Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crew Rd 17. Incomplete Team, Loss

After going up +1 in the first half, Sporting Kansas City were able to respond each time the Crew pulled even in the second. The game ended +1 in favor of the home side.

Sporting controlled most of the half through the midfield. Part of the reason for this was because the Crew went with a striker on the left side in Jairo Arrieta. KC had a number of opportunities that they were wasteful with.

The Crew never seemed to be able to get into this one in the first half.

The coaching staff of the Crew decided to make an adjustment by moving Arrieta from his left mid spot to the top and shift Oduro back into the midfield (on the left). This didn't necessarly improve the team in the midfield but it did put a very good striker back into his natural (trained whole life for) role.

The change seemed to catch Sporting a little off guard and ripped open the game. It only took three minutes for Arrieta to reward the change when he took the ball 60+ yds down the pitch for a goal.

Two minutes later Chance Myers whipped in a cross from the right side that skimmed off Tyson Wahl's head right to Claudio Bieler who slotted away a nice shot past confused Crew GK Andy Gruenebuam.

Three minutes after that another goal. This time from a bad Seth Sinovic back pass to Jimmy Nielsen. Oduro did what hes does and was there for the steal and goal. Sinovic would be subbed shortly after.

The game settle a little from there and looked more like the first half. KC found their rhythm again and easily out possessed a Crew team that couldn't put more than a couple passes together.

Late on in the 80th, Wahl again managed to deflect a header in to the path of an alert Bieler who headed to Kei Kamara for a goal.

Crew went into berserker mode after that. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work.

You don't have to lead common statistical categories like Shots, Time of Possession, Corner Kicks and the like to win. In fact, these types of things can often be more misleading than anything but for this game? 62% possession and 24 shots from KC forcing 5 big saves from Andy Gruenebaum? Very telling for this particular game.

Save for the chaotic first 15 minutes of the 2nd half this game was in KC hands. They were the better team fighting off scrappy poorly organized team.

Looking the updated true table I see the Crew have now slipped to 15th with zero goal difference. Columbus is in a deep hole and need more than just hard work to get out of it. There needs to be a tactical change with this team. This two holding midfielder thing is not working.

A couple bounces didn’t go our way. We fought and battled hard, but we weren’t dangerous enough offensively. Defensively we definitely didn’t do enough. It kind of gets repetitive after awhile." - Andy Gruenebaum

1. Change tactics if runs thru Tyson Wahl.
2. Bernardo is left footed, put him on the left.
3. Danny O'Rourke can handle the CDM spot on his own.
4. Chad Barson should not be an option.
5. Arrieta and Oduro should never be in MF
6. Arrieta and Oduro shouldn't play left MF

1. Change tactics.
2. Put in Eric Gehrig over Barson.
3. Replace redundant DM with Speas, Anor, or Finlay.
3a.Will help Federico Higuain
4. Bench Oduro, bring in as sub.
4a.Oduro as leading scorer has you in 15th place.

Here is a lineup suggestion.
This still leaves the team a little weak at left CB and right in the middle but this improves the left and right fullback positions and helps Higuain shake some markers.

I do not dislike Tchani as much as some others might. If you look up and down the roster he is pretty much the one midfielder outside of Anor, Speas and Higuain that gives you any chance going box to box. Sanchez does not, O'Rourke doesn't either.

But this is what I mean by "incomplete team". Where are the midfielders? Why was Viana played in a holding mid spot for so long at the start of the year and not at left back? Why was Arrieta benched when he came back. Why is Oduro playing a midfield roll?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v Sporting

Good Morning,

The Columbus Crew are down in Kansas City today to take on Sporting. Game start is 830 PM EST, 730 CT.

-CLB: 3 Wins, 2 Draw, 3 Loss Away is above avg
-CLB: Wins away against weaker teams (Chivas, TFC, DC)
-CLB: Looking to mix up lineup, start coach's son
-CLB: Matais Sanchez suspended, YC accumulation
-SKC: Looking to get on track at home
-SKC: Have outscored opponents 11:7 at home
-SKC: 6 pts in last 5 (Crew 5 pts)
-SKC: CJ Sapong serving RC suspension

Opening up with Bet365 today because we have some heavy odds for the Home team today at 4/7. Draw at 11/4 and Crew 5/1. Correct Score line had KC 1:0 (5/1) followed by 2:0 (at 11/2). Overall leaning SKC in large way. team likes KC across the board this weekend. Things seem to be flattening out for them with four of the six sitting on 45% accurate (they pick based on result Win, Draw or Loss).

% Correct : Name, Job Title
45% : Nick Rosano, Editor
45% : Andrew Wiebe, Editor
45% : Matt Doyle, Armchair Analyst
45% : Diego Pinzon, FutbolMLS editor
39% : Kristel Valencia, FutbolMLS Editor in Chief
39% : Jason Saghini, Director of Video

Drew Epperley over at WV Hooligan thinks it is "Time for this SKC squad to turn things up." Sporting KC 3 : 1 Columbus Crew.

Next up we zoom over to where Zac Lee Rigg is in charge of this match up's game notes and single line summary: "Columbus travels well to Kansas City, where it has won four of the last five trips." The "Reader's Predictions" section seems to be short on votes but the few they have like KC.

Win Draw Win says there is a Small Stake on a Home Win, 1:0 (Sporting). The 'your vote' section also likes KC with 44% (19% Crew)

Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch gets under the hood this week, writing: "...coming away with a point would be a victory for the Crew."

For Anor? That is very nice.
Sporting KC is oozing with talent and should be in a better position at this point in the season. Their fans know that as well as the owner and coach. It has been four games since they have won.

Columbus isn't in any better shape but there are some signs that say this might be as high as they get in the standings this year (can't beat good teams). Of course the can be Sporting KC today in KC. They have enjoyed good results in recent years playing down there.

A draw does absolutely nothing for the Crew in this match. A decisive win is what the Crew need in order to hop KC in the standings (KC has one more goal on the year).

Standing in their way is KC's defense. While their home record isn't stellar they have kept opponents to under a goal a game (8 home games, 7 goals given up).

I tend to believe that Epperley might be right. At some point KC are going to lock back in at home and when they do...

Crew fans should hope that doesn't happen tonight. Enjoy the match going to be interesting.

Friday, June 28, 2013

West Facing Window

This is looking out my west facing window towards downtown from this past winter. Organizing photos and it came up. I like my little nook.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crew Player Goal Differential, Updated

Here is each Crew player's goal difference when on the pitch this year (league games). I'm working on a much larger post over at Massive Report but it was getting cumbersome with explanations and all.

There's like a billion asterisks to something like this, but here are the numbers. On the left is 'goal difference per 90 minutes played' and on the right is total 90 minute matches.

Pulling out the players with over 5 (450 minutes) played thus far this year.

GD p90 : Name : 90 min
+0.48 : Danny O'Rourke : 10.5
+0.40 : Eddie Gaven : 10.0
+0.32 : Agustin Viana : 6.2
+0.29 : Josh Williams : 14.0
+0.25 : Chad Marshall : 12.0
+0.21 : Dominic Oduro : 14.4
+0.06 : Andy Gruenebaum : 16.0

+0.00 : Glauber : 13.0
+0.00 : Tony Tchani : 7.5
+0.00 : Tyson Wahl : 14.9

-0.06 : Federico Higuain : 15.8
-0.11 : Jairo Arrieta : 8.8
-0.14 : Ben Speas : 7.3
-0.29 : Matias Sanchez : 6.9

Here are the players less than 450 minutes. An important callout (which I'm working on 'splaining better at Massive Report) is that these players seem to be dragging the club down. Lots of part time / reserve type players here. This is different from years past in that there was not any sort of gulf between Senior team and 2nd team.

GD p90 : Name : 90 min
+4.74 : Ryan Finley : 0.4
+0.46 : Bernardo Anor : 2.2

+0.00 : Konrad Warzycha : 0.2

-0.49 : Chad Barson : 4.1
-0.50 : Eric Gehrig : 4.0
-0.51 : Justin Meram : 3.9
-0.54 : Kevan George : 1.8
-0.78 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 1.3
-1.22 : Ethan Finlay : 0.8

Barson should probably not be an option going forward. He seems like a nice kid but, like Gehrig and Meram, is approaching 5 games and deep in the negative. Not ready for primetime in this particular tactical setup Warzycha has.

Do I think Meram and Gehrig might (particularly Meram) do better in a different system? Yes.

Stay tuned to Massive Report for more. Bourbon is running out and I've got some Rhett and Link to catch up on. Buies Creek y'all.

[update -1 year, still tho]

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Crew Rd 16: The Best Crew've Got

From the final 2:1 scoreline, to the trade the Crew made putting the three key players in this match on their respective teams... The Chicago Fire beat the Columbus Crew in just about every imaginable way possible.

As they have in recent weeks, Columbus came out playing well. At this point it's almost like a 'shock and awe' maneuver that the Crew do. To it's credit, it has worked in consecutive weeks. Dominic Oduro was able to draw a penalty on the Fire's Sean Johnson in the 6th minute and Federico Higuain put it away and put the Crew up 1:0 very early.

"I felt good in the game, even after that we had good confidence. We came into halftime, we talked about it and the team never gave up. The game is 90 minutes and we found another way." - Fire HC Frank Klopas

Staying true to form with last weeks Montreal game the Crew did not continue to pressure and dropped deep into defense. As the half wore on the Fire found some rhythm.

Columbus came out of the halftime break in a similar mode, perhaps in expectation that they could withstand the Fire onslaught the same as they did the week prior.

"We needed to combine through the middle, we needed to play combinations, we needed to move the ball quicker – especially from side to side and get the ball to Dilly [Duka] wide in the channels. Once we get it there and he’s [Duka] on the field and we’re getting defenders one-on-on under pressure." - Fire HC Frank Klopas on halftime changes.

Chicago decided to attack the right side of the Crew's defense that was currently occupied by rookie Chad Barson. It paid off for them. MLS veteran Joel Lindpere was able to work in crosses twice past Barson who was not playing more than a few feet away from him. Both times, once to Dilly Duka and another to Mike Magee, were goals on back post runs.

Josh Williams could have probably done better but if you (Barson) are giving someone of Lindpere's quality and experience that much space and time to whip in a cross, I don't care who is playing in defense at the end of it. It's going to connect, it's going to go in.

From here the Crew seemed unable to quickly transition out of the defensive type mode and into an attacking one. Eventually they did and got off some excellent chances but Johnson was up to the task. Game over.

"...they’ve never given up, even through the slow start and adversity, there’s always been a belief in the team. The team is the most important thing with the group and you can see that no matter what happens, there are no regrets and they’ll leave everything on the field." - Fire HC Frank Klopas

Klopas with fans at 2 AM
This game against Chicago was completely different from the Crew's early league match up in which the Fire won 1:0. Columbus looked lethargic and played uninspired during that game and Chicago was scrambling to find their feet.

Yesterday was two clubs in midseason form. It was Chicago at their best vs. Columbus at theirs. Chicago won. Is it a case of one team being more talented? I don't necessarily think so. Both Klopas and Warzycha have faced off enough times with completely different rosters and in different competitions over the years and Klopas usually comes out on top.

Even this year the Fire have beaten the Crew three times already in two different competitions.

“You know what? I saw it go in the back of the net and then I just looked at my players and was like, ‘we’re back in this’. I didn’t try to celebrate or anything, I didn’t care, I just wanted to get these points." - Dilly Duka, Fire Midfielder and Man of the Match.

Columbus travels to Kansas City next weekend to take on Sporting KC. Each game for the Crew here on out has to be looked at as a necessary 3 points in order to climb back in to the playoff hunt.

I wrote lots of words on Dilly Duka shortly before his trade away from Columbus over at Massive Report. After spending some time going back through that I am happy for him in the way this game played out. It has been a long 18 months for him. You can read that HERE.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Fire

Good Morning,

The Chicago Fire are in Columbus today to take on the Crew. Game start is 8:00 PM Eastern. 7:00 PM Central.

-CLB: Crew coming off 2:0 win over Montreal.
-CLB: Big crowd tonight for Fireworks postgame.
-CLB: Viana close to back, possible last start for LB Wahl.
-CLB: Williams and Marshall should be CBs, tough to beat.
-CHI: Unbeaten in last four (2 wins).
-CHI: Magee helping to salvage season, 3rd in MLS goals.
-CHI: Beaten CLB twice this year already.
-CHI: Busy schedule. US Open Cup match Wed.
-CHI: Only 2 goals on road this year (6 games)


Starting off with this week. The 'pick 'em' team over there is thinking Draw (4 votes). Another two pick the Crew. Lean goes to Home side.

Next up is Mr. Drew Epperley of WV Hooligan and SB Nation's Big D Soccer. Epperley believes this to be a Draw saying, "they have to show they can keep the momentum going for a second weekend in a row." still looking for votes on their page but even right now. Keith Hickey's comment; "The Fire have surged under Mike Magee, and a trip to Columbus is a potential six-pointer in the playoff scrap." is giving fairly normal odds for a game like this. 11/10 to home side (Crew), 23/10 Draw and 5/2 Fire.

Over at the indicators suggest the Columbus Crew will run away with this one. The "Your Votes" section is heavy on the Crew side with 69% win. Draw 23% and only 7% for Chicago (that is a notably low number, interesting). Large stake is on 1:0 Crew win.

Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch asks a question this week: "Was it a one-night mirage or the start of a turnaround? This game will help provide the answers." Look for your Dispatch where you normally find papers for sale around Columbus.


11th is an achievable goal.
Even though we've got one team on the rise here (Chicago) and another sort of stagnating (Columbus) I don't think the rising club can overrun the Crew. Mike Magee has really been finding his way to goal but overall the Fire have been poor on the road. Tonight would be their first win on the road, actually.

Something else complicating the game for the Fire tonight is the US Open Cup match the have against Orlando City this week. Chicago is taking that tournament very seriously. Mathematically, it is probably the right thing to do given their current place on the Eastern Conference table.

In order for them to have a chance a pulling within striking distance of the final spot they will need a win today. It's not a stretch to think they can overtake the Crew through the 2nd half of the year but they will still need to over take Philly and New England.

Don't expect this game to look like the Montreal game in terms of possession. This one will likely be more 'start stop' type MLS action and evenly matched.

Friday, June 21, 2013

More on Wahl

I spent some time this week looking at Crew LB Tyson Wahl's involvement in each game this year. The reason for this was because it seemed, over the last handful of games, that his teammates were passing to him less and less in the opponents half.

The numbers (Opta) sort of confirmed my observation. What I did was go through game by game and pull out each action Opta recorded for Wahl. Early in the year he was in the top three, in terms of on the ball activity. Now, 15 games later, is down around 7th. Is that good? Bad? Take a look.

Crew to Host Wigan Athletic

FA Cup Champion Wigan Athletic announced today that they will be traveling to the United States this summer for training. They are scheduled to take on the Crew Saturday, July 13th.

News via Wigan's official site:

Owen Coyle’s men will now be facing MLS side Columbus Crew at the Crew Stadium on Saturday July 13 and 3rd Division side Pittsburgh Riverhounds at the Highmark Stadium on July 19. A further game could also be scheduled within the ten day trip Stateside.

Coyle said: “The opportunity came up for us to go to the States and was too good for us to turn down.

“The players will love the facilities over there which are first class and it is a great way for us to begin our pre-season preparation in readiness for August 3.”

Always exciting for me when an English side comes to Columbus. Wigan had one of the more memorable seasons of any Premier League club this year. It will be great to catch them here in town.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Australia Qualify for '14 World Cup

Australia qualified for next year's World Cup in front of 80,000 at Sydney's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday June 18, 2013. The World Cup is a thousand times better when the Aussies are involved.

That's current NY Red Bull and Everton legend, Tim Cahill in there. What shouldn't be lost here is that Cahill (middle; exhausted, draped over fan in black) is an entire world away whilst in the middle of his league season. Damnit. I could watch this Vine forever.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Crew Rd 15: A Needed 3 pts

Last night's 2:0 Crew win over league leading Montreal is the first time Federico Higuain has played in a match where the team beat a club ranked above 9th on the league table (1 Win, 5 Draw, 4 Loss. 8 points from a possible 30).

With a 'new / old look' lineup of Chad Marshall and Josh Williams anchoring at the center back spots, Columbus came out of the locker room with loads of energy and seemed to catch a slumbering Montreal side by surprise. Right off the bat, in the 6th minute, a venturing forward Matias Sanchez took a shot from the top of the box that took a deflection and went in. Things could not of gotten off to a better start.

Just about 15 minutes later Dominic Oduro stripped a lazily playing Collen Warner 25 yards from goal and took it in for an easy finish.

From there, Montreal still didn't seem to be able to muster up much energy and seemingly just wanted halftime to arrive.

Columbus came out looking to defend their lead. No more huffing and puffing and chasing the ball around. Just simple defense and possession. In that regard, the Crew did very well. Wave after wave of Impact attack came and the Crew were able to withstand it.

Montreal appeared to be out of ideas by about the 70th minute. Their difficulties were exacerbated by the fact that they were playing without the services of Head Coach Marco Schällibaum, who was suspended for this match.


By the end of the match it became very clear that Columbus wanted this one more that Montreal. Oddly enough, this was the second time these two have met and both times the Impact were without their head coach.

It was really great to see Bernardo Anor out there in the starting lineup again. It has been nearly a year since fans last saw him. Anor was an important cog in the 2011 playoff Crew side. He is an intelligent player, one of smarter and more 'natural footballers' on the team.

Also good to see was Josh Williams playing in a Center Back roll. Chad Marshall also made his return but last year Williams was the one that stood out in that roll, above and beyond everyone else on the team.

This win for the Crew breaks a troubling streak of futility against better teams and keeps them hanging in the playoff picture.

However, when things were all said and done after this one both clubs maintain their current table positions. Montreal 1st and Columbus 14th. The road is still long for the Crew but some strides were made yesterday.

Last game I looked a Justin Meram's heat map and asked the question; What position was he playing. Here is his from last week compared to Bernardo Anor's this week (click to enlarge):

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Impact

Good Morning,

A well rested Montreal Impact team is in Columbus today to take on the Crew. Game start is around 7:30 PM EST.


-MTL: Looking for 4th Win in a row.
-MTL: 10 goals scored in last 3 Wins.
-CLB: 2 starters out for year Glauber, Gaven.
-MTL: Nesta will be serving suspension tonight.
-CLB: Defenders J Williams, C Marshall questionable.
-CLB: 1 Win from 6 at home.
-MTL: 3 Wins from 6 away.


1. DREW EPPERLEY, WV Hooligan, writes; "Quick turnaround plus facing one of the league’s best clubs won’t help matters out for a struggling Columbus side." Epperley keeps a pretty good eye on the league and has been thinking the Crew would turn the corner. He has this one going 2:1 to Montreal.

2. BET365 has a fairly normal MLS line today, though it should be mentioned that things are changing now that we are approaching midseason. Edge to the Home side 11/8 but Away getting 2/1 (draw 9/4).

3. PICK 'EM team over at has Montreal clean across the board. As a group the hover around low to mid 40% accuracy. That's above random but still around where they would be if they just picked the home team every week.

4. GOAL.COM's Keith Hickey usually writes a one sentence summary for each match. Today? "Montreal could solidify its grip on first place in the East with a win over a struggling Crew side." There is the word 'struggling' again.

5. WIN DRAW WIN tells us the wiseguys are with Montreal today (betting against the line). Large stake is on a 0:1 Away win and the 'Your Vote' prediction section is leaning Montreal as well (44% MTL Win, 20% CLB).

6. ADAM JARDY on the Crew beat for the Columbus Dispatch believes a win today for the Crew will be "a tall order". Of Note: My paper today looked great, as far as color registration goes. Best it's been all year.


In order for the Crew to change their season fortunes wins have to start at home. Today's opponent is as hard as it gets and the Crew haven't beat anyone above them in the table in almost a full calendar year.

At this point in the season it is safe to say that Montreal is the real deal and not the beneficiary of luck or light scheduling. They are fully capable of winning on the road and doing so with loads of goals.

Even with deteriorating results over the past three years the Crew haven't really ever entered the depths of despair over any 5 or 10 game span. In fact the Crew have only dipped below averaging 1.00 PPG once over a 10 game span in the past year and a half.

Not entering the depths of despair isn't necessarily a silver lining but does point some degree of resiliency.

There maybe a glimmer of hope in there for the Crew if they can catch a rusty Montreal team that hasn't played in a couple weeks.

Enjoy the game, weather looks fantastic.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Konrad Misplaces Frustration

Crew Reserves v Dayton Dutch Lions game is up over at for fans to watch. This was a fun game with 8 total goals (two were Crew handballs in the box) split even.

One moment sticks out, however. It starts at minute 27 or so. A foul is called on the Crew and the ball bounces to Konrad Warzycha. He gathers and kicks it hard towards the goalkeeper out of frustration straight into Ben Speas' face. The play is dead mind you. You can see the players walking into position.

Had the ball not hit Ben Speas' face, it would have been a yellow. Konrad did receive a warning and Speas seemed to take it in stride. Maybe the two players laughed it off on the bus ride home, I don't know, but the play didn't sit right with me. Mostly because had this been Speas kicking the ball at Konrad's face in the same manner we would probably not see Ben for weeks and get a speech about professionalism.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Updated Kramb, Replacement Level Story Telling

Kramb is a measurement for starting players on the Columbus Crew. It adds team Points per Game (PPG) earned while player is starting with his Goal Differential (GD) whilst on the pitch (similar to a +/- type metric that the NBA likes to mess around with).

1.21 + 0.14 = 1.35

KRAMB : Player Games Started
1.90 : Eddie Gaven 10
1.89 : Danny O´Rourke 9
1.75 : Agustín Viana 8
1.58 : Joshua Williams 12
1.40 : Chad Marshall 10
1.35 : Dominic Oduro 14
1.23 : Gláuber Berti 13

1.21 : Andy Gruenebaum 14 (Team)

1.14 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 7
1.07 : Federico Higuaín 14
0.86 : Tony Tchani 7
0.85 : Tyson Wahl 13
0.43 : Ben Speas 7
0.40 : Matías Sánchez 5

(not enough games)

1.00 : Kevan George 1
0.75 : Eric Gehrig 4
0.75 : Justin Meram 4
0.00 : Aaron Schoenfeld 1
-1.00 : Chad Barson 2


Above is my preferred way to look at how a player is contributing. It's not perfect but it gives you a great idea of who is contributing and who is not. That said, I ran across something last year that was odd with the Crew and it came by way of schedule difficulty (magnified with unbalanced schedule). As 2012 rolled along it became clear that certain players were trotted out against harder clubs. Makes sense, of course, that you try and play your better players against hard teams but this wasn't always the case with the team last year (more on that in future posts).

Are there some ways to incorporate schedule difficulty into the KRAMB number? I think so.

One way I like, is to take replacement level type view on each category KRAMB looks at and then add one more; Average Opponent Difficulty. We'll call it AOD.

Here is what the team looks like:
PPG ---- > 1.12
GD ---- > -0.01
Average Opponent Difficulty (AOD) ---- > 11.98

With that I can take any individuals numbers (when starting, only) and get a +/- above or below replacement.

PPG ---- > 1.12
GD ---- > +1.14
AOD ---- > 12.00

D. Oduro vs. replacement
PPG ---- > 0.00
GD ---- > +0.15
AOD ---- > -0.02

KRAMB+ for D. Oduro = +0.13

Here are the rest of the players:

+0.78 : Matías Sánchez 5*
+0.49 : Tony Tchani 7*
+0.18 : Eddie Gaven 10
+0.16 : Tyson Wahl 13*
+0.13 : Dominic Oduro 14
-0.01 : Andy Gruenebaum 14

-0.15 : Federico Higuaín 14

-0.22 : Danny O´Rourke 9
-0.37 : Gláuber Berti 13
-0.39 : Joshua Williams 12
-0.51 : Ben Speas 7
-0.62 : Chad Marshall 10
-0.79 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 7
-1.10 : Agustín Viana 8

(not enough games)

+4.78 : Kevan George 1
+2.28 : Chad Barson 2
+1.78 : Aaron Schoenfeld 1
+1.53 : Eric Gehrig 4
+1.53 : Justin Meram 4

*I've put an astrisk next to some of the players to point out that they jump way up when taking opponent difficulty in to account.

Something else I found very interesting is that the guys at the bottom who don't have enough starts yet in order to be considered. All of them are ridiculously high numbers. There is a story to be told here.

How exactly does this tell a story?

Well, the Crew started the year off with an easier level of competition but as things progressed the schedule got slightly harder. As they tend to do, injuries started to pile up as well. This meant that the Crew had to put non-first team-ers into the starting line up. The increased level of competition drives players like Gehrig, Sanchez, Barson and Meram way high and, in turn, driven some of the other players down.

Barson, for example, has a loss and a draw (0.50 PPG) on his record to go along with his -1.50 GD. Not looking good there but take in to consideration his opponent level in those two games; Houston (6th) and Philly (9th).

Thus is the tale of the once and future Crew. I wrote a lot about it earlier this year:

Bottled Up, Higuaín

The Crew are only three games away from the middle of the season. More of this to come. I know it's dabbling a bit in the dark arts but I think there are a lot of things here that are valuable. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Infiltrating the Orange Beast

Rick Gethin and I went down to Dayton to see the Dutch Lions take on the Columbus Crew. Rick wrote about it:

Infiltrating the Orange Beast...

You can read my preview to the game as well as more about Major League Soccer's relationship with United Soccer League here.

You might not know that because the Crew didn't bother to cover the game even though every other MLS team is covering these matches. Maybe the Crew are too good to bother with it?

Justin Meram ‏@JustinMeram
Good battle tonight in Dayton with the boys. A tough game to get up for but we battled and came away with a result. Open cup Wed.

Game ended 4:4. Interesting, more fans came out to Beavercreek HS to watch this game than came out to Crew Stadium to watch these two play in the 100th US Open Cup match about a week ago (1600 / 1300). Of course it is not Justin Meram's fault but I do believe it is representative of club temperament. Perhaps the Crew organization should try and "get up for" these games and prove the are the better side before dismissing them. Both in result and in attendance.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Crew Rd 14: Meltdown

The Philadelphia Union scored in the 25th, 29th and 31st minutes during yesterday's match against the Columbus Crew. The game ended up at 3:0 but that short six minute flurry of goals is only part of the story.

MLS midweek matches bunched up near the US Open Cup can lead to some flat affairs and this one started out no different. Crew looked like a slightly slower version of their hyperactive previous two games and the Union soaked it up... just like the Crew's opponents in the last two games.

Difference this week was that Philly looked to have prepared well. Letting the Crew run all around until they made a mistake and then pounce on the counter.

25th: It worked for the most part. The first goal was set up by Matias Sanchez as he gave away a horrible pass to Philly's Brian Carroll. From there Carroll ripped off a 40 yard shot that deflected off of Eric Gehrig and in for a goal. Funny note here is that Carroll raised his hand knowingly right after the deflection.

29th: From a Le Toux corner, Carroll was able to flick it on to Williams for a flying sideways kick (technical term) goal. Meram was caught doing God-knows-what. By "God", I mean the one he facetiously mentioned having to pray too for more goals after last week's Houston match.

31st: Glauber and Tyson Wahl lazily played the ball to Le Toux who streaked down the sideline and got a good cross off to Connor Casey dome for the goal.

The final 15 minutes of the half saw a Crew side broken.

Lots of Changes for the Crew, particularly in defense. The starting back four of:

LB Wahl : CB Glauber : CB Gehrig : RB Barson


LB Barson : CB Glauber : CB George : RB Gehrig

All totaled, three positional changes and a subbed player. Grizzled soccer fans that go back to the old NASL days never even saw some thing like this.

It's immature behavior from the Crew coaching staff. Not only did they overreact, they also managed to embarrass the players and the entire organization.

Needless to say but the Crew just spun their wheels with this bizarre set of changes while Philly sort of played at half speed.

Eventually the game fizzled out.

Warzycha should face severe punishment from the organization for this. I realize this is Major League Soccer but to make changes like that is an absolute lunacy and borders on disrespecting the game itself. I wouldn't even dare do this playing a video game.

These are professional athletes. They were having a bad game. It happens.

Among the backline changes we also were treated to another sub, Ben Speas. Ben had a quiet half with 44 touches 27 passes (6 incomplete). Ben was somewhat curiously pulled for Aaron Schoenfeld. I had seen Ben play in the previous Reserve match, he seemed up to speed.

I believe Ben is being misused and under developed. He is more of a Central Midfielder than wide, where he is now placed, and the Crew can't seem to leave him in for a full 90 minutes.

Here is a summary of his starts with the Crew going back to last year:

Mins Played : Date : Game : Result
45 : 6/5/2013 : CLB @ PHI : L 0-3
65 : 4/20/2013 : CLB @ CHI : L 0-1
72 : 4/14/2013 : CLB @ MTL : T 1-1
85 : 4/6/2013 : PHI @ CLB : T 1-1
88 : 3/23/2013 : CLB @ DC : W 2-1
79 : 3/16/2013 : SJ @ CLB : T 1-1
90 : 3/9/2013 : CLB @ VAN : L 1-2
64 : 10/28/2012 : TOR @ CLB : W 1-2

In only one of those games did he finish a full 90 minutes. This can be frustrating for a player, even when injured.

What position was Justin Meram playing against Philly?

From a result perspective I don't put too much into heat maps. Sometimes players are asked to play all over the pitch. But in the case where you have two central defensive mids, seeing a right mid with a map like this raises an eyebrow and further confirms that he is a attacking player and not a midfielder (nor has he been trained properly).

I like Meram, but it does look like he was playing way out of position. It likely had an effect on Higuain, Speas, Sanchez, and Tchani. I confirmed Meram's more central roll over at ESPN FC as well...

What position is that? Now, here is Federico Higuain's heat map from the same data source. They appear to be playing in the same roll.

I'm probably digging too much into things here. The data before the three goals would be more valuable.

As for after the first of the three, what fans could see is a complete deflation of the squad and it highlights the fact that important leaders are missing in Josh Williams, Chad Marshall, Danny O'Rourke and Eddie Gaven.

Recent results have put the Crew in a tough spot.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v Union

Good Afternoon,

The Columbus Crew are in Philadelphia tonight to take on the Union. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM EST.

-CLB: Week 1 starters in Marshall, Viana, Gaven and Williams are out.
-PHI: 2-2-2 at home, 7 GF 10 GA
-CLB: 3-2-2 away, 10 GF 7 GA
-CLB: 5 pts in last 5 LLWDD
-PHI: 7 pts in last 5 WLWLD
-Fixture earlier this year saw a 1:1 draw.


Since it is a midweek game there are less predictions to choose from but we’ll start off with Bet 365. Normal Home/Draw/Away odds see Philly favored at near evens 6/5 and Crew 12/5. Draw sits at 11/5. Again, standard line here. Which means…

Win Draw Win likes the crap out of the Crew here. Large stake on an Away CLB win (2:1) with the ‘your vote’ feature swinging Crew as well (50% Crew win, 20% Union). That said, it appears that not much attention is there for this match.

Patrick Guldan, Managing Editor of Massive Report, thinks the Union have this one by a 2:1 scoreline. “The Union can exploit defensive gaffes and Glauber and Gehrig are prone to the occasional marking errors.”

Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch beat writer, is clearly leaning Crew… “there is a sense that the Crew offers more upside than the Union.” Jardy’s ‘lean’ has been pretty reliable this year.

No picks from or WV Hooligan for this game as of yet. Will update if they pop up.


Philly is a below average team with a hot goal scorer in Jack McInerney. A by-product of a team like this is inconsistency in results, which is true here with the Union.

I like the Crew in this one but there is some danger that attitudes may change if they rip off a bunch of shots early and nothing goes in. Even with that, having a hard time believing Philly can win.

Road gets pretty rough over the next month in a half. Important 3pts out there. Enjoy the game.

Drawing Fans, Home and Away

Win at Home, Draw Away. Right?

MLS is different. There is not any relegation for poor performing clubs. From an operational perspective who cares who wins or loses, just as long as the show is good.

With that, the 'real' table isn't so much Wins and Losses, but more about how many fans you can draw. MLS seems to like to parade around with impressive average attendance but most know that a shorter schedule than their MLB, NBA and NHL counterparts means less top line revenue.

How about we look at the 'real MLS table', ticket sales.

Average Home Draw : Team
39066 : Seattle Sounders FC
21661 : Los Angeles
21254 : Montreal Impact
20674 : Portland Timbers
19747 : Vancouver Whitecaps
19420 : Kansas City
19120 : Toronto FC
19098 : Houston
18176 : Real Salt Lake

17497 : Philadelphia Union

17166 : New York Red Bulls
14898 : FC Dallas
14175 : Colorado
13762 : DC United
12840 : Columbus
12679 : New England
12108 : Chicago
10409 : San Jose
8045 : Chivas USA

Let's not stop there. Most know the "home draw". MLS like's to parade that sucker around. How about we look at the "away draw". As in, how do clubs draw when playing away. Does the Crew Black and Gold matter?

Away Draw : Team
21333 : New England
20049 : Montreal Impact
19954 : Los Angeles
19715 : San Jose
19263 : Chicago
18428 : FC Dallas
18249 : Toronto FC
18175 : Kansas City
18100 : Portland Timbers

17888 : DC United

17451 : Seattle Sounders FC
17222 : Houston
17063 : New York Red Bulls
16905 : Chivas USA
15462 : Colorado
14469 : Philadelphia Union
14417 : Columbus
13605 : Real Salt Lake
13425 : Vancouver Whitecaps

Not really.

Actually, the Crew are the only club to linger around the bottom in both home and away, which explains what league commissioner Don Garber likes to visit Columbus.

Not sure why New England draws that much away. I'm sure it has to do with playing popular expansion teams like Seattle. Not going to bother looking it up at this point in the season. They are an outlier. Moving along.

Consider this your Home and Away results.

(Attendance data via ESPN FC through May 26th)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Crew Defensive Middle Fielding

Now that the Crew are 13 games into the 2013 MLS season I figure it is as good as time as any to take a look at the defensive midfielder engine in Robert Warzycha's 4-2-3-1 formation.

It's a defensive focused formation, no doubt. This is Warzycha we are talking about.

To date, the formation has succeeded in only allowing an even 1.00 goals per game. If you dig a little bit deeper you'll also see that this team has not allowed more that two goals on the year. Going back to last year, it has only happened three times. To this degree, the Crew have been successful.

Also, it should be mentioned... very Polish.

So, how about the DM's the Crew trot out every week? There have been a few of them and they have a decent amount of minutes played of which to compare 2013 players. Let's start there.

Mins Played : Player
764 : Danny O'Rourke
585 : Tony Tchani
555 : Agustin Viana
374 : Matias Sanchez
106 : Kevan George
20 : Konrad Warzycha

Right off the bat I'm going to take Kevan and Konrad out. Not enough time. That leaves us with four dudes. First up, let's take a look at player ratings by various outlets around the internets.

Castrol League Rank Percentile : Player
36% : Agustin Viana
42% : Danny O'Rourke
47% : Tony Tchani
64% : Matias Sanchez

Interesting here that Viana jumps both Tchani and O'Rourke. Now let's take a look at's ranking. Who is "Who Scored"? Well, look them up. They have access to all the Opta data and a lot of time on their hands. Percentile : Player
32% : Agustin Viana
70% : Matias Sanchez
75% : Danny O'Rourke
76% : Tony Tchani

Well, well. Viana stays at the top, followed up by Matias Sanchez. Next up are my player ratings. HELLTOWN PLAYER RATINGS.

Helltown Rating Percentile : Player
36% : Danny O'Rourke
44% : Tony Tchani
47% : Agustin Viana
57% : Matias Sanchez


If you average the league rank of each of these Crew DMs, here is what you get:

38% : Agustin Viana
51% : Danny O'Rourke
56% : Tony Tchani
64% : Matias Sanchez

Pretty clear cut right? We've done the homework here. Three different player ratings gives us an accurate picture of who should start. Ok.

Wait. What about opponent difficulty when playing? Gosh, I almost forgot.

Avg Opponent Rank : Name
10.0 : Matias Sanchez
10.8 : Tony Tchani
13.1 : Danny O'Rourke
14.0 : Agustin Viana

Thing here is that O'Rourke and Viana have played against the weakest competition. What this suggests is that the reason they are rated highest is because they have played crappy teams.

...and here is where Opta and most other player rating systems fail. They don't take into consideration the quality level of the opposing player.

I'm working on it though. Draw your own conclusions on which DM should play this weekend. For me?

Well, I'm going to keep crunching the numbers.

Revisiting the Garber-McCullers Press Conf

With The New York Cosmos announcing that Emirates Airline has agreed to a sponsorship deal to become the jersey-front sponsor of the club today I felt like revisiting something I wrote about over at Massive Report about linking up the leagues.

You can find that full post HERE.

In going back to the Garber / McCullers press conference I found myself paying more attention to Don Garber's mannerisms when Mark McCullers was talking.

If you start at around 9:00 minutes of the video you see McCullers finishing up his update on the three goals the club set out to achieve well over two years ago now (jersey sponsor, 10k season tickets, stadium naming rights). Note, if you will, Garber's reaction when McCullers turns a page in his sheet of notes.

Beyond that, here is the transcript that follows. The reason it is pulled out is because Mark McCullers repeats his 2013 sales pitch that includes the potential to host the MLS Cup at Crew Stadium.


"Uh, I've said before that I believe that this could be one of the most important years in the history of this club and I still believe that.

Uh, with USA Mexico with the Analyst Business Summit, ahum, with goal 10k, uh there's increased discussion in the training complex and oh by the way, I think our team has the chance to host the MLS Cup right here at Crew Stadium uhh, in uhh, in December.

So it's still ah exciting period for us. Ummm, a lot of hard work still to be done but we made great progress uhmm and I want to give a shout out to our staff uhumm just a tremendous group of professionals that I have the privilege to work with every day, we really make these things happen.

Um... so.

It's the Crew business update."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Crew Rd 13: Can't Win at Home.

The Columbus Crew can't manage to muster up a goal outside a finished penalty from Federico Higuain. Ends up as a draw at home and with it continue crummy home record in 2013.

Columbus came out pressuring the Houston Dynamo all over the pitch. In the 18 yd box? Higuain makes a 30 yard sprint on the Dynamo 'keeper that had possession and flicks it to a nearby teammate. Dynamo defenders passing around the back four? Jairo Arrieta chasing the ball like a dog in the park chasing all the balls in the park.

Somewhere around the 30th minute Justin Meram mistimes a tackle on Kofi Sarkodie, Tyson Wahl decides to run in another direction, Matias Sanchez is lost and Tony Tchani comes trotting in his always on 3rd gear. Sarkodie makes a nice cross to an open Warren Creavalle who athletically shoots it into the opposite corner for a goal.

The match settled from that point a little. Crew players calmed down an the match finally too some shape.

By this point the Dynamo had to make two subs, due in large part to the Crew's hyper active play.

The chances seemed endless for the Crew. In fact, they were. 22 total shots on the evening for them. None of them, save for the penalty that Higuain took, went in.

The game ended 1:1 and the Crew once again go away frustrated with lost points at home.

- 22 shots an no open play goals from the Crew. Only two open play goals at home on the year and already six games in.

- Houston played similarly to recent previous opponents. Columbus is in a weird hyper active type mode of playing. Run, run, run.

- Josh Williams was an odd scratch before the match. Reports have him not starting due to a sore calf. This isn't something very 'Josh Williams' like. We may never really know the real reason for him not starting.

- Columbus is in 6th place in the East (regardless of how you slice it, PPG or just pts). This is where I think they will probably wind up.

- Run, run, run, run.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Houston

Good Morning,

Columbus hosts the Houston Dynamo this evening. Kickoff is 7:30 PM, 6:30 PM Texas time.

-HOU: missing key players to international duties, Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia
-CLB: 2013 year without Eddie Gaven starts tonight.
-CLB: Higuain featured in midweek US Open Cup match
-CLB: Marshall and Viana listed as out
-HOU: Bobby Boswell serving suspension
-HOU: WWLLD in last 5 (7 pts)
-CLB: WLLWD in last 5 (7 pts)


Win Draw Win, the sports betting aggregate site, is showing a large stake on a 0:1 Away (Houston) win. The famously accurate "Your Vote" section lines up with 44% of the vote going Houston and 20% to Columbus.

Reason for the play on Houston is for the near even odds over at Bet365 for the Crew (6/5). Draw is at 11/5 and Houston 12/5.

Over at Drew Epperley's WV Hooligan site he writes; "Life without Eddie Gaven for the Crew begins this weekend." Epperley thinke both clubs have the fire power but it should wind up level at 1:1.

Voting at has Houston heavy. Nobody votes on their previews, however. This week I entered a scoreline of 6 to 6.

Over at the Pick 'em club favors Houston (3 of 6 votes) over the Crew (1 of 6).

Patrick Guldan, Managing Editor of Massive Report has a good right out this morning previewing the game. He believes that the missing players on the Houston side creates favorable match ups for the attacking Crew players. He's calling it 2:1 for the Crew.

No notes from Adam Jardy this week. Not because he doesn't have any but because I am away from my paper right now and the Dispatch's online presence is awful.


Beat MLS by MLSing
With all the players Houston is missing, I'm thinking it's more Dominic Kinnear vs. Crew players this week. You've got to like the Dynamo's chances there. If anything Houston knows how to pull out a draw in these types of games.

For the Crew? They need to press and try and take advantage of a weakened Eastern Conference foe. If Columbus tries to step back and play 'their game' they will lose. Houston (Kinnear) is famous for breaking apart teams that try to do that (sometimes violently).

We'll see. Might not be pretty again this week, true believers, but it will be rather evenly matched.

Enjoy the game.