Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crew Game 7: Loss Tactic (VAN)

The Vancouver Whitecaps bunkered down and held out for the win yesterday while the Crew will feel a little hard done by ill timed calls from the referee early in the match.

Yesterdays game felt similar to the last July 2011 meeting between the two, save for one thing: Vancouver is improving and Columbus is not.

Stout defense and sharp organized counters was the 'Caps order for day and Columbus lacked the kind of creativity it takes to win against a club employing those tactics (or any tactics, for that matter). Columbus tuckered themselves out (mentally and physically) and fell flat on their faces.

Columbus went after the Whitecaps with everything they had, early. The Crew appeared to have one early from a corner off the foot of Josh Williams but the ref blew the whistle on some grab ass in the box.

From there, the Crew continued to pressure and dictated play. As the half wore on, though, you could tell what the 'Caps were doing. Only thing left was to pour a beer, settle in for a long 2nd half and muddle to myself, "Warzycha can crack this safe because he is dressed like Niko Bellic tonight."

The continued to be the team asking questions but got no answers. Once Crew forward Schoenfeld went down with a ankle injury (57') the game died. You could feel the Crew energy level just drop and drop and drop from there.

In the 74 minuted Lee Young-Pyo dropped in a free kick shot / cross over a befuddled Andy Gruenebaum. The smile on Lee's face afterwards said it all. A 0-0 game just turned into a 3 pt road win for the visitors.

• Aaron Schoenfeld and Josh Williams really lifted the team yesterday. Williams in particular stole the show in the opening stanza. Excellent ball placement on the disallowed goal and a flying over-head kick that clanked off the crossbar.

• Josh looked so impressive early on that I got the feeling a few phones were ringing. His size, build and athletic ability alone will put him on the radar of better teams (both here and abroad). Yesterday he showed skill as well.

• Where are Justin Meram and Bernardo Anor? Ethan Finlay just isn't there yet and I didn't even see Meram and Anor on the bench. It is bizarre.

• Columbus needs a creative Mirosevic to step up, especially games like this one. If he can play in this league, that is.

• Columbus needs to improve on corners. It is always a mess in there. Chad Marshall has a reputation as being somewhat grabby and breakable in corner situations. His petulant complaining after the match only makes things worse. He is at full boil right now, but so are the fans and supporters, he needs to keep his cool. Otherwise this season will completely unravel.

Friday, April 27, 2012

New Crew Signing, Part 2: Define

Kepner-Tregoe (KT) helps clients implement their strategies by embedding problem-solving, decision-making, and project execution methods through individual and team skill development and issue resolution process improvement.

One acquirement passed down to me from a former Rolls Royce (Aircraft Engine Division) and Corning engineer that I will never forget is Problem Analysis. I've learnt, in a decade spent in manufacturing, that properly identifying problems (both potential and existing) is the first step you should take before initiating any change.

Why? You might find that your next company project has a potential problem that could put them out of business. How much money could a company save by properly nixing unnecessary change? How many jobs could be saved? Resources more appropriately used? A lot. Ask Kepner-Tregoe.

The Crew have problems. Scoring goals is the #1 issue in their book - and their solution is the most egregious one possible. Throw warm bodies at it.

The more bodies the better is early mans approach to slaying a large animal.

The issue here is that the Crew haven't gone through the process of properly identifying which problem is the largest. If they had done so appropriately, we would've seen a change (or stagnation) in the goal scoring trend over the past three years. The Crew have attempted change and improvement in Goal Scoring recently. It has not worked. Each year, since 2009, has been worse than the previous.

2009 : 1.37
2010 : 1.33
2011 : 1.26
2012 : 1.00

The new Crew signing is not enough to change that trend. No player in the world could because the issue runs much deeper than one, two or three players. A one year dip would be tricky to solve. Four years? This simple metric blows holes into what the Crew just did.

Robert Warzycha, Brian Bliss and Mark McCullers need to step back and properly identify what is going wrong before just throwing more people at it.

For example: The team is also allowing more goals each season (per game).

2009 : 1.03
2010 : 1.13
2011 : 1.29
2012 : 1.50

This is a metric that anyone looking at a table can see. Don't even get me started on goals per game with out penalty kicks (Columbus was awful last year, worst in the league in open play and run of play).

This is basic stuff here, folks. It is frustrating. It is infuriating. A car crash in slow motion.

The Columbus Crew need to just stop. Identify the problems and define them before just jumping to improvements.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

(Sigh) New Crew Signing, Part 1: Bliss!

Did Crew Technical Director, Brian Bliss, have Jairo Arrieta get a physical before signing him? Or is this just another case of signing a player they've played against and thought looked good that one time they played.

This particular player hasn't scored in his last 13 outings. He is carrying something.

I don't get this signing. I really don't. Not at all.

Here are the reason's I can figure on why to sign another Costa Rican:

1. It was part of the 2012 business plan to have Vargas and Arrieta. It is accepted footballing theory that when signing internationals - sign a couple that know each other. Vargas has already been quoted as to where in Columbus he will take him for dinner. It was budgeted in and they are running according to plan (albeit, delayed).

2. Crew are desperate and stubborn.

This ship has sailed, Brian. The 2012 team has been formed. You go to battle with what you've got, not what you want(ed). You've got a full roster of players working their asses off right now. You've already made a signing (Schoenfeld) to cover the original mis-fire on this player so going back and mopping this signing up is a complete waste.

On top of Schoenfeld, a bunch of other players like Justin Meram are chomping at the bit to get in there and prove themselves.

Arrieta will just be a giant distraction in the middle part of this season (which will be a very difficult and trying time for the club and supporters alike).

Crew don't need a new signing like Arrieta. Bliss opened up about to Adam Jardy over at the Dispatch about having too many players. It was very informative for me.

“We’re eventually going to have to make some moves,” he said.

“The league hasn’t exactly said when but when we put in for the Arrieta thing they said, ‘You’re on borrowed time now, so how are you going to solve this?’


Any "Technical Director" that came to me with an explanation like that would be run up the flag pole.

"The Arrieta thing"? Holy shit, man. This is your job.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Cleveland Crew

Read a story about over 500 folks driving down from the Cleveland area to watch this weekends game. Vancouver's Michael Nanchoff and the Crew's Josh Williams are from the Cleveland area. Both might play this weekend.

I don't know if Williams or Nanchoff follow the Browns. It matters little, though. Both of them (and injured Crew player Ben Speas from Stow, Ohio) know what the Browns mean to 99% of the 500 coming down and the uncomfortable feeling that black and yellow colors might make them. We can't change it, it 'tis what it is. Regardless, make those traveling Clevelanders proud, gentlemen.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crew Power Ranking Sum Up, 16th

Below is what the others out there think about the Columbus Crew in relationship to the rest of the league. 16 out of 19 is the consensus.

Kyle McCarthy
"With this particular side, two goals from Eddie Gaven – or, really, two goals, period – has to mean three points at home."

Drew Epperley
"Better in the home draw but this club still lacks so much all around, espeically in terms of a true playmaker in the midfield."

"As you can see, we on the Politburo are a little conflicted about the Crew. A home draw against Houston isn't the worst result in the world, surely – but the Dynamo were short-handed, and Columbus had something close to their First XI. Tough to be too sold on them."

Sporting News
Brian Straus

The Oregonian
Geoffrey C. Arnold
"Eddie Gaven scores two goals, his highest output in six years, to provide some needed punch to anemic offense. But Gaven's performance wasn't enough after Crew allowed equalizing goal in 81st minute in draw with Houston."

Helltown Beer

Monday, April 23, 2012

MLS, A Cram for the Final Exam

The 1996 Major League Soccer season was the 84th season of FIFA-sanctioned soccer. "FIFA sanctioned soccer" is like saying "Super Bowl Era". Both sports have longer, richer history to explore.

A soccer playoff system is for Cups, not regular soccer leagues.

MLS: There is no punishment for being last and no reward for being first.

Via Slide Rule Pass: 2012 is a landmark year for American soccer. It marks Major League Soccer’s 17th season since its inception in 1996 – equalling that of the glamorous North American Soccer League of Pele, Bobby Moore and George Best fame which ran from 1968 till it’s ignominious collapse in 1984.

"Three points for a win." - Jimmy Hill. England adopted the 3 pt for win in league play because of Mr. Hill. The radical changes happening in the USA at the time with NASL had some part in it.

"The Big Match" show theme in England 1974-1980. Here's me putting all my favorite comments together: "The players played proud to the shirt without marketing or money. When footballers were men and not the little diving pussies they are now. I love this, truly awesome. The heyday of football."

George Vecsey wrote one of the oldest web articles I can find on Major League Soccer. In it Vecsey suggests that MLS was a night before the exam cram. "I'm a trial lawyer, and I've tried antitrust cases, and I know it is against the law if there is a conspiracy," said Alan Rothenberg today in a short, frantic presentation. "But if there is one entity, it can do what teams cannot do. It can put in restrictions." In 1988 FIFA commanded the USA to create another professional soccer league as a condition to host the 1994 World Cup.

If you read up on your history you find that the original NASL was counting on the 1986 World Cup emergency bid to save soccer in the USA. It didn't happen. NASL folded.

What did happen is millions of kids like me, in places like Northern Virginia, started playing the sport because of parents like Smitty's dad watched the Washington Dips. We'll write a book, Smitty and I. On the Dips. And on the birth of North American Soccer via NOVA.

Only in the final moments did the US finally put together $100 million to form Major League Soccer.

Now you can watch my Crew vid with more perspective. Link.

Over the winter I spent some time exploring the idea of a unified soccer league federation in the USA. I called it the Autonomous League of US Soccer. Above is notes that I ran across tonight when looking to organize the 3rd part, which includes promotion and relegation. Heavy shit and probably beyond my limits, but fun to explore.

Here are the first two parts:

Autonomous League, Pt. 1

Autonomous Leauge, Pt. 2

My map of every USSF sanctioned team in the United States. Your Reward! LINK

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crew Game 6, Draw (HOU)

Nemanja Vukovic, Danny O'Rourke and Josh Williams added a lot of fire and passion to the game yesterday. I watched with a friend of mine whose family is from Cleveland. Williams' hometown of Akron, Ohio immediately made him a favorite in my Brewery District abode.

A couple months ago his name was, "Is That the Cleveland Guy."

Not anymore.

When Williams misplaced a header and furiously kicked the end line ad boards out of frustration I got an, "Is that the Cleveland guy?!" yup. "YEAH!!".

When, (now) Josh was flinging himself at Houston wingers 35 yards away form goal?


The 10,500 spectators on hand witnessed a fast paced and entertaining game that saw all 4 goals in the 2nd half. For the Crew it was Eddie Gaven's quality that saved the day. Two goals is just reward for his hard work. For Houston, it was Brian Ching and Will Bruin finding the back of the net.

Both teams were playing positive MLS football. Passes were sharp and crisp and the players looked fresh. No doubt due, in part, to the more normal kick off time of 730 PM and cooler temps (very cool 40 ish degrees).

Coach Warzycha continued line up tinkering saw both Nemanja Vukovic (LWB) and Josh Williams (CB) in the back four, replacing Eric Gehrig and Shaun Francis from the past two games. Danny O'Rourke was moved back to his more natural Defensive Mid / Stopper spot.

All three of them contributed to a more open / attractive 1st half. O'Rourke, contributing the bulk of it. He replaced Kirk Urso who is more of a grinder (with a pretty free kick) right now. O'Rourke is an effective passer and can find space well. His tackling skills are tops in the league. While these things didn't translate into dangerous attacking play in the 1st half, they did show the kind of game Columbus can play (as in; not just hockey on a pitch).

The nice play in the 1st half bore fruit in the 2nd. Both teams found themselves down by one looking to even it back up. Columbus went down 0-1 off a back of the head, pirouetting Will Bruin. Gaven then took things into his own hands scoring two times in 10 minutes, putting the Crew up 2-1. Just a few minutes later Bruin found Ching to even it up. It was the most exciting half of Crew soccer in some time.

The best goal of the night was a team one. O'Rourke switched field with a pinpoint pass to Vukovic. He gathered and fired a bullseye pass to Schoenfeld who chested it down to Eddie for the left footed blast.


• This draw ends the little two game losing skid the Crew were on. That said, 1 point out of the last three games is 3rd worst in MLS (only Toronto and Colorado worse).

• Tony Tchani and Olman Vargas played decently but looked a step or two slow. Sometimes this can be a case of perception though. Perhaps lesser players wouldn't be anywhere near the ball in the first place. We'll see as time goes by.

• Another quiet day from Mirosevic. I don't think it is a case of being an understated worker or contributor at this point. He needs to contribute to the Attack. Soonish. As in Now.

• I'm in the minority, but disappointed not to see Bernardo Anor in the 18. He has / is outplaying both Tchani and Finlay. Finlay, in particular, lost his mojo. I see that spot falling this way: Anor, Duka, Tchani, Finlay. But, I'm weird I guess. As it stands right now, Anor is the winningest player, per start on the team - and I like winning.

• Williams and Marshall as the CBs is the future (it also matches my FIFA 12 line up). I think Warzycha should stick to that. It pushes Danny up and allows Eric Gehrig in relief behind him.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Open Crew Spot

Microfracture surgery not only claimed both William Hesmer and Tommy Heinemann but it just effectively ended the playing career of new Crew Front Office man, Frankie Hedjuk. Fans and supporters attending tonight's game should go ahead and just plan on having microfracture surgery soon. Crew event planners take note; buck-a-microfracture surgery night.

Two free spots open up on the Crew with Hesmer and Heinemann dropping to the IR list. One would assume that the loss of a goalkeeper means one spot taken (another GK).

But what about the other open roster spot? What talent level? What position? Where from?

Rule out any international player. Just getting him here this time of year is impossible. Absolutely, eliminate any thought of a "DP" caliber player getting signed either. The team would have to overpay a quality player right now. Why this question of whether or not the club will sign one this time of year is a head scratcher.

Columbus Crew have a lot of holes to fill and those holes are not just positional. The chemistry in the middle of the field has to be much better, bringing in a body to fill a spot there might set back some of the gains made this year. Halfback / CDM spot, perhaps.

Up top might be the most logical place to sign a player too. Here are some suggestions:

Luke Mulholland, Attacking Mid
Plays for Tampa Bay Rowdies. I've talked about before Link. Signing him now might be tricky because he just signed for Tampa, but he is more than just a player, he is a young talented player with a bright future. He pays his own way back and forth to England to train with League One clubs. Signing him as a CAM would allow Warzycha to move Mirosevic up top.

Matthew Delicate, Forward
Richmond Kickers at Helltown . He fits the Heinemann mold, but could be slightly more dangerous. He also has loads of experience (29 yrs old). Were he to come to Columbus I would not just expect him to be first off the bench, I would expect him to challenge for starting spot.

Jason Garey, Forward
Yes, that Jason. He's with the Railhawks now. Played with Columbus for a long time (part of the 08 team) and his goal scoring record was well above average. In his last three years in MLS he played 1653 minutes, scored 6 goals and had 4 assists. That is a 0.33 per 90 rate (Mendoza's 2011 rate w/o PKs). Last year, Houston had no place for him. Jason knows the area, knows players and knows coaches. More importantly, we know him and what he can do.

Complete 2011 USL Pro Player stats and Helltown Player Score, LINK

Friday, April 20, 2012

Points Per Game info on Crew Players

Below are the Points per Game (PPG) averages earned by each player whilst in the starting lineup. The +/- is to 1.33 (the overall team average PPG since the beginning of last year).

Example: Anor has a starting average of 1.78 PPG. Subtract 1.33 team PPG and you get his +0.45 number.

1.78 - 1.33 = 0.45

PPG : Player (Started)

+0.45 : Bernardo Anor (9)
+0.38 : Andy Gruenebaum (7)
+0.17 : Tom Heinemann (12)
+0.11 : Eddie Gaven (32)
+0.04 : Julius James( 32)
+0.00 : Emilio Renteria (18)
-0.01 : Sebastian Miranda (40)
-0.01 : Chad Marshall (38)
-0.08 : Danny O´Rourke( 8)
-0.09 : Will Hesmer (33)
-0.13 : Kirk Urso (5)
-0.13 : Milovan Mirosevic (5)
-0.16 : Rich Balchan (18)
-0.33 : Eric Gehrig (7)
-0.33 : Shaun Francis (10)
-0.44 : Dilly Duka (18)

Below are guys with not quite enough games:

+0.92 : Justin Meram (4)
+0.17 : Olman Vargas (4)
-1.33 : Aaron Schoenfeld (1)
-1.33 : Ethan Finlay (1)
-1.33 : Tony Tchani (2)


• Anor is still the best at getting results (even with 9 starts).

• Two of the six + guys are out injured.

• Vegas loves this sort of +/- stuff because IT WORKS. Especially in soccer, because players can't be subbed back in.

• If Eddie Gaven is benched before Milovan Mirosevic and Kirk Urso I will lose my shit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kentucky Rest Stop

Been a while since I've been to Kentucky. Only thing better than the Bourbon down there is the people. Not sure what exactly has changed, but came back to Ohio with such a great impression of Kentucky. That's not just the cake talking, either.

Pictured is 9 Year, Single Barrel Reserve. My understanding, from the nice lady at the visitors center, is that the difference from normal 9 year Knob Creek bottle is the 60%, 120 Proof (normal is 45%).

Now... 120 Bourbon. That's the cake talkin' y'all.

Bold, for sure. Borderline single malt Scotch flavor. Not a lot of kick on the buds but sharp, similar to a non-islay single malt but not as smokey. Recommended to hardcore without ice.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Plan Your Next Trip with Power Rankings

Sporting KC, San Jose and Salt Lake (maybe Seattle too) are locking in at the top. FC Dallas is Mr. Steady, holding down the 'slightly above average' team. Columbus, Philly, Montreal and Toronto are settling down at the bottom. Funny how they have all played each other already.

The Crew have Houston this weekend. Early preview; Houston isn't blowing anyone's hair back (3 goals in 4 games) but solid wins over a revived San Jose and resuscitated Chivas.

Crew Stadium allowed 4 at home last time. If opportunity has ever knocked, then it has done so here... for the Dynamo.

Kerrin Sheldon DC United Video

@jailteeth sent this along. Good. Moving pictures done well. The DeLeon shot alone deserves her own feature length.

Mr. Sheldon has more good. Link.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Columbus Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha is a middle manager and Emilio Renteria is just his talented, under achieving employee.

Renteria's benching last game was about motivation and the three goals in one half of play in a reserve game proves it. If anything Warzycha comes out of this thing sunny side up. After a limp first four games Renteria needed a kick in the ass and his bossman gave it to him.

It should be noted that Renteria wasn't done with three goals in that Reserve game either. He assisted on a 4th and was ejected in the 45th. Let's see. 3 goals, 1 assist and an ejection in one half. Where was this passion in the other games he started with the Senior squad? Regarless of the talent level, I'm thinking Warzycha is asking himself that.

From there it seems some nefarious Club problems might be simmering. The Crew, as a whole, wasn't done with the fireworks during this reserve game. Both Tony Tchani and Justin Meram were ejected later on in the same game. Three Reds in one game.

Columbus has been pretty lifeless this year (even in wins). This reserve game might have been a way of some players to act out and express some frustration.

Frustration has to be reaching Middle Management. Let's hope it isn't ignored. The passion is there, true believers. Just has to be harnessed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crew Game 5, Mess (PHI)

Midfield Mess. Hack Fest. Obchodowy of Polski Piłka Nożna.

Just when I thought I'd acclimated myself to Major League Soccer I get this. 30 called fouls, 6 yellows and a handball in the box.


Crew fans got to see a different attacking tandem since Emilio Renteria was left to stew on the bench. There was some improvement in attacking half play due, in small part, to Schoenfeld and Vargas pairing. Schoenfeld (after he was done injuring players, both Union and Crew) settled and showed that he was more willing to work with the Crew MF instead of just turning and attacking (a la Renteria). Vargas has already shown the ability and willingness to work the ball around as well.

If you are a Crew fan/supporter don't let that drama at the top of the Crew formation fool you into thinking that is the problem, though. It's not. The Crew middle is a complete mess.

That middle starts with the 10 shirt. Milovan Mirosevic. Crew fans have seen Bernardo Anor, Eddie Gaven, Ethan Finlay and Dilly Duka playing musical chairs around him.

For yesterday's game we saw Gaven and Finlay everywhere and Mirosevic nowhere.


You know what. I don't want to go any further with this game. "Close down the man with the ball" in Polish, must also mean "Chop him down".

Nowak and Warzycha have had a few years to shape their clubs into images of themselves. What you, FAN, get from these guys is what we saw yesterday. High profile coaching ego benchings (Renteria / Adu) and violent, dangerous play. If you have the wrong players for that type of game, then more often than not, those things lead to frustrated players and lack of effort.

EFFORT should never be the problem. Not in soccer, nor in life.


Fouls, couple hot headed Poles yelling from the bench.


• Crew defenders defend with their hands out like basketball players. Two handed in the box yesterday. Only Gehrig was called. Outside of that, the Crew halfback and centerbacks did what was asked and played well.

• Columbus doesn't have a RB or LB capable of creating overlapping wing play that Warzycha wants.

• With the style of play Crew and Union play, I'll be surprised if either team has anyone left standing by the end of the year.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crew Move Downtown

Wouldn't it be great to somehow test how well the Columbus Crew would fair if it were in downtown Columbus instead of its current location at the Fair Grounds?

Well, just so happens that Helltown is(n't) in the business of game theory. Consider that question moot. MOOT, damnit.

Huntington Park already exists and is large enough to boast a soccer pitch that meets FIFA regulations (albeit, on the small side). The maths 'foot' out (snicker). Yup, the current home of the triple A Columbus Clippers is large enough for a football pitch.

Huntington Park is pretty. It seats 10k and is part of the super happenin' Arena District. A place that boasts bars and such. Fun stuff.

The Ohio Fair Grounds boasts a hardware store and a Bob's (Frisch's) Big Boy that, one community leader tells me, should be shut down.

Wouldn't it be great if this happened just once. One home game played downtown. Fill that park up. Generate that buzz. Why not.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tommy Heinemann Surgery

Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch, reported today that Tommy Heinemann had arthroscopic surgery on his knee last week. Positive sign is that he will not need further surgery (according to Coach Warzycha).

Arthroscopic surgery isn't a serious procedure but for a soccer player it can take a bit longer to recover, I would imagine. Maybe expect 4-6 weeks out? Time will tell.

Anybody who happens to read along with Helltown knows that Tommy is a favored player. Hope he gets back out there soon.

Adam Jardy's "Covering the Crew" blog for the Columbus Dispatch. Link.

UPDATE 4-13-12: Reported that Tommy has a fracture in his knee and will be out for the year. Also reported that William Hesmer will be out for 6 months with a similar fracture in his hip. Frustrating news. Hope to see both of them back and healthy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scouting, Appropriately

Back in December I decided to take a look at a handful of players currently plying their trade in the United Soccer League Pro division. The reason being; I am frustrated with the lack of attention Major League Soccer teams pay to existing professional league soccer in this country.

The theory I'm employing is to utilize the existing footballing infrastructure that's already in place, in our very own country. It's surprising how hard that is for some to comprehend.

This post is the 2nd follow up to a group of talented players I singled out (1st post, Link). I'm still frustrated with how MLS sides largely ignore the USL and NASL but some of the guys I identified four months ago have moved "up". Others, still available for any MLS club looking to improve!

01 : Luke Mulholland, 23 ATT MID (England)
Starting and playing with NASL side, Tampa Bay Rowdies. Hoping the NASL can continue to settle. It is very important to the soccer well being of this country. I expect Mulholland to have a great year and move to MLS.

02 : Jhonny Arteaga, 25 F (Colombia)
In the starting 18 with the NY Red Bulls now! Woohoo! Columbus had a shot at him, tried him out even. Playing behind a couple heavyweights in Henry and Cooper but I expect him to get his chance.

03 : Matthew Delicâte, 29 F (Wales)
Still with Richmond Kickers. Like a true Welshman, never stopped playing all winter. Was one of the leading scorers on his indoor soccer team during that time. I expect good things from the Kickers again this year. Crew. Sign him already.

04 : Jorge Ivan Becerra, 27 D (Mexico)
Having a hard time finding Iván Becerra right now. Last seen with Wilmington Hammerheads.

05 : Henry Kalungi, 24 D (Uganda)
Still playing for the a strong 2012 Richmond Kickers side. Also, played all winter in Uganda.

06 : Rob Valentino, 26 D (USA)
Still with USL Pro Orlando City. We'll see how well that team does this year. They are making lots of noise about getting into MLS. From what I saw of Orlando a few weeks ago? Not a great move for the league.

07 : Paul Nicholson, 25 CDM, (England)
Resigned with Wilmington Hammerheads. He is one of those players that has you scratching your head as to why MLS teams even bother with drafting college kids. Sign this guy instead.

08 : Sainey Touray, 21 (Gambia)
With Harrisburg City. Just fractured his wrist, but hopes to get back to action soon.

One of the Other guys from my original post... Jose Angulo, 23. He signed with NY Red Bulls. Good stuff!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Crew Game 4, Bad Loss (NY)

NY Red Bull 4 - Crew 1. Only five times since 1996 has the Columbus Crew lost by 3 or more goals at home. Most recently it was in 2010... 2005 saw a pair. Finally, go back 16 years to 1996 to get another -3 game at home. If the loss yesterday felt a little different than other losses, that's why.


New York had no problems working the ball up front. They were interested in one thing yesterday; scoring. They got what they wanted. NY put goals in freely yesterday and the middle of the pitch was to blame. Urso and Mirosevic, yes. But it also falls on Renteria and Vargas for not helping disrupt some of the buildup.

All the preparations going into this game about NY being on a scoring binge. Who do the Crew forwards think they play for? No team in MLS can dangle two forwards up top like that. Is it Warzycha? What gives?

NY had little if any interest in playing wide outside of Dane Richards. Anor and Gaven didn't have much to work with. Urso, Gehrig and Francis were turned inside out. Miranda looked slow and off on his passes and Mirosevic was getting outplayed. It was a mess.


The game settled into a low intensity training session for the first 15 minutes of the 2nd. New York seemed perfectly content with a 3-0 win. Around the hour mark Warzycha subbed in Dilly Duka and Ethan Finlay and some fresh legged energy returned to the game but nothing came of it.

The Crew's lone goal came in the last couple minutes from Chad Marshall's head.

Thierry Henry, of course, responded within the next 2 minutes. His second of the game and 4th NY goal scored directly at Gruenebaum's hanging towel.


• Gruenebaum got rattled easily. His handball out of the box was a manifestation of that. He looked very much the longtime backup yesterday.

• The towel he hangs in the net should get MVP. Not sure why Columbus goes with black netting but putting a white towel up there only creates a target. Pet peeves.

• Four games in and only one goal from Vargas and Renteria. Though, I don't think it is entirely on them as Crew are scoring at same rate as preseason (regardless of who was up top). The club seem's hell bent on making the so called "Three Headed Monster" of Vargas, Renteria and Mirosevic work - but so far, not working.

• More on scoring: The constant in pre-season and four games into the regular season has been Mirosevic. Asking him to go box to box in the diamond MF might not be his thing. Especially if Urso is only going to be the 5th defender and not a MF presence.

• Last note on scoring, Toronto, Montreal and NY are tops in the league in allowing goals. 2 wins good. Low goal count, warning sign.

• Thierry Henry is a good player.

• Team needs players like Heinemann and Hesmer after a soulless loss like this. Heinemann especially. Looks like the team will need more options up top.

• Crew face the worst scoring team in MLS next weekend in Philly. Good timing after a three goal loss, fur sur.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Crew Game 4 Program, NYRB

8 Correct
2 Mulligans (early Red Cards, man! cut me a break)
2 Wrong (flat wrong)

2 Correct this year. Rapids and TFC
1 mulligan (Montreal!! grrr)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tchani Exposing Crew Limitations

The game against NY this weekend is a reminder of the mid-season player transaction Columbus made in 2011; Toronto FC's Tony Tchani for Crew players Andy Iro and Leandre Griffit.

As things stand, this trade was a waste of valuable time and resources for both teams.

For TFC: Iro and Griffit aren't only out of Major League Soccer, they are out of the professional game all together. For Columbus? Well, let's look at that.

Tony Tchani was a talent that was identified early in his life. He became a Generation Adidas player and was drafted into the league as a 2nd overall pick in 2010 by the NY Red Bulls. While with NY he saw time in a significant number of games. 2011... couple games into the season saw a desperately rebuilding TFC pick Tchani away from desperately sinking NY. Tchani, at that time, was seemingly just along for the ride on the DeRosario roller coaster trade.

On April 23th of last year, Tchani scores his first career MLS goal for TFC. Against who? The Crew (how do you do). He also gets his first Red Card seconds later for an embarrassing kit waving celebration with fans.

Columbus signs him a few weeks later.

After the signing with Columbus he spends half the year recovering from an inherited knee injury that the Crew either overlooked or accepted, Tchani inexplicably makes his first Crew club start in the 2012 playoff game against Colorado. Predictably, the Crew lose.

Enter the off-season: Crew brain trust decides that asking Tchani to become Team Captain is a smart idea.

Yes. That happened. Two time MLS Defensive Player of the Year on your team in Marshall, MLS Cup Goal Keeping Winner - Hesmer, and ever steady Eddie Gaven on the team - and one start, twice traded in one year Tchani is asked to lead the team.

It wasn't surprising that Tchani slumped away from the mere thought of being team captain. What was surprising was how far he fled from the responsibility. Also surprising was that the conversation became public. In effect, it left Coach Warzycha standing there with egg on his face.

On a subtle level, this Tchani / Captain event is one of the strangest misfires I've seen in professional sports.

Around that same time Tchani developed a mystery illness the night before traveling with Generation Adidas and their tour of Holland.

Tchani's development as a player has been a downward spiral. He now plays, essentially, as a six figure Reserve Team Crew player whose league mandated salary eclipses all the other Crew Reserve players, by six figures.

The Crew, as a franchise of Major League Soccer, have shown a tendency to choose players like Tchani. Players that they had simply seen have a good couple games against them (recent example: Olman Vargas).

Columbus is a club that's rooted. Front Office and Coaches have been with the team nearly since the beginning. Even TV and radio play callers have been around since 1996. It is important to have that kind of consistency so it isn't surprising that the Crew's recent player finds are through sons, relatives (Warzycha, Iribarren, Gehrig) or asking existing team players to make recommendations (Miranda for Mirosevic, Renteria for Anor, Indiana for everything).

Arguments can be made for bringing in friends and player recommendations (and have been made, Soccernomics Simon Kuper, Stefan Szymanski) but putting that together with the Crew plucking away players that caught their eye playing their own team tells me is that the Crew have little, if any, functioning scouting network. Relying on recommendations as over 50% of your new signings is not sustainable. It's no wonder recent Crew castoffs are not just sent packing from Columbus, but professional soccer in general (also speaks to the real need for team affiliations at lower levels. Imagine baseball without the minor leagues).

Young players. Ben Sippola, Kevin Burns, Andy Adlard, Andy Iro, Leandre Griffit, Alex Riggs. All 2011 Crew players, none of them playing soccer professionally. Santiago Prim is barely hanging on with only 16 minutes of pro soccer this year.

Crew still make the playoffs. Resource wasting trades and the final bus stop, et al is probably more a testament to MLS's insistence on playing puppet master. Something for another day, perhaps. Not sure how to start it but here's how it will finish...

Open aperture. Wide shot... Hold that. Show a Sea World whose better days are clearly behind it and an evacuated / bankrupt Orlando.

Ghost text "MLS Expansion City?" over top of "For Lease" signs on 20 story hotels. Pan down to $100 million dollars in cash in front of Disney World.

Fade to black. Add text "NO COMPROMISES FOR COMPETITION, MONEY TALKS" in IMPACT font. Queue AC/DC's Money Talks.

Credits. Legal.

Found object from the Internets. "John" from Ohio puts this whole thing really well, the actual day of the Tchani trade to Columbus. The lone comment under a column:

"The crew management only picks players that scored on them. Tchani sucked that's why the other teams got rid of him and Columbus loves to take leftovers. They got rid off Griffit for that. The only reason Columbus picked him is that they think he is a horse that will run and never stop. Balchan is the same kind of player like Tchani but both don't known how to play real soccer. Balchan now is hurt because he ran like a maniac on the field. This is american futbol not creative soccer."

He is right. Balchan out for the year. Tchani is a misfire, to this point. Even O'Rourke isn't immune in playing, what has become, an impossible CDM Crew spot.

Let's hope Urso doesn't kill himself out there.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Burning Red Bull

Remarkably, Columbus Crew and NY Red Bulls have 2 common opponents in just the first 4 weeks of the season.

Colorado and Montreal.

Below are a few tid-bits about how NY and Columbus fared against them:

Win Loss
2-0: NY (Home, Home)
1-1: Crew (Home, Away)

Goals For
9: NY
2: Crew

Goals Against
3: NY
2: Crew

I guess what we are looking at here is a classic 9.0 Sporting Earthquake for Real Fire to only 1.886733 Glenlivet sipping that's older than Major League's FC(s) dynamo galaxy!

"But I must go on, for it is never finished. Even when I wake, I cannot tell what is real, and what I am dreaming as I move and speak and eat my dinner. I remember what cannot have happened, and forget something that is happening to me now." - Lady Amalthea

Illustration credit Jenny Robbins.

Monday, April 2, 2012

MLS Round 4's Conditional Formatting

UPDATED April 5th to include Sounder at Heart, Oshan and Jeff Sagarin. Links at bottom.The power ranking above takes the player rating of each player and averages them up by position and groups by team. The 1-19 rating is the rank by field assignment as classified by STATS, Inc. I think it works well. At the very least, it's Christmass'y.


• Variance between positional rank tells me Vancouver and New England are unpredictable right now. NY and Houston not far behind them in crazy.

• MLS more than any other domestic pro sport, doesn't have need for power rankings. Un-balanced schedule this year but everybody still plays everyone at least once. Just use the table and throw in a inflated or sour pick on a popular team like Portland, LA or Seattle. They'll call you an analyst. Advance yourself in the name of helicopter entertainment over actual competition and honest evaluation through proven tools (never mind that USMNT city burning behind you, wait... Did you say burning? We'll sell commercials!). Go with it! GO! $$$$

• Teams gamin' my system: Portland and Chivas USA. Ranked 3 places higher on my POWER RANK than the true table.

• Teams undervalued by my thingy: DC United, New England and Colorado. I've got them 2 or 3 places lower than league table.

• Locked in to spots (My power ranking, positional rank and league table rank = match closely), Best to Worst:

1. Sporting KC
2. San Jose Quakes
7. Columbus Crew
11. Chicago Fire
17. Philadelphia Union
19. Impact Montreal

If your team isn't on that list then the maths are telling me that you've got plenty of table movement in your future (up or down).

UPDATED April 5th: Other rankings are sprouting up for Round 4.

• WV Hooligan. Crew 13th, United 14th. Link

• Pro Soccer Talk. Crew 13th, United 10th. Link

•, Crew 10th, United 13th. Link

•, Crew 10th, United 13th. Link

• Sounder at Heart. Crew 15, United 12. Link.

• SB Nation / Jeremiah Oshan. Crowd = Good. Crew 13, United 14. Link. Beastie Boys.

• Jeff Sagarin / USA Today. Good all round. Crew 9, United 12. Link.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

DC United Picture

Jailteeth. AKA Smitty. Took this pic at RFK last Friday. United 4 - bad guys 1. Hope it alright I post it. Major League Soccer is better when DC United is playing well.

Crew Game 3 Recap (Win)

1. Keep Starting Bernardo Anor

2. Eric Gehrig is Good at Soccer

3. Fox Sports Ohio Disappoints

Columbus traveled up the road to visit Toronto FC for MLS Round 4 (game 3 for Crew snd TFC) and earned a 1-0 win. Bernardo Anor provided the game's lone goal.

This was the only game on at 2 PM Saturday afternoon so any neutral viewers coming into it expecting any semblance of fireworks probably left disappointed. Crew matches at BMO field tend to be low scoring, oft sluggish affairs and this one wasn't much different. 7 total meetings, 13 goals between the two at BMO. 2 Crew wins, 5 draws. 2007 was the other Crew win.

1. Bernardo Anor's starting record is now a team best of 5 W, 1 D, 2 L going back to the start of last year (starters >5 games).

Anor isn't known as an overtly hard worker or a bruiser or an emotional player. Nor does he carry an 'aw shucks' shoulder slump and he isn't from the mid-west. He wasn't splash signing. In fact, he's practically devoid of all the qualities the Crew faithful usually gravitate towards.

Yesterday he was matched up against an above average MLS player in Richard Eckersley. Most of the game on that left side those two battled it out. It wasn't always pretty but Anor outplayed him.

Anor's touch sometimes lets him down but he knows where to be. He knows how to get the ball into dangerous areas. He knows how to pull that RB out when he has to and forces him to stay home when he should be advancing on the attack. Most importantly: Anor know's how to Win at the MLS level. A characteristic that his counterpart Dilly Duka (4 W, 4 D, 10 L) decidedly does not know how to do.

Watch the Vargas goal from last week closely. Anor shields (obliterates) the Montreal defender allowing Vargas space to swoop in. This is not something Duka has ever shown the willingness to do to this point of his career in Columbus.

2. Eric Gehrig had the best game of his professional career. Involved a lot and yesterday. His confidence was through the roof. He is one of those guys that just keeps improving as time passes.

With that performance, Gehrig has earned more starting chances. O'Rourke, to me, should stay in the CDM spot, Urso's current home. With Julius James still seemingly a ways out I think the CB tandem of Marshall and Gehrig is one we may become familiar with this year.

3. Fox Sports Ohio didn't travel their announcing team to Toronto. My suspicions arose when the green screen cutout was worse than normal at the start and then confirmed at half when they showed the game callers at the all too familiar FS OHIO game desk.

I don't know where that desk is located exactly (near Cleveland I think) but it is a very familiar setting for the Cavs and Blue Jackets fans. It's disappointing that the play callers didn't travel.

Don't think the Dispatch beat writer traveled either.

If that's the case than we had remote coverage on a televised game which was covered in the paper by a beat writer watching that remote coverage. If this is the case going forward than FS Ohio should just broadcast the 2008 games over again.

On the announcing: Dwight Burgess.

It could have been the fact they weren't at the game but he read the game poorly. He also has a hard time not talking yesterday.

Knowingly or not Duncan Oughton often has to provide somesort of explanation to counter a Burgess "negative pass" (back pass, I'm assuming) comment or misguided [player x] "...having a horrible game" in a grating/berating coach sort of way.

Mr. Burgess has been with the Crew for a long time. He is part of that family. He is a serviceable play caller but listening to him is too often like traveling back in time to American Soccer 1998.

Let the game do the talking.


• More important 3 points earned from a team the Crew can beat. The summer portion of the schedule will be brutal for the Crew this year.

• Francis and Miranda stayed home for most of this match, good coaching, that.

• Can't argue with two consecutive shut outs but you can argue with only 2 goals during run of play in 3 games. Similar rate as last year and 2012 preseason and not good enough to raise the team to higher levels. Still wanting more team play from Renteria. Both he and Vargas had quiet games but too much holding play is still stopping with Emilio.

• Urso is playing his role well enough. It does seem as if the game is being played around him at times. Mirosevic is going box to box and still nabbing balls that Urso should be taking care of.

• After lots of turnover over that last 1.5 years and many injuries, nice to see similar 18 dressing for two weeks in a row (Gehrig only change over last week). It's the little things.

Further analysis on Bernardo Anor's contributions to the Crew. Link.