Friday, March 30, 2012

Crew Game 3 Preview

Cured (Ham)

Not sure if it is more the Southwestern Virginia / Western Carolina accent or the salted ham that I like. Both. Well put together short.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Power Rankings after Rd. 3

The other guys:

WV Hooligan has the Crew 13th and DC 15th. I like Drew Epperley's analysis (and... not just because West Virginians are God's People, but that's part of it). Link.

Sounder at Heart also has Columbus at 13, DC 15. These guys use The Crowd (good). Link.

Amazingly, Major League Soccer's own "staff" has the Crew at 13 as well. Noticing a trend? It is unclear to me if uses the votes of many or just one dude. Link.

Two things to take with you regarding Power Rankings:

1. Look for systems of measurement. Leave the "feelings" to 16th century alchemists like Nostradamus. NOTE: Helltown fully supports the practice of Alchemy. In fact I have a family member who has mastered parts of that mysterious science in real life as I have only mastered it in fake life.

2. Montreal: Not sure it is intellectually honest of all three of them to put Montreal at the bottom. They've had play the bad guy for two First Kicks and play a near on exhibition as a home opener. MLS offices have been remarkably cruel to them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Not Just Lucky Anor, LJ Metric

Getting wins whilst starting and decisively beating opponents. Two important and easily measured metrics in the world of Major League Soccer.

Wins in soccer equates to points. 3 pts for a win, 1 for draw, 0 for loss. Divide the total number of games played into the total points earned by a team or player and you get Points per Game (PPG). Most leagues that play heavy cup and international league schedules use this metric because not all clubs are on the same number of games to associated league round. I use it on the upper right of this page for MLS. Sorting a league table in this way is sometimes called a True Table.

Decisively beating opponents can be acutely measured by goal difference. While it may not work on an individual game basis, it does work out over time. The bigger the positive number - the more convincing the victories are. These are high level generalities - but good enough to serve as an easy way to determine player importance to a club.

What I've done with Crew players over the past year or so is add each player's PPG and GD together to figure out who is contributing most to my beloved hometown club. It's a way for me to quantify performance.

Example: Will Hesmer. 11 wins, 8 draws, 14 loss. 1.24 PPG. In that same time frame the Crew has a GD of -0.18. Add the PPG and GD = 1.06. Pretty much an worthless number on its own but when put in relationship to the overall team performance of 1.27... you start getting a clearer picture. Hesmer is performing below the team average.

I'm going to take a quick conversational look at these two metrics as they stand from the start of the Columbus Crew's 2011 season to today (two games into 2012). 37 total Games.

Last Saturday's game marked Bernardo Anor's 7th career start for Columbus. His record is now 4 Wins, 1 Draw, 2 Loss. That translates to 1.86 Points Per Game (PPG). Goal Difference (GD) with him starting is +0.71.

Anor PPG and GD are now tops on the Crew counting players with 7 or more starts.

If you compare that to Shaun Francis and his 7 career starts over that same time frame you get the second to last PPG of 1.00. 2 Wins, 1 Draw, 4 Loss. The Crew's GD with him starting is -0.43. Again, second to last on the team.

To put it another way; The difference between Anor and Francis' PPG (0.86) was the gap between the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA last year.

7 games isn't quite a large enough data set to make any major conclusions. Especially when comparing players of different position, but it is enough data to start asking questions.

Floating up with Anor in PPG and GD is Tommy Heinemann, 1.50 PPG and +0.33 GD and Eddie Gaven, 1.48 PPG and +0.14 GD. No other active Crew player with over 7 starts has a positive GD besides Danny O'Rourke, +0.13 GD. But Danny's PPG is too low to be considered for this group.

I'm not the only one noticing Tommy's contributions and potential after his first year. LINK.

Justin Meram and Andy Gruenebaum are close to joining this 'winners club', need 3 more starts each though.

At the bottom with Francis is Dilly Duka, who deserves his own special spot with these two metrics. Duka only earns 0.89 PPG and has an astonishingly low -0.72 GD (18 games started, only 2 games short of the 20 I need in order to be 99% sure he needs to sit the bench or be traded).

Joining Duka is Rich Balchan with a 1.17 PPG and -0.33 GD (18 games started).

Below is the complete list sorted by the Metric I've described above (current players are in BOLD)

PPG+GD : Player : Games Started

2.57 : Bernardo Anor : 7
1.83 : Tom Heinemann : 12
1.62 : Eddie Gaven : 29

1.60 : Kevin Burns : 15
1.59 : Joshua Gardner : 22
1.38 : Emmanuel Ekpo : 29
1.38 : Julius James : 32
1.38 : Danny O´Rourke : 8
1.27 : Sebastian Miranda : 37

1.27 : Team Average : 15
1.26 : Chad Marshall : 35
1.23 : Dejan Rusmir : 13
1.08 : Andrés Mendoza : 26
1.06 : Will Hesmer : 33
0.96 : Robbie Rogers : 25
0.94 : Emilio Renteria : 16
0.83 : Rich Balchan : 18
0.57 : Shaun Francis : 7
0.17 : Dilly Duka : 18

These guys haven't reached the five games started yet but are contributing to the Team Average.

5.00 : Olman Vargas : 1
3.25 : Justin Meram : 4
3.00 : Andy Gruenebaum : 4

2.00 : Andy Iro : 2
1.50 : Kirk Urso : 2
1.50 : Milovan Mirosevic : 2
1.27 : Team Average : 15
1.25 : Jeff Cunningham : 4
0.75 : Eric Gehrig : 4
-1.50 : Tony Tchani : 2

Like I mentioned above, the number by itself doesn't mean much. It's just something simple to keep track of that I hope adds weight to my musings on Crew Football. The simplicity of soccer is the reason for it's greatness.

That said, this metric would get shot down were I to present it to the C level Emeryville team of the company I work for. It's not something they could put on a slide deck and present to the board during quarterly meetings. However.

It is definitely a metric that would be used by someone, say, on the operational level. Someone whose survival requires more sweat then swagger, flash and splash.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Recap: Crew Game 2, Montreal 0

Columbus looked improved over their week one performance yesterday. It is a sure bet that, like me, most of the 18,000 on hand were happy with the attacking formation Coach Warzycha employed.

Opening home game vibes and good, fast paced, soccer by both sides.


That lively play came to a screeching halt in the 16th minute as Montreal’s Jeb Brovsky elbowed the back of Milovan Mirosevic’s head. It was an aggressive challenge by Brovsky and looked incredibly violent from my vantage point. Replays show that he didn’t keep his arm straight and led with a bent elbow. It’s always unfortunate when a red comes out early. The game suffers and the official is usually left chasing the rest of the game.


Montreal went on the attack searching for a quick goal after the Red was issued, undoubtedly so they could spend the remainder of the game bunkered. The plan almost worked as they were able to easily find holes in the Crew defensive third on a number of counters and breaks. That Montreal pressure shows itself the stat line; 17 shots (6 on target). Most of shots coming after going a man down must be slightly concerning for the Crew coaching staff.


15 minutes after the player ejection, Renteria was taken down in the box. Mirosevic finished off the penalty kick well and put the Crew up (reminder: Columbus led the league and set a club record in PKs with 9 last year).

66th MINUTE 2-0 CREW

Shaun Francis whipped a beautiful cross in from the left that Olman Vargas finished with a darting header. Impressive Goal.


Bernardo Anor had a stand out game. Andy Gruenebaum had one of the better goal keeping performances I’ve seen from the Crew in the past two years. Mirosevic also had a good game. Taking the ball away from Montreal players almost looked too easy for him.

Danny O’Rourke, Shaun Francis and even Miranda looked a little shaky in the back but they haven’t played much together. It’s worth mentioning again… Gruenebaum saved the day.

For Montreal, Justin Mapp. The guy was clearly one of the best on the field yesterday. Mapp sent in a handful of great crosses that might have changed the game had Crew GK not been in top form. Mapp also had one go off the crossbar in the first half.

Early Red Cards drop stink bombs on games and they seem to be all too common in MLS. However, that is the game to be played in these parts.

The Crew garnished all 3 points from an aggressive and feisty Montreal. That's all that is asked. On to next week.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Crew v Montreal, Important 3 Pts

The Crew host Montreal twice this year. In order for the Crew to make the playoffs they need to pull all 6 home points from the expansion Impact.

After spending some time looking at this match up I realize that Columbus will have to fight more than most think to get these 3 points.

Montreal has played in two high profile games already. Away in Vancouver (Loss) and Home (Draw) in front of 60k fans. In other words, their season started three weeks ago and are MLS game tested. Impact also have regular 2011 Crew starter Josh Gardner on the team. Gardner, I'm sure, has helped them go into tonight with confidence.

In reality, even though they have played a league game, the Crew are still in preseason mode. Two new signings three weeks into the season is not what anyone likes to see, but not unusual. However, two new signings that might play this week plants red flags around the front office.

There is more risk then reward for Columbus tonight. Unless it is decisive, get a win and fans and folks like me will clap politely and say 'we should beat an expansion side.' A loss and fans will press the panic button. A shutout loss and Warzycha will be in a heap of trouble.

In putting together my Game Program just about everything came down to this: We have an expansion team taking on a club that has very little year over year consistency.

Difficult to see, the future is.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sign Expo Sign

Have been in Orlando for a trade show so before catching up on my Crew Game Program I figure I'll post three pictures from the Orlando event...
Speaking of signs... I will be on the Columbus Crew Stadium pitch with the winner of the Crew poster competition tomorrow before the game. Inside the normal game day program you will see the best design "Free Kick" has ever seen!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

MLS Power Ranking after Round 2

Early on the Power Ranking but wanted to be able to go back to it this summer. This just compiles my individual player ratings and averages them up by position. Doing it that way gives me a few quarks like Vancouver's GK rating (no goals against). Reason being is they had to make a GK sub which'll wash out after a handful of games. A sub at that position usually indicates a problem, anyhow.

Similar issue with DC only it's just about every position. 20 different United players already seeing time, only 2 games played.

Some teams have only played one game so not much of a data set to pull from. Still, I'm happy with how my model holds up early on. From what I'm reading out there it isn't too far off what others think and feel.

Nice work this week weighted player ratings. Take a quick break.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yes! Columbus is a Fortress! (usmnt)

(The) Dispatch and other reporter(s) reported quoted (Adam Jardy) Columbus Crew President Mark McCullers as saying:

"I fully expect that Crew Stadium will be a site for the U.S.- Mexico World Cup Qualifier. Our history of success with the U.S. National Team in this venue, both on and off the field, speaks for itself."

Woohoo! Yes! First things first though. I've seen the placards around Crew Stadium that do tell of USA victories, but what exactly are the numbers for the US Men's National Team here in Columbus? Is it something to be proud of?

8 Games. 5 Wins. 3 Draws. 0 Losses. 12 goals for, 1 against

That's right. USMNT has never lost in Columbus. Only other city to boast that stat with over 8 games? Fullerton. Wait. Fullerton? Yes. All in 1994. Sort of an outlying data point as we played a bunch of World Cup related games against the likes of Bolivia, Estonia and Armenia. Very important to note for the childrens: That was a REALLY good US team (maybe our best ever) against weaker competition.

Foxboro, Mass could argue for the modern international soccer fortress on US soil. Our "Wembley?". 14 wins, 4 draws, 2 loss. However, only one game against Mexico (Draw). Columbus boasts THREE double yous againnie Mexicanio. All 2-0 WINS.

I've put the usmnt record by host city (with at least 8 games) data up. LINK.

Washington DC pulls up in the 3rd spot behind Foxboro and Columbus. 12 wins in 20 games there. Cool fact is that DC holds the 2nd highest goals for avg. of all cities.

Not surprising that: In Miami, Chicago and NY... 50 Games, 17 wins, 12 draws, 21 losses all totaled, are not great places to get results. Making money? Maybe. A good thing is the 'away' feel the players might get. Tougher games make better teams.

I guess what I'm saying here is that, for whatever reason, Columbus is the right place to hold important National Team games if a win is necessary. It might not be what Mexico City is for Mexico but it is just about the best we've got.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Exhibition Saturday

Columbus played two Exhibitions yesterday. In the first, the starting team beat Michigan State 5-1. The second saw Crew backups and Reserves beat West Virginia University 1-0.

Mirosevic scored off two set pieces from similar placements on the pitch (atop the 18 yd. box). Olman Vargas was in the scoring mood as well, scoring two off crosses during open play. One high from Shaun Francis that he headed in. The other was a low searching ball from Miranda in the box that Olman, facing the cross, deftly let roll slightly past his planted left foot then flicked it in with his right behind his left heal from a few yards out. Kirk Urso fired one from 20+ yards late to take the days tally up to 5 goals.

It was exciting to see clear Crew roles and responsibilities against Michigan St.

Kirk Usro was responsible for defensive support from the MF. Mirosevic played box to box. Finlay and Gaven ran the wings. It widened the play well. It'll be interesting to see if the Crew can dictate this shape to opponents in the coming weeks.

In the Back, the pairing of Eric Gehrig and Chad Marshall anchored and worked well with Miranda and Francis out wide. Decent workout from MSU forwards, only a late one got by.

Up front, Vargas looked much more comfortable with Renteria holding things up and working the MSU backline. Renteria ran the MSU players ragged. Literally. So much so that one MSU player just sort of crumpled to the ground around ~40 min. Warzycha yelled "half!" and the ref blew his whistle. Warzycha the merciful.

The 2nd game saw Crew backups and Reserves taking on (what looked to be) a pretty good WVU team. The match started well as Justin Meram and Finlay (both had playing time in each game) worked decently with Cole Grossman and Tony Tchani in the middle.

Trialist Aaron Schoenfeld again got matched up with Heinemann up top. Schoenfeld is chasing the game and isn't finding the right spots yet.

A recovering Meram and an out of gas Finlay provided some attacking pressure and positive play in the first half but the game was disjointed. Aaron Horton was subbed in late in the second half and put a nice shot in from the left side. Tchani provided the assist.

Interesting to see Tchani playing backup to Urso. At this point it is fair to say that the hardworking Urso has earned that spot. No Danny O'Rourke in either game but it may play out that the CDM depth is: Urso -> O'Rourke -> Tchani (if O'Rourke gets all healed up). That's an expensive Reserve Team player.

Important note: Urso plays an O'Rourkian style football.

Beautiful day at Columbus Crew Stadium.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

1st Cap for Olman Vargas

Just read that Vargas has been called up to the Costa Rican National Team. Appears to be his first call up. World Cup qualifying begins later this year.

The international calendar looks to line up for the World Cup qualifiers so the Columbus Crew players getting semi-regular time for their national team will have busy years along side Vargas.

Those Crew players:

Olman now with Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago with Julius James and (possibly) Kevan George, Venezuela has Emilio Rentería, and Jamaica's own Shaun Francis.

Those WC Qualifying dates:

Friday, June 08, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Friday, September 07, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Most national teams have four more friendlies in front of the Qualifiers.

Reminder that the Olympics are this summer, as well. Those teams will be filled with mostly under 23's.

2012 Major League Soccer (change your calender) will have a "herky jerky" feel to it, to be sure (change your calender).

Picture above is of Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica (and Georgetown grad) holding a Spain Jersey when they visited late last year. Learned me a little Central American politics today. Goodness.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Warzycha's Warm Seat, Heresy

The euphoria of the Crew off-season and the newness of the pre-season has dissipated into the thin air of Major League Soccer reality.

One of the results of this soul crushing reality is one familiar to every sports fan across the land... The Head Coach Hot Seat.

1. David Burgin: Robert Warzycha's Team
A link to Mr. Burgin means; go. LINK

2. Chris LaMacchia : For Crew Fans, Same Old is Not Good Enough
Mr. LaMacchia takes an emotional look at the Crew direction and proposes "balls out" solutions. LINK

Sharp truths in both articles raise tough questions that are lighting the pilot early on Warzycha's coaching position.

A handful of Crew facts since Warzycha became coach in 2009. Perhaps some misconceptions will be cleared up. A few confirmed.


A : 4TH Most wins since 2009 (LA 49, Seattle 44, RSL 41, Crew 40)

B : 2ND Fewest Draws in the league (excluding expansion sides)

C : 6TH Best, Goals For per Game

D : 4TH Best, Goals Against per Game


E : Drastic drop in Points Earned per Game between 2010 and 2011 (1.67, 1.38)

F : Goals per Game dropping each successive year since 2009 (1.37, 1.33, 1.26)

G : Goals Against per Game increasing each year (1.03, 1.13, 1.29)

F and G are troubling especially considering that we are seeing some continuation these trends in the Crew pre-season.

I think there should be questions about any three year trend in the wrong direction. Let alone a trend in two of the games most critical elements.

Robert Warzycha has spent three full years as coach. First year (2009) he and his staff tried to recapture 2008 glory. Second year (2010) more of the same but with a dash of infused obsolescence for a planned rebuilding process (letting contracts expire, routing out heretics).

The end of 2010 and all of 2011 saw the complete death and destruction of the impossible-to-maintain-in-Major League Soccer championship phoenix and seeds planted for a team grown in Warzycha's image*.

With a fresh contract signed last year I expect Warzycha and Co. to see 2012 as the true "rebuilding" year.

Will fans, supporters and the front office give Robert Warzycha enough time to pull the phoenix out of the ashes?

At this point I'll say that the team should stay committed to their plan to build a young team up, even it it hurts this year (it will). There is no major wound to heal. No last place to dig out of. To stop this process now will send the Crew into (the very crowded) perpetual OHIO pro sports Hell.

SEE: Bengals, Browns, Cavs, Indians, Reds, the goddamn Blue Jackets.

*Some may argue that you cannot grow a team in Major League Soccer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Hour Hooky: Crew v. Notre Dame

Ricardo Iribarren barked orders as the Columbus Crew's Olman Vargas put in two. It wasn't enough for a win though because Notre Dame managed to pull the game back with two late ones of their own.

Vargas, new to the Crew in 2012, displayed glimmers of intelligent skill during the attacking moments of the friendly between the MLS professional side and a bunch of college kids for South Bend, Indiana.

Watching matches like this should tell the rain soaked die-hards a lot. Most importantly: Who were the "men amongst boys?" As in: the guys playing like they should be playing when playing inferior talent.

Here are those players:

1 : Benardo Anor
Iribarren shouted orders to him and Cole Grossman throughout the entire match as well. Anor was calm in the middle and played confidently. His fitness seemed to be tops as well. One thing a lifetime of sports has taught me is that if the coach is barking at you, than he cares. If not? Worry.

2 : Olman Vargas
Iribarren had him out wide in the 4-3-3. Most impressive on the day. Starting to think he is more Mirosevic than Mirosevic. Really impressive distribution and patience.

3 : Tommy Heinemann
Yeah, Tommy. He has a innate savvy for the ball. Almost to a fault. I caught Korey Veeder shouting at him to fall back and help him after he (Veeder), himself made a positional mistake. Veeder was kinda a dick, to be truthful. Heinemann had been pulling back to help him time after time while still getting forward. Veeder got beat and pointed blame. No goals were scored against the Crew when Tommy was on. Or when Veeder was on, for that matter. Maybe it's a love/hate Honeymooner's thing between the two.

4 : Justin Meram
Good to see him play. He got on late but when he did he cut the kids up. Had a couple real good chances and one gorgeous turn that made a lunchtime in the rain worth it.

Last spot here goes to Eric Gehrig. The guy had the captain's armband on today and played the role well during - and after the match. He plays with an intensity above and beyond the other guys. I'm glad that the coaching staff see's that.

Gehrig is the one I'm most happy with here today.


Aaron Schoenfeld seemed to be the reason for the entire exhibition. He played up top and in the middle of the 4-3-3. Lots of hustle. "Over playing," as they say. He got injured a couple times and was finally, mercifully subbed off with about 20 mins left. Tommy and Olman tried their darnedest to get him something.

Nemanja Vukovic is STILL with the Crew. He must be staying at Robert's house. He looked fine. I could tell he wanted to make something happen. Didn't look as good today as he did against Chicago a few weeks ago, but good enough to fill that left back spot.


Veeder is a good player. Intense. Same with Josh Williams (center back). Both seem to be "edgy". Or angry. Whatever. Immaturity seems to be outweighing skill here though as Williams' most noticeable involvement was knocking Notre Dame kids to the ground and then yelling at the ref for calling a foul.

Aubrey Perry saw some time at RB and had a nice assist but then ran out of gas and let Notre Dame get a goal back. Kevan George played at CDM, holding. Not great but not bad. Needs size. Aaron Horton got in late on the right up top and didn't do much. Not his spot.

Lastly, Jamie Finch got in and played well. My first look at him. He tucks his shirt in so I know he means business.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Crew Round 1 Recap: Deserved Loss

The Colorado Rapids scored right before half (44th min), another near the end of the game (89th) and shutout the Crew for a 2-0 win.

From the start there was an opening game feel to this one. In the first 10 minutes there were 7 fouls, a hand ball and two injury stoppages.

The injured players were Crew. Chad Marshall took (another) slight shot to his head in the first couple minutes then, 5 minutes later, Dilly Duka went down with a leg problem that had him leave the game.

The game stayed messy but the Rapids were able to pull together a few good spells of passing and possession.

Key to this Game: PASSING
If it felt like Crew passing was off, it's because it was. SUCCESSFUL PASSING RATES: 69% CREW, 73% RAPIDS

Individually, the Crew only had two guys with a passing rate above the Rapids team average (O'Rourke 86%, Marshall 74%). For the Rapids it was three solid mid-fielders: Mastroeni (90%), Castrillon (84%), and Larentowicz (75%) who controlled the action over the Crew's two best in Gaven (72%), Mirosevic (70%).

The Crew's other mid-field players struggled a bit more with passing. Kirk Uro (69%), Tchani (67%) and Finlay (65%). Speed, accuracy, and decision making were left wanting.

The Rapids were asking the most of questions and that left Crew mid-fielders Urso, Tchani and Finlay playing back. Because of that defensive posture, the Crew were out shot 17 to 5.

It's worth mentioning that the two Crew professional soccer debutantes (Urso and Finlay) showed hustle and grit in the face of a challenging situation.

Even with a new coach, Colorado fielded a familiar team with many of the same experienced parts as last year.

The Crew, on the other hand, started with little year over year consistency.

Of the 14 Crew players that saw time, only 6 were regulars last year. You could see and feel the frustration of this unfamiliarity play out on the (normally not frustrated) faces of Miranda and Gaven most of the game.

Warzycha's gameplan was to pull a point from this game but his execution of it was sloppy. Two college kids and a 6'4 man-child getting significant minutes during a season opener doesn't synchronize well with trying to earn a draw. Especially at high altitude and especially when a couple slightly more experienced game ready (not practice / scrimmage ready) players (Anor and Gehrig) might have kept this one more level.

The time of goals show that it was Colorado's experience, consistency and the full 90 minute effort that won them this game against a very unprepared group.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

////////////////////2012 Crew Rd 1 Program

Game Program Win / Loss Result Accuracy Since June 26th, 2011

6 Correct
1 Draw (game ended in tie)
2 Wrong

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Experts & Others: DC 100% 7th

DC United will make the 2012 Major League Soccer playoffs.

Finishing up with the MLS Eastern Conference crowd/group theory numbers now. 27 total predictions were used. About half are from "experts" the other half random finds. Not much difference, to be honest (in the picks). The pros just know how to use apostrophes, commas and "wit".

This is what the crowd thinks will happen this year:

Sporting KC, NY, Houston

Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, DC United, Columbus

New England, Montreal

Not much change from when I posted a couple days ago. There are general agreements: Supporter, Expert, Fan or FIFA 12 simulation.

Martin Scorsese's doc "Public Speaking" has Fran Lebowitz mentioning/saying: "...writers like to punish themselves for playing God." There are others in the same documentary that talk about writers finding inspiration then working it over and over until it is destroyed. Until it means nothing to them other than the searching and tracking back to what it was that moved them in the first place.

In that; writers like to do self destructive things whilst writing. Yes, that and more happen to reside here. Yet, I know that even though I do write, I am no writer. There is even a certain level of un-comfortableness in just mentioning Lebowitz at all. Let alone in the absurd context you happen to find here.

Thus, the non-apology, apology: There is a certain amount of power derived from having to sort your own thoughts out enough to record something, to make it permanent.

1. Swap The Philadelphia Union and The New England Revolution. The Revs will be much improved this year. They will surprise some folks and get lots of ink.

Nowak has killed the Union this year. In fact, it started last year when he brought in Adu. Continuing on to the mess with Le Toux. They are done, for now.

2. Swap DC United with Houston. DC will finish in the top four. Not Houston. The Dynamo will have a new stadium and all but it will not bare fruit this year. DC have done a lot to improve this year and I don't think it takes a lot to climb over the middle of the pack - that didn't do a whole lot of improving.

1 : Sporting KC
2 : NY
3 : DC United
4 : Chicago
5 : Toronto
6 : Houston
7 : New England
8 : Philadelphia
9 : Montreal

These days I am a pretty big Crew fan so I have removed them from the list and put them on a celestial plain of which I shall write romantically about all year.

Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, just today touched on the same thing Fran Lebowitz muses upon in Scorsese's documentary. Just that Mr. Garber mentions it as "ghost of the [old] NASL" lingering in the MLS offices and Lebowitz talks about it as the recycling of culture over the last 30 years. Perhaps the key for Garber is actually understanding the gospel of soccer first. Worrying about being the 5th most favorite sport in the USA, (sigh) next.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

MLS Fortunetelling, Apologies for Sporting Tops

I've been able to find all of ten different honest to goodness predictions on how Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference will fall in 2012.

Interesting how each writer likes to apologize before making them. Conditioned by the domestic sports scene? Rightly so. MLS is set up to be a roll of the 10 sided die. Everybody has a chance, right?

Well, everybody except for Montreal. SO. THEY. SAY.

This is how we are looking so far (taking the average position of each pick).

1.5 : Sporting KC
3.1 : NY
3.2 : Houston

5.2 : Chicago
5.9 : Columbus
6.0 : Philadelphia
6.1 : DC United
6.6 : Toronto

8.3 : New England
9.1 : Montreal

Looking solely at the Crew we see a high of 3rd and low of 9th. Four picks above 5th and Six picks have them lower than 5th.

I prefer at least 20 picks but started finding less than reputable sites and plenty of blocked viruses... where was I? ... anyhow, simple trends forming.

As it is right now it appears the standard deviation between picks is locking a few in place (teams that most agree on):

1st: Sporting KC -- 3rd: Houston -- 7th: DC United -- 9th: New England -- 10th: Montreal

Role the dice! Wild Cards below, according to the bold prediction makers:

Toronto (crowd has no clue, could be 1st... maybe blow apart on the way to - some Canadian joke. ha.ha.) -- Philadelphia (3rd... or last) -- Columbus (not 1 or 2, but not last) -- Chicago (probably in the middle -- NY (probably 3rd, but could go 1st)

Personally, pulling for the Crew and DC to have good, solid years. (zzzzzz.)

The Crew? Will be fighting for a playoff spot. DC? All or nothing. I like that. They have a real chance at something special this year, methinks.

Here's who I've got so far: Kyle McCarthy (, Graham Parker (Guardian), Simulation (FIFA 12), Alicia Ratterree (Goat Parade), Rachna Kapur (Goat Parade), Justin Hein (Colorado Rapids Fan), Kip Lawton (Off The Laces), Orrin Schwarz (Daily Herald), Steve Davis (Pro Soccer Talk), Tyler Jacobs (Soccer Fan Base)

Here are the picks in spreadsheet form, you can add your own if you like.

Monday, March 5, 2012

FIFA 12 Says... Crew 7th. Meram #1.

Work, work, work. It only makes it harder to simulate things with EAs FIFA soccer franchise now that we have an unbalanced schedule in Major League Soccer.

We are about 2/3rds of the way through the international soccer calendar. MLS is zero/thirds. As in; not started. What this means is that the +5 million people (and $300 mil+ with it) that have purchased the game are playing with outdated schedules and kits until the new game next fall.

Not all bad though. Rosters have been updated to the point of - well, as much as they can be with MLS right now. Why? The powers that control MLS keep it untimely and mushy.

Pile on incredible amounts of team attrition still going on and you have a perfectly, remarkably blurry picture that really diminishes this type of simulation.

It takes at least three separate custom tournaments in FIFA 12 to approximate the MLS schedule this year but I did it, gosh darn it. The results:

Rank : Team
1 : RSL
2 : LA Galaxy
3 : Sounders
4 : Toronto
5 : NY
6 : Houston
7 : DC United
8 : FC Dallas
9 : Sporting
10 : Chicago
11 : Columbus
12 : San Jose
13 : Whitecaps
14 : Chivas
15 : Colorado
16 : New England
17 : Portland
18 : Montreal*
19 : Philadelphia

That's the Crew finishing 7th in the East. 11th Overall.

There are a number of things that tell me to throw this sim out the window but lets play History Channel 2 here and RUN WITH IT.

It's very important for me to note that with Columbus I started the season with current injuries to key players (Hesmer, Meram, Balchan, James). I worked them in as the season went on. In other words, put on my best Warzycha hat.

Precise numbers aside. What did the simulation tell me about the Crew, as a team.

1. ~1.22 Goals per Game (1.26 last year). About the same, Low.
2. At that... Same goals against (1.28 vs. 1.29 last year).
3. Borderline playoff team.
4. All similar to last year.

In line with what "everyone" is settling into right now.

How about individual stats? I simulated it a few times with Columbus so as to be confident in how the game approaches players.

1. Justin Meram came out on top each time. 10 goals 3 assists in one simulation. I kept him on the bench at first but the game subbed him in a bunch. For Vargas here, Duka there... Then I just gave up and started him. Throw it out? or should he play more? Bottom line; Football Manager 12 likes him too. Video game superstar. Hoping real game Meram get's healthy soon.
2. Renteria, Heinemann, Vargas all topping the overall ratings around the 66. All about the same Goal and Assist Ratios too. Interchangeable forwards right now who seem to need a solid MF to be more productive in the game.
3. Mirosevic finishes with 27 games 4 goals and 5 assists.
4. Running the attack through Miro will stunt Gaven with 3-ish goals and 2-ish assists. If you play around with FIFA 12 you know that he could run the CAM role in the game and do more virtual damage than Miro.

Anyhow. That's just how this game see's things. Fun running the sims. It's pretty fast and easy to do.

I think the ranking above accurately portrays how the game thinks the teams will fair. It doesn't work so much for individuals. Still fun to look at so...

...I've posted the raw stats from it. LINK.

The real deal starts this weekend. Alright, already.

*I used Rochdale as a place holder for Montreal since le IMPACT aren't in FIFA 12.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rained out at Blackbaud

Below: Yours at Buddy Roe's Shimp Shack. Dave Gunnells... where are you brother. Chucktown's Finest!

Even though the final game of the Carolina Challenge Cup was cancelled I still had a great time in Charleston. I said it before and I'll say it again: they know what they are doing down on Daniel Island.

Because I'm in the pirate mood... Tommy Heinemann goal video I put to Hans Zimmer music last year. GO!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MLS Eastern Conf. Picks: The Guardian

Guardian readers are "Bikram-practicing middle-class liberals preoccupied with ending all wars and rolling their own cigarettes". At least, that is who they are according to today's New York Times.

The Guardian's Eastern Conference Preview. LINK.

1st: Sporting KC
2nd: Houston Dynamo
3rd: New York Red Bulls
4th: Chicago Fire
5th: Philadelphia Union
6th: Columbus Crew

This year, new signing Olman Vargas will carry the frontline hopes for the team (it may be a season early for homegrown prodigy Ben Speas...). Of the new faces beside him, veteran defender Carlos Mendes might be what Ron Atkinson would call "lightning slow", but is strong and reads the game well and was a good value squad pick-up to add to the defensive rotation. Really though, the Crew need a spark - a lot of eyes are on Milovan Mirosevic as a playmaker who might provide it. It may take a season to work.

7th: DC United
8th: Toronto FC
9th: Montréal Impact
10th: New England Revolution

The above vision has been foretold by artist/writer/overall/cool/dude Graham Parker.

I'll try keep track of these preseason predictions. I'll have mine up next week sometime.

2012 Crew, Selected Letters

The Crew can't win the Carolina Challenge Cup after the Chicago loss last night. Yes, just a preseason cup and all but I think it will give a nice boost to the winner (DC - only needs draw this weekend against Crew).

..To winning anyway. After all, you only need one a game right? The Fire like to play this type of game. Last night they showed their continued love affair with a loaded MF. Gumming up the works for a 1-0 victory. "How much goals matter" is a tricky conversation but you could frame it this way (within the parameters of Major League Soccer): The Crew had one of their lowest goal scoring years last year, 1.26 Goals per Game. 3rd worst in their history, to be exact. Take out the team history leading NINE penalty kicks and it drops down to below a goal a game and 2nd worst in team history (0.94). AND STILL. The 2011 Crew flirted with 1st place in the East for the majority of the year and made the playoffs. All with poor goal scoring and a negative goal diff.

So, there is that. I want to see goals. Crew needs more goals. This year's preseason matches haven't filled me with warm fuzzies though. Only ONE goals against three competitive teams (Malmo, Seattle, Fire). Add in C of C and The Battery games and it is still only 5 goals in 5 (1 PK).

If anything looked impressive to me last night it was the play of Vukovic whipping well placed crosses into the box. The Crew will need backs overlapping and making runs this year with two big men, Vargas and Heinemann, waiting in the box. Good to see even Josh Williams doing it. Warzycha experimented with Francis (who is losing grip on LB position) in MF last night.

Ethan Finlay passed Gruenebaum last night as the guy with the most pre-season minutes. I've updated my stat sheet. LINK. Here are the top 5 (MINS : PLAYER)

417 : Finlay
405 : Gruenebaum
380 : Marshall
374 : Mirosevic
359 : Tchani

They saw good minutes last year. Veterans Hesmer and James both have nagging injuries. Only a little over one week left till the regular season. Meram knocked ankles with Eddie Gaven last week and will be out till the end of March. Balchan is still nursing a sports hernia and word is he needs surgery. I expect the first few games this year will be like last year... warm ups that happen to matter (long sigh).

I don't know. That's why I'm asking. Haven't seen him past two games.

Left Back situation could be cooling off with Vukovic moving in. So what else now?

1. Mirosevic learning this league in all her physicality and "style". He hasn't made a splash yet. Most are expecting him too, though. How many games will it take? 5? 10? Will it take all year? Not sounding the alarm yet but the club is expecting assists, set ups and goals from his spot at the top of the diamond.

2. Tchani is a big dude. Yesterday he played a solid game, maybe his best game with the team. But his spot is also being hawked by O'Rourke and Gehrig. Any team using that CDM as a stopper should fill it with a gritty and strong, lead by example type guy. Tchani is only one of those three things. O'Rourke and Gehrig have all three things.

3. Many might not know but Justin Meram is about the same size as Vargas. And fast. And creative with the ball. And should be playing in any and all the following positions: F, CAM, LW, LM, RM, RW, CM and General Manager (Concessions Supervisor, optional). In that order. The team seems to like to use him on the right or left side of their diamond. Same spots as with Dilly Duka. Both these guys should probably be in the middle.

Perhaps Warzycha should flatten out the diamond into an orthodox 4-4-2?

GK: Gruenebaum
D: Miranda, Marshall, Gehrig, Vukovic
MF: Gaven, Anor, Duka, Meram
F: Mirosevic, Heinemann

Only Meram isn't able to make it into my dream "orthodox" line up right now. Pop Finlay in there and hohohoYOWdaHOdaHammaDownOHWEE! (Cavs fans). Running with a stopper isn't going to win the Crew a whole lot of playoff games. Especially if your CAM has to drop back to help, as he did last night.

Warzycha could drop Miro back and pull Heinemann for Renteria if he wants to play 5 in the middle. Add Tchani for Anor or Duka and you bunker down.

Mix it hard. Mix it good. The Crew can score no goals in a 5-5-0 formation, too. Warzycha's teams have been scoring less and less run of play goals each consecutive year.

2009: 1.23 GOALS PER GAME
2010: 1.10
2011: 0.94

The Crew's MLS Cup year in 2008 was 1.50. In 2001 it was 1.88, but that was in a different league with different rules. Regardless, ask anyone who works in a performance based industry and they will tell you that three points of data on your measurement system in one direction is a trend. In this case, goal scoring trending down (BAD).

Emilio Renteria is a Goal Scorer. He has been trained to do so.


That is Renteria. Last year Renteria started 14 Games. Crew won 5 of them. Lost 6 and drew 3. In those 14 games he started, the team was outscored by 6. That's nearly a half goal per game. You could blame that on a number of factors but the team goal difference was only -1 agg on the year (-0.03 p/GM). Emilio's half goal was the 2nd worst on the 2011 Crew (Duka was, by far, the worst at -0.65 goals against per game).

For the record, Heinemann and Anor had the best GF and GA lines. +0.50 and +0.33 respectively. Both had winning records when starting as well.

Just asking questions here today. Saturday is technically the last pre-season game for the Columbus Crew. March 10th sees the team off to Colorado for the first regular season game.

I find it hard to fathom that the 2012 Crew could score less goals than last year. I also find it hard to believe that after 374 minutes (4+ games) of preseason play that Mirosevic hasn't found a run of play goal or assist.

A lot hinges on this player for Crew fans and Supporters. Mirosevic is a year into his 30s. Patience is needed for any player making his way to a new country and a new league for the first time. Got it. Thanks.

- Brewery District, Columbus Ohio, Thursday.

The morning is the only proper time for me to write to a beautiful Girl whom I love so much: for at night, when the lonely day has closed, and the lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber is waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre, then believe me my passion gets entirely the sway, then I would not have you see those Rhapsodies which I once thought it impossible I should ever give way to, and which I have often laughed at in another, for fear you should [think me] either too unhappy or perhaps a little mad. - Shanklin, Isle of Wight, Thursday. Keats.