Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Other Crew Stats

For the past couple years I've messed around with Major League Soccer team and player stats for reasons known only to scotch that fuels me. The better the scotch the deeper and more obscure the performance indicator, measurement, efficiency, metric and maybe illustration. Motivation and all that dwells within a man's vice, thus they sayeth.

Here are a few overlooked things that stick out to me right now as far as the Crew are concerned and the company they are in.

Justin Meram. It's just not normal what he has done. Sometimes you see a player get on over the course of 2 or 3 games and maybe get a brace and a goal. Maybe a hat trick in 90. But Meram's 3 goals are spread out over 197 minutes and 3 games. Here are the folks around him.

245 : 4 : Alan Gordon (hero or jerk wad? tonight at 10)
197 : 3 : Justin Meram
745 : 9 : Thierry Henry
186 : 2 : Sinisa Ubiparipovic
305 : 3 : Kamani Hill

The Crew are soft(er) this year. There I said it. As a team they are about average when it comes to fouls though. Giving or getting, Columbus is as average as your last lunch. But the Crew have a few players who are going to ground as a result of someone else's machismo... AKA The cardboard boxes:

% of Fouls Suffered to overall fouls (min. 20 fouls)
78% : Davide Chiumiento
75 : Jair Benitez
75 : Jay DeMerit
75 : Tony Beltran
74 : Martin Rivero
73 : Darlington Nagbe
73 : Milovan Mirosevic
71 : Eddie Gaven

71 : Lee Nguyen
71 : Davy Arnaud
71 : Benny Feilhaber
70 : Dax McCarty

The surprises here are the defenders... Benitez, DeMerit and Beltran. Really, fellas?

Going to look at this one from a negative stance to make a point. Columbus Crew players with more Shots per 90 minutes than Ethan Finlay

2.8 : Aaron Schoenfeld
2.7 : Justin Meram
2.7 : Emilio Rentería
2.3 : Dilly Duka
2.1 : Milovan Mirosevic
2.0 : Olman Vargas
1.3 : Nemanja Vukovic
1.3 : Tony Tchani
1.1 : Chad Marshall
1.1 : Eddie Gaven
1.1 : Shaun Francis

Josh Williams, Kirk Urso and Bernardo Anor are tied with Finlay at 1 shot per 90 minutes played.

Wish I had more time to organize these types of things, especially with the recent results in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Tournament. All I've got for now!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Twente Dutch Lions (2) v Crew (1), Explained

"The reason of starting a (Dutch) soccer club in the USA is that there are 18 million soccer players in the USA (the most in the world) and although the Americans dominate almost every sport, there are almost no US players performing at the world’s top level. We feel this is due to a lack of tactical development, something the Dutch school is known for worldwide."

- Dayton Dutch Lions (Corporate)

It's funny how far the internet can take you and the tricks it can play on your mind. I read that corporate statement last year when curiously pulling back the curtain on the USL Pro division. The realization that a prominent Eredivisie club operates a team in Ohio merely solicited a "hm. that's interesting" last year while this year it has me pulling out Simon Kuper/Stefan Szymanski's Soccernomics and questioning the future role Americans play in the global game of Soccer.

Why? So called "top division" side Columbus Crew fell to so called "division III" side Dayton Dutch Lions.

There are a couple "so called" forces at work here.

First. Erik Tammer and Mike Mossel. Two business savvy soccer playing Dutchmen that bridge the gap betwixt the Dayton Dutch Lions and FC Twente in Holland. Second. And this is what has me questioning the trajectory of soccer in this country... Foreign clubs see the United States (Turkey and Hungary) as massive talent pools to exploit on a grassroots level.

Dayton Dutch Lions v. Columbus Crew
US Open Cup, Round 3

It was clear that Columbus entered this game with serious intentions of winning after last years lackluster loss to the Richmond Kickers. The demeanor of the Crew players was evident. They wanted this game.

So with - Ethan Finlay and Olman Vargas up top. Cole Grossman prowling the middle, Kevan George right behind him. Justin Meram and Chris Birchall out wide... Shaun Francis, Eric Gehrig, Julius James (c) and Perry in the back - The Crew went to work.

Columbus controlled most of the action. You could see Dayton speculating and venturing out a bit to see what the Crew had in terms of talent but only a bit. The script was written for this one around the 40th minute: Dayton would bunker down and only work the counter from then on and turn Columbus into exactly the team it is not: A possession oriented club with solid finishing.

Crew coach Warzycha was forced to make some subs and changes as the game wore on. Finlay up top was a mistake. Meram was moved up at some point in the first half in what is basically an admission of mistake by Warzycha. Francis had to come out for injury and was replaced by Josh Williams in the left back spot. These changes are red flags to any Crew fan. When you see players swapping spots betwixt mid field and forward and a central defender coming in as a LBW in this type of formation? you have a problem.

Columbus did become more dangerous with Meram up top. He had an excellent chance midway through this half but the Lions' GK was up to the task. The only Crew goal came off a questionable handball in the box (naturally). Vargas stepped up and drilled it home in probably the worst thing that could have happened to the Crew.

Confidence grew in the Crew but they lacked pieces in the right positions to capitalize on it. Vargas was off. Meram had been run ragged in the mid field and Finlay? well, Finlay is proving to be a frustrating character. The Crew wanted another goal but fell to a exquisite counter by Dayton around the 70th minute. One to one. After that the 1,500 folks on hand saw a desperate Crew team push for yet another and laughably got beat by basically the same sequence of events. Dayton pulled off another. 2-1. Game.

• Finlay really struggled up top again. I'm not sure how many more passes this guy gets. I read a lot on this match and it seems like Crew writers/bloggers like him but he is not dangerous right now. I see the arms pumping. The huff and puff. The heart. But not the comfort level nor the skill.

• Julius James. First game back and had the Captains armband. Got burnt on both goals which were really the only time he, Gehrig or Matt Lampson were tested.

• Josh Williams at left back? He was the only player out there last night that I felt was bigger than the game. Chris Birchall, almost but he disappeared for long spells.

• Columbus subbed on Renteria and Anor late but it was too late. The only thing it showed me was the skill these guys have. Both of them made it seem like men against boys. Problem was they only got about 10 minutes.

• Crew were only 1 of 7 MLS teams that went down yesterday during this year's Cup. I'd like to think this was due to something other than the fact that MLS is not organized in a way that rewards the best and harshly punishes the worst. Unfortunately, Major League Soccer does a great job at only achieving "average". As such, followers of the league should expect nothing but.
There are businessmen and women in the FC Twente organization that took this game much more seriously than the Crew. The limousines at the match were ferrying high ranking FC Twente club officials...

It's like one of those stories in books and movies about a seemingly random crime turns into a much deeper rooted web that leads all the way to the top world leaders. This is also, perhaps, merely the beginning of a topsy turvy US soccer environment that we might as well get use to.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bottle Cap Blues, by chris sumers

good stuff. Have a great Memorial Day and remember those that have paid our share.


In order to have great players you have to allow players to be great.

Don't look now but the Columbus Crew now have two more wins in there first 12 games than last year and have a couple more goals in that same period.

Just about everyone expected this busy past week of three games in eight days to go poorly. Two games on the west coast against top of the table teams and then a game at home against a solid, well coached rival.

Draw, Win, Win. Five goals for, 2 against and Eddie Gaven still hasn't stopped running.

Chicago let a confident Crew work the ball around at will. It didn't take long for Eddie Gaven to slot one near post (9') and it was a little surprising that Columbus didn't have a couple more in the 10 minutes after.

Justice was served in the 44' though, Gaven found Emilio Renteria posted up in the 6 yard box and Emilio did what he has been trained to to since birth.

Turn. Shoot. Score.

It took a bit but the Fire finally started to get some sustained pressure while Columbus fell back and only worked off counters. It could have been a case of Chicago playing a bit of possum in the 1st half with the intent of conserving energy. A tactic that nearly paid off as the addition of Dominique Oduro (Helltown Favorite) half time added to the Fire attack.

The pressure and tactics the Fire played yielded a goal in the 72 minute and it cost the Crew. Both Shaun Francis and Carlos Mendes of the Crew back line had to be subbed because of exhaustion and poor play. Mendes looked to have a limp but it was easy to see that he was spent in the first half.

The last 20 minutes was a little hard to watch. It was a hot evening and you could see players on the Crew side walking around about ready to collapse. This effort paid off though. The Crew held out and head into the league break heads up high.

• The exclusion of THREE GOALS IN THREE GAMES Justin Meram was/is a controversial one. Both Bernardo Anor and Kevan George (1st MLS app) got the call over him (I say George because Tony Tchani could have been dropped back to CDM and Meram inserted on right). There are a couple ways to look at this Meram situation.

Warzycha mentioned in the post game that the plan was to bring Justin on in the 2nd but the two backline subs (Francis and Mendes) prevented it which is essentially saying Frank Klopas coached Meram out of this game, if anything. Maybe Klopas watched Rocky last week or something... taking his licks in the first half then came out swinging with jabs to the Crew gut. Observant Crew fans will notice that it was mostly Crew players crumpling to the ground after the game.

THE MERAM INCIDENT, Everything else View
It would have meant so much to have Meram out there pushing for his 4th goal in 4. I can't find were any Crew player in history has ever done that. The Crew need fans to show up, they need stories. Supporters want heroes.

Meram's 3 goals in 3 is a story for the Crew. 4 in 4 would be a story on the front page of the MLS website and probably even make ESPN rounds as a topic. All the major MLS media guys would be talking about it. It would be such a breath of fresh air for this team to hear positive things like that.

If there is anything positive to come out of this as far as Warzycha is concerned is that he didn't force Meram in the game. He didn't try and cover up one bad decision with another.

• It's important to remember that Meram and Renteria are alive with goals again now that Eddie Gaven is free to roam with Milovan Mirosevic and Olman Vargas out.

• Bernardo Anor maintains his spot as winningest player per start on the team and his sample size continues to increase. The guy is a talisman. He has started in 3 of the 5 wins. He has some easily noticeable faults but yesterday he never got tired, won balls, disrupted play and was making good decisions, late.

• Anor also carries the game well as does Josh Williams. What I mean by that is this: Ethan Finlay looks like he is trying to climb Mount Everest when he is out there.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Crew Salaries, Notes

Here are the pay rate changes for players that were either part of the Columbus Crew or Major League Soccer last year and this year. On the far right is current *Guaranteed Salary.

+67.9% : Aaron Horton $70k
+38.6% : Julius James $100k
+35.0% : Eric Gehrig $44k
+33.1% : Korey Veeder $46k
+21.7% : Sebastian Miranda $140k
+18.0% : Andy Gruenebaum $79k
+16.5% : Rich Balchan $69k
+12.5% : Tommy Heinemann $47k
+10.7% : William Hesmer $181k
+09.8% : Emilio Rentería $134k
+09.1% : Danny O'Rourke $146k
+09.0% : Dilly Duka $243k
+07.7% : *Tony Tchani $209k
+06.6% : Chad Marshall $341k
+06.3% : Justin Meram $71
+05.0% : Josh Williams $44k
+05.0% : Shaun Francis $44k
+05.0% : Bernardo Anor $44k
+05.0% : Cole Grossman $44k
+04.8% : Carlos Mendes $106k
-07.0% : Eddie Gaven $195k
-30.6% : Chris Birchall $109k

NEW : Kirk Urso $34k
NEW : Ethan Finlay $59k
NEW : Aaron Schoenfeld $34k
NEW : Nemanja Vukovic $126k
NEW : Kevan George $34k
NEW : Olman Vargas $175k
NEW : Milovan Mirosevic $223k
NEW : Aubrey Perry $34k
NEW : Matt Lampson $44k
NEW : Ben Speas $58k

*Tony Tchani's contract appears to be loaded with incentives. His base salary is about half his guaranteed. Meaning: It's up to him. When I'm sorting through salaries I use Guaranteed. It'd be foolish for anyone running a club or business to plan around base salary.


NOTABLE NUMBERS (approximate)

$580k : Amount Columbus shed through player transactions (dropping $1.4 Million and signing $820k).

$230k : Pay increases to players with the Crew last year and this year

$350k : Pay reduction in total salaries, - players salaries dropped + pay increases (note: I capped Andres Mendoza at the $350k DP cap hit)



Andy Gruenebaum
Josh Williams
Eric Gehrig
Kirk Urso
Shaun Francis
Sebastian Miranda
Ethan Finlay

Contracts are complicated animals in MLS. Some of the younger drafted players probably have 3 year deals with incremental COLA -like increases. Un-drafted players are probably less. Duka and Tchani are both former Generation Adidas players. GA players are guaranteed six figures by MLS. Both Duka and Tchani "graduated" last year which means they are fair game now. Tony Tchani is essentially on trial right now. I also expect Dilly Duka's value to decrease if he can't stay healthy over longer periods.

A good chunk of the younger players with bright futures are coming up on 2 and 3 years with the team. Josh Williams, Aaron Horton, Bernardo Anor, Justin Meram, Shaun Francis, Eric Gehrig, Korey Veeder, Cole Grossman, are all solid MLS players and seem to be durable enough. Rich Balchan is a good talent, but needs to get healthy. Same goes for Tommy Heinemann.

Could it be that some of these players will make up the core Crew group for the next 5-7 years? It's really impressive that the Crew has a group like this all learning the ways of Warzycha, Bliss, Lapper and Irribarren. My hope would be that Columbus keeps them together.

Finally, how much of that is dictated by MLS is not known so I don't see a lot to get frothy about until those gaps get filled. Columbus seems to keep team salaries at or below the $3.5 million dollar mark and is doing an excellent job pulling in young regional players (highest rate in league, actually).


I will probably take a closer look at the 2-3 year Crew players later this year as their development is getting very interesting to me.

If I've got something wrong here or if you want to know more about this post you can email me: ljbaby654 (at)

Friday, May 25, 2012

MLS Salaries, Efficiencies Drop the T

This may sound strange but you know what? The release of salary information on Major League Soccer employees reminds me of how my family lost the letter "T" in Johnston.

I'm a bona fide son of a Son of the American Revolution (SAR). As such, my family is required to maintain documents that trace my blood back to someone who fought against the British (which sometimes brings about friction in the family, as my mother was born in England. ALAS!). In those documents I see that more than a handful of Johnson tales are confirmed, maybe some dismissed.

One of which that can be confirmed is that we, the Johnson family, were so poor that we had to drop the 'T'.

Way back when I had a Johnston ancestor marry a lady Johnson. Mr. Johnston (Mrs. Johnson's husband) fell in battle. The Continental Army happened to award a small stipend to the widows of warriors but due to paper work inaccuracies Mrs. Johnston (formerly Johnson) had a hard time convincing the powers that be that she was, in fact, the wife Johnston. She wanted her payment but for whatever reason, she couldn't get it.

Eventually she signed her name as "Johnson", without the "t", in order to resolve the issue. She got her stipend but not without costing my family the letter 't'. Why she had to drop the letter 't' is lost to history. Maybe it's because Mr. Johnston was illiterate. Hell, maybe his handwriting was just bad. Who knows. It doesn't matter now. I'm a Johnson because of that.

When matching up my 73 columned MLS weighted player ranking excel spreadsheet to the PDF of MLS player salaries I notice a lot of player name changes. Sometimes it's as simple as Anthony turning into Tony. Other times it is a tilde getting lost. Sometimes it's a simple as a space betwixt letters.

I imagine that the file the Major League Soccer Players Union puts out is what players wrote down as their name. The name that the check will be made out too. Perhaps some players "Americanize" their names because they think it is simpler. It's interesting to me that when huge statistic compilers record things that players names are largely intact but when it comes to depositing that American Dollar? Things change.

This matters because this is the name that The United States of America recognizes as yours.

The one you pay taxes under.

The one descendants, 200 years from now, will dig up and as questions as to why the 't' was dropped.


This is the time of year when the old text to columns and vlookup's get a workout. I feel like it should be a holiday of some sort because Major League Soccer (more than any other United States sports league) has fans, bloggers, beat writers and columnists put their cynical fiscal hat on.

"Oh! Look at how much they paid that guy!!" they will say. "Look how poorly that club pays players", others will say. "Read us here! Seattle Sounder stuff! We are educated, witty, spoiled and fun yet lack any sort of historical significance to our country!"... "wait?!".

There's a bottom line here. Major League Soccer, ultimately, is the boss of everything when it comes to money and what names those bills get sent too.

Here soon I will deep dive MLS salaries and shine a light on players making less than the average visitor to this blog. For now? Right now? I just wanted to get out what I feel is more important. Something more significant than a stupid list of highest paid to lowest paid, finger pointing and whatever.

Just sparing a though for Abel, or Abell. Johnston or Johnson at the moment. Carry on.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Crew Rd. 11: Crew 'Serves Win (SEA)

20 Crew games ago, Columbus lost to Seattle 6-2 in a game that seemingly sent both franchises in different directions. Since that faithful August 27th embarrassment, the Crew Franchise has entered into modern era (Designated Player Era 2007-Present) lows in Points Per Game and Goals Per Game.

Last night however, Columbus went back to the place that caused them to tailspin and came out with a hard fought 2-0 Win.

Columbus won the MLS Reserve League last year and the core group from that team has helped turn this 2012 season around on the Senior team level. They've done it in the toughest way possible, too. On the road out West, during late game start time slots.

Josh Williams
Eric Gehrig
Justin Meram
Cole Grossman
Andy Gruenebaum

The formula to success in this league doesn't appear to be as complicated as many think. It isn't flashy signings (Milovan Mirosevic and Olman Vargas) or 1st round draft picks (Ethan Finlay) that bring the wins. It's good old fashioned chemistry through hours and hours of working together as a team.

The Crew have been pretty good since this group has peppered the starting line up. A couple wins, couple draws and a loss. Take a look at the play betwixt this group of guys when you get a chance. There's confidence. Passes are made almost without thought (especially noticeable with Williams and Gruenebaum).

Until last night's 2-0 win over Seattle, The Crew were only averaging 0.95 Pts p/GM, a PPG that would put them 16th on the table right now. Goals are also dangerously close to modern era lows as well (1.15 goals per game in last 20, record low was May of last year... 0.95).

Looking at this year's table compared to last year I see that the Crew have one more win out of the first 11 games (four) than in 2011. The also have one more loss, though (4).

I suppose what I'm getting at is this: I hope this win against Seattle get's the proverbial monkey off the Crew's back. The Crew have just been in a funk since the 6-2 thrashing last year.

Crew defend very well. Justin Meram puts in his 3rd in 3 games (great Dilly Duka cross in). Crew do more solid defending.

Seattle play is disjointed and disrupted by a Crew team in good positional shape. Crew defend well. Emilio Renteria has a moment of clarity and scores. Seattle gets frustrated. True colors show.

No notes today. Busy week and I started dosing off after Renteria's lob. For more on the game, go read David Burgin or Aaron Katzeman

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

US Open Cup, Updated with Classlessness

The Third Round of the US Open Cup is on May 29th (next Tuesday). Here are some of the matchups I will be following:

7:00 PM EST
DC United v. Richmond Kickers
Richmond City Stadium, Richmond, Virginia

WHY: The Kickers and DC have a little history and it is sorted. In Richmond this time. Should be a great one.

7:07 PM EST
LA Galaxy v. Carolina RailHawks
WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina

WHY: I like this game because LA will be in Cary, NC for a meaningful game and hope the Geoff and Matt get to attend with their families.

7:30 PM EST
Columbus Crew v. Dayton Dutch Lions
Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

WHY: Two pro teams from Ohio playing in a meaningful game. Not sure if or the last time that has happened, but it's very Ohio to have teams from the same state fight it out. I hope that, as time passes, this happens more often.

7:30 PM EST
NY Red Bull v. Charleston Battery
Blackbaud Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina

WHY: It's at Blackbaud! It's NY at Blackbaud! What more do you want?

The Seattle Timbers v. The Portland Sounders.

I really think it is great that NASL and USL Pro teams are getting to host some of these matches. I've read that Portland paid a sizable sum to lower division Cal FC in order to play the game at the Timbers home ground of JELD-WEN Field. I also just pulled up the Seattle Times to find out if the Seattle Sounders did the same thing in bringing NASL side, Atlanta Silverbacks, to Seattle... of course they did.

Somehow this classless move reminds me of the Mike Fucito move Seattle made right before the start of the season. There is a disconnect and it is bizarre behavior that insults an intelligent and passionate fanbase.

It is expected that Atlanta's fans are not happy about accepting the offer from Seattle to change the venue. I wouldn't be either were I a fan but I put the owness squarely on the shoulders of the Seattle Sounders. They are the adult in this situation. Playing in Atlanta only helps the sport in this country. What does the sport gain by playing at Starfire in Seattle?

Portland and Seattle have made a classless move like that of defending a fake pitch. Both these teams have fake fields and it drives me nuts that either fan groups in that area of the country feel like that is okay. It seems to run counter to everything I've heard about Seattle and Portland. If there are any two cities in the country defending natural pitches and the benefits to sustainability and long term job creation, it's these two.

No doubt I will be writing more about fake fields in the future. I read a tweet about the US Soccer Foundation giving three million dollars to put in fake pitches for kids over a half year ago and I'm still fired up about it. Maybe in 3 years they can put in another million to find the obsolete detergent needed to clean the bacteria filled plastic that is also now as hard as... well... plastic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

MLS Warriors in the Night

Since most incorporation-es and bureau-es of official statist-istics-es like to measure Fouls Suffered (FS) and Fouls Conceded (FC) I felt obliged to take on the stats and turn them into something meaningful.

Here's how I approached the Foul data: Who gives a whole lot more than they get?

TEAM: Player (FC:FS)
SJE: Khari Stephenson (17:2)
CHI: Pável Pardo (11:2)
HOU: Andre Hainault (9:2)
MON: Patrice Bernier (13:3)
CLB: Danny O'Rourke (12:3)
RSL: Kyle Beckerman (30:8)
HOU: Adam Moffat (15:4)

Those are they guys that do the dirty work. Dudes that the other players don't mess with. I remember Stephenson from last year. The Crew's Tommy Heinemann went toe to toe with him. Got in his head. Missing that this year. Regardless. Stephenson is a player that goes bump.

Danny O'Rourke is on this list. I like the way he plays. You'll feel his tackle, but he'll be the first guy over to help you up. Danny represents a lot of what soccer is in this country. Horrifically vicious at times (last year he broke the leg of a retired player during a scrimmage)... sportsman at other times, tough, loyal, fair, respectful.

One thing I've learnt over the past couple years pulling this league apart the best I can is this: You need guys that go bump in the night. These are the guys that shape our domestic league - for good or for bad.

MLS is for the durable warriors. Others need not apply.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Crew Rd. 10: Nation Judging Draw (SJE)

They say... one can judge the quality of nation, past or present, by how they treat their prisoners. Just like one can judge the quality of football league by late game goals. Or something like that.

Unusual feelings for both teams after the final whistle blew on this one. San Jose ridiculously dominated the game yet Columbus had the 3 points in the bag right up till the dying embers (thank you FIFA 12 Martin Tyler).

San Jose worked the ball around in the Crew third with remarkable ease in the first half. They wound up with 17 shots in the first stanza. Crew GK Andy Gruenebaum was outstanding. He had a PK save in there as well. But why so many shots in one half? There are only a couple MLS teams that average 17 in an entire game.

For any Crew fan or Supporter the 1st half was nightmarish. Simon Dawkins (London born, on loan from Tottenham) worked his way past Milovan Mirosevic and Danny O'Rourke like hot knife through butter. I'm not just saying that because he is (Edgware, North) London born and on loan from Tottenham, either. He really did make it look easy. It's worth mentioning again... Gruenebaum was outstanding.

Did I mention that Justin Meram dropped one in right before half in the 2nd minute of stoppage? It was a beautiful shot that I'll go ahead and nominate as Crew goal of the year so far (along side of the 20 yd header Miranda had last week).

The touch and control Meram showed on the goal was outstanding. Next level outstanding, to be bluntly honest. More on that later in this post.

Mirosevic was subbed out and Cole Grossman was subbed in. Cole has been with the Crew for some time and has taken the more workman like path to playing with the Senior Team. Turns out that work has paid off. Grossman's positioning was much better than Mirosevic. Not saying that Cole is a better player, but he is better at playing what the Crew are doing.

With Cole's presence the 2nd half turned the game into something more resembling a pro team for the Crew. Whether for injury to Mirosevic or not, this sub was important. Had the game gone on like in the 1st half it would have been a 3-1 or 4-1 affair.

Ultimately, it was a 1-1 affair. Heart-breakingly for the Crew the Earthquakes pulled even in the NINETIETH MINUTE.

• I was in Northern Virginia for the game celebrating a nephew's first birthday. The MLS Live feed had the San Jose play callers and what not. It was interesting to hear a Crew game from another perspective. I don't get that very often as the Crew are never on Nationally. Let me say this... SJ goal scorer is a jerk character. Bizarre interview after the game where he let all the viewers know how large his ego is.

Alex Alan Gordon's Ego, San Jose and Co. went after Eric Gehrig. I've seen this over the past few weeks. Teams have pegged him as a weak link in the Crew back line. Fact remains thus: Only 2 goals against in last three when Gehrig and Josh Williams are starting at CB. Excellent.

• The fact that other teams are now attacking Gehrig and not Williams is a testament to how respected Josh Williams is already.

• Computers and Cyberdyne Systems Model 101's don't lie. Meram's 2 goals in two games has been FORETOLD! I wrote about it HERE back in March.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Somewhere Between Best and Chivas USA

I happened to be randomly asked about George Best today. Any day that Best comes up is a good day. Today also happened to be a day that some talented Major League Soccer players moved around. Best talk and MLS Corporate news is like... like using store brand soda to loosen up XXV Glenlivet.

Major League Soccer signs the checks and controls contracts. Individual clubs have limited control. It's one of the most frustrating things, this... being a fan of a MLS club.

The Columbus Crew were not part of the shenanigans today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LA Galaxy in NC? DC United in Richmond?

Here are especially notable May 22 fixtures impacting the next two rounds of the US Open Cup:

MAY 22, 2012

Carolina RailHawks v. PSA Elite
WakeMed Soccer Park
Cary, North Carolina

If RailHawks beat PSA Elite, LA Galaxy will travel to WakeMed. !! May 29th.

Chicago Fire PDL v. Dayton Dutch Lions
Toyota Park Practice Field
Bridgeview, Illinois

Winner will take on the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium, May 29.

Dulles Sportsplex Aegean Hawks FC v. Richmond Kickers
Maryland Soccerplex Stadium
Boyds, Maryland

If Richmond Wins... DC United will play at Richmond City Stadium; Richmond, Va. May 29th.

The organizers of the US Open Cup have changed it up a little bit this year by eliminating the silent auction type bid process for home team (Sounders broke that system).

It's a big deal. The US has more than a handful of nice soccer stadiums. Potentially seeing MLS teams in Virginia and North Carolina is really exciting and gives 2 of my 3 favorite states a chance to tell the nation how deep their beautiful rivers run.

I fully support any measures taken that march the sport of Soccer in the United States towards Promotion and Relegation. The sport in this country doesn't necessarly need an "all or nothing" attitude when creating new top level teams. Give the smaller teams a chance to succeed, they might surprise you. I truly believe this. So much so, I've taken a good bit of time writing about it...

Part 1

Part 2

US Open Cup Bracket, Link.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Goal Scoring Report Card, Crew

Columbus has been mediocre / poor at scoring over the past couple years. So with over a quarter of this season gone, let's take a quick look at some efficiencies.

(Graded on a A,B,C,D,F scale in relationship to the other teams in Major League Soccer this year. I pulled out goals off Penalty Kick)

Goal Scoring Distribution: C
The Crew have 6 different players with at least a goal. Middle of the pack, no matter how you slice it. Some would argue that an organized team has smaller mix of players scoring (roles and responsibilities). I tend to find having more players contributing with goals is good in MLS. That said. Columbus still doesn't have a player with a goal and an assist. Chivas the only other team in all the league that boasts that.

Individual Goal Scoring Excellence: D
There are 6 teams that have played 9 or fewer games like the Crew. 4 of them have at least one 3 goal player (TFC only other team with none).

Opportunity with Shots: B-
The Crew Average around 13 a game. Low of 5, high of 20. Incidentally that happened first two games of the year. 9 other teams averaging the around what Columbus is, but Crew slightly above league average (12.64 League, 12.78 Crew).

Finishing Chances: F
Clinically speaking? Crummy. Ranked 17th out of 19. Only TFC and Chivas are behind them. 6% of shots go in. League average is 9%. The Crew were pretty poor at this last year as well. NY, San Jose, DC and Colorado are all above 10% goals per shot. Good Performance indicator, this.

Evaluation Notes from the Teacher:
You [Columbus] are trying real hard but I would like to see more individual creativity in front of goal. I realize that you don't have the genius of Guillermo, McBride or John so let's focus on taking good shots and finishing them as a team. Get the ball in front of goal and crash the box. Go, go, GO!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Crew Game 9, Violent Win (FCD)

Justin Meram and Sebastian Miranda provide a couple special goals that propel the Crew to victory in a game that will probably be more remembered for elbows, a concussion and a speared trachea.

Referee Baldomero Toledo watched over a choppy start. If not for Tchani getting burned by not playing to the whistle the half would have ended with zero goals. Ethan Finlay, once again got the start up top but took an elbow to the head / neck and was replaced by eventual goal scorer, Meram.

Things got very heated right out of the locker room break. In the fog of war it seemed as if the Columbus players wanted to get some revenge for the Finlay concussion. Meram picked up a yellow by elbowing the same guy that took Finlay out. Eventually, in the 64th minute, Dallas' Zack Lloyd was the one who was thrown out. A couple minutes after that Meram fizzed one past the Dallas 'keeper to tie things up.

Five minutes after that Sebastian Miranda headed one in from 20 yards out. Yes, 20 yards. Header. Solid header. Amazing header.

• 36 called fouls. 6 Yellow Cards (1 Red).

• I would say that this is the most violent Crew game I've seen in some time. I'm not sure if the ref could have done much more than he did. In fact, he seemed to let the players work it out of their systems during open play. Were this another ref on another day... handbags and multiple suspensions. Perhaps we saw what Major League Soccer actually is, in its pure form. Often times we see games over officiated. Helicopter Refs?

• Ethan Finlay is too small and too inexperienced to play up top. He is a head shorter and 30 lbs lighter then your average MLS Defender. I repeatedly told the person I was with that he would end up hurt. He did - and it was ugly. I do not think this was Warzycha's call to put him up top. I think it comes down from higher up (Bliss, McCullers). I hope that they don't forget what happened. I certainly won't.

• Tony Tchani's mental slip up was infuriating. He thought the ball was out and went on waiving his hand around instead of playing through the whistle. This is what you get with him. Full credit to Coach Warzycha for leaving him in, though. That show's confidence in your players and will go a long way with them.

Well done, Bobby. Leadership!

• Another strong CB showing from the Crew. Williams and Gehrig have been excellent over the past few. Vukovic is also playing with amazing amounts of energy and passion. Only 2 goals against in three games.

Friday, May 11, 2012

MLS Saturday Predictions

Here is what my power ranking system says will happen in MLS tomorrow, with a little home advantage sprinkled in.

LA v MON: Win, Montreal +1
The Galaxy have to get one of these at some point, don’t they? Not this one I guess.

DC v HOU: Draw
I expect a really good game here. Houston plays pretty soccer most of the time. They don’t make unnecessary fouls, keeps the game moving. Unfortunately, if you give DC that kind of game you will get scored on. Should be a great show in the new home.

DAL v CLB: Win, Crew +2
Dallas is having a slow start to the year. Crew is on the verge of being slow all year, but I think they can really nab this one in a big way. Crew will win at home by 2. I’ll even go as far to say that Justin Meram will score at least one.

VAN v NE: Draw
I like what both of these teams are doing this year. I have the Revs pegged for the playoffs, even.

KC v CHI: Win, KC +1
This one has the chace to be a boring game. KC has just been dominate this year, home and away, but the Fire play from the back and are patient. They can out patient most but KC will pull this one out.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No Power Rankings, Only the FUTURE

Just looked at the MLS schedule tonight, lots of games. Hm. Instead of posting power rankings, which is what I was fixin' on doing, I'll take a look into the FUTURE.

NY v. Houston
Man, great game. Houston can almost taste that orange in their new digs. That said. NY will win this one. Going against my gut and my heart though. Like this Houston team a lot. One of those teams that is very well coached.

Numbers say NY.
Gut says, Houston

Toronto v. Montreal
Woops. This game just broke my will to put much more effort in. Didn't know a Canadian Championship was going on tonight. These things stink without lower division teams. Imagine the Carling Cup with only 3 teams. Ugh. FOUR!***(top secret message)

Numbers say Montreal
Gut says? nothing really.

Chicago v. Real Salt Lake
Good game here. I'm thinking "Toyota Park" is in III. In the wrong font that looks funny. It's Illinois. So Chicago is at home.

My #s say RSL
Gut says Draw, but RSL will win this sucker.

Dallas v. Seattle
FC Dallas off to a bad start and WILL get hot soon. Fortunately for Seattle, Dallas is so worried about facing Columbus on Saturday they will shat the bed on this one. Zzzzzz.

Numbers: Mean Green
Me innards say the Rex Velvet villain super guy's hometown.

Vancouver v. Edmonton
Wait. There are lower division teams in this Canadian thing? Any other blogger would go back up and edit what I said before, but I'm not bothering. Go Edmonton!

Numbers say??? uh Vancouver, I guess.
Gut says... the MLS team I guess. I'd rather see the NASL team win.

***I secret blog cheated!

Here's an indecipherable graph.

UPDATE May 11th, 2012: Both my mind and my numbers were 3 for 5. Not too bad. I'll take the numbers next time, though. Easier, sustainable and I can hang the ol' hat on it with little effort.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Search of a Guldan (8)

I'm starting to enjoy Patrick Guldan's Notes and Grades on the Crew. So much so that I pulled all the scores from this year for a closer look.

I also skimmed through last year because nobody has received an (8) yet this year... more on that at the bottom of this post.

Or, how about; more after the jump (just like over at his site!).

I don't have a jump here. But if I did, I would have put it right here.


Mr. Guldan is consistent and his scale is reasonable. It's also easy to understand. Here is the explanation behind it:

Note on Grades: I have set 5 as an average performance. The player had both good and bad events on the field. Under 5 is a disappointing performance. Above 5 is a notable performance.

Simple and to the point.

Here are the average scores of each Crew player, through Round 8 of this year.

Avg Rating: Player : Times Rated
6.5 : Williams : 5.0
6.3 : Vukovic : 4.0
6.2 : O'Rourke : 5.0
6.0 : Duka : 2.0
6.0 : Marshall : 7.0
5.6 : Gruenebaum : 8.0
5.6 : Mirosevic : 8.0
5.3 : Schoenfeld : 6.0
5.1 : Vargas : 7.0
5.1 : Miranda : 8.0
5.0 : Finlay : 8.0
5.0 : Tchani : 4.0
5.0 : Coaching : 8.0
4.9 : Renteria : 8.0
4.9 : Gaven : 8.0
4.8 : Anor : 5.0
4.8 : Gehrig : 4.0
4.6 : Urso : 6.0
4.4 : Francis : 7.0
4.0 : Meram : 1.0

I spent a bit of time working with min / max and variance. I also created consistency ratings based on these ratings. Link.

Since I pasted all this in a simple spreadsheet, I also pulled out Guldan's favorite adjectives out of the 1,834 he has written within "Grades" section of his grade writing this year:

# of instances: Adjective
22: Touches
16: Passing
13: Shots
11: Interceptions

Personally, I'd like to see J. Williams type words more. "Work" or "Working" only mentioned (5) times. "Teamwork", "Passion" and "Respect" (0) times. Crimes!

Want Mr. Guldan's summary of all player ratings and notes by game? Link.

I also worked with the numbers in the same way as online retailers do. As in; Net Promoter Score. Or NPS. This is a commonly used method that takes out the middle reviews and scores given as customer feedback. Theory is that the customers ridin' the fence aren't statistically important. If you want that data you can email me. No link for you.

I also created a + / - rating based off Mr. Guldan's evaluations. (No link here either.)

I've got loads to say on this but I'll stop and go out with this... Guldan has only given out one (8) score since the start of last year. April 5, 2012. FC Dallas.

Or as I know it; "The Eight Once".

Gaven (8): Very influential on and off the ball. His goal was a magnificent strike and he was a terror on the right side.

Will we see an (8) this year?

Not looking likely.

Further Reading on "Rating the Rater" evaluations:

Sentiment Analysis

Appraisal Theory

Organizational Behavior

Monday, May 7, 2012

New Crew Signing, Pt. 3, An Englishman in Columbus

Yes, Chris Birchall is from Staffordshire, same as my beloved Stoke City. He is a Port Vale guy, but I can forgive him for that.

In the soccer universe he affiliates with Trinidad and Tobago because of his mother. I reckon I could do the same type thing by claiming England as my kickball residence through my mother, but I shantish much good at football -- and that's going the wrong way (or something). Regardless! What?! Jeeze.

The timing is off, but this sort of player signing is solid. I have loads of data on him. I also know where he stands in relationship to the rest of the league. So instead of me getting all crazy about his pottery / English-ness, I can confidently evaluate him.

But his place on the Columbus Crew? Good question.

Looks like Central Defensive Mid (CDM) at the moment. Danny O'Rourke has seen a few games there this year as well as Kirk Urso. Hmm. This lineup / depth chart Crew stuff is getting tricky, so lets clean up this little CDM / stopper spot, shall we?

1. Rich Balchan
Good player, has a 'sports hernia' and can't seem to get better. Part of me wants to point fingers at the Crew training staff, but it is what it is. He's not game fit.

2. Danny O'Rourke
Danny is a multi-purpose defensive player. He can fill in anywhere. Believe it or not, I'd like to see him at right back over Miranda right now but I have a feeling that he will pair up with Josh Williams while Chad Marshall tries to determine his playing future (concussions).

3. Eric Gehrig
I still think the CDM is his natural position but in Coach Warzycha's mind he see's him as an athletic body he can run in the back, no matter the spot.

4. Kirk Urso
Kirk came out of the gates starting this year. Four games I think. Too much, too early but of the new boys on the Crew he has played the best.

So, when you look at it this way you see that picking up a player like Birchall makes sense. That is, if he plays the CDM spot. Columbus has a tendency to put players in spots outside of their natural position. My understanding is that Birchall is a Defensive Mid. A stopper.

Chris Birchall; 2011 MLS.

Chris made $157,125 last year. For those keeping track, don't worry. Crew still last in MLS in terms of wages.

I had him rated 189th in the league overall (slightly above average of a 59 rating). He had 23 appearances and 1551 minutes. None of that should diminish the fact that he was an important cog for a LA Galaxy team that posted the 3rd best Goals Against average in Major League Soccer History.

That and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee, though.

The Crew still have to address problems. Tossing people at it doesn't work and isn't sustainable. The #1 problem with this club? Injury. Columbus desperately needs to work on getting (and keeping) people healthy before anything else. This signing just a band-aid on a wound that isn't healing.

There are a handful of other deep rooted problems with Columbus. This is Part III of a series of posts about Crew signings in 2012. More posts to come, just as more signings are coming for our beloved Crew.

Part I, can be found here. Link

Part II, Link.

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.

The base artwork on this post: Paine Proffitt. Search him.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Crew Game 8, Late Night 0-0 Draw (POR)

Portland v. Columbus. Two struggling and desperate teams got together at 10:30 PM EST last night for some FAST PACED MLS ACTION.

Portland tried their darnedest to get that goal but couldn't find that finishing touch. Meanwhile, Ethan Finlay started up top for Columubus and drained all his "afterburners" in the first 15 minutes leaving Renteria in the defending forward role, leaving the Crew toothless.

Some real intensity down on the field. Both teams felt that 3 points were in reach but neither deserved them. Disjointed action and late challenges wrote the script here. Ultimately, the Columbus Centerback pairing of Eric Gehrig and Josh Williams keep out former Scottish PL goal scorer Kris Boyd (Williams doing most of the heavy lifting).

Andy Gruenebaum had a busy day stopping 6 shots on target.

• Josh Williams (6) has more shots in less minutes than Ethan Finlay (3) this year.

• Only Crew players with a per game shot rate lower than Finlay are guys with ZERO shots. That zero shot list includes: Gruenebaum, Miranda, O'Rourke and Gehrig.

• Finlay is being ruined. Gassed himself in the first part of the game and hung Renteria out to dry. Renteria ended with ZERO shots yesterday.

• Portland is a poor club.

• This Finlay / Renteria pairing is one that I haven't even seen in scrimmages. That includes the OSU match last Tuesday. What sort of logic was Crew Coach Warzycha employing?

• Columbus has now only won 4 in their last 18 games. This is the worst 18 game run I can find, going back to 2007.

• Over the past two games, Josh Williams has shown himself to be one of the (if not, the) best players on the field.

• More on Williams: He plays the way he talks. What does he talk about? Things you don't hear coming out of the Crew locker rooms enough this year... Battling, sticking together, trash talking, toughness, teamwork and respect for opponents. And that's just after one game. LINK. Columbus needs, like, 10 more guys like this one.

• Not easy to win late games out west. EST teams only getting wins around 20% of the time (normal away team success rate is 37%) so a Draw is a positive result. It just feels like the Crew should be beating this team anytime of the day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crew Core Competencies, with Grapes

Know what? It's high time I give a review the Crew players currently on the roster, before they are gone. Why? It's been over a year since I've been intently following this swashbuckling bunch of lovable rebel rousers.

Flash Gordon Accompaniment.

Reviews tend to consist of the latest and greatest fads coming out of the all-knowing collective genius that is Human Resources. Believe it or not, here at Helltown we have a HR department. She is known as 'being sober'... and she's not in today.

Over the past few days I've gone through a big old list of footballing attributes. When I say big, I mean Football Manager 12 + FIFA 12 plus real world attributes big. Once I got a big old list of them, I whittled them down to core socker attributes. Things that a manager can assign numbers to from the comfort of his or her office (or cubicle, as the case may be). AKA, Core Competencies!

Below are attributes that I found fitting. Traits that I found important to everyone, regardless of position. Things, that if I were building my own team, would be most important.

They are:

Attitude, Consistency, Determination, Durability, Intelligence, Natural Ability, Positioning, Stamina, Strength, Teamwork.

I limited it to ten attributes because it makes assigning a score easy and round. 10 being the highest you can score (BEST). 10x10 is 100. Or 100%.

Core Ability : Name
90% : Milovan Mirosevic
86% : Eddie Gaven
86% : Danny O'Rourke
86% : Chad Marshall
85% : Josh Williams
85% : Julius James
81% : Eric Gehrig
80% : Nemanja Vukovic
80% : Tom Heinemann
75% : William Hesmer
71% : Aaron Schoenfeld
70% : Justin Meram
70% : Olman Vargas
70% : Bernardo Anor
68% : Kirk Urso
65% : Sebastian Miranda
63% : Ethan Finlay
61% : Rich Balchan
57% : Shaun Francis
53% : Emilio Renteria
53% : Tony Tchani
52% : Andy Gruenebaum
52% : Dilly Duka

Not Rated: Jairo Arrieta, Kevan George, Cole Grossman, Aaron Horton, Matt Lampson, Carlos Mendes, Aubrey Perry, Ben Speas, Korey Veeder

Now take out the injured players, assign position and START! Seems easy doesn't it. It's interesting how something as simple as assigning values to players through method is lost on many.

Here are the attributes that didn't quite make the cut into my Core Competencies(!) I felt like some of them were too position specific.

Composure, Decision Making, Level of Discipline, Acceleration, Aggression, Bravery, Command of Area, First Touch, Handling, Marking, Off the Ball, Pace, Tackling, Work Rate, Aerial Ability, Anticipation, Creativity, Crossing, Dribbling, Flair, Heading, Jumping, One on Ones, Reflexes, Technique.

However. If you want to see how I rated each Crew player based on all their categories, you can. LINK.


The Helltown Grape Ape from Breaux Vineyardland.

Core Competencies are more about feel. Once you sort out what competencies are important you will find out that this is how coaches, managers, corporations shape identity. Some people value these things far and away above other measurables. I'm still trying to figure how important it is in the world of sports.

What I did with these attributes is weigh them to pluck out less important qualities. I did continue on a rate each player in each category with that weight, here's how:

Top Comps were scored as 10,5 or 1.

Comps a level below that: 5, 3 or 1.

Least important were: 0 or 1.

I added them up and divided by the total possible score. I simplified scores by not getting nick picky about the difference between a 6 and an 8. The easier you make scoring the better. Usually a player or person has a good first touch or doesn't. No need to spend time splitting hairs, especially when you use more abilities / traits in your comp.

Anyhow, here is how my overall ratings went. On the far left is the OVER ALL, includes all comps, traits and abilities. In the middle is the score with just my Competencies. It's interesting how far Milovan, James, Heinemann and Vargas dropped when more skill traits were added. Urso dropped the most. One the surface it appears that this particular team is weak on the skills side of things (I dropped the GK's off this list).

87% : 86% : Eddie Gaven
87% : 86% : Chad Marshall
85% : 86% : Danny O'Rourke
84% : 90% : Milovan Mirosevic
83% : 85% : Josh Williams
77% : 81% : Eric Gehrig
76% : 80% : Nemanja Vukovic
76% : 85% : Julius James
73% : 80% : Tom Heinemann
69% : 71% : Aaron Schoenfeld
69% : 70% : Bernardo Anor
64% : 65% : Sebastian Miranda
64% : 70% : Olman Vargas
63% : 61% : Rich Balchan
62% : 70% : Justin Meram
61% : 63% : Ethan Finlay
60% : 57% : Shaun Francis
58% : 53% : Emilio Renteria
57% : 68% : Kirk Urso
55% : 53% : Tony Tchani
48% : 52% : Dilly Duka

Fun stuff for me, believe it or not. I think I am somehow hard wired for this sort of thing.

Next up for me is to figure out a goal driven metrics based on a teamwork foundation for who starts week to week.

Quick note on the Flash Gordon link up there. Caught the movie in HD recently and it looked beautiful. The cinematographer, Gilbert Taylor, also worked on on The Beatles, Hard Day's Night.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Global Sports Salary Survey 2012, Crew Last

Thought I'd post up a couple notes about Sporting Intelligence's Salary Survey.

First off, here is the LINK to the organization that put it together and not ESPN's summary.

The Columbus Crew come in last out of 278 clubs surveyed over 14 leagues worldwide.

To be frankly honest, it is a bit embarrassing. To be lowest or last in anything is. Seeing the team you follow closely and spend hours upon hours writing about being last on this kind of list stings a little.

It also doesn't make a lot of sense. Major League Soccer is single entity yet The Columbus Crew are $1.4 MILLION DOLLARS below the league median in player salary.

There are those that like to tell us that sports "at the end of the day, is just a business." This is something you usually hear from team executives when your heart has just been ripped out because your favorite player just got traded. Or the jackass star of your favorite team from your own hometown takes his talents elsewhere. Gotta get yours right?

Let this be a Helltown lesson, you only use that "...just a business" card when you are screwing someone over.

Teams, clubs, franchises that see any sort of extended success view (and thrive off) sports as pure performance based competition first.

I'd like to think that Columbus thrives on that pure competition. Pushing and pulling players in and out based on performance. All the player transactions over the last couple years having purpose and meaning that leads fans to the greater good.

Instead, I realize that it has nothing to do with the players. I realize that Columbus is a mini thiefdom that is fueled by club nepotism. Coaches on the pitch and employees in the offices do not realize the direction to the dark depths this team is headed in.

Check "thecrew dot com". It reads like HR memos to government employees. Memo back to the good folks there... Ohio is probably the most sports crazed place on the planet. They have been to the highest highs and lowest lows. Save the horseshit. It ain't gonna fly here.

I wrote a couple months back about all the players the Crew have let go in the past couple years. Almost none of them found another job playing soccer. Think about that. Imagine the board letting 20 teachers go from your child's school and only a couple of them being rehired as teachers somewhere else. What would that say about the education your child was getting?

The last place ranking on this particular salary survey has nothing to do with the players. Nor does it have anything to do with the stadium, fans or supporters. It doesn't even really have to do much with Robert Warzycha.

No. It's just an outward representation of how far this franchise has fallen.

Of how mismanaged they really are.

1.64 Million Crew Moves, is a post that summarizes the player transactions Columbus made during this past off season (and where they are now). LINK