Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Kickers

Great run for Richmond this year in both USL and USOC. Followed you guys throughout the tournament. Well done. The online stream for the Fire USOC game was either complete failure or complete awesome. I'll go with awesome. The local Chicago folks were great.

Nice work Richmond. Potential MLS expansion team in 2014 or argument for promotion/relegation. Doesn't matter. Great year.

Oh. Why isn't Matthew Delicâte in MLS??

Monday, August 29, 2011

A FK Goal in Seattle

I was checking up on Josh Gardner's excellent free kick goal tonight and something struck me. And it wasn't the extraordinary, world class, kick. It was how the whole Columbus Crew team reacted to that kick. Check out the goal again. Maybe again after that one time.

Now again.

What I noticed was the post goal reaction. Not just that of Josh Gardner. But of the whole team. I can't tell you how many sports games I've watched where the team getting destroyed gets a goal/point/touchdown and then proceed to celebrate like they just won the Champions League. Sadly, it happens often.

But curiously. Not after Josh Gardner's particularly fantastic goal last weekend. Not the Crew. Not this team.Gardner. The strike taker. Goal Scorer of something worthy of "top 10". Simply turns around. Head down. And slaps hands with a couple other players and lines back up.

Burns. Burns enters the picture after the goal goes in. He simply trots back to mid-field to restart the game.

Renteria. He reached out to Josh after the amazing kick only to retract after he realizes Josh wants nothing of it. Emilio understands and resumes spartan stance.

Tommy. Oh Tommy. After the strike he sprints into the goal mouth like a bat out of hell to retrieve the ball for restart. For a brief second you can see his arm and fist pump in celebration but it happens as he is running full tilt to grab the ball even though the team is still down by three goals. Amazing heart. Amazing belief. Retain this kid.

Finally. Our Captain. Mr. Marshall. Hands firmly on hips through out the whole event. No sliding on the turf. No giant bear hug. Just a simple "we have been beat. i know you have this in you already. seen it in practice. we are better then this. let's get this over with."Maybe I'm digging into a short moment a little too much. Perhaps Crew players would tell me that Gardner's goal is something to be expected. I like to think that. Ultimately. All I know is that I've watched many a blow out game where my favorite team shows their ass celebrating a meaningless moment late in the game.

Refreshingly, the Crew players didn't here. The game was lost. It was a magnificent worthless moment not to be celebrated.

It's a rare event, this.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

6-2 Disappointment.

I watched the game at Jimmy V's with a friend visiting from out of town. He isn't a big soccer fan (but he is just in after a trip to Spain. He also spent a couple years in Bolivia and traveled through Central America quite a bit. Hm. He might not know soccer. But he probably knows soccer) so towards the end of the game I had to ask him what he thought.

"It looks like Seattle is toying with them."

Earlier in the week I was able to catch Seattle's historic win against Monterrey. 5 games in 15 days for Seattle. 4 wins out of it and no signs of slowing down. Seattle started this game with a remarkable amount of confidence and fire. A team "in form" as they say. They also know they are playing well, which is scary. Ever had to go to fisticuffs with a guy smiling directly at you before the first punch is thown? Never a good result.

Coach Schmid, conjuring up his German side, saw the Crew as zero threat. Sigi full of confidence against inferior talent, tactics and most importantly; motivation.

8 of the 11 Crew players were ready for a "#weekoff!!" before this game started. Franchise embarrassed. Fans embarrassed. And I am worried considering the Crew's recent late season history. No excuses this year. They need to win some of these games.

In a way, this game was fitting in that Cunningham finally got his record and in how the team finally got to see a wonderful goal off a free kick (Gardner) during such a game. True to Crew form. Two events I had wished happened in the first few games just to get them out of the way happened in a circus like blowout.

As a result. This result was not bittersweet. Or a *ASSIVE Cunningham achievement. Nor was it a simple "drop(ped) result."

It was a horror show.

And, as Burgin puts it, Will might not of made it out.

(still attempting to confirm, un-conformed outsider sources 3rd and 6th hand reports on the water bottle)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

She Would Have Killed Them. Crew Sounder. Game Preview.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Ctrl + click this:::David Bowie.

Pushing thru the market square
so many mothers crying
News had just come over
we had five years left to sigh in
News guy wept and told us
earth, was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet
then I knew he was not lying
I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys, electric irons and T.V.'s
My brain hurt like a warehouse,
it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to get everything in there
so many people
all the short fat people
and all the nobody people
and all the some-bo-dy people
I never thought I'd need so many people

A girl my age went off her head,
hit some tiny children.
If the black hadn't a-pulled her off,
I think she would have killed them.
A soldier with a broken arm,
fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac.
A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest,
and a queer threw up at the sight of that

I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour,
drinking milk shakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine,
don't think you knew you were in this song
And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there
Your face, your race, the way that you walk
I kiss you, you're beautiful, I want you to walk

We've got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that's all we've got
We've got five years, stuck on my eyes

... brain hurts a lot.
Happy Friday, Saturday ink.

Crew v. Seattle Sounders, Seattle. 4:00 PM

... and if Irene cooperates, McCracken will be in Columbus this weekend.

Monday, August 22, 2011

That Familiar Place in Columbus (Crew)

Evening dreaming about having enough time to rip into Crew key performance indicators like I mean it.

For the time being and for the lack of time. I decided to look into the Crew's points per game on a ten week rolling average. Meaning; each data point is the previous averaged 10 weeks Win (3) / Draw (1) / Loss (0).

I actually started in 2007 for the data but since I'm using 10 weeks I used that year as a starting point for 2008. I got a lot out of this exercise. 1st. Holy jackhole. I can see why the team was cleaned out after last year. I know part of it had to do with contracts, age, and purging the team after Sigi Schmid left. But, really. Look at the drop in ppg at the end of the year!

Back to the chart. 3 pts is max in the chart above. That happens to be the max points you can get each game in the MLS.

I put the logo at the spot the Crew are in now. Looks like it is very, very familiar spot for the franchise. Last 2 years have gone the wrong direction afterwards. This year? Eh?? oh? duhdun duhhh. hh.

If I were on the board (does the Crew have a board?) I'd be watching very closely. I see a pattern of sucking late in the season over the last two cliff diving years. And in the last two years we've had the same coach and staff. Young team, but late year collapses shouldn't become a pattern.

Good progress after all the personnel changes this year for the Crew. This is Warzycha's 1st real team. He keeps droning on and on about getting better and better and the team isn't there yet. Well, he is in the same place the team has been in the last two years (even with out locally worshiped GSB, hoooooollllllly GSB) so now is his chance to show that growth. Or, really, just the lack of drop off. I think he will strike right through 2008 (in the chart).

So speakeath a tired manufacturing manager.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mothered Philly Frustrated

Bad weather the night before the game grounded Philadelphia's flight. The day of the game Major League Soccer stepped in and charted a flight for them that only got into town a handful of hours before kick off. That sort of disruption could bother even the best pro.

I also believe that another frustration for the Union is the addition of Freddie Adu. By all accounts Adu seems like a good guy, but the decisions to bring players in isn't so much the franchises or coaches. These decisions are arbitrated by MLS offices. Bringing in a player of Adu's stature is a distraction that will take a few weeks to get over.

The Philadelphia Union are a tight group. Before Adu showed up they had only fielded 19 different players. It's a great testement to the franchises consistency and conditioning. MLS average is 26. All the top teams have fielded less then that. The worst: Vancouver (30), NY (30), and Toronto (37).

The Union played a good game last night. Good control, possession, chances. But they just seemed frustrated. Maybe agitated. Peter Nowak's post game comments suggested that.

A 2nd good week for Kevin Burns. Last week against one of the worst teams and this week against one of the best. He is Manos Hands of Fate this game.

The Renteria / Mendoza connection will need time. Mendoza was not involved in the game most of the time. But, to be fair though, most of the game was running through Meram on the right because he Union is very strong opposite side. That strength was multiplied last night because Le Toux was dropping back so far. Did Renteria and Mendoza cause that drop? Or was it just Robbie Rogers.

Could have been Rogers. One of his first attacking touches lead to the opening goal. Rogers had another excellent game. The guy is on a roll.

This was an intense game. And physical. Not sure if Meram was up for it but he did seem to be in the right places at the right times. I think he is a work in progress as a MF player. His natural position is up top. Benardo Anor seems more comfortable filling in for Eddie.

Hard fought win for the Crew.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crew IQ

Yesterday, Craig Merz wrote the following over at Crew.com: "When healthy, his bullish runs have effectively put him in a position to score. He had half of the Crew’s first eight goals of the campaign, and has the best goals per 90 minutes average in MLS (0.73) for players with more than five appearances."

Renteria has been playing well, but the goal stat mentioned above is misleading.

1st Problem: Measurement system. "per 90 minutes" used as well as the "appearances." Emilio has 10 appearances and 616 minutes. That equates to 6.8, 90 minute games. Hitching appearances to p/90 statistics will take you down the wrong roads. Roger Torres has been in 16 games for Philly but only has 489 minutes. When pulling goal scoring efficiency, or any other efficiency, "appearances" should not be used as a qualifier.

2nd Problem: Not enough data points. 10 appearances or 6.8 games for Renteria does not give you enough data points to draw any real conclusions other then he had a good start. It's actually dangerous to look at soccer efficiency this way. Millions have been paid to poor players because of a few good games.

3rd Problem: Merz includes goals off penalty kick. Renteria has 5 goals but 2 off PK.

Oh PK. Saving and extending careers since 1996.

Renteria's real goal p/90 is actually good (0.44). It's a rate I see often when I look at good forwards. But is it the best?

Here is what you get when looking at players around Emilio Renteria's minutes:

Rate: 0.63 / 714 MINS De Rosario (time with DC only)
Rate: 0.57 / 632 MINS Alan Gordon (time with TFC only)
Rate: 0.56 / 809 MINS Conor Casey (Injured)
Rate: 0.45 / 792 MINS Brian Ching
Rate: 0.44 / 616 MINS Emilio Renteria
Rate: 0.40 / 453 MINS Steve Zakuani (Injured)

That puts Renteria in some good company but you can also see that using low appearances (5) as a qualifier yields exceptions (injuries, recently traded players) which is an indicator that says 5 apps is not enough time to pull any real substance out of.

Regardless, even using Merz system his claim on Renteria isn't accurate anyway. According to Stats, Inc. Paulo Jr. has 5 apps and a p/90 rate of 0.89 for RSL.

Past performance predicts future results.

In 2010 Renteria scored 5 goals in 857 mins or 9.5 games. His rate was an extremely impressive 0.52. Combine last year with this year and we get 16.4 games played and a goal scoring rate of 0.48.

That's very good. Comparing to guys with similar minutes in 2011? Eric Hassli (0.49) / Landon Donovan (0.48). I'd say that's good company.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Poland. Showdown. Crew. Union. Part One.

What are the chances. Piotr Nowak. Robert Warzycha. Two head coaches taking Major League Soccer teams to battle for 1st place in the Eastern Conference from the same country. Born less then a year apart, 47 years ago. And less then 1.5 hours from each other. The odds of that are nothing to nothing. It doesn't happen. But it has here.

Both the Crew and Union are having similar seasons. They aren't ripping it up offensively but have found themselves atop their conference. Strong defense and scoring when they need to. It's MLS unlocked. Spare me the West v. East stuff. Late game starts stifle the East. It's built in.

While putting the game program for this game together I starting thinking just how great it is for both Piotr and Robert. Both of them Polish national team players in the 1990s battling it out in MLS. How great is that? Where are the stories on this?

Warzycha is from Simkowice and Nowak from Pabianice. Both of them are 47 yrs old as of this writing. Robert turns 48 tomorrow. Believe it. To be a fly on the walk after this weekends game. Time to look up some 1990s Polish national team history to try and make sense of this whole thing.

The picture right here is a good one. I've been around sports for quite sometime. This year's Crew team is a very likable one. That picture captures the 2011 Crew perfectly. Couldn't find the clean pic so I had to screen shot it from the mls site. Too good not to post for years down the road from now.

Part two of Philly v. Crew is next month. No matter how it ends up both these teams will be making noise in the playoffs for the MLS Cup. The winner is already decided.

1963/64 Poland.

Happy Birthday Robert Warzycha. Let's go Crew.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vamos Muchachos OR If I Had the Wings of an Eagle...

Big MLS games this week / weekend... in the East anyways. (Not to say seeing Robbie Keane get going would be great). Of course the two teams at the top, ze Crew and ze Union, will be honking each others horns in Columbus. Of course if the home side takes all three points they'll be clearly stating their case for the Cup. I'm thinking Robbie Rogers brace minimum.

Personally I'm ripe for the 2 road games United has (VAMOS!!!). We've been better away (4-3-3) than home (3-6-3). Of course this doesn't always mean anything. Maybe it just means as endearing as RFK is, the mold and decay may be getting to black and red. The home fans are great, but with such a huge place it may sound full but every quick glance shows a lot more orange seats than black shirts.

We're up against a bottom table Chicago team tomorrow night, then on Sunday we're at a strong-at-home Sporting KC (we will be "sporting" our all-red third kit ["how red is it?!]). If we take 4 or 6 points here, we can lock up that 3rd spot in the table. Especially if NE can hold Houston off tonight. On top of that we have a game or 2 in hand so our PPG will stay high.

The defense has been great in the last few games. Jakovic has impressed on his return, MacDonald, Kitchen, Woolard AND White (if we need him) will be holding it down. Hamid will most likely be back in the net, or out of his net most likely...

DeRo and Pontius have put DC on the map the past 3 weeks, but Davies, Najar and Wolff have also been showing well. Davies NEEDS a run-of-play goal, there were opportunities in the Vancouver game for him, but he just didn't receive that final pass from his teammates. He showed a good spirit each time though, as he had his arms out in disbelief he slowly brought them down and assured his teammates he was ok with it. His time is coming. Mark my words.

In other interesting world football news, the EPL starting with a whole bunch of drawrs, though plenty of interesting moments (barton = thug). Bolton trounced QPR, but we get to see what they're worth when the line up against Man.City and Agüero et. al. All that said, I'm still just as excited to see what happens in the MLS. The overlap of the 2 seasons is going to kill my social life.

More good news for MLS, is the success in the CCL (much better than in the past, showing that these teams can compete AND do well in our region. We should be dominating if we're to expect our National Team to also do well. Seattle played a wild game with two really nice goals from Fucito (who?) in spite of going down a man. LA won semi-handily (no that's not a word) but should have taken more goals from their home game in the series (sidenote: boot to the chest red card in this one, though it's no de Jong).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

List of William's Scotch Whisky

I'm no expert. But I do try and jot down a note or two when I go with affordable single malt. With fall coming I figured it's a good idea to take stock of what goes great with cool evenings (that are already here in Ohio).

Favorite at the top:

1. Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (10 yrs)
2. Aberlour Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (12 yrs)
3. Caol Ila Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (12 yrs)
4. The Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky (12 yrs)
5. Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky (12 yrs)
6. Buchanan's Finest Blended Scotch Whiskey (12 yrs)
7. Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Scotch Whisky (15 yrs)
8. Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky (12 yrs)

Islay style is growing on me. Can't go wrong with my top 5. Aberlour is more relaxed then the Ardbeg but it is the one I would recommend to someone.
Important to note: Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey. Kentucky Straight. Outside the Scotch category but a Whiskey none the less. Not a Bourbon guy (though, my brother is) but first sip; good nose, not overpowering, hits modest notes. The finish with Bulleit is strong and just long enough. It's good for those long MLS game nights. Single malt is not.

Note: Everything here is pretty much under $40. Bulleit is a steal at $20.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mr. Brek Shea, Premier League Interest

I reckon it was just a matter of time before Brek Shea's Agent came out and announced that his client is getting interest from foreign lands. As in. Abroad. Such as. Over the ocean. Wherein. That cat shaped piece of earth that causes people to marvel at how so many great things can come from such a tiny little island.

Shea's Agent happens to be a young Duke University graduate named Spencer Wadsworth. Despite the Jane Austen type name, he is American. Mr. Wadsworth works for a bigger conglomerate called Santio Sports.

“There is definitely interest in Brek from the teams in the Premier League,” said Shea’s agent Spencer Wadsworth to Goal.com. “But it’s not just England, its teams from Germany, Holland and Belgium also.”

Patrick McCabe, President of Santio patted little Spencer's head and went on to say:

“With these scouts, they don’t evaluate a player over a few weeks, They evaluate over a span of 7-10 months. Brek is in a good place right now and regular minutes are important.”

While it reads like two quotes straight out of Football Manager, I believe them. I've had Brek rated at the top of Major League Soccer's prestigious HELLTOWN BEER Top 20 list since June 26th.

What puts him at the top of the list? Well, I weight categories that matter to me (which was largely influenced by 12 yr old scotch). Meaning, aggregate stats usually lead you in the wrong directions. It drives me nuts when people say "he has the 2nd most goals in the league" when half of those goals are PKs and he's played 4 more games then others. Brings out the badger in me.

Brek Shea, by the HELLTOWN BEER! numbers:

-- 2nd in Goals during run of play (10), 1st among MF players
-- 2nd in Goals p/90 mins (0.42) among MF (Landon #1). 6th overall
-- 3rd most mins on his team
-- 2nd. FC Dallas rank in MLS True Table

Those numbers above are part of what puts him atop my list. Usually players have some weakness, but he has few.

No way to track them, but his intangibles are great. Good attitude, works hard, durable and a team player. Incredible shot power but his accuracy could use some work (31% on 61 shts). Could stand to improve his tackling. Jury is out on his leadership ability and he has never really lived outside of Texas.

There. Free scouting report.

Oh wait. The money thing. I posted on June 25th that he was a bargain even at $133k (£81,157 or £2500 p/wk). I value him, based on performance only, at $231k (£141k). Man, the dollar needs to improve.

Anyway, final exam time.

Can he play in the PL? Yes. Is he ready for the PL? No. Will staying in Major League Soccer benefit him? Not unless he gets major USMNT time. If he does? Then he should stay in Frisco for a couple more years until he has a decent transfer tag. If the franchise can be patient then FC Dallas can put a stadium closer to Dallas.

They can call it Brek Memorial.

If you want some real country to some FC Dallas Shea highlights vs the Crew last month. click HERE. I went over the top with it. But it includes the hardest hit ball I've ever seen (3:19). So, uh, that's why.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Crew Win, 6-Pointer part 1 upcoming

The Crew won a game they most certainly should have last night. New England was under constant pressure for most of the game. Pinned back nearly all of the first half. It was frustrating to see the Revs get the first goal especially considering the fact that Columbus has a hard time putting more then one goal in, let alone two that they needed. But, surprisingly after a Revs own goal, two goals game. One off a set piece; Gardner to James and another off some great team play; Marshall to Duka then Rogers to Renteria.

I think the set piece goal is the club's first of the year and Duka was a welcome sight out there after a couple months out.

While most of the possession belonged to the Crew the team is still struggling to get the ball into dangerous areas. They are very good winning and possessing the ball in the middle but have a hard time pushing up and generating heavy, sustained pressure.

- Pleasant performance by Burns. It seems he has been the forgotten man recently. I consider him smoother then Rusmir (concrete feet) and his skill may be better but Rusmir has a better soccer IQ.
- Heinemann's intense work rate and effort helped cause the NE own goal.
- Mendoza, on the other hand, does not have a heavy work rate and seems to just check out of games forcing a sub. Frustrating
- Renteria, who came in for Heinemann, provided a good spark. He is part poacher, which is what Columbus needs. He probably should have had a couple.
- Man of the Match: Man. Tough one. I'm not going to give out the award this time. How's that.

- Columbus is for real in first now. They still have 2 games against Philly. One is this weekend at Crew Stadium. Big game. While a little to early to call this a six pointer, the meeting next month in Philly will be.
- DC moved into the 3rd automatic playoff spot last night with decisive win over Vancouver.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

...and It's On

Just wanted to take a moment and acknowledge the fact that, with the start of the new Barclay's Premier League season, I've about spent 8 straight hours watching a white spherical thing get kicked around and I still have a couple more to go (hours and drinks, if I must).

10:00 AM: Liverpool v. Sunderland
Draw. 2 goals scored. I was re-calibrating my eyes to EPL pace the whole game. After brushing aside the tears of joy, double rainbows and Irish Coffee I think I witnessed Liverpool coming out of the gates guns ah blazing but Sunderland hanging in there. The consensus here at Helltown is that Liverpool will finish in the top 4. In the first 45 they showed that ability.

12:30 PM: Newcastle v. Arsenal
Draw. No goals scored. Barton goes all mental? Newcastle fans booo him. Arsenal looked very average in this game. Very. The league needs players like Barton. England needs a player like Barton. What does that country think soccer is anyway? Cricket? I heard those guys got number 1 in the world playing that sport today. You want gentlemen, watch Cricket. You want the opposite? watch soccer. I'm a dumb American and know this. Seriously. Newcastle locals boooing Barton? Where is a mirror.

2:uh something PM: Norwich v. Wigan
I liked this game. A lot. 1-1 Draw. Blood. Guts. Hard fought. Norwich Canaries pull out a point when I think they could have gotten 3. This was "English Football" as I've come to know it after doing some Football League watching over the past couple years. Hard tackling, opportunity driven, Route 1 soccer. Going to be fun to watch Norwich this year. Stoke game is going to be a big brother / little brother fist fight.

In other PL news, I heard Bolton beat up on QPR today, biggest time. Nice work!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Others Have it for Us. Crew, NE Preview

One of the ancillary benefits of being a Columbus Crew fan is the fact that the team has a proud history. One of the original teams, first soccer specific stadium in the MLS and a cabinet full of trophies. When I put these preview programs together it always strikes me the amount of respect other teams have for Columbus. Often opponents and opponent news outlets go out of there way to compliment the Columbus Crew. It's hard for my mind not to wander to 1892 and how newly formed Liverpool FC thought of 1863 founded Stoke City. Anywho, New England is one of the original teams for the MLS like the Crew so my little analogy that I was trying to create with SCFC and Liverpool is moot, but! NE still show plenty of respect for my local club just like Liverpool might have for Stoke way back when even without the 30 year gap:

“The thing about Columbus I’ve learned over the years is they’re really a steady team, they’re consistent. I don’t think – if I remember correctly – that they go on super hot runs, but they also don’t get in these kind of slumps throughout the season. They’re a steady team with consistent play so we expect a good game from them.” - Revs Defender, Ryan Cochrane

Hoping Crew supporters and fans pick up on some of that. Can't help that it's a bit like Klinsmann coming in and telling Americans what Americans are all about and, in turn the American soccer press, oblivious to what the we are as a people, praise him for his insightful words. I'm happy he said and says the stuff he does about our country. The way it is lapped up is telling. It takes an outsider sometimes to remind us why we are, though more then just the kaleidoscope of soccer, special. Troubles, yes. But compared to what else is out there? We do pretty darn good. In the top 50 at least. Hardy har.

Proud history and good team here in Columbus this year. With the recent city mandated shutdown of the Hudson Street Hooligans Pub, I think the fans outside the intense supporter microcosm around here are looking for some good news from the actual franchise and players.

Game against NE is home this weekend. Winnable for the Crew but going to be tough for them against a team that is already working to get in the playoffs.

A win here would do great things in the table for both.

For more on Crew Supporters Group HSH and their bar closing click HERE.

Longer form NE Revs Crew preview and praise go HERE.

Red Bull Hoop Canaries

Neat moment to see three MLS players contribute to a goal during the Mexico USA friendly in PHI last night. Klinsmann's first game. Positive vibes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

For Nana

"Broom People" in London organizing and taking back control of the city in a way that only England knows how. Photo credit for the tea on a riot shield image (taken in Camden Town, London) here. Things seem a little calmer this evening. Hoping everyone is safe for games this weekend. Season Previews on Liverpool, Bolton and Stoke upcoming? Hope so!

Gaven Update

Warzycha saying Gaven's got a bad bruise and will miss this weekend's game. that does not sound like the terrible news we were expecting. in fact, that sounds like good news.

hope we see him in a couple weeks, then.
hope. hope.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Seriously, Tottenham. Blood Makes the Grass Grow.

"Riots: the underclass lashes out" in Tottenham. I'm not too sure that headline would go over well here but I guess it's okay for Mary Riddell over at the Telegraph.

"Over a few days in which attacks became a contagion the capital city of an advanced nation has reverted to a Hobbesian dystopia of chaos and brutality."

Ms. Riddell goes on:

"London’s riots are not the Tupperware troubles of Greece or Spain, where the middle classes lash out against their day of reckoning. They are the proof that a section of young Britain – the stabbers, shooters, looters, chancers and their frightened acolytes – has fallen off the cliff-edge of a crumbling nation."

Nice to know that US news outlets aren't the only ones.

Anyway, I read through the comments after long article. Some were dissertations on French history. Others blaming single mothers. All while parts of London were on fire right behind them.

That was until I got to this one:

"i am an american, but i wish i was in london to help you brits beat the living hell out of these lawless scumbag rioters. all of your heros need to go out in the street tonight and kick ass until law and order is restored. the cops can not do it alone. blood makes the grass grow, sometimes it needs to spill, that time has come. these cops put their lives on the line everyday to ensure your peace, its time for you to take that burden off their shoulders, they can not do this alone. squash these thugs, make them regret ever thinking about doing this."

Comment right below it was "best comment I've ever read on the Telegraph. Ever."

Prayers are with those over there in the middle of it. Been a few days now. Time for it to stop. Don't make me send the guy that wrote that comment out there.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

League 2: Northampton Town Ready to Go

Up. I hope. League 2 got underway yesterday and NHT tied nilnil with Stanley. I searched for a feed for the game but there was nothing doing other then a few new viruses on my computer now. There were some live chat things going on so I could keep up with the game. Of course stats and recaps tell the story as well.

I was really happy to hear about the return of Adebayo Akinfenwa. He was with the team when I started following (or discovering, I should say) them back a couple years ago. He's a good striker. And a consistent one. One crazy thing I found in his goal scoring history is that it looks like he scored 11 goals in his first 22 games. Granted... he started with Barry Town in 2002 but his 7 goals in 8 games his first year turned some heads for sure.

One thing I've learnt about the English soccer tier is that when you have some above average talent as a young player things can get all wonky like.

The next year (2003-04) he started with Barry but Boston Utd picked him up early only for a short stint though because that same year Leyton Orient came calling. That didn't last long either. No goals, no starts. Finally, his last team that year was Doncaster where he promptly scored 4 goals in 9 apps.

When the 2004-05 season came he moved up the English soccer ladder. Torquay United. 14 goals, 37 appearances. He just about maintained his scoring efficiency even at a higher level and with more games (.38 goals p/GM with Torquay, .42 for his first two professional years.

In 2004 Swansea latched on to him and he stayed put there for two years. Even better competition here. His goals scoring rated dropped down to .24 p/GM. Swansea, in turn dropped him. Millwall picked him up. No goals here in 7 games in 2007. Perhaps his career was thought to be on the down swing.

Not so fast though. That same year is where we get to Northampton Town and he regained form. 7 goals in 15 games. He ended up staying there for 3 years with an outstanding goal scoring record. 37 goals in 88 games (.42). Back to where he was when he was with Barry, Boston Utd, Leyton and Doncaster in his first 2 years.

Again, with heads turned, 2010 saw him move back up to Gillingham where they played him just about every game. His efficiency went back down though. 11 goals in 44 (.25). So back to NHT he came.

I heard the crowd at Sixfields was very happy to see him back. With that goal rate of just about a goal every other game? I am too.

Long post here to spend on one guy, but it is pretty impressive what he has done in 8 years. All the moves, all the goals. Overall: 87 goals in 259 appearances (0.34). For comparison, that is a Fredy Montero like rate here in the MLS (.35) and even close to a Brek Shea (.40).

Another reason I spent some time with Akinfenwa? He doesn't quite look like any striker I've ever seen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Door Opened for Rapids 2-0

Eddie Gaven went down in the third minute with an injury. The Crew battled in the MF without him but the Rapids had their hands on the controls of this game. The Crew even had a sub for a sub in the middle in attempt to pry the ball off their feet. Haven't seen a sub sub for a while (Gaven sub: Anor. Anor sub: Meram) but it happened last night by a team searching for some possession and a link to the two fellas up top.

Speaking of Anor and Meram. Both came out of the chute guns blazing early in the year but have since gone a bit quiet. Solid, but quiet. I bring this up because Eric Gehrig, another new young player, started slow but is coming on starting to play on a good MLS level. No fireworks to his start like the other two. No fancy headlines for him either. He's just putting in the work. I like that.

It is important to remember that it is Dilly Duka's injury that has given these young players time. The future for the three of them looks good but in order for this team to stay in the hunt for the Cup they are going to need Mr. Gaven and a Mr. Duka healthy.
No news on Eddie's foot as I write this but I got a message from Bleeno last night that I fear is going to be correct: "shit. gaven's leg looks like a months-out kind of injury."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Klinsmann's US Men's National MLS Team

A quick look at the MLS players getting a call up from Jurgen Klinsmann. Two players for each position (save for GK) from our domestic league. Even with the coaching change, same as the last couple 'call up' events for the USMNT. Interesting. USSF thing I guess.

As for the players below: Higher the Helltown Player score the better. It's like grades on a 10 pt. scale. 80+ is a player performing well. 70 and below is a player falling into the dreaded mediocre territory.

I'm really happy with the midfield that Klinsmann selected. Best two MF in Major League Soccer this year.

1st # is MLS Helltown Player Score : 2nd # is rank at that position.

100:01 Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
094:02 Kyle Beckerman (RSL)

077:10 Bill Hamid (D.C.United)

082:13 Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)
068:23 Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)

084:03 Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
058:13 Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls)

Ream and Donovan missed some time because of the Gold Cup, but to be honest their overall minutes are up there with the rest of the players in the MLS so I'm not going to give them excuses for lower scores. Ream's Red Bulls can't stop a nosebleed. I can't tell if he is good or just hype. Also, and just maybe, I'm still a little put off by Chad Marshall not getting a call up today. He's proven. It's just a friendly and maybe JK wants a look at Ream. Who knows.

Agudelo is stuck behind Henry and Rodgers on his club but looking at his goal scoring proficiency I can see that he is scoring 0.47 goals p/90 minutes. 2nd only to Landon Donovan for players that have over 900 minutes this season and born in the USA. Pretty good.

Had Conor Casey been healthy (and not look like a member of Hell's Angels) maybe he would get a nod? His goals p/90 is at 0.57, or best among US born players in MLS. His 5 goals during the run of play matches Agudelo but he has done it in 150 less minutes.

Final goal scoring efficiency tid-bit; Bunbury is right on the heals of Agudelo. 5 goals (run of play) in 1007 mins to Agudelo's - 5 in 954.

It's always nice to get a new middle manager in there to bring in some new guys and fresh thinking. I don't know enough about the men playing overseas to really say if this is a great team selection or not (I know six of them are playing in the Bundesliga, comfortable). It is just an exhibition after all. But I do know that JK did an okay job with the MLS players. Better then Bradley's last group, at least.

We'll see where this all goes leading up to more competitive tournaments. Excited and looking forward to seeing Shea and Beckerman more on the 'world stage' for sure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I think I've calmed down finally, after 2 weeks.

So I was in attendance at RFK stadium on Wednesday July 20th, a hot and sweaty night, the air full of hope. Or maybe that was high levels of ozone I mistook for hope. Regardless, my boys DC United was coming off 4 points on the road, 6 games unbeaten. They beat NY in NY, scratched out a NILNIL draw against red hot Dallas (even keeping Brek Shea out of the net). I was feeling the mid-season turn around coming on strong, DeRo proving his worth (nice work management!), and we were due for a home win against a struggling New England (without prized US midfielder Benny Fielhaber serving a red card suspension). We actually hadn’t won at home since early May.

I don’t mind sweating a bit, honestly, especially while watching sport and consuming cold beverages. The old hole was pretty full for a midweek game, fans were feelin it. The first half was pretty money, the BnR really holding the ball well, controlling the game. A few good chances on goal for us, really good chances, but Matt Reis made some impressive saves. 30 minutes in though, Davies, Wolff and Pontius seemed to lose steam. They clearly lost their creativity. Maybe it was the heat, I don’t know. Of course we make it to the end of the second half and we draw a penalty on a clear hand ball (good call). Davies gets the chance put the team up deservedly and rockets it over the bar. This actually made me pretty happy. The last thing he needs is another goal via PK, he needs to show up and score a run of play goal (s), and with gusto at that. I was super excited to pick him up this year, and I’m a fan in general, just hoping his potential is reached this year.

Then onto the second half. Still hot. Not a problem, here we go. Or don’t. Everybody looked to be out of juice, though Revs sub Nyassi was really giving us trouble. Against the run of play came the dagger. Perry Kitchen seems to mis-hit a routine ball over the endline to give NE a corner. Marking isn’t sharp and the tallest guy on the field (McCarthy) gets to the cross first and blinks in a header. Really? That’s what this game was going to be. We seemed to generate a few more small but unclear chances. Olsen chose to put in Ngwenya as a third striker for the final 10, moving to a 3-man back, which was smart – [I do enjoy him as a manager. I remember he was all the talk at UVA back in my glory years. Wish he had stayed fit and been able to feature more for the US team during his playing years. He’s a true American soccer player.] Only other highlight was New signee Austin Da Luz came in and showed a little spark for us, but really both teams just farted out the rest of the match.

And that was it. Hopes blown. How do you keep a city from supporting you, continue to not win (or even draw) at home. I doubt that a new stadium would make things any better if the team can’t perform in the first place. I walked out of that game flabbergasted at that loss, and complaining about it all the way home – my wife and buddy Sanford (a new fervent United fan) had to hear it.

In the past two weeks though, the Revs have found some form after that win in DC, making sure our loss to a struggling team wasn’t so much a fluke. And then also United shutout SJ 2-0 on the road with a great performance from DeRo et. al.

I’m ready for this Saturday’s home match against Toronto. Albeit another “struggling” team, maybe we won’t take them for granted. Maybe we’ll get back to back wins for the first time since 2009. Maybe.