeRo proving his worth.

But that pales in comparison to the USWNT at the WWC. That might have been one of the best live games I've seen, with the ups and downs, the quality of the Marta and Wambach goals, Hope Solo's saves and the PKs by the US. I've never seen a better set of penalty kicks taken, hands down. Every single one in the side netting, low, high. Astonishing.

Looking forward to the game against France on Wednesday. I'm a sucker for this patriotic stuff. So bad I'm willing to potentially tarnish my credibility with this animation:

Some Monday Morning Power Rankings

12 games over the weekend and only 4 Draws. That's a wild swing in the other direction for the league. Definitely an out of control point considering that near 40% of MLS games end in ties this year (most other leagues, including the MLS of the past fall in the 30% draw range).

The NY Times took a look at all the ties this year, good for a Monday morn read. Mostly intelligent comments as well from MLS fans.

Again, and I'll beat this like a drum; The league has just expanded in the west (POR, VAN) so more games past 10 PM EST. Every week there is an example of a better eastern team scratching out a draw at the strike of midnight. Last week it was PHI and SJ. 0-0. I also noticed Chicago's legs go out on them in the 2nd half, late, against LA. 2-1.

Exhibit A of a Tired Team (CHI). David Beckham 'bananas' in a corner kick for a goal. Has to be seen to be believed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

MLS best XI whooped Man Utd. yesterday

I hear that having the best players doesn't mean you have a good team. It is fun playing around with the line-ups and trying to find the best formation in FIFA 11. Also satisfying to put my player ranking model to the test in this way.

I put the team together just pulling from the top 50 from my player rating list. The line up in the image is the one that worked out best for me.

Biggest digital them surprise after playing a few games? How strong the defensive 4 are. Nice work Captain Marshall. The other surprise? Wondo in this game. He's good.UPDATE: MLS FIRST XI announced. Players with links on the right made that team. My understanding is that the final full team list will be released next Monday.

Players selected to First XI not in my top 50, Rank on left:

54:Chris Wondolowski
119:Tim Ream
196: Rafa Marquez

Friday, July 8, 2011

Let myself introduce...

Hey Blogtown Beer Hellians, this is Smitty and here I am, throwing up (all over) my first post. Looking forward to offering some commentary about the wide world of soccer, covering mostly DC United (Davies, pick up your game! DeRo I like you) and Americans involved in the EPL (Stuart Holden is tops). I will only pale in comparison to BillySasquatch and Bleeno in their mathematical and humorous skills (respectively), but I played a lot of soccer until I hit 30. I still think about it a lot with many happy thoughts.

In light of completing the trifecta, I am proposing an annual HB Summit, to be held at a location relatively equidistant to each of us, also known as HQ. See the photo below.

Drop Dead Fredlines

i've been noticing a whole lot of fabulous (ridiculous) headlines scattered through soccer/football sights.

Concerning Wes Brown's move from Man U to Sunderland we get:
Black Cats bag Brown


FC Dallas' on form Brek Shea gets:

easy now.

and an article about NY Red Bulls hoping for more recruits after acquiring Dax McCarty has the headline:
Dax not all, folks


But I do appreciate the effort. certainly. hey, even I could do it:

Doni Knots Deal

Adam Well Red

BullS hit

Please sir, may I have some Moyes.

Poulson Position

UnCredible Hulk

Second to Nani

easy peezy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wicked Start Time, Wicked Crew Win

I do believe that Crew fans witnessed an MLS game that employed direct attack tactics from a weaker side. As a nearly two year old Potters fan I am begrudgingly familiar with the direct attack or long ball (or at least, a fan of a team that are accused of it). It's a tactic almost as old as the game itself. Throughout the PL season last year I found myself reading up on it.

On to the game (sort of):

After Whitecaps skipper Tom Soehn retired as a player he became an assistant coach under Bob Bradley with the Chicago Fire. Say what you will about Mr. Bradley but he is one of the top football minds North America has. With that said (and everything that comes with it), we have to assume that Mr. Soehn knowingly employed long ball tactics last night against a Crew team the returned to a 4-5-1 formation. Those kickball tactics almost worked against the Crew last night. Had it not been for Robert Warzchya, nearly frantically, changing his own tactics (that found Heinemann and Gaven up front for a spell) the result could have easily been different.

What viewers saw last night was an admitted inferior side opting to bypass and fire over a Crew team that was hellbent on controlling the mid-field. For the record; Firing Over is a term used in manufacturing. It's when you leave work early on Friday and head to the closest waterin' hole. So... there's that.

I was impressed with how the Crew responded under that type of pressure. Over the past couple years it has been proven that EST teams are at a disadvantage due to late start times. This one could have easily ended in a draw as precedent dictates. It took a lot of blocks and brilliant saves from Hesmer (including a blocked PK), but they did what they had to do against a team applying the kind of tactics Vancouver had decided upon.

It's hard to compile player ratings kind of thing during a game like this. Hesmer, of course, saved the day and the back line did what they had to. But in all honesty I'm going to have to go with the Crew Coach Mr. Robert Warzycha. He recognized what the Whitecaps were doing and tried to adapt. Maybe it took all subs available to him and at least three tactical formation changes but it worked in the end.

Speaking of the end.

I'm sure most have heard; A Mr. Cunningham finally got that magical goal that puts him one step closer to holding the lone spot atop the all time MLS record books. In doing so he surpassed the one and only Mr. McBride for the Crew franchise record of 63. Brian has 62.

Who are the Crew's other greatest goal scorers? Here are the top 5 in Crew history:

63:Jeff Cunningham
62:Brian McBride
44:Stern John
42:Edson Buddle
33:Guillermo Barros Schelotto

That's a damn impressive list. Wait, there's more. What about assists?

61:Robert Warzycha
45:Brian McBride
43:Jeff Cunningham
41:Guillermo Barros Schelotto
37:Brian Maisonneuve

Well. Warzycha. Doesn't look like anyone will be touching that one for a while.

I'll get to breaking down the greatest Crew players here soon but one thing I wanted to mention was that Chad Marshall will be making massive news next year for the Crew. He will be surpassing Mike Clark as the player with the most minutes ever in a Crew uniform.

Considering that the Crew are on a run that rivals DC United's in the league's early years, this may be an even higher honor then a team goals record. Be on the lookout. Barring injury or trade, it'll happen around this time next year.

Cunningham goal can be seen HERE.

For more information on the origins of the Long Ball and its place in English history look up Charles Reep and Charles Hughes. Or just read the English papers after Stoke wins against a 'superior' PL team. Lookin' at you Liverpool!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Black & Gold Above the Fold

Now we are talkin'. Pic is the sports page of today's Columbus Dispatch. Great way to start the day. Points gleamed per game. Comparisons to this point compared to years past. GF and GA p/GM. More then player profiles. A Sunday bulldog on Wednesday. Never, never underestimate the power of pulp and print. Grinning over here. Grinning.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Crew Candle Part 1: MLS Eras and Most Successful Franchise in History

The players participating in this year’s U17 World Cup were born after the formation of Major League Soccer on December 17th, 1993.

In 1996 Major League Soccer held its first game. This is the sixteenth year of competition.

There have only been a brave few that have tried to make sense of MLS history. Some say that it is the first step down towards insanity so before I jumped in I looked for others that made attempts at classifying it. The best I’ve found is Dave Clark’s piece titled The Eras of MLS (Sounder at Heart, August 13, 2009). In it he divided up MLS history into 3 parts, aptly labeling them 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. A good read.

After spending some time with the MLS history I found that it might be served better with the inclusion of two additional eras. With Respect, they happen during Mr. Clark’s 2.0 Stable State years.

You can click on each era below to see each team and its average rank in the table for those years. I've combined the conferences and for the early years I excluded “shoot out” wins and losses and turned them in to Draws so as to compare seasons as apples to apples and not cheese to chalk.

1996-1999: League Inception, (North) Americanization

2000, 2001: Dark Age, Failed Table Changes and Expansion

2002, 2003: Middle Age, Contraction and Stability

2004-2006: Donavan Dempsey, Birth of United States Soccer

2007-Present: Modern Era, Designated Player

Between Dave Clark’s post and Wikipedia you can get a good understanding of league history. If you would like my thoughts and argument on MLS Eras you can click HERE and read descriptions under each table. Just click the "next" button on the upper right to travel through history.

If you click on the Modern Era link, you'll notice that the Crew are the winningest franchise since 2007 and have the most hardware. In that time the team has not only racked up the most points but also made the playoffs 3 times (2008, 2009, 2010), won a MLS Cup (2008) and the Supporters' Shield (2008, 2009) trophy twice.

One of the things I looked at in cracking up MLS history into parts was average league attendance per game. Maybe it's a good topic for a post another day. I've only got one day off work here! One note, 2011 attendance is projected with 50% of the season in the books already.

“Crew Candle” refers to my frustration with Crew fans as of late. They’ve turned their back on the team this year to the tune of -28% less fans attending games this year over last. I’m burning a candle for this year’s team in hopes that other fans might see it and realize that they are watching a good team on a historic run.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Despite loss, Crew Still 2nd in East. FC Dallas on Top for Now

Lighting a little candle and going with the optimistic approach after a Crew loss. Why the candle? Because I know when I go over to the CrewXtra blog space at the Columbus Dispatch later today I'll read a chorus of crap from Buckeye opps Blue Jacket opps - Crew fans (there we go). This 2011 iteration of the Crew is a good team compared to years past and I'll have the stats later this week to prove it. Yep, traveling all the way back to 1996 this weekend with my little candle shedding light in the cynical darkness that Crew fans wallow in recently. It wasn't always this way (dot dot dot).

Moving along.

FC Dallas played as well as any team I've seen this year. Hoping Bleeno has a few words to say on the team from Frisco. They are a legitimate contender for both the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Keep FC Dallas Out of the Box

After winning a couple games against mid-table / mid-talent teams tonight's road game against FC Dallas is going to tell us who the Crew are and what they are made of.

FC Dallas is a formatible team at this point in the season. They are 2nd in the league in Points (31) and Points per Game (1.82). They are also the 2nd highest scoring team in the league (1.42 GF p/Game). All that combines to equal a solid 2nd in my own Power Ranking.

Their strength comes from an organized, building MF that eventually finds a number of players in the 18 yd box. Because of this they are good at winning corners and scoring off them (5 of their 24 goals off corner, Columbus doesn't have any).

The challenge for the Crew tonight will be to keep them out of there. The last time Columbus faced a team with a lone striker / loaded MF was Chicago. That game was ugly. Chicago was very content to play for the draw and come out with a win. An ugly loss for the team.

Chicago lines up with a more defensive MF though. FC Dallas has an attacking one that will keep Ekpo and Balchan back for much of the match. Columbus will have to work the counter attack effectively like they have for the past two games. Anor and Gaven (Rogers and Meram) will have to resist the temptation to play on their heels, trust in the teams strong back line and find holes to push balls up to Heinemann and Mendoza.

If they can't? Well, then we have a Crew stuck in their own muddy defensive 3rd as they were against Chicago.

If they can push up and win? We've got ourselves a team to be reckoned with here in Columbus.

Credit where credit is due. Both photos: NewsdayLaura.