Sunday, September 29, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v FC Dallas

Good Morning.

The Columbus Crew travel to Toyota Stadium today to take on FC Dallas. Kickoff time is 8:30 PM EST. 7:30 Central.

CLB: Lineup likely to stay same as last 2 weeks
CLB: On GD, tied worst away form -10 in last 6
CLB: 7 losses in last 8 on the road
FCD: Only lost 1 all year at home
FCD: Lots of speed up top
FCD: In danger of dropping out of playoff hunt

(in no particular order)

Leaning pretty heavy here at this aggregate betting site. Wise guys taking stake in a 3-0 Home win and only voting for the Crew 15% on the pretty accurate 'your vote' section.

Adam Jardy, beat writer here in town, doesn't appear to lean either way. Again mentions win makes hopes of making the playoffs more realistic.

Four of the six folks on the MLS panel like Dallas. Only one picking Crew to win (Andrew Wiebe, the arch nemesis to any thinking analyst)


Graham Ruthven actually gives fans a glimpse of what this game might look like as far as play (a rarity in MLS); "A compact, yet eagerly contested game is expected between these two sides. A draw could be on the cards."

Drew Epperley (Big D Soccer on SB Nation as well has like Dallas to win this one 2-1. "Columbus has been better under Brian Bliss but I’d argue that they haven’t seen a team that has the speed that Dallas has up front."

7. BET365 ... FC DALLAS
Dallas is basically even (10/11) with a draw next (12/5). Crew getting 3/1 odds in this one.

Managing editor, Patrick Guldan is sure to mention David Ferreira, saying that he "is Dallas's biggest creative force. Clamping down on him will choke the home team's offense." Patrick thinks this will go down as a 1-1 draw.


Ives Galarcep again with the summary for this one saying "Standing in the Crew's way is an FC Dallas side that is heading in the opposite direction. Consecutive losses, both courtesy of own goals, have put a halt to a promising turnaround for Dallas, which has managed just two wins in 16 matches." I'm going to go ahead and put the Crew down for this one, even though Ives doesn't really lean. The reader pick shows Dallas.

There are precisely two MLS teams that have positive goal difference away from home this year. Just like last week when Chicago traveled to Columbus and got whooped 3-0 it's going to be a tall order for the Crew to get all three points this week down in Texas.

The Crew do have a couple things going for them, however.

1. Team has some pep in the step under Brian Bliss
2. Dallas struggling to win home or away

Dallas is clearly the favorite today but those two things point to a closer match than many might think.

Josh Williams and Andy Gruenebaum, who have been recovering from injury, are probably sitting this one out. Bliss, like Warzycha before him, likes to keep the lineup the same if the team is winning.

I have problems with this. Biggest one is that this philosophy has failed the Crew over the past two years. They have only been able to string a couple wins together two times this year doing this.

You have to plan for each opponent differently. For example. The Crew aren't good on the road. A lot of that has to do with Matt Lampson and his inexperience on the road.

Goals given up with Lampson as starter:
3 : at Houston
4 : at Salt Lake
3 : at Kansas City
1 : at Montreal

That's 11 goals allowed in his last four away starts. I realize this is a team thing but Lampson has looked like a completely different person home vs away. A Gruenebaum start here, even though he has been out for an extended period, might not be a bad idea if he is ready to go. Gruenebaum's motivation will be through the roof.

Despite not getting the results they might like, Dallas has lit up the scoreboard in last three at home (8 goals in last 3). They will be extremely hungry to get goals vs the Crew.

Bliss could take advantage of that if so inclined.

Dallas is fast. Dallas can be frustrating. Dallas is hard to beat at home. This one could have some fireworks in it if the crowd gets in to it (if they are even there, Cowboys playing late afternoon game).

Looks like temps will be in the mid 80s. Enjoy the game.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

MR Post: Top MLS Players 21 and Under

Put together a post for Massive Report on my top 21 MLS players 21 years of age and under. HERE

What makes it a little different than my earlier post on the topic is that I used and Castrol Index player ratings along with mine as a guide to find the best young players in the league.

I think it worked out well. Of the around 90 players in MLS 21 and under I see about 30 that play regularly and another 15 or so that bounce between ‘reserves’ and gameday 18s.

I’ll keep an eye on these players over the course of the next 12-18 months (2-3 international transfer windows) and see how many move on to better leagues. I’m guessing guys like Rosell, Fagundez, Jean-Baptiste, Torres and maybe Gil and the like will be moving on in that time.

One guy I really like at the moment is Soony Saad. Not just because he is a decent player but he’s also got a good body type. One of the more noticeable differences I see between foreign leagues and MLS is player body types. It’s extremely noticeable in person.

A couple years ago I saw Stoke take on the Crew and was shocked at the size difference. Not just height but thickness. Same thing when Wigan came to town this year. It’s like there is another 2” layer of thickness all around on players in Europe (that's Eddie Gaven on the ground in my illustration).

Anyhow, other guys like Yedlin, Rowe, McInerney, Farrell, Villarreal and Kitchen might become MLS stalwarts in years to come.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Not a baseball guy (but will probably wind up one), this is awesome. Some of the best people I've ever met have strong ties to Cleveland. What a great moment. Crowd goes bonkers!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Crew Rd 30, Take Advantage - Win

The Columbus Crew scored a goal then went up a man early in this one. Come away with a three goal win.

Very energetic open to this game as both sides seemed impatient. This opened up acres for the Crew on the wings, particularly on the right side.

By only the 11th minute Dominic Oduro found himself some space ripped one past Chicago's GK Sean Johnson. Good one touch from Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta on working the ball over to him.

A little over 10 minutes later Arrieta (again finding space) was chopped down by Bakary Soumare with clear path to the goal. It earned him a straight red.

While the rest of the half saw both teams trying to figure out how to play a man up and a man down there was a couple non-calls in the box that went against Chicago.

One was Tony Tchani pulling down Jeff Larentowicz and another was an odd moment were a 2nd ball was on the pitch, the ref went over to get it but let play go on while a Fire player was knocked down from behind on his way to goal.

With some time to put together a plan both teams contributed to turning this game back into something a little more organized. But Chicago was still giving up way too much space for both Arrieta and Oduro's speed.

In the 70th minute Arrieta got behind the back line and forced a play from GK Johnson where promptly maded contact with the player. Higuain walked up and put away the penalty.

A few minutes later Tony Tchani placed a beautiful ball to Bernardo Anor and put the home side up 3-0.

The Crew have played a few games like this one this year were they go up early on ejection. At home fans have seen it with Portland and Seattle. In both cases the Crew looked a little lost for whatever reason.

Yesterday was a little different in that they kept the intensity up. Chicago had their chances that they probably shouldn't have though. They caught the woodwork twice and got off a couple long distance efforts (they ended up getting more shots off than the Crew).

I think Chicago will regret this one badly but it's hard not to feel for them a little because of the wildly inconsistent (and sometimes down right bizarre) officiating.

Whenever I see a game with a bad official I always look for the longtime MLS guys on the team getting shafted. Last night it was Mike Magee. His facial expressions and body language said it all.

Sorry Mike.

Tough to take much out of this game outside the fact that the Crew are winning at home again. Bakary Soumare and some questionable officiating threw a wet blanket on this one.

Some Crew observations:
• Bliss seems to have repaired some of the Robert Warzycha inflicted emotional damage to Chad Marshall. Ever since Bliss praised him a few weeks ago (going as far as saying he is National Team quality) Marshall is another player.

• Speaking of Warzychas... Konrad Warzycha was not in the 18 for the 2nd round in a row. Since week 8 Konrad has only missed 3 total gameday 18s. The only other one was his father's last game (rd 26 vs Seattle).

• Speas appearance was his first in about a month. Only his 2nd in last 10 games. Bliss said he has been 'mired in a little bit of mediocrity' in a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch, citing his recent wedding as a possible cause.

• These Bliss comments don't do anything to shake his jock persona. He needs to get away from a former player that is a coach and work towards being a Manager. This is something better teams look for.

• Crew still leading MLS in penalties taken with 9. LA is 2nd with 8 then everybody else is way down the list. I find this strange but very similar to 2011.

• Just like in 2011, Red Cards and penalties are hiding some problems that need addressed.

• Bernardo Anor had a quiet but effective game.

• listed Tony Tchani as man of the match. He's another one that is thriving under new leadership.

• Crew remain in 8th place after this win. Next week they travel to Dallas to play an out of conference game.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Fire

The Columbus Crew host the Chicago Fire today. Scheduled start is 7:30 PM EST (6:30 Central). Looks like temps will be high 60s and the field a little damp by the time this one kicks off.

CLB: Won 4 of last 6 at home
CLB: Low scoring, 7 GF only 3 GA in last 6
CLB: Lineup should match last week
CHI: 5 pts from last 6 on the road
CHI: Sit in 5th playoff spot
CHI: Have been Crew 3x already this year (2 MLS, 1 USOC)

(in no particular order)

"I think a draw seems most fitting with these two squads with the way they’re both playing at the moment," says Drew Epperley. One all by the end.

The sports betting aggregate site likes the Crew this week. We've got a 1-0 Home Stake and a 'Your Vote' pick leaning Columbus (46%) but followed closely by a Draw (37%).


Patrick Guldan believes that, "The first goal will be a little more important as the Crew will have to chase the game if they fall behind." He see's this as a 1-0 Crew victory.

For the first time this year we get Ives Galarcep writing up the summary. He doesn't outright pick the Fire but he does spend most of the time talking them up. "...Chicago will try to have Arevalo-Rios and Jeff Larentowicz limit Higuain's touches and space. The Fire also have the players to neutralize the Crew's set-piece threat." He also mentions that Mike Magee is having an MVP like year. On the 'reader picks' portion we see a draw.

6. BET365 ... CREW
This is more of a 'lean' toward the Home team this week, which is what is reflected over at Win Draw Win. 7/5 Crew, 9/4 Draw and 19/10 Chicago. Most likely result is 1-1 (X).


Even here with three on the Pick 'Em panel going draw, two Fire and one Crew (most accurate man, Matt Doyle).

Graham Ruthven likes this a 1-1 as well, saying; "The Fire should be motivated as they arrive at Crew Stadium, but the hosts' front three can trouble any team in MLS."

Man on the beat Adam Jardy thinks the "Crew is due" against Chicago based on previous results not quite bouncing the Crew way.


It's been a long, long journey for the Chicago Fire to get to this point in the 5th and final playoff spot. They were practically left for dead after only the first couple months of the season.

In fact, it was probably the ugly win the got against a visiting Crew back late April that finally got their season going the right way.

With these teams meeting so many times this year (4 if you count the reserve match) you have to figure we won't see much different out there today. That is: a choppy midfield scrum.

Chicago knows full well that Federico Higuain is the key to this team getting goals.

1. Set pieces (the Crew lifeblood this year, which the Fire has the height to defend)

2. Higuain's movement in the middle (where the Fire know how to jam it up).

It's these two simple things that the Fire do well that has beaten the 2013 Crew.

It would be impressive if Brian Bliss pulls Dominic Oduro out of the midfield and places a competent mid player in his spot. That would help free things up a little bit but I fully expect that this weeks lineup will be the same as last.

Fire probably know that as well. In fact, all Crew opposition know that pattern which is why the Crew have only won back to back games once this year.

Should be a great atmosphere at Crew Stadium tonight. Enjoy the game.

Friday, September 20, 2013

MLS Top 21, 21 and Under

MLS released their annual 24 under 24 last week. Most over there seem to think a 24 year old player is a 'youngster'.

It's not.

24 is more a player entering into their prime. To drive the point home here in town for Crew fans, it wasn't that many weeks ago that Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch caught Federico Higuain commenting on Wil Trapp's age:

“I don’t necessarily consider him to be that young,” Higuain said last week through an interpreter. “Young in other countries means 16, 17 years old. I consider him to be a mature kid at this stage. As far as his qualities go, he’s very talented and he brings a lot to this team.”

What a great quote from Higuain. Nothing wrong with a list like put together, but call a spade a spade. It's basically a list of foreign transfer target players, whether the editors of know that or not is irrelevant.

Since I track such things, here is my 21 MLS player 21 and under in Major League Soccer based on my own player rating model.

1. Oriol Rosell (KC) MF : 1.83m, 76kg : Spain
2. DeAndre Yedlin (SEA) MF : 1.73m, 68kg : Washington
3. Andrew Jean-Baptiste (PDX) MF : 1.88m, 93kg : New York
4. Jack McInerney (PHI) F : 1.73m, 70kg : Georgia
5. Andrew Farrell (NE) MF : 1.80m, 75kg : Kentucky

6. Luis Gil (RSL) MF : 1.73m, 70kg : California
7. Russell Teibert (VAN) MF : 1.70m, 66kg : Canada
8. Shane O'Neill (COL) MF : 1.88m, 86kg : Ireland
9. Fabian Castillo (DAL) F : 1.73m, 68kg : Colombia
10. Soony Saad (KC) F : 1.78m, 75kg : Michigan

11. Olmes Garcia (RSL) F : 1.83m, 79kg : Colombia
12. Jonathan Osorio (TOR) MF : 1.75m, 72.57kg : Canada
13. Jose Villarreal (LA) MF : 1.70m, 75kg : California
14. Carlos Salcedo (RSL) MF : 1.85m, 77kg : Mexico
15. Juan Agudelo (NE) F : 1.83m, 82kg : Colombia

16. Doneil Henry (TOR) MF : 1.88m, 82kg : Canada
17. Marco Delgado (GOATS) MF : 1.75m, 66kg : California
18. Wil Trapp (CREW) MF : 1.73m, 68kg : Ohio
19. Erick Torres (GOATS) F : 1.83m, 72kg : Mexico
20. Jose Correa (GOATS) F : 1.85m, 86kg : Colombia
21. Jack McBean (LA) F : 1.83m, 78kg : California

For Crew fans, it's nice to see Trapp on this list. But consider the difference between Sporting Kansas City's Barcelona La Masia graduate and him.

Pretty proud of my list. Lots of good players here. Thinking most will be snatched up by teams with deeper pockets soon.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Humbling River, Grand Theft Almost

After a couple days of playing around I'm about to work into the meat of Grand Theft Auto 5. Great fun and I'm sure I'll enjoy every minute of it, and all its irreverent fun... but I can already tell that it really just makes me yearn for the absolute majesty that was Red Dead Redemption.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

MR Post, Ghost Results

Posted up MLS Reserve results in USL Pro division over at Massive Report. It was a little awkward explaining it, but that sort of matches the awkward nature of how MLS was inserted into a USL this year. Check it out here.

Crew Rd 29, Surprised Impact

Federico Higuain and Chad Marshall the difference as the Crew catch a busy Impact in Montreal.

The flow of the game favored Montreal for large spells of the first half with the Crew not really looking up to playing at full speed. Overall, the play and intensity on the pitch came nowhere close the the energy of the Stade Saputo crowd.

The headed goal in the 23rd minute by Marco Di Viao was fitting in the way it was scored as the ball floated past a number of Crew players to an awaiting Di Viao who put away a simple header.

The Crew would up the energy for a couple minutes after that but it was short lived. The game returned to it's original state.

Another slow start to this one and little adjustments to either side for the first 20 minutes.

It wasn't until Chad Marshall awoke from a seemingly three year slumber to bury a set piece delivery from Federico Higuain. The goal was as satisfying as it was executed.

Marshall's goal spurred on the Crew to an eventual goal where Higuain teased away possession from a sloppy Impact. Higuain would find Dominic Oduro's run for a goal that put the visitors up 1:2.

From there the Crew were able to hold of Montreal for the rest of the match.

This win will certainly be an important one for interim head coach Brian Bliss. His adjustment to add Ethan Finlay (for Jairo Arrieta) to bolster the middle Oduro up top paid off immediately. In some ways it was like adding an extra player to the midfield because it pushed Oduro into a position up top that he is more comfortable with.

Very well worked by Brian Bliss.

Montreal is right on the inner edge of an extremely busy month. Actually, it's one of the busiest months a MLS team will have to play this year (no preferred scheduling for CCL like Seattle got early in year) and will likely stretch their very consistent lineup.

Sat, Sept 14 : vs Crew
Tue, Sept 17 : San Jose Earthquakes (Away)
Sat, Sept 21 : Vancouver (Home)
Tue, Sept 24 : Heredia (Home)
Sat, Sept 28 : Chicago (Away)

Hard to say that the either team outplayed the other. Montreal had the edge most of it, you could say, but the Crew snapped together after the Marshall goal and played with purpose.

The Crew host Chicago this weekend.

Only five games left on the season before what will likely be a busy offseason.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v Impact

Good Morning,

The Columbus Crew take on the Montreal Impact in an early afternoon MLS fixture today. Temps up in Montreal don't appear to be making it out of the low 60s so this game could have good pace to it. 2:00 PM EST Kickoff time.

-CLB: Injuries up and down roster, Defense is concern
-CLB: Higuain not listed in projected lineup
-CLB: On longest road losing streak in team history
-MTL: Currently 2nd in MLS (ppg). Looking to keep Shield pace
-MTL: Crowded upcoming schedule
-MTL: Di Viao brace in 3 of last 4 games

(in no particular order)

"The top team in the Eastern Conference will look to secure its footing against the desperate visitors from Columbus," says Thomas Floyd's headline today. Readers predictions on this site also like Montreal this week (67%).


On the pulse and on the beat is Adam Jardy. After noting long list of injuries and probable absence of Federico Higuain, he says "...on the road against a team chasing the Supporter's Shield does not add up to a promising afternoon."

The 'pick 'em' group over there like the Impact across the board today. Matthew Doyle still holding at 50% accuracy (very good) with Nick Rosano nipping at his heals (48% accuracy).

5. BET365 ... MONTREAL
Looking like we are getting standard late season odds here for the Impact (4/7). Draw is sitting at 14/5 and Crew 5/1.

I list home team because it is one of the strongest predictors this season. Only one MLS team has a positive Goal Differential on the road this year.

Mr. Drew Epperley: "If anything, this may really knock the Crew out of the playoff range for good." He likes the Impact to win this one by two goals 3-1.

Managing Editor, Patrick Guldan; "Montreal's movement causes problems with unschooled pairings and the Crew defense won't have had many practices together as a unit." Patrick see's this one as a 1-2 Impact win.

Graham Ruthven see's this on as a 1-0 Home side win and states, "The Impact appear to have focused their minds and are favourites to take all three points against the Crew."

Last, but not least, is the betting aggregate site and the now near legendary 'your vote' predictor. 56% like the Impact, 12% Crew. Wise guys seem to be making a stake on 3-0 win this week as well.

The Crew have been miserable on the road this year. In fact, the current seven game road losing streak is the longest in franchise history.

Conqueror of MLS
The way I'm choosing to view this one is as a great test for interim head man Brian Bliss. He's the guy that assembled this group and now he's had his hands on these guys for a good couple weeks. Short, yes. But meaningful. It's not like he dropped in from outer space. He knows this squad very well and they know him.

A good showing here and the Crew can mark this down as the best win of the season.

An outright loss, however, could damage this opportunity for Bliss. Injuries have certainly run rampant of late but this team was build by Bliss to be this young. It was something the organization touted early in the year as part of the plan.

What we are seeing with this team, this year, is the result of building such a young team (and local Ohioans). Historically poor on the road. The experience just isn't there.

With Higuain likely not getting out there, Josh Williams out, Chad Marshall banged up this one has the opportunity to turn messy very, very quickly.

Of note: Since the only Spanish speaking coach (Iribarren) was let go the Crew haven't fielded non-English speakers (Viana, Higuain, Sanchez). This could be circumstance over anything but it is interesting and noteworthy.

Again, very tall odds but real opportunity for Brian Bliss to put a feather in his cap tonight.

Enjoy the game.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Updated KRAMB

KRAMB is a measurement I started tracking a couple years ago. It started out as points earned per game (PPG) + goal difference (GD) when starting. It's evolved to, well... pretty much the same thing.

Only now it's PPG + GD above replacement (team average of 0.00).

I call it KRAMB after Ryan Kramb, who once asked questions about such things.

What this works out to be is... the higher the number, the better the team does when that player is starting.

+0.95 : Eddie Gaven 10
+0.49 : Justin Meram 9
+0.34 : Agustín Viana 14
+0.28 : Gláuber Berti 13
+0.20 : Bernardo Anor 13
+0.19 : Dominic Oduro 28
+0.18 : Matt Lampson 8
+0.09 : Joshua Williams 24
+0.05 : Chad Marshall 24

0.00 : TEAM

-0.06 : Tyson Wahl 18
-0.07 : Federico Higuaín 25
-0.09 : Tony Tchani 7
-0.12 : Eric Gehrig 6
-0.15 : Andy Gruenebaum 20
-0.16 : Danny O´Rourke 19
-0.18 : Chad Barson 13
-0.28 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 15
-0.35 : Ben Speas 10
-0.55 : Wil Trapp 10
-0.65 : Matías Sánchez 10

Here are the players with not enough games to make any reasonable conclusion.

+1.05 : Aaron Schoenfeld 2
+0.55 : Ethan Finlay 2
+0.05 : Konrad Warzycha 2
-0.62 : Ryan Finley 3
-1.28 : Kevan George 3


The spirit of KRAMB is what each player's goal difference is when on the pitch. Exactly the same thing you see with NBA and NHL in their meticulous plus/minus ratings that they track but are absent from the pages of MLS or any MLS stat tracking outlet (this includes when used as sub).

Here is how that looks for Columbus Crew players as a per 90 minute figure...

+0.40 : Eddie Gaven : 10.0

0.00 : Bernardo Anor : 13.0
0.00 : Dominic Oduro : 26.2
0.00 : Agustín Viana : 11.5
0.00 : Gláuber Berti : 13.0

-0.11 : Tyson Wahl : 17.9
-0.13 : Joshua Williams : 24.0
-0.13 : Chad Marshall : 23.3
-0.20 : Andy Gruenebaum : 20.0
-0.22 : Tony Tchani : 8.9
-0.24 : Justin Meram : 8.2
-0.26 : Danny O´Rourke : 19.1
-0.26 : Jairo Obando Arrieta : 15.2
-0.28 : Federico Higuaín : 24.8

-0.38 : Matt Lampson : 8.0

-0.50 : Eric Gehrig : 6.0
-0.55 : Matías Sánchez : 9.1
-0.61 : Chad Barson : 13.2
-0.62 : Ben Speas : 9.6
-0.63 : Kevan George : 4.7
-0.85 : Wil Trapp : 9.4

...and here are some guys that don't really have enough time. That said, this is a metric based on minutes so the impact of this number could be considered more important than something based on apps.

0.00 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 2.3
-1.00 : Ryan Finley : 4.0
-1.32 : Konrad Warzycha : 3.0
-1.82 : Ethan Finlay : 3.3

While only part of the overall picture, I believe this type of information to be important in evaluating the overall impact of a player.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two to Zero

From last night's USA v Mexico pregame get together and Massive Report podcast. Hendoc's Pub in Columbus, Ohio. On left; Matt Goshert (host of the Massive Report podcast, among other things) and Justin Bell (in Dos a Cero shirt).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Crew Rd 28, Youth Proof

The Crew no match for Sporting KC on the road.

New interim coach Brian Bliss decided to keep things simple and run out the same lineup that pulled off a mildly surprising midweek upset over the Houston Dynamo. Major differences between these two games were two fold:

1. It was on the road and the Crew have completely collapsed away from home. Losing last 7 straight by a total of 15 goals.

2. Playing the best team in the the Eastern Conference (not missing a beat without Zusi or Beasler).

The game didn't start well as Wil Trapp caught the foot of a KC Benny Feilhaber in the box which sent Designated Player Claudio Bieler to the spot where he ripped one past Matt Lampson.

From there KC owned possession till the final minutes of the first half when they didn't really need it as much. It was a hot and humid evening so all the possession gassed the Crew players (who had all played on Wednesday).

In the 41st minute Barson, in what seemed like a mental lapse, lazily mis-touched a Eric Gehrig pass. The ball wound up with Claudio Bieler who found Sonny Saad who had no resistance from Barson or Gehrig and easily put it past an iffy looking Matt Lampson.

KC would never really relinquish their grip on this game and the Crew just slipped further and further out of it. Tony Tchani, subbed on at half for Ethan Finlay, provided some more energy in the middle but it was still miles away from what the team needed.

In the 54th minute Oriol Rossell would like an absolutely beautiful ball from 40 yards out to CJ Sapong in the 18 yard box. Tyson Wahl seemed powerless against him and Lampson wasn't able to get there on time.

The Crew were three goals to beaten at this point and were just out classed. In fact it took till nearly the 80th minute for the Crew to get an attempt that made it to frame.

Abysmal. That's the only way to explain the Crew on the road since the shockingly poor June 6th 3-0 loss in Philly.

The last four, in particular, have been horror shows.

2:1 at Toronto
3:1 at Houston
4:0 at Salt Lake
3:0 at Kansas City

Playing inexperienced players is the quickest way to get run over on the road. Chad Barson, Matt Lampson, Wil Trapp, Ethan Finlay, Ryan Finley would be done better by if they were able to be worked into a more experienced lineup. As it stands though, they are basically college players still.

With that, the experience they are gaining may be the most valuable takeaway for them right now. Whether or not it is for the best is not known. Fans will have to pocket this away and revisit in the coming years.

On top of young players you have the absence of Federico Higuain, the Crew's insistence in playing Dominic Oduro in the midfield, and keeping Jairo Arrieta guessing as to his role this year.

With the situation the Crew find themselves in it's difficult to know which way is up. With six games left in what will likely be seen as a transitional season - one thing is for certain; the stong will be separated from the weak.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Predictions: Crew (A) v Sporting

The Crew are at Sporting KC today. Kickoff is 8:30 PM EST and a Sporting 7:30 PM Central.

-CLB: Have lost last 6 on the road (only 5 GF, -12 GD)
-CLB: Higuain back in lineup after 2 game suspension
-CLB: 2nd game under interim coach Brian Bliss
-SKC: INT Duty: Zusi, Besler (USA), Jerome and Joseph (Haiti)
-SKC: Kia Kamara sold to Middlesbrough
-SKC: Only 1 loss at home in last 6 (+7 GD)

(in no particular order)

Beat writer Adam Jardy notes key player absences for KC but also states the Crew " will face a road test against one of the league’s elite teams." Jardy doesn't seem to lean either way.


Sayeth Seth Vertelney ( contributor) "The home side will be shorthanded due to international matches, and the visitors, with a new head coach in tow, will hope to take advantage." Vartelney thinks KC is "formidable" but he doesn't fully commit to them. Reader Prediction leans KC with 50% of vote, 38% draw.

Site Editor Patrick Guldan likes this one a 1:1 Draw and offers insightful comments on what might happen, "If Meram or Finlay are slow to tuck in, the Kansas City midfield, even under gunned as it is can do damage."

KC has heavy odds today at 4/7 (11/4 draw, 5/1 crew).

If I'm not mistaken it looks like Graham Ruthven is writing these up now? Regardless, key call out here is, "Despite the unpredictability of the Crew Sporting KC will be considered favourites to take all three points."


Drew Epperley thinks the Crew's "..midweek result was a good one for Brian Bliss’ first game in charge but heading on the road to Kansas City is never an easy task." Final prediction? 2:1 KC.

There is a large stake on a 3:0 Home win and the 'Your Votes' is very KC, 56%. All key indicators here point to KC but the are based on form not unique events (missing players).

All six participants in this years Pick 'Em feature think KC are winners. Matt Doyle remains in the lead at nearly 50% accurate (impressive).

It is very difficult for me to get past 6 straight losses on the road for the Crew (and only 5 goals). New coach is a good sign but I don't think this particular issue is all on former head man Robert Warzycha.

This logo has no meaning
It has to do with youth and inexperience. Barson, Trapp, Lampson and Ryan Finley have very little experience on the road. Last three results were horror shows ... 4-0 in Salt Lake, 3-1 in Houston and the straw that essentially broke the back of the season, the 2-1 loss in Toronto.

The Crew will have to play disciplined in the back like they did last week by keeping Barson and Wahl at home (easily the most notable tactic change Bliss has implemented thus far). If those guys get caught up then KC will get the two goals need to put them past the Crew.

The Crew are catching KC at the right time but sometimes a team that is missing key guys is a little more motivated with players looking to make their mark. You'll notice in the predictions that team and league watchers are calling this on closer than the macro betting sites.

Will be fun to see how Bliss approaches this one tonight. Enjoy the game.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crew Rd 27, A Refreshening

The Columbus Crew play out a fun and open game to victory over the Houston Dynamo.

Columbus came out in a somewhat different looking lineup. New interim head coach Brian Bliss stated in the press that he wanted some new faces and he made good on it, somewhat.

Eric Gehrig and Ethan Finlay were two of the surprises getting the nod. Other notables include Ryan Finley getting a start over Jairo Arrieta and Tyson Wahl making a reappearance after not playing for a couple months.

The changes early on almost looked to backfire as Houston's Will Bruin was able to easily work past Gehrig on at least three occasions (two of which should have been a goal).

Eventually the game sort of settled into an evenly matched pinball type MLS game rhythm, but not ugly by any means.

Columbus jumped all over a questionable Houston back line early when Justin Meram found Ryan Finley right in front of goal.

Tony Tchani, who was subbed on in the first half due to a Wil Trapp injury, provided the nice play (huge shoulder barge on Adam Moffat, sending him to ground) setting up that goal. Tchani would go on to play a nice half.

Minutes later Dominic Oduro would be dragged down in the box. Ryan Finley would step up and miss the penalty but it mattered little as Houston seemed to drift further away from getting anything from this game.

For the first time for as long as many can remember, the Crew felt like the Crew and were at full steam.

The Crew would go on to play probably the most balanced I've seen them for the next 20 minutes. There efforts were satisfyingly rewarded in the 74th with Ethan Finlay worked the ball over to Oduro who picked out Ryan Finley at the top of the box. He would go on to whiff but it fell to Meram who did what Meram does and did it beautifully.

2:0 Crew.

The final 15 saw Bliss and his crew settle in and keep a defeated Dynamo out of goal.

This was a refreshing game for me personally. I've been watching and writing closely about them since late 2010. There were few times in 2011 that the Crew felt like the "Crew" I knew. Or at least the Crew image I had in my minds eye.

After a long dry spell from late 2011 there were very few of these 'Crew' moments for me but, goddamn... last night felt Crew.

Missing the star player and a couple defensive cornerstones... players like Eric Gehrig (perennial hard worker, reserve), Ethan Finlay (fan fav last year, went to doghouse, great preseason but no minutes), Tyson Wahl (veteran, journeyman), Tony Tchani (Gen Adidas player, yet to find stride and window closing) were in there, making soccer for me. Not the pretty magic football that people seek out in much better leagues, but the earthy MLS magic that happens so very rarely but I wish happened more.

Brian Bliss is the perfect conduit for this type of soccer. A smart, respected American coach with an intimidating amount of experience. He seemingly did everything right last night. From lineup, to subs (classy move to put Konrad Warzycha on late), to urging team to thank fans, to mentioning Chad Marshall as a USMNT player. He hit all the marks and did it like it was natural to him.

Is what happened last night a model for sustainable success? No. Of course not. Only the most delusional would think that a team as inexperienced and as young as that could win out over a long season... but, within last night's events, that is where the important parts to success breathe.

With the US Men's game against Mexico coming up, history will probably not remember too much about this game but I really hope Crew fans soaked up what happened last night. It hasn't happened often over recent years.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Houston

Midweek matchup at Crew Stadium tonight as the Houston Dynamo are in town to take on the Columbus Crew. 7:30 PM EST start.

-CLB: Haven't beat Houston at home since GBS played.
-CLB: Won 3 of last 6 at home, +1 GD
-CLB: Freshen up: Looking like Gehrig, Finlay getting nod.
-HOU: Only 1 win in last 6 on road, -9 GD (bad)
-HOU: Missing Garcia, Jermaine Taylor to International duty.
-HOU: Sitting in playoff position.

(in no particular order)

The 'your votes' section is 37% Dynamo and 27% Crew this week. Close enough to call it fairly even. What pushes the lean to Houston is the Small Stake 0:1 Away side.

"Columbus has lost five of its last seven matches, and its playoff hopes are on life support as a result," says Avi Creditor. "The Crew can nary afford to drop more points at home against one of its playoff-place competitors." The reader prediction section has this one as a Draw.


"Kinnear should be able to pick his players up as they head into the race for the play-offs and they're expected to perform well against a Crew side struggling with injuries and suspensions." 1-2 Score prediction.

5. BET365 ... COLUMBUS
Tight enough to almost call it even. The Crew are at 6/5 and Dynamo 9/5 (at the time of this writing 11 AM).

Wise words from Mr. Guldan today; "Bliss and the Crew hope to get that new coach bump. It's been proven to be more of a myth, but the changes on offense and defense likely will spark a more competitive team." Patrick thinks this will go down as a 1-1 draw.


Man on the Crew beat Adam Jardy thinks that new coach Brian Bliss will give the team a jolt. He also makes note of another competitive advantage, "The Dynamo has had one fewer day of rest, and it could be a long evening for the visitors." Check out Jardy's commentary on his Dispatch blog "Covering the Crew." Excellent.

(no preview yet, will update)

10. MLSSOCCER.COM ... --
(no prediction yet, will update)

Houston is going to be missing a couple key guys but Kinnear always seems to be able to do just enough once the calendar turns to fall. Tonight's game isn't probably seen as a must win to him but certainly important.

The Crew, on the other hand, are in the middle of a gigantic organizational adjustment. Hard not to think this makes this either a huge 3-0 kind of Crew win or a 0-5 horror show.

I'm never quite comfortable with Houston teams. They just seem to do enough to get into the playoffs and like to draw when in town. They don't need this game, per say, but they will probably go for the draw early if the Crew prove to be stubborn in the first 30 minutes.

Nice and cool today in Columbus. Probably in the 60s by kickoff and clear skys. Has the makings of a beautiful mid-western sunset, if nothing else. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Good Warzycha Story

Great comment over at Massive Report under Patrick Guldan's Robert Warzycha: True Black and Gold piece. It comes from someone named "scudsmckenzie."

I felt the last paragraph really gets to the heart of who Warzycha is. As a soccer player, coach, man and Pole. for warzycha, so long and thanks for the memories— my personal favorite warzycha moment was watching him dish out an utterly brutal two footed studs-up tackle at midfield, get NO ball, leave his man in a crumpled heap, and get up and start jogging to the locker room without even looking back to confirm that he’d gotten a red card. i’ll always remember that as the epitome of robert warzycha— tough, realistic, and a little bit hot-headed and delusional, with a pretty wicked bending service and a pretty limited vision of how the game should be played.

I'm sure that over the next handful of months there will many a story told about 18 year company man Robert Warzycha. The above is just one of early ones.

The gif above was created from something I found on youtube entitled "Norwegia - Polska [22.09.1993, 1.połowa]". In it they cycle through the players one by one with live head shots (fairly advanced for the time). I thought it was neat. Warzycha a few years before he came on over to MLS.

The mechanisms of history can be a cruel thing but my hunch is that, years and years from now, Robert Warzycha will be remembered fondly in the annals of Crew soccer history.

Good stuff there Mr. scudsmckenzie. Great story.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Crew Coaching Changes, Warzycha Removed

Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha has been let go by new owner Anthony Precourt. Assistant Coaches Ricardo Iribarren and goalkeeping coach Vojislav Stanisic were also "relieved of their duties" according to a report by the team website.

A lot will be written and remembered about Warzycha. He has been with the league and the Crew for as long as both have existed. Eighteen years with or doing anything is a very rare feat in any walk of life and is to be respected.

What will probably loom large over his tenure as head coach will be keeping Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the bench for the opening leg of the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs (which they lost) and the handling of the 2010 offseason when many of the players that brought the club so much success the previous three years were let go.

While not playing Schelotto is certainly on him the decisions made at that time crippled the organization in 2010 and lost "the room" are not.

Since then the Columbus Crew have stumbled through league expansion years (in just about every aspect) to the point where now they are close to rock bottom as a sports franchise in any major professional league in North America can be.

Warzycha, Iribarren and Stanisic are likely only the first to go.

Over the past handful of years (some say since 2004) he Crew, as an organization, have built a bubble in which they have preferred to exist. Shaking off critical voices in the press, players, bloggers, fans of the sport of soccer, relationships with Columbus area businesses and corporations. The list goes on.

In some regards it is unfortunate that these three were let go because they probably had the least to do with what the Crew have become.

General Manager and Team President Mark McCullers and Technical Director (and now interim head coach) Brian Bliss are still there in their same roles and they are the guys that have been steering the ship for the past half decade.

Until the decision makers are removed or placed in correct positions nothing will change over on 1 Black and Gold Blvd. it will just be a fresh coat of paint on top of a half decade of rust and rot.

"@APrecourt 30 Aug
Fresh paint for tomorrow's match. What do you think? New sound system to boot! Place is in good order."

No, not yet.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Crew Rd 26, Out of Ideas

Crew went up a man in the 7th minute but couldn't find a way to break down Seattle. Game ended 0:1 Sounders.

Even after a delay of almost two hours, Crew players seemed excited and energized by the rather large crowd that stuck around to watch.

The game had just barely started with Ryan Finley broke free and Leo Gonzales grabbed his shoulder and 'prevented a clear goal scoring opportunity'. Or was it? The red was harsh. The foul happened right around the edge of the center circle on Seattle side and Finley really hammed up his tumble.

Not long after the Crew give up a free kick about 35 yards out. Mauro Rosales whipped in a free kick that found Eddie Johnson's run and they scored.

Seattle promptly dropped back into a defensive shell and held off the Crew for the rest of the half.

Seattle continued to hold off the Crew by bunkering. Columbus fired off bad shot after bad shot until it seemed everyone was just waiting for the 90th minute to arrive.


Seattle had zero interest in going forward in the 2nd half. Their shot chart is hilarious. But not hilarious is the fact that in doing what they did they played out a very modern approach to being a man down.

By not getting greedy they eliminated the only way the Crew could possibly score, which is catching too many tired Sounders pushing forward and getting caught in a counter attack. Rarely (if ever) do you see a team with the patience and will power to not get caught up.

Some of that could have had to do with three US Men's National Team players looking to not over extend themselves. Which leads me to say that this game is Exhibit A as to why Columbus doesn't get many of the biggest stars travelling to town.

The bottle tossing during a corner kick (right in front of a USMNT banner) doesn't help either.

Columbus hasn't had any creativity in attack all year. That didn't change last night.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY
Clint Dempsey did play in this match but you would hardly know it. Most of the match he was walking and had little interest in tracking back to play defense. He didn't have to.

When he did get on the ball he took the occasion to do a little flick back or nifty move that hearkened back to his last stint in MLS when he so dominated. Seeing him do it now though... it left me melancholic.

A player of Clint Dempsey's quality has no business playing in this game and I think someone as competitive as he is knows that.

I also think Jurgen Klinsmann knows that.