Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crew Preseason: CCC Round 2 (Chicago)

miro smooth on ball. rt side (chad, miranda) lotta action. o'rouke rusty touch. early start time, need more folks out. vukovic with nice left ft, good cross.

fire with MF mush, crew match 1 up.

feed out...-- back now.

language of feed caller brandan hannon(sp?) better. lower div, more organic. current mls fake and forced. 'can of corn'!!.

gaven nice strike!! 25th. vukavic is my hero!! nice shot!. sloppy shit tchani. segares v crew now?. yes, blackbaud older than crew stadium.

yes! 'mason dixon line' likin' Game caller hannon. hunterjumper owning renteria. delap call out!!!!! miro playing way back. too far back.


game back, no audio? missing brandon. tom drawing foul from a tired jumper. 'inviting someone to sunday dinner'. nice by williams coming up. aggressive. finlay going down easy. vargas again with good, smart play. francis in mid? reeaaally dislike fire MF formation.

gehrig playing confident.

fire MF set up will win games like this.

'too much mustard'

what a mess, this 2nd half.

Fire Win, Crew Lose.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crew Preseason: CCC Round 1 (Battery)

The Columbus Crew faced the Charleston Battery (USL Pro) last night in the first round of the three round Carolina Challenge Cup.

Warzycha's Crew side trotted out 17 total players, five went the full 90. Being able to go the full time at this stage says these particular guys are close to fully fit. Which is a very good thing. Durability is the name of the game right now. Below are the folks who finished the race.

GK: Gruenebaum
D: Miranda, Marshall, Mendes, (LB)
MF: Gaven, (CDM), (CAM), (LW)
F: (F), (F)

Mirosevic and Finlay both played over 80 minutes a piece last night as well. Mirosevic (CAM) is certainly being pegged as a starting regular while Finlay (LW) is taking advantage of Duka's absence with the U23 team and Justin Meram's injury. Benardo Anor did not play last night.

Finlay, Tchani, Gaven played well together last night. The Crew bright spot was possession around the center circle. Solid passing peppered with a couple long field switching gems that looked crisp and improved over last year. The Crew's open play goal came from that type play as well with Finlay finding Gaven in the middle about 5 minutes in.

It is nice to see Mirosevic finally play. He helped in controlling the MF but had a hard time trying to link up with Renteria and Vargas. Renteria didn't appear comfortable 20-30 yards out (tended to rush) from goal and Vargas' game is in the box. That said, Vargas did impress me the few times he did touch it between the top of the box and the center circle. Patient, solid first touch and smart distribution.

Vargas also had a couple good crosses come his way, barely missing on one. He was subbed at half time for Kirk Urso. Heinemann came on to replace Renteria with 20 minutes left. It was hard for me to pick out Urso on the grainy feed but Heinemann looked to find free space so Urso must have been playing more withdrawn. The feed went out for the last 15 minutes so I wasn't able to see Heinemann's chance that was reported.

The two/two scoreline suggests that the Crew back line was suspect when it really wasn't. The open play goal the Battery scored started on the left side with a bad Francis pass.

Hard to describe the circumstances of the pass other than it was Francis on the ball with no one around - he kicked (passed?) it towards the closest player to start build up - but it only made it half way to its intended target (who was only about 15 yards away). Predictably, a Battery player swooped in and things immediately got dangerous.

The ensuing 60 seconds saw a folly of panic, missed chances, whiffs, unable to clearances, two or three missed offside calls and finally... a Battery goal. All in the Crew box. Add in the stream quality, bizarre camera 1/camera 2 switching and it became a surreal almost avant-garde scene.

The Crew MF dictated much of the game so outside of that moment, there were few chances for Charleston.

Long post about pre-season action, but first time I've seen v2012 team. Excited over here. Crew still a work in progress. Good to see Columbus making smart passes in the middle, possession.

Lingering question marks; Forwards. Still need a better first touch and improved decision making. Left Back play needs improvement.

Round 2 of the Carolina Challenge Cup is Wednesday at 5PM against the Chicago Fire.

Updated Feb. 27th (including C of C friendly): preseason minutes and stats from scrimmages/friendlies (goals from penalty spot are not included, Mirosevic has two). LINK.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Duka and Olympic Qualifying, U23

U23 US team took on NASL side San Antonio Scorpions last night. Dilly Duka had a Goal and helped set up the other two. Duka has on the 10 shirt. LINK

Olympic qualifying for this team starts the weekend of March 22nd against Cuba in Tennessee. Then vs. Canada on the 24th and El Salvador on the 26th in group play.

The US has to finish in the top two in that group to advance to the 4 team knock out stage. Just getting out of the group will not be a walk in the park. Canada and El Salvador will be hungry.

Advancing past the group stage doesn't qualify you for England. To qualify you have to win one more and play in the final on April 2nd.

Groups are set up so that most likely it'll be Mexico v. US advancing but it certainly isn't a gimme for either side.

If the US qualify the Crew will be missing a player in some good form for a significant number of games this year, which means Crew fans will see Meram and Anor more this year.

Both those players are hungry, ready and capable. Just keep 'em healthy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Olman Vargas Deep Dive

1st year Crew player Olman Vargas will find the back of the net 3 - 5 times this year. I'd like to see an assist or two out of him, but that's not his game. His contract? Likely in the $140k range. Average for a Costa Rican MLS player that will run around the pitch for about 1200 minutes this year. When it's all said and done on the 2012 season I will have rated him between 40 and 60 (out of 100).

Off and on over the past couple days I've taken some time to look at not only Olman Vargas, but the whole of the Costa Rican Primera Division and all other Costa Rican players currently playing in MLS. whew.

There are a handful of Costa Rican's playing in the league right now. Nine, to be exact. Most notable are Álvaro Saborío, Roy Miller, Gonzalo Segares and Leo Gonzalez. Saborío netted 11 goals last year for RSL and Segares returned to the Fire to fortify a strong back line.

Out of the nine Costa Rican players in the league only one (Saborío) is an attacking player. And, boy is he. He lit up the Costa Rican League for 5 years. 2003 to 2005 were particularly remarkable 52 goals in 73 appearances. That puts him around the 0.60 Goals per/GM rate. AKA: The Special Rate. Hit 0.50 in any league and you are tops. In MLS he is still at 0.40 (11 goals last year). On the international stage? 0.30. Excellent for this region. The guy is a goal scorer, plain and simple.

On to Olman... just one other Costa Rican forward in MLS isn't enough to go on, but it does give me a starting point. Why look at Mr. Vargas, though? Well, the ground swell of excitement when he was signed recently has leveled out. He entered camp with a slight injury and has only scored one goal in plenty of pre-season runabouts. In otherwords; he has just become a giant question mark.

Digging in a bit.

Olman's goal scoring rate for Costa Rican side Herediano over the past 44 games is 0.39. Impressive. A noteworthy rate. I took it a step further though. Strip out his domestic (PRD) league rate and you get a goal scoring rate of 0.12. A drastic drop when against quality competition.

Why the drop in goals?

Vargas has played in a significant amount of CONCACAF Champions League games. 761 minutes worth, to be exact. 8.5, 90 minute spells (let's just call it 9 games). In that time he has only scored once. In a 8-0 hammering against Alpha United of little ol' Guyana.

As early as last year he has faced the Seattle Sounders and Monterrey (twice each). Good as time as any to score goals, but nowt. He also played some minutes against the Crew in 2009. No goals then but played only as a sub.

Worth remembering: The Crew were the first US based team to beat any team south of Texas in the CCL. It just so happened to be against Olman's Saprissa team on July 16th, 2009.

Lots of expectation for Vargas this year. The next month should tell us a lot. He is sure to see plenty of time in Charleston. Looking forward to seeing him next weekend in person.

Olman Vargas CCL Mins, Goals and Assists LINK.

Vargas Domestic (PRD) stats LINK.

If you want a list of all Costa Rican players abroad, LINK.

Watch Herediano float ball after ball into the box looking for Vargas last year against Seattle. LINK.

Couple last notes here: Warzycha's buddy, Philly Union coach Nowak, has also taken a chance on a player very similar to Vargas in Josué Martinez (Costa Rica). Interesting how that works out, eh? We'll see who performs better.

Looking at Olman's game progression you can see that if he starts to drift and not score goals his coach would bench him. In the couple times that happened, Vargas responded well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stoke, 42 Games In

The Potters lost to Valencia 0-1 today and thus, bow out of the Europa League. 42 games in the books this year for Tony Pulis and his Stoke side. Still many to go. Amazing.

"Be proud. Be Loyal. Be Stoke." As they say.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crew Preseason: Rough Stats, Clearer Picture

There are more than a few reasons to run a player out during preseason scrimmages. Biggest reason is probably fitness for senior level / first team guys. Other reasons being things like player evaluation, chemistry, just filling in for injured starter, etc.

With that in mind; I decided to sum up the minutes, goals and assists from the three preseason runabouts against Malmo (Sweden), U17's (USA), Seattle (Supersonica). I put it on Google Docs. It is to be taken for what it is worth, responsible reader.

10 things stood out to me:

1. Club isn't sold on Francis at Left Back. I'm not either, honestly. Hard for a guy his size to make it in MLS at Back. Difficult story with him in that when he finally got healthy they dropped Iro and moved Josh Gardner to the bench. Heavy expectations.

A 24 yr old Londoner with some Swindon Town experience named Kasali Yinka Casal is getting a good hard look. Lancelot Laing (Jamaica) is also getting a nice glare as well but it may be more of a convenience thing. He plays for Ft. Lauderdale (NASL).

2. Gaven, Miranda, O'Rourke, Hesmer, and Balchan saw limited minutes in the three preseason games but will be regular 1st team players. Balchan might be looking at a long year though. Nagging injuries.

3. Based on minutes and known injures and reports on the internets, I see the 1st team this way:

GK. Hesmer
D. Miranda, Marshall, Mendes, Francis
MF. Gaven, O'Rourke, Mirosevic, Anor
F. Renteria, Vargas

B. Gruenebaum, Heinemann, Meram, Finlay, Open D, Open F, Open MF

4. Dilly Duka will be in the first team but I'm leaving him off for now. Why? It will be hard for him to find time at club level if the US team makes it to London. The CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament starts end of March. The US has the easier group so I expect Duka to have very sparse duty with the Crew. Hoping it isn't a disruption when he is back in town, really.

5. Barring any more injury, the final bench D. spot will be fought for between Gehrig, Williams, and Perry (not looking to Balchan yet, injuries). In that order.

6. Open Forward sub will be between Horton and Speas. Speas carrying an injury and needs some experience. Horton will probably carry that spot.

7. Open MF. Not a given for Tchani. I see Grossman getting the same amount of time this offseason and getting a good look. Veeder has actually toped both of them over the three games with mins. And Urso is a dark horse here. I expect Tchani to take this spot. I'm pulling for him but the team needs a stable force out there.

8. I do believe that Ethan Finlay has earned a spot. 1st team right now. Has a couple assists to Tommy in the U17 game and has seen the same amount of mins as Marshall, Mendes and Mirosevic. Good group to be with.

9. Last one, promise. Eric Gehrig. I've really grown to like this guy over the course of last season. I could see the improvement. He also seems like a genuinely good guy. His versatility (CDM or CB/D) will probably keep him playing 1st team duty all year.

10. Just a round number I used. Ummm, Kevan George was the only player to notch a goal AND an assist in the first 3 preseason games. How's that? Ten worthy, I'd say.

11. Woops. Eleven now? Julius James. He's got some sort of shoulder thing. Seems like something that may keep him away from 1st team for months.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Barbasol Logo on Crew Gameday Shirts

Ohio based company Perio, Inc signed a deal to put the Barbasol shaving cream logo on the Columbus Crew home and away shirts for the next five years.

I hear popular Major League Soccer voices coming out of the gates ripping on the design. I also hear the Crew defenders coming out with raised fist, ready to brawl with any man or beast against them.

Truth be told? I've got my fists up here...

...but that's not entirely what it is about. The Crew didn't carry a sponsor last year. Personally, I didn't mind. I've always liked the way the NFL, NHL or MLB does it in that the Team is the brand and is identifiable by her history/traditions/brand and not the sponsorship on the front of the jersey. The litmus test for me is when I see older soccer footage. Be it England, Italy, USA or whatever. Something never quite sets right with me when I see the older sponsor. It irks me.

That said.

Perio, Inc coming out and supporting the Crew is important for many around town. It reaffirms that others like their favorite team, too.

The Rust Belt. The Old Economy.

Having a team in this area seemingly runs contrary to the modern US soccer fan: the 'generally young male, active and self aware twitter/facebook/pinterest/lordalmighty do i haveta go through more clichés' MLS fan. Columbus and most of the surrounding area runs confuckingtrary to that guy.

You see. We build things here. Things upon method that keep this country running.

I work, and have been working, in manufacturing here in Columbus for over six years. For me? Reaffirmation sometimes shows itself in the form of being able to share a moment talking Crew soccer with someone who physically sweats, sneezes, and coughs up black soot. I doubt many who are casting stones at the Crew have met someone like that.

Maybe there are folks out there that have never met someone who gets a three dollar pay increase for merely not getting maimed or even dying in the first couple months at the local foundry. That same someone who might only know of the Crew through their team slogan, "Hardest working team in America."

Maybe this sport, in this country, needs a little more blue to it.

Mark McCullers and the folks that run the Crew had a big victory today. A team sponsorship that falls right in line with what I have written here and what they seemingly wish to stay true towards. What more could you ask for. What more could I ask for.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Columbus Crew Deserve Better

The comment below was posted under an article about the impact the Crew franchise has on the local economy:

"Ive been going to games since 96'. Ive lived in Columbus my whole life, and it pains me to say it, but this city and the vast majority of these people don't deserve a quality Professional franchise like The Crew. I Know The Crew are trying to do everything they can to endear themselves to the community, but really Columbus needs to stop being so narrow minded, get there heads out of there @$$es, and realize they need to support more than amateur football."

You just don't wake up one day and decide that you need a study like this done. There are enough folks in and outside of Columbus that share the same sentiments as the commenter. The franchise has questions they need answered.

Coming off the lowest attended Crew season in team history and the 'Dare to be Massive' campaign still short of goal... I'd rather not think about the other reasons for The Crew to hire a firm to do a study like this.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Autonomous League of Scheduling Winter 'till I Die

Most of the United States doesn't experience a "bad winter". Hell, even the more populated parts of Canada don't even get it that bad (now, Nunavut. They know cold in Canada).

One of the arguments against changing the MLS schedule to match most of the rest of the world has been the cold winter months in certain parts of North America (which is in the Northern Hemisphere. December = Winter). I get it. It's snowing and cold in Columbus, Ohio right now.

How many weeks are we talking about, though? How about in Toronto or Montreal... How many weeks as to where the winter is so bad you can't play a match?

Six, possibly 12 weeks of harsh winter? Even at that... Aren't these areas filled with populations having to otherwise live through said winter (sports or not)? Do those same folks not identify with the winter befalling them? Would that identity not transfer over to the club they are supporting? Would it not give character???

Even at that, I'm pretty sure Impact Montreal players and fans would appreciate playing away for a few weeks more during Winter Death and those in hot climates could stand to play a few cool temp games in the fall and spring. wildly varying climates is a real luxury that we have in this part of the world. Soccer should use it.

If you turn back the years to Marco Antonio Etcheverry Vargas days you remember the reason for the summer Major League Soccer schedule had less to do with cold and more to do with the popularity of the NCAA College Football Bowl season and the NFL. It was decided back in the mid-90s that soccer had no hope against those favored sports. Things have changed some now though, the needle is starting to noticeably move - enough. Interesting that the argument for the current pro soccer schedule has shifted.

I wonder now, if the soccer season ran atop the NFL and the Buckeyes... if it would have prevented fans of those sports from stumbling down the street and copyrighting a general use soccer slogan like 'Columbus 'till I die'.

This is the 3rd part of my ongoing effort.

Part One, and Part Two.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Problem Eddie

Good to see all the silverware never (hasn't?) got to him. Gaven is still the same guy in 2015...

Monday, February 6, 2012

PSA on the 2011, 1.38 PPG Crew

The number on the left: team points earned per game when starting. In bold are players still with the Crew. In parentheses on the right are number of games started.

1.67 : Kevin Burns (15)
1.50 : Tom Heinemann (12)
1.50 : Joshua Gardner (22)
1.48 : Eddie Gaven (27)
1.38 : Dejan Rusmir (13)
1.38 : Emmanuel Ekpo (29)
1.38 : Julius James (32)
1.34 : Sebastián Miranda (35)
1.33 : Chad Marshall (33)
1.29 : Emilio Renteria (14)
1.24 : Will Hesmer (33)

1.24 : Robbie Rogers (25)
1.23 : Andrés Mendoza (26)
1.17 : Rich Balchan (18)
0.94 : Dilly Duka(17)

Same rules apply to these guys below, only they didn't start enough games for the data to be meaningful (though, interesting and Meram's number is hard to ignore).

3.00 : Andy Gruenebaum (2)
2.25 : Justin Meram (4)
1.67 : Bernardo Anor (6)

1.50 : Andy Iro (2)
1.50 : Jeff Cunningham (4)
1.17 : Danny O´Rourke (6)
1.00 : Eric Gehrig (4)
0.80 : Shaun Francis (5)
0.00 : Tony Tchani (1)

Goals are good. Goals are fun. You need Goals to win games. So... who was on the paddock when the the most were scored (+10 games started)?

T. Heinemann. 1.50 Goals For (GF). Team average last year was 1.26. Tommy also had the best Goal Differential per start at +0.33 per game and one of the better Goals Against averages (1.17, team: 1.29). Only Eddie Gaven and Julius James were better.

Had the Columbus Crew finished with Heinemann's starting averages of 1.50 PPG and 1.50 GF per game they would have finished tied for 1st in the East and 2nd in the League in Goals per Game.
Heinemann's tracking back, over heating engine and high work rate might not dazzle the Ohio State University football congregation or the false Crew prophets who worship therein, but it'll mean something to the others who might understand beauty. That is.

Not so good... Dilly Duka. Team points earned during his starts... 0.94, the basement for starters - and he started in almost half the games. Total GF when he started was 20 (1.18 p/GM), GA 31 (1.82 GA p/GM, would put the Crew dead last in MLS).

A couple other guys were close to Duka in GA. Renteria and Balchan (1.71, 1.56 GA p/GM). Balchan was a slight surprise. Renteria computes. It's hard for a player like Renteria to exist in a league like MLS on a team built like Columbus (last year).

Most of the Crew forwards struggled to find wins and goals last year. They happen to fall below the defense when looking at this metric. Could be that possession in the defensive third and build up play doesn't exist without forwards falling back in this country. Watched some of the Australian A-League stuff the other day and it reminded me a lot of MLS in that regard. I'd recommend watching some but, meeehh, save all that fun for next month. First Kick MLS and all.

Anyhow, I'll roll this over to this year and keep track. I believe that it is an worthwhile high level metric in determining which players make a difference in terms of W D L and not just based on player's individual skill.

Here is the link to all the summarized data I used.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blackbaud. Helltown. Amen.

Tickets are booked. Carolina Challenge Cup 2012. Helltown Cometh. March 3rd weekend. Right after I watch the Crew beat up on DC United a bit, I'll watch the Battery take apart the Chicago Fire (one limb at a time).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Autonomous League of Either/Or Sloe Gin

All 152 teams in the top four levels of the USSF "pyramid" have been mapped. You can find it HERE.

That link should give you the club names, city and state. Scrolling around it's hard not to get excited about unifying all these teams into a single entity.

After looking all that up, it is difficult to put in words the semi pro / pro growth in this country over the past 5 years. I've been around soccer since I was a kid. Crisp fall Saturday mornings in the '80s in Northern Virginia were spent on soccer fields. Others might lay claim to the birth of modern soccer. Nah. It was in Virginia. I've got the magic hour pics to prove it.

Where was I?. Oh.

If researching that names and towns of all these teams has shown me anything, it's been the growth of teams over the past half decade.

Looking at that map... How can you not have games that matter. Promotion, relegation. Statewide Cups in California, NY, Pennsylvania, Texas and New Jersey. Florida teams battling their way back into the second tier of American Soccer. 25k seat stadiums filled with rabid supporters on the beaches of Wilmington, NC and Charleston, SC?

How could you not get excited about that? How could you not think that that would work? How could you not feel the envy of the world?


Here are the number of teams per state (or Canada-ness) registered in the top 4 tiers.

24 : California
13 : Canada
10 : Pennsylvania
09 : Texas and New Jersey
08 : Florida and New York
05 : Washington and Ohio
04 : North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri
03 : Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Massachusetts
02 : Maine, Utah, Michigan, Colorado, Louisiana, South Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee Mississippi
01 : Maryland, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arkansas, Iowa, Bermuda, Vermont, Puerto Rico, DC, Indiana, Antiqua, Alabama, Tennessee

When I was at home during the Holidays my family let me have some of the sloe gin they were working on. A friend in England sending them the berries to make it. Good stuff, man. Dang. Anyhoways, working on my own with cherries. Not the same, but almost.

What's sloe gin have to do with unifying all the soccer leagues in this country?


View Autonomous League, The in a full screen map

Here is the First Part of attempting to unify leagues in North America (the 'or' part). I'm taking on scheduling (how to play through winter and promotion/relegation) next.