Sunday, March 31, 2013

MLS Team Ranking

Major League Soccer Team Ranking based on my own player rankings (right hand column). Good to bad.

1 : A CLASS ABOVE
LA Galaxy

2 : EXCELLENT
Montreal Impact, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, Sporting KC and Chivas USA

3 : TOP HALF
Vancouver Whitecaps, Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union

4 : IN THE MIX
San Jose Earthquakes, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC, New York Red Bull

5 : OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
New England Revolution, DC United, Portland

6 : 2014
Colorado Rapids, Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire

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My player rankings take easily available player stats and pull out what I find valuable (metrics/measurements not totals). From there I mix in overall team statistics, which pulls good players on good teams to the top.

For this team rank I rated each team by position (D, F, MF, GK) and place on the table to get order. I also mix in variance between positional rank (to penalize teams with weak spots).

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The Crew would have been in the EXCELLENT category were it not for the injury to Eddie Gaven, the absence of Jario Arrieta, addition of Ben Speas and the Dominic Oduro move from MF to F last week. Might not seem like it, but from this outside (comparatively with other teams) this looks like the Crew MF is not settled through just four games.

MLS Combined True Table can be found on the top right of this blog.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

MLS Attendance is Down

Through the first 34 games overall attendance is -10.2% from last year. The last time Major League Soccer had an aggregate drop in attendance year over year was 2002.

2012 Total : 698,308
2013 Total : 626,765

Some might be quick to point out that CenturyLink Field had three matches in the first 34 in 2012 and only two this year. With that venue adding nearly 40k fans a game, it's significant. Think of it as almost a 2 for 1 deal for the league. Twice the attendance for one game (more like 2.5x but keeping it simple).

To account for Seattle you can simply take them out of the equation or use average attendance as measure or get creative.

1. Taking Seattle Out:
Because they played 3 games through the first 34 last year and 2 this year that would leave us comparing 31 and 32 games yr over yr, so another one would have to come off the books to even it up. To try and help MLS let's exclude the poorly attended Gillette Stadium game this year.

-6.9% DOWN FROM LAST YEAR
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2. Average Attendance
Another way to do it is just use averages for each venue and see how that looks. Playing with averages is dabbling in the dark arts. Actually, worse than that but still... Last year the league was averaging around 21k per match, this year around 19k.

-7.7% DOWN FROM LAST YEAR
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3. Remove Outlying Venues
CenturyLink is High, Buck Shaw is Low and the game at Marlins Park, Miami last year is random. Taking all of these matches out of the yr over yr total will give us a better idea of the overall health of ticket sales this year. What it has done is leave us with 29 games from both years to compare.

-6.3% DOWN FROM LAST YEAR
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EARLY ON

Should be interesting as the season rolls on but a drop in attendance is certainly something the league is very sensitive to. I'll keep watching but I would expect the trend to continue at around 6-8% drop on the year. This would be an ego blow for a league that has been pushing attendance numbers on its fans for years so I would expect another expansion side to be expedited into the league ASAP.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

• Seattle's 3 home games were 16% of overall ticket sales through first 34 last year. 2 games this year is 12% of total.

• Toronto moving their home game indoors this year actually helped the over all 2013 number. BMO max is 20k but they pulled 25k by moving the game indoors to the SkyDome (Rogers Centre).

• Home Depot Center saw 5 games each in in first 34 both years. Chivas attendance has been atrocious. Overall HDC is down 15878 from last year.

• Overall dip in attendance is -71,543

• You can find all data HERE.

• Here is a link to old NASL attendance data if you are interested.

• The post image comes from NASL Memories. Go there. Spend time. Let it wash over your soul.

[ADDING; Median attendance per game 2012: 19,009 and 2013: 18,077]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Massive Report Podcast (pic)


Here's a picture taken by the podcast's producer (the wonderful Sameh Safaa Fahmi) this past Monday. In it is Mr. Chris LaMacchia (right), Justin Bell's hand reaching for beer, host Rick Gethin going Hunter S. Thompson and myself on the far left trying to keep up.

Normal program host Matt Goshert will be back in a couple weeks after he is finished running around England getting all football educated.

The podcast records Monday evenings around 730-800 PM at Hendoc's (just on the north side of Lane Ave on High St in Columbus, OH -- on the college side of life but I balance it out and the company is great, promise).

Recent MR podcasts can be found at Massive Report.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Crew v Fire Reserve Match


Chicago traveled a small group of players down to Columbus to take on the Crew. The game was originally scheduled to be at Crew Stadium but had to be moved due to a snow storm the day before.

CREW STARTERS : QUICK NOTE
Matt Lampson : Didn't see a whole lot, Chicago chances off target
Drew Beckie : Played very well, got up and down right side
Eric Gehrig : Feisty, did well with blocks / headed clearances
Kevan George : Solid, Gehrig seemed to do heavy lifting though
Chad Barson : Impressive on the left side
Matias Sanchez : Not bad, neutral performance for me
Tony Tchani : Good cross on goal to Warzycha, otherwise quiet
Konrad Warzycha : Right spot for goal, good effort
Ethan Finlay : Kept up his preseason form, great cross / assist
Ryan Finley : Okay, better with Higuain behind him (obviously)
Justin Meram : Dangerous, played pretty angry

SUBS : QUICK NOTE
Kyle Hyland 46’ : Involved a alot, did well
Aaron Schoenfeld, 46’ : Improved handle from last year, but quiet
Wil Trapp, 61' : 1st time seeing him, played forward, nothing to note
Bernardo Anor, 66’ : Fantastic to see him, great 24 minutes, goal
Shawn Sloan, 93’ : on for injured Tchani

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Here is how the Fire looked:

Chicago Fire: Paolo Tornaghi, Joel Leon, Michael Jiminez, Hunter Jumper, Leo Silva Lelis, Oscar Gonzalez, Brendan King, Yazid Atouba, Corben Bone, Colin Rolfe, Quincy Amarkiwa

FIRE NOTES:

- Amarkiwa was barking at all 3 refs all game, "you f-ing suck, man." He was playing frustrated most of the morning missing his chances.

- Felt Bone and Jumper played well.

- Colin Rolfe was credited with the goal.

- Leo Silva Lelis was a liability and was sent off late after a dumb challenge on Schoenfeld.

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Here are some more pictures from the game...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rd 4: Win at RFK

Columbus beats the odds and grabs all three points away in Washington DC 1:2 with both goals from NE Ohio born players. This was easily one of the more engaging games of the young MLS season.

1ST HALF
Columbus came ready to play and was as dominate and threatening in the first 20 minutes as they have been all year. DC made no adjustments to deal with Federico Higuain in the midfield and, well, generally looked unprepared.

The Crew still struggling to get anything from open play but just reward came from yet another set piece off the foot of Tyson Wahl and head of Josh Williams in the 15'. Somewhat against the run of play, DC was able to equalize in the 22' off some lazy defending from Glauber and with a touch of magic from (man-child) Rafael.

Crisis struck DC a few minutes later as Nick DeLeon went down with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.

As time ticked down on the frantic 1st half teams were relatively deadlocked.

2ND HALF
Started much like the first, entertaining. With DeLeon missing and his replacement (Kyle Porter) a steep drop off from his talent, the Crew were able to control most of the happenings in the middle.

Again, reward from the Crew did not come from open play. It came from a corner that bounced around and found Ben Speas atop the 18 yd box. Speas whipped in a laser for his first career goal.

From there Columbus slipped back to defend and held DC off though both good defending and a couple amazing saves from Andy Gruenebaum.

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CONCLUSIONS
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• This game held all the hallmarks of a Ben Olsen DCU game. Which is to say, chaos.

• There was a somewhat controversial offside call that pulled back a DC goal as well as Chad Marshall pulling down Chris Pontius in the box that probably should have been a PK

• Match official Allen Chapman let things go this match, stopping the action very few times. 16 total fouls this game (about half what a normal match gets).

• So few fouls made for a wide open affair and this approach is probably calculated by the league. Fewer fouls and Red Cards this year.

• Josh Williams getting forward like a madman in the first 20 minutes. I've seen this before from him, most notably (and frustratingly) in the Dayton Dutch Lions game last year. He seemingly wants to win the game single-handedly. This is a quality trait.

• 4 of 7 Crew goals this year are from set pieces.

• Moving Oduro out of the midfield was the key to this match. While no goals came from open play, it did play up to the level of their opponent. Something that was missing from past two games.

• Eddie Gaven got a yellow for simulation around the box. It's been a while coming. Over the past couple years Eddie has racked up the most 'fouls suffered' in the league by going down very easy. It's become a bad habit for him. While he does look extra frail this year (man, does he), he's got the skill to work through fouls, he needs to stop going to ground.

• Ben Speas has been playing great. Good to see him get a win in a start away with the game winning goal. Well done.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Predictions: Crew v DC rd 4

Good Morning,

Crew are on the road today taking on DC United near my old stomping grounds and in one of the monuments of my youth, RFK Stadium. Game starts at 3:30 PM EST and is on the NBC Sports Network.

GAME NOTES
• Jario Arrieta is on international duty with Costa Rica, probably thawing out right now after last night's loss to the US in snowy Colorado.
• The status of Eddie Gaven isn't clear but would expect him to play.
• Would not expect Eddie to be 100%, he's only played 90 mins this year.
• So, DC hasn't lost at home in 19 games.
• DC posted most pts of any team at home last year with 40.
• Their goal diff at home was +20 last year.
• Without Arrieta, Crew will be starting new man up top. Dominic Oduro or Ryan Finley are options.

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PREDICTIONS

WV Hooligan Drew Epperley has DC pulling this one out noting the absence of Arrieta being key; "Dominic Oduro is no replacement in my book." Drew says it'll be 1:2 DC United.

The Reader Prediction section of Goal.com is very heavy DC win or Draw, combined 83% with a DC win 57.1%. Not the most reliable predictor, but should be considered in conjunction with other predictions.

The dudes and one lady on the MLSsoccer.com site PICK 'EM feature are all in on DC. 5 pick DC and one Draw. Leader of the pack over there is Matt Doyle right now with 42% (11 of 26) correct. Jason Saghini is low at 27% (7 of 26). Check out their site so you can keep up on what your kids are doing online.

On to Bet365. Big day here for Helltown, it's the first ever EVENS on this feature. DC has a 1/1 chance of a win, draw 23/10 and Crew win at 14/5.

WinDrawWin, the betting aggregate site, tells us this DC's game to lose. It reminds us of the Crew away form over last five of 2 W, 0 D, 5 L and the 10 GF and 13 against in those games. Loose. The very accurate predictor 'your vote' has DC at 42% chance of win with 37% picking draw (falling right around Goal.com's fan prediction).

Don't have the Dispatch at my door as of the time of this writing, will update with Adam Jardy's thoughts later today. UPDATE: Jardy thinks the key to a Crew win is the defense eliminating mental mistakes. He's not leaning either way.

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MY PREDICTION

I will have to go back and check my notes but not sure the Crew have played in a game predicted to be this one sided. I see this kind of stuff in the Premier League but not in MLS. Not even Toronto pulled evens against last year from what I observed.

DC has to lose at home at some point but don't see that happening here. Regular DC starter Dejan Jakovic will be out on Canada duty but it shouldn't hurt them too much. Marcos Sanchez is also out on international duty with Panama.

For the Crew to pull this one out it will take apathy or overconfidence on DC's side and a motivated starting group from Columbus.

It's possibly a good thing that Arrieta is away for this game. The unknown lineup might play in the Crew's favor in some ways. Personally I would like to see two players in front of Higuain but I see Columbus sticking with Viana and O'Rourke in DM roles (which is basically 6 in the back).

Crew have an opportunity to make some noise that's for certain. Should be a great game.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Abruptly, Suddenly and With Damage

MLS Round 3 round-up in the books over at Massive Report. Got crazy with the doodles this week. First up is the top 11 image that actually only has 10 players. It got tricky and crowded. + All the best players are Montreal. It got tedious for this early on in the season.



The post title image was a Archer like Ben Speas image. He's a big story these first three games. It's interesting to me that he is playing as well as he is. Makes you wonder how well some of the other guys like Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram, Eric Gehrig, and Aaron Horton would do with regular season minutes.

I was listening to Archie Bell and the Drells when I put it together. A bit before my time and certainly before Speas time, but great song. Felt it fit his playing style, his rhythm. It seemed to click so I went with it. Also, in a strange way it looks like a Sports Illustrated cover from the flip side.



Anyhow, check out the round-up. I thought about addressing the fact that Cody Sharrett did a round up for the Crew dot com recently after never doing it, but I didn't. I actually hope/wish club site would do more league stuff. Get's them looking outside their own bubble and all. Crew need some of that.

Actually. A lot of that.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Morrow - Williams, Final Whistle

Crew Rd 3 : Draw Home Open

In their first Home match of the season it's Columbus 1:1 San Jose.

1ST HALF
Lots of energy from the players and reported 16k in the stands an a few good chances. Biggest chance of the half came from Josh Williams to Ben Speas when the former found the latter in the six yard box.

"That's magic created by Northeast Ohio!" was the shout I got. Turns out that NE Ohio had some more magic in store, just later in the match.

San Jose played it very safe in the first half and were able to successfully bottle up both Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain.

2ND HALF
San Jose came out of their shell a little bit more in the 2nd half after feeling confident they could contain the only goal scoring threats the Crew have. In fact, the did contain them all game save for the one they couldn't do anything about.

Higuain placed a perfect ball to an unmarked and streaking Glauber off a corner to provide the home sides goal.

San Jose continued to keep the game open for then next 10 minutes with really no threat coming from the Crew. They were rewarded with Cleveland's own Justin Morrow put a beautifully weighted and placed ball past Andy Gruenebaum in the 73'.

"That's magic created again by Northeast Ohio," was mumbled.

The final 15 minutes were played open but with little discipline on either side. In fact only one shot on frame was created in the last quarter hour despite the openness.

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GAME THOUGHTS

• Arrieta was gassed by 70th minute. SJ defender Victor Bern├írdez will do that to you. Arrieta ended up with only one shot.

• Higuain was having to get creative and pop up in new areas (for him) to find the ball. The gameplan for SJ was clear. Keep him out of dangerous spots. It worked.

• SJ looked better in the outfield than the Crew. SJ are a very banged up club right now, had they had just one or two of their missing pieces this would have been embarrassing for the Crew.

• Ben Speas is giving the Crew almost what Eddie Gaven (injured) can and filling in well.

• What you watched is this year's Crew. This is the club that McCullers is inexplicably hyper hyping and promoting as Cup contenders. It's not fair to the organization, or the players or the fans.

• Robert Warzycha said it last night, this SJ team is a good team. 2012 Supporters' Shield winning team. They are a good team but not really the team that was out there last night. SJ last night is an average MLS team. So are the Crew.

• Dominic Oduro was finally subbed off last night. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles Oduro. Will he get more time? Williams was barking at him throughout the match. The two aren't connecting right now.

• Columbus travels to DC this weekend. Going to be a tough one for the Crew at RFK. The lineup should be interesting.

• Tyson Wahl had the third most touches last night, he was practically playing wing. Wahl is not a winger.

• With Agustin Viana and Danny O'Rourke playing as defensive mids you are playing with six in the backline. Neither are going to give you anything on the offensive side.

• Nearly overlooked in the match was recent USMNT call up Justin Morrow. He is a good player. Hope to see him on the left and Josh Williams on the right one day in Red, White and Blue.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Predictions: Crew v SJ (Rd 3)

Good Morning,

Columbus plays host to the San Jose Earthquakes today and open their season at home. Game starts at 5:30 PM cold and damp Ohio time. 2:30 PM 'Quake time.

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GAME NOTES
• Some gamesmanship from Warzycha yesterday but looking like Eddie Gaven will sit this one out.
• SJ is without their two big men up top in Lenhart and Gordon (injuries).
• Crew's Meram seemed awfully excited this week, start is possible.
• Both clubs pulled 3 pts from first two games
• SJ played both at home, Crew both away
• Weather looks fine for mid-March in Ohio. Low 40s, damp.
• Perfect soccer weather DON GARBER.
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PREDICTIONS

Starting out with Mr. Drew Epperley today because he has been dead on with Crew predictions this year. He has the Crew winning this one 2:1... "could be a long trip home for the Quakes." He also mentions it as a trap for SJ. Not so sure they are that good right now to pull that word.

The rag tag bunch of Pick 'em mastery at MLSsoccer.com is going big with the Crew. Five(5) picks for a Crew win and one draw.

bet365 has the Crew favored at 13/10, 9/4 Draw, 21/10 SJ. Likely scorelines are standard, slight leaning towards low scoring.

Betting aggregate site Win Draw Win's trusty fan vote (when I say trusty, I mean oracle like accuracy) surprisingly has SJ confidently out front. 38% of the vote going their way, 33% Draw. Stake is on a 0:1 SJ win. The wiseguys smell something today. Will be interesting if that changes. Surprising.

Goal.com hasn't bothered with previewing this game yet (rest of games are done).

Still waiting on my Columbus Dispatch [UPDATED: Adam Jardy is confident the Crew can pull this one out if they can minimize mistakes].

MY THOUGHTS

Lots of excitement from the Crew supporter base for this game. GM Mark McCullers has been successful in hyping the crap out of this season (the last year on Robert Warzycha's contract) and has the fans all set with high expectations.

It's going to be cold and wet which may give the Crew some advantage but not much. Crew players haven't been in town much the past two months.

Frank Yallop and his goonie squad seem to always be up for anything. Them and their perfect damn weather and good 'call us team supplemental' attitudes.

Where was I? Oh. SJ will be a good team again this year but not sure they are there yet. I wouldn't be surprised if this one comes out even.

The only way this could turn out badly is because Columbus has made a lot of mistakes in front of goal this year (go back and watch the Chivas USA game). San Jose will feast off the Crew if that happens this evening. It's what made them the best team last year.

We'll see, should be a good match. Feels good to have soccer back in town.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ides of March

Columbus Business First's article "Columbus Crew sponsorship's, season ticket sales up" reminded me of something Chris LaMacchia brought up a few weeks ago on the Massive Report podcast. During it, Chris made a point in that Mark McCullers hyper optimism about this year isn't so much about what McCullers actually thinks the team can achieve but more about pushing Head Coach Robert Warzycha towards something better than mediocrity.

HYPER OPTIMISM, PRODUCT TO SELL

“Our sales staff is as strong as it’s ever been, and our culture here is great. The Goal 10K campaign has also really resonated. We've got a great message and product to sell.” - Mark McCullers

It's not uncommon to hear a sports team referred to as a 'product' in any US based sports league. NFL uses it the most these days, it seems. But that doesn't mean it isn't slightly grating each time I hear it.

McCullers use of the word product resonated more with me this time though. Perhaps late and perhaps naively, but it dawned on me that it's not getting the base behind him as much as it is him pushing for as many ticket sales as possible by using the tried and true sales push that boxing and wrestling promoters use.

"Obviously, if we can do that then the road to MLS Cup could come through Columbus. The MLS Cup could be in Columbus. I believe we're going to have that caliber of team. I really do." - McCullers, to MLSsoccer.com

There's nothing wrong with this. After all, the name of the game is to get butts in seats (or benches, as it is). There is a line though. McCullers is President and GM, not a sales person.

How much hype is too much hype?

In the article it says that ticket sales are up, sponsorship's are up, and corporate box sales are up along with the hype.

Eventually the fight will be over and the scorecards read, though. What happens if the Crew are a mediocre club again? What happens if they are actually worse? These are the two cases that are worst case. What then, though. Will the fans turn on the team?

With the recent comments about Crew Stadium being at a crossroads, these optimistic comments take on tinge of desperation.

As if McCullers, after looking at his hand, let out a small sigh... Tilts his head back and finishes what rotgut is left in his glass. With the air in the room thick with fear and feeling the weight of the situation - he pushes the small strune about stack of his chips to the middle of the table and quietly says; 'I'm all in'.

Just as he says those three game changing words the camera pans back to revel that he is the only one at the table.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

MR Post: Conf Round Up

Have a new post up over at Massive Report that runs down MLS Rd 2 happenings across the Eastern Conference. Going to keep it going all year, hopefully each week.

Highlights this week
Montreal winning on the road again, New England Revs beating Chicago away

Lowlights
Chicago, The SkyDome and NASR picking Toronto's Earnshaw as player of the week.

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I'm fascinated with Montreal this year.
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Check the post out. In other Massive Report news, I'm planning on heading over to Hendoc's this Monday to see if I can get back on the podcast, been tied up recently. In the meantime listen to the one they recorded last night.

I've got a couple things cookin' so keep checking Massive Report every hour on the hour (I'll probably be writing Wednesday and Thursday evenings so, Thursday I guess).

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Here's full header art/illustration. All the photos were taken by Anne-Marie Sorvin for USA Today Sports. They are really excellent. Check out her other work too.

I felt like she was shooting portraits more than a sporting event and was drawn to the images. I think all of these were taken pre-game, their eyes tell a story.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crew Rd 2: Loss to Vancouver

Columbus falls 1:2 in Vancouver.

1ST HALF
Well. It didn't take long. A bad exchange between Dominic Oduro and Danny O'Rourke in the 5th minute was punished. Darren Mattocks gathered the ball off the mistake, feed it to Daigo Kobayashi who struck a beautiful ball for 35 yards out that beat Andy Gruenebaum.

From there the Crew looked much like they did last week at Chivas USA. Spells of decent possession followed by errors leading to easy chances for the opposition.

2ND HALF
Crew tied it back up right off the halftime start. Josh Williams found Ben Speas who slotted it over to Jairo Arrieta for a quick goal to knot it up. Didn't last long though as another questionable exchange between Andy Gruenebaum and Glauber was pounced on by Vancouver's Kenny Miller and scored.

The final half hour saw lots of chances for both sides but none finished.

GAME NOTES
- Matias Sanchez saw his first MLS action when he was subbed on in the 70th minute. Sanchez couldn't seem to find the flow of the match but the expectation is that he will in time.
- Tony Tchani made up the other part of what turned out to be a questionable double substitution with Sanchez.
- Ben Speas played well filling in for an injured Eddie Gaven. Speas was involved in most of the positive attacking Crew chances.
- Again, Dominic Oduro is not a midfielder. His decision making with the ball in the middle third is poor. His side was the weaker one on the field. A Josh Williams / Ben Speas right side might be worth a look.
- Federico Higuain was bottled up most of the evening but still provided some of the best chances for the Crew off his set piece deliveries.
- Higuain is still winless and goal-less against top half of the table type clubs (going back to last year).
- Columbus hosts San Jose for their first home game of the season this upcoming weekend.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Crew Round 2 Predictions

Good Morning,

Columbus Crew take on Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place tonight on their legendary Polytan LigaTurf 240 RS+ surface. Game starts at a reasonable 7:30 PM Eastern or 4:30 PM Whitecap time.

GAME NOTES
• BC Place is an indoor soccer field that occasionally gets played on by a CFL team (and must get damp) so parts of the field looked worn and rusted in places.
• Did you know that playing on a fake field virtually eliminates sliding tackles?
• Nigel Reo-Coker should feature tonight for the Whitecaps
• Matias Sanchez might see his first MLS minutes tonight for Danny O'Rourke (usually sits out fake field games)
• Vancouver looked as rusty as their field in last weeks 1st half against Toronto but found a rhythm in the 2nd.

PREDICTIONS

The betting sites are leaning towards Vancouver in this one. Bet365 has VAN 5/4, Draw 23/10 and Crew 11/5.

Odds aggregate site Win Draw Win's fairly accurate 'your vote' section shows the edge to VAN with 41% going their way and only 23% for the Crew.

Drew Epperley, who was correct about last weekends Crew win (confidently) has the Whitecaps this weekend, 2:1 over the Crew. "I think the two week trip on the West coast ends up costing Columbus points in the end though, even though I like where they are headed." Well said.

The 'Pick 'em' bunch over at MLSsoccer seem a bit torn this week but slight edge to Vancouver. 3 votes 'Caps, 2 Crew and 1 draw.

Goal.com's fan vote is leaning pretty heavily towards Vancouver this week. 61.5% of the vote going to them as of this writing.

Patrick Guldan at Massive Report see's the outcome of this one as a Draw.

Adam Jardy of the Dispatch seems to be leaning draw based on time on the road and the stiffer challenge Vancouver will provide as compared to Chivas USA. Pick up today's paper, Sports Section page... C11(?geeze).

MY THOUGHTS

After being just slightly favored last week, Columbus appears to be pretty heavy underdogs this week. It's for good reason as they have been on the road for a while. Keep in mind that they were also in Florida for all of February as well.

What will matter is whether enough players have enough fight left in them or are they ready to be back in Columbus.

What also matters is the playing surface. Speed is a huge factor on turf because nobody wants strawberries on their hips from slide tackles. Expect Crew defenders to get bumpy off the ball with a few of the attacking Whitecap players.

I would say a Draw here for the Crew is enough and probably what Warzycha has in mind. Both teams have a good amount of individual talent so a wonky crusty surface bounce might be all it takes for either team to win.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

FM 13 Crew Update

Football Manager's recent update included the latest MLS rosters. Below is a screenshot of the club with a few choice categories. It might sound a little strange to use FM to help further understand your club but it really isn't.

Would I do it were I to follow a larger club in a larger league? Probably not because there is so much info out there elsewise. But for MLS? It's a goldmine. These guys that work on this game spend more time on MLS players than MLS does.

Here's the goods on the Crew:



Starting left to right.

No big surprises on the Salary and Value front. It's mostly correct. MLS Players Union officially releases wages in April.

Moving further right are all the traits I think are valuable to Major League Soccer only. 'CAUSE THERE'S SOCCER. THEN THERE IS MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER.

Agg : Aggression
Bra : Bravery
Cre : Creativity
Tea : Team Work
Wor : Work Rate
Pos : Positioning
Nat : Natural Ability
Str : Strength
Mar : Marking
Tac : Tactical Awareness
Pas : Passing

Click on the image to enlarge. Fun stuff. I'll be putting this club through the paces this weekend. Game theory, y'all. Invaluably undervalued in the real world.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

7121

The Chivas USA home opener at the Home Depot Center had a historically low turnout and the Crew are part to blame.

The official attendance number of "7,121" garnered the attention of a number of independent soccer writers. In fact Grant Wahl, arguably the most well known US soccer voice, tweeted out there that the number was probably half the 7121 reported.

For a league that sees itself challenging the worlds best in a decade's time you bet this is an issue. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has already addressed it by stating that he will check back to see if it is still a problem in June/July.

But is this a Chivas USA problem? Perhaps it is a scheduling problem? Even a Crew problem? A little bit of all the above?

PREDICTION: DROP IN MLS TICKET SALES, 2013

Major League Soccer is looking down the barrel of a year over year loss in ticket sales. For years now the league has been touting incredible growth. Most of that growth was due to the expansion in teams. Think of it the same way that McDonald's or Walmart measure growth. As long as they are expanding, they are growing the top line.

There are even an expanding number of former sharp independent voices joining the MLS choir to prove the soul sucking Walmart/Target expansion wins theory of successful brick and mortar business.

For a professional sports league that dabbles in the dark arts of a single entity system they seem acutely unaware that at some point the expansion has to stop. For other North American based leagues it is around 30 teams. MLS seems to think 20-24 is a good number. This means expansion is going to slow and the last few spots are going to be smartly chosen (at least as smartly as Don Garber thinks he is).

This year marks the first year in a few that the league isn't growing. Teams are the same as last year. With that in mind, here is attendance numbers from the first 9 games last year as compared to this year:

2012 : 183,182
2013 : 174,696

That's about a -5% drop over last year. Take out Seattle from both years and it is closer to a -7% drop.

THE CREW

It's no secret that Garber wants to see improvement in Columbus as far as ticket sales. He even kicked off a "Dare to be Massive" sales campaign last year here in town. It helped bring attendance back up from the wilderness of record lows in 2011 - but certainly not back to even the middle of the league in 2012.

This year will likely be more of the same for Columbus in terms of gate. 13-15k a home game seems about right. That's not a bad thing. Games are enjoyable. The stadium is great, plenty of space. Friendly atmosphere. But for a league that has ambitions of leading the world? Far from lofty expectations.

AWAY ATTENDANCE

How the team draws away is important. Last year the Crew 13th in away aggregate ticket sales (slightly better than the 14th for home sales).

2012 Aggregate Draw Away : Team

459,436 : Los Angeles

337,001 : San Jose
335,088 : Portland Timbers
333,635 : Chicago
333,445 : Toronto FC
333,221 : Real Salt Lake
322,058 : Philadelphia Union
321,769 : Vancouver Whitecaps

314,842 : Kansas City
314,189 : New York Red Bulls
312,595 : Colorado
310,014 : DC United

302,712 : Columbus
300,984 : FC Dallas
293,116 : Houston
291,203 : New England
288,609 : Chivas USA
285,955 : Montreal Impact
283,567 : Seattle Sounders FC

The same teams seem to show up at the bottom no matter how you slice the data. Crew, Dallas, New England, Chivas. Interesting to seem Montreal and Seattle* at the bottom, but then again; This is a league obsessed with growth. Not many fans in away cities care about new teams. Regardless, the bottom part of the league is not a group you want your name in but yet the Crew are there.

Low attendance in a league unhealthily obsessed with ticket sales is a reality the Crew are going to have to live with for now.

14464

Chivas USA pulled 14,464 at the Home Depot Center last year during opening weekend when the faced Houston. Double what the Chivas/Crew pulled this year.

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*[UPDATED: Seattle is low because they cannot play themselves away. They inflate everyone's numbers. If you take out Seattle from each team's away draw it looks like this:

359,526 : Los Angeles
333,635 : Chicago
314,189 : New York Red Bulls
310,014 : DC United
294,736 : Toronto FC
291,203 : New England
285,955 : Montreal Impact
283,659 : Philadelphia Union
283,567 : Seattle Sounders FC
268,636 : Portland Timbers
267,910 : Kansas City
266,051 : Vancouver Whitecaps
264,401 : Columbus
262,229 : FC Dallas
259,752 : San Jose
255,553 : Real Salt Lake
254,812 : Houston
249,675 : Chivas USA
235,175 : Colorado

This is really interesting because what you are left with without Seattle's CenturyLink attendance is big population centers which means, for example, former Chicagoan's living in a new city must have or retain a connection with the team.

Also, the numbers don't jump as much with out the Sounder effect. Also, the LA drop without SEA. They must love them some Becks up there.]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More Posts. Maps + Round Up

Some new stuff over at Massive Report. Content and art.

My last post there dropped each Major League Soccer player into a executable type map. I thought it was fun. It keeps things in perspective. The art is a satellite image of Buenos Aires. Higuainland. I took part of the Argentinian flag and included it in the Crew logo on the top right. I liked the map colors.



Earlier I did a summary on the first weekend of the year. I liked a Glauber Berti pic that was simply credited as "USA Today". I cropped in and made b/w. Same thing I wish the Columbus Dispatch did more often because they rarely get their color registration correct.



Winter Storm here in Columbus right now... 'The snow is falling and I'm gone!' a good man once sang. Lots more soon.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

RD1: Win, Couple Late Goals


Crew take care of Chivas in LA.

1ST HALF -
Outside of a couple clear changes Chivas should have buried it was an uninspiring first half for both teams. Columbus did seem to have the upper hand most of it but the game seemed to settle into a indeterminate mush by halftime. As a matter of fact it felt like halftime had arrived at 35 minutes the way the players were strolling around.

Which raises the question; Why was an eastern time zone team playing a night game out west on opening day? Was the league trying to make sure Chivas USA filled the stadium? Attendance was listed at 7100 fans. Hard to believe it would have been much less had it been played in the afternoon in LA.

2ND HALF --
Things burst into life in the 55th minute when Federico Higuain curled in a beautiful shot from 25 yards. From there both teams seem to find some added enthusiasm for the match.

Juan Agudelo and Miller Bola├▒os entrances into the game allowed Chivas to press forward and look more dangerous but finishing quality was severely lacking. Eventually they couldn't find the equalizer and let a couple late goals get by that pushed the scoreline to a misleading 3:0.

CREW NOTES ---



• Crew backline made a number of mistakes throughout the evening. Chivas missed a couple they should have put away midway through the first half. Crew dodged disaster there.

Higuain seemed to be in mini battles with a couple different players all evening. There was much ankle kicking and retaliation.

• The Josh Williams volley off a late corner pretty incredible. Swinging his leg across his body like that and redirecting perfectly to the opposite corner through traffic. Not a fluke. He had one similar in the preseason. He's clearly put in tons of work.

Dominic Oduro's goal in the 3rd min of extra time was his thing and well done. Other than that though... he's not a midfielder.

• The Crew are staying out west this week (instead of flying back) and taking on Vancouver March 9th, 730 PM eastern.. Curiously; Justin Meram and Eric Gehrig did not make the trip.

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MASSIVE REPORT
Say tuned to Massive Report for more news and analysis on the Crew.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rd 1: Chivas USA, Crew Notes

Crew opens the season tonight in LA verse Chivas USA. On late, EST. Not so bad if you happen to be west of the Mississippi.

GAME NOTES:

• Chivas had a result positive preseason. Signature win was 3:0 over Colorado on Feb 15 (starters). Good couple of results vs. Gangwon FC as well.
• Crew's preseason went really well early on and for developing players.
• Crew tied Chivas 0:0 last time they met in LA way back in Apr 9th, 2011.
• Reported in this morning's Columbus Dispatch that Chad Marshall has been relieved of responsibilities of Team Captain (everyone who plays FM just cringed)
• No captain for 2013 has been named yet.
• Milovan Mirosevic wore the armband a couple times last year.

HOW IT MIGHT DO

Looks like the Crew have the slight edge with odds makers out there, surprising to some it's not more perhaps.

Win Draw Win has the edge to CLB 35%, Draw 32% and Chivas 32% in voting with a medium stake on 1:1 draw.

Bet365 likes CLB 6/4 odds, Chivas 9/5 and Draw 11/5. Odds are showing 1:1 here as well (5/1).

Drew Epperley is going high on the Crew this game. 2:0, "Columbus has the talent to control this game and win on the road."

I can't find match predictions on the newly designed MLSsoccer.com website (which looks like a pre-teen Disney sister site). I did see recent "power rankings" that have the Crew 6th in the East and 11th over all above a last place Chivas.

IT'S HERE

Using method, I have the Crew at 49 pts and -3 goal differential on the year. Three points less than last year (low enough to be called pessimist I guess).

As for the Chivas game tonight. Looking like the Crew have the edge but might pull even. Lots of travel for the Crew over the past week or so should make this one an interesting watch.