Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gaven Retired Today

In a surprising announcement, Eddie Gaven retired from professional soccer today. I wrote about it here.

I'm trying to digest the news at the moment. Eddie has been a larger than life MLS figure for over a decade, much of that here in Columbus. He will be missed.

Hey Precourt, big Crew news today. A MLS legend retired just now > Let's do something besides talking about superficial changes. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MR Post: In, Out or the Space Between

Patrick and I ran up and down the roster looking at which players will / will not be back next year. We are always looking at the team and the future but a lot of it doesn't make it to MR. This was an attempt to get things out before they changed during a busy off season (highlighted by the fact that Sanchez and Horton were let go in the middle making the post).

Crew not wasting time. Part of this feels rushed on the business side of the Crew for whatever reason. Shouldn't they have a coach before doing this? Anyhow, check out the post. It'll be interesting to see how things look in a month's time.

In, Out or Somewhere Between

...or These fickle, fuddled words confuse me, Like... Will it sort of came back to me because a long lost Luscious Jackson is putting it out there again but drives memories from a crummy video to one of my favorite songs from a generation ago. If I could go back in time and somehow change time, I'd make it so I could see this song live, Long Island-ish. If memory serves I did see them at RFK or 9:30 in DC... Or was it in Hampton Roads? Richmond? Fuzzy. Either way; That beat.. gah.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Revs goal vs Crew was nice

The kid behind the goal really liked it. Another thing I like about this is the time of day and time of year. Really great shadows in the fall, see it a lot in NFL games (well, the outdoor ones). This time of year feels very more like soccer to me. Speaking of which...

I took a bunch of pics at the game it was so nice. Here is one of the Nordecke before the game:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Revs

New England is in Columbus today to try and extend their season into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Whistle blows at 4:00 PM EST.

CLB: Reports - Gruenebaum likely getting start over Lampson
CLB: Josh Williams might play as well.
CLB: Crew have played well at home as of late after bad start
NER: A win extends season
NER: Have Nguyen back after suspension
NER: 8 pts in last 6 way, -2 GD isn't bad


I do believe this is the first time the away side has been favored at Crew Stadium this year. Revs getting 6/4 odds. Crew 9/5 (draw 23/10)

Just picking the home team is right most of the time, especially in MLS this year.

No write up from the guys at this week. The 'reader's predictions' has the Crew at 60% picked. We'll have to go with that.

Managing Editor Patrick Guldan thinks this going to be a tight 1-1 draw. "The game likely won't be as open as the stakes are lower and will be played on grass."

Man in Japan Adam Jardy thinks the Revs are the team to beat today. Playoffs vs Pride basically. "Whether or not [pride] will be enough to end a disappointing season on a high note remains to be seen." Go pick up a Dispatch anywhere around town. Jardy also has a good piece on three player contracts up in the air.

Appears Graham Ruthven has sort of checked up like the folks at He likes the Revs 2:1 but notes that the Crew are out of "Western Conference" playoff hunt.

Ball don't lie.

Looks like the betting masses like a 0-1 Away win. "Your Votes" is going Revs as well with 42% (Crew 25%). Pretty tight though.

Three of these folks going Revs, one Crew. Last two like the draw. So, mixed feelings on this one here. Bourbon hater ("a children's drink") Matt Doyle is still the lead dog over there with a 49% hit rate. Nick Rosano not far behind at 38%.

"Too many players there playing for 2014 and for their jobs not to get it done." - Drew Epperley. I'll have more on this right below in the "My Thoughts" section.


Last games can often be frustrating affairs when your team isn't going any further. This year is no different.

Also, last games can be telling affairs though and most of the things I see in regards to this match are frustrating. Here is a list:

1. Starting Andy Gruenebaum. Andy should have gotten his job back as soon as he was able. If he didn't want it then send him home for the rest of the year. Instead, we have this horseshit situation where the Crew are trotting him out for what is likely his last game. He hasn't played in months. Lampson has been lights out at home, an amazing 5 shutouts in 7.

2. "Fighting for Jobs". If one game is going to make a break a player in this sport than the Crew have some serious problems. We hear this sort of sports jargon a lot. In the N.F.L. it sort of makes some since as they play so few games and the likelihood of getting maimed is high. It has no place in soccer. The fact that WV Hooligan mentions it is disappointing but I know a lot of decision makers in MLS do this. Grr.

3. Josh Williams. Josh is another one getting trotted out today. His doesn't quite feel like Gruenebaums in that it is his last game but it does feel a little fishy. There is a high degree of difficulty to this game today. I'm sure Josh is chomping at the bit to face this type of situation but there is a high percentage chance that the Crew lose this one, therefore damaging his leverage at the table to renegotiate contract. And if he makes a mistake on a goal than I have to hear a bunch of people I respect telling me that he should be cut based on what they saw last. Williams is an MLS starter, he still has upside and his soft skills are off the charts.

4. Nobody in place to make personnel decisions. Well, Mark McCullers is there but after the last three off-seasons he has proven to be incompetent at this part of his job. Last season, in particular, was terrible. Notably: They cut Miranda and Mirosevic just decided he wasn't coming back (after the Crew spent loads of time saying otherwise). Carlos Mendes was another one who just sort of drifted off to the NY Cosmos (where he has played very well). In the case of both these players the Crew overspent to replace them.

5. Out of race since Toronto. The Crew have been out of this season since the loss up in Toronto. Change should have been made then and the process of building for 2014 should have started. This impotent chase for the playoffs over the last couple months only shortened the window to prepare for next year. Pre-season starts mid-January and the Crew are going to be, again, short on warm bodies. I remember Eddie Gaven saying last year that he felt they were missing players in the preseason. I expect it again this year.

16 OUT OF 19

This team has fallen down the table each year since 2008. Losing only a little bit at first but now is in complete terminal velocity free fall and I've seen nothing in the way of change to keep me from thinking that the bottom of the table the only way of stopping the Crew from getting worse.

Alright, that's what I've got for now. If I can't unleash for the last game then when can I? It's a very grumpy post but I lean heavily on the side of performance (over just enjoying a day at the stadium). With that I get all worked up when a team tells me it's sunny when it's raining outside.

Friday, October 25, 2013

MR Post on Key Passes, More Info

I put together a look at two stats that tend to point towards productive attacking activity in "Key Passes" (shot assist) and Shots on Goal for Massive Report this week. Key Passes is something that is getting more attention as time goes by, especially in MLS where finishing from open play can be elusive.

Here's the post: Makers, Takers and The Hunt for Goals

For key passes I built it up from game by game totals instead of just looking at the cumulative Opta stats because I know that, at least for the Crew, some games are missing. To fill in I had to go to the MLS 'chalkboard'.

Anyhow, here are the top 20 performances as far as Key Passes (KPs) match to match.

Total KPs : Name : Round : Opponent
8 : Will Trapp : 26 : SEA
7 : Federico Higuaín : 13 : HOU
7 : Federico Higuaín : 15 : MTL
7 : Federico Higuaín : 16 : CHI
7 : Federico Higuaín : 19 : PDX
7 : Federico Higuaín : 23 : NY
6 : Federico Higuaín : 10 : COL
6 : Federico Higuaín : 20 : NER
6 : Federico Higuaín : 24 : TFC
5 : Federico Higuaín : 4 : DCU
5 : Federico Higuaín : 6 : MTL
5 : Federico Higuaín : 9 : NY
5 : Federico Higuaín : 11 : TFC
5 : Federico Higuaín : 32 : SKC
4 : Jairo Arrieta : 13 : HOU
4 : Federico Higuaín : 14 : PHI
4 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 14 : PHI
4 : Justin Meram : 27 : HOU
4 : Ethan Finlay : 27 : HOU
4 : Federico Higuaín : 29 : MTL

Trapp's Seattle performance is notable but it also should be remembered as the one where the Sounders went down a man and still beat the Crew. It was a very strange match. Robert Warzycha would be let go not long after. Trapp didn't record more than 2 KPs in any other match.

Higuain shouldn't be much of a surprise but does bring to mind a conversation we had with Major League Soccer contributor Simon Borg on the Massive Report podcast. Simon mentioned sitting Higuain in order for the team to shake out of a slump they were in. There is a lot of sense to that as I don't think Higuain is a player that most coaches, technical directors or GMs in MLS quite understand. I dunno, it's complicated I guess. Larger conversation for a rainy day.

Part of me is just trying to comprehend, appreciate and downright savor the fact that a player like Federico Higuain is in Columbus.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crew Rd 33, Nothing to Lose (or Gain)

In somewhat symbolically mix-matched uniforms the Columbus Crew go for broke away in New England and lose 3:2.

I was out of town visiting family in Virginia this week. Both to see them and to take in the beautiful scenery my home state has to offer. My perspective is a little different for this one.

The first time I watched this game I was in Harrisonburg, VA with my brother and his family. While spending the afternoon there my niece made me what's in the picture on the left (my favorite thing of the 2013 Crew season).

Going through it the second time was about the same as the first. Right off the bat the Crew played exactly the same as they have so many times this year. Overly active and looking for a lucky bounce or through ball to get the up in the opening 10-20 minutes.

High pressure, chasing the ball, looking for through ball opportunities. It was all very familiar. What's also familiar is when they don't get one early they struggle later on in the match.

Around the 30th minute, when the game was being controlled by NE, Ethan Finlay had a bad touch and subsequently made bad challenge after a string of bad challenges by a desperate Crew side.

This opened up a good opportunity on the corner of the Crew's 18 yard box. New England took advantage and scored.

Brian Bliss pulled Ethan Finlay for the Crew's only big attacking target in Aaron Schoenfeld.

After wrestling control of the match from the Revs in the first 10 minutes of the second half the Crew got a few good bounces. One off Wil Trapp that fell to Schoenfeld who pushed it over to Dominic Oduro who put it away to tie it up 1:1.

This really started off some craziness. Shortly after the Revs started pressing again and earned a penalty off some chippy play in the box. Tony Tchani was sloppy and hacked a Revs player down. Chris Tierney finished off the penalty.

The Crew responded as Aaron Schoenfeld gathered nicely just inside the box and finished on the turn with his left foot in the upper corner on of the net.

Seemingly surprised, the Revs responded quickly and Diego Fagundez found another goal for the Revs off a cross from Andy Dorman.

NE coach Jay Heaps would go ahead and make a couple of defensive subs in Kevin Alston and Stephen McCarthy to put away the game. It could be argued he should have done this earlier but, regardless. This ended the match in his favor.

• I've seen Aaron Schoenfeld play a lot of the past couple years. Mostly in reserve matches. I've seen him play pretty well but never have I seen him hold up and turn for a goal like he did in this game. Really great and happy for him and his family.

• The turf at Gillette will forever bother me. My theory is that the the Football God's, both types of the game, have forsaken their tenents. Did you know the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since switching? All the money that team pulls in and they can't play on a natural surface? THE FOOTBALL GODS DOTH SMITE YOU.

• The Crew were 'mathematically eliminated' from playoff contention after this game. It didn't matter if they won or lost, it turned out.

• The Crew have been statistically eliminated for some time. They should have approached the last couple months of the season with this in mind. Hanging on to hope left this team with Tyson Wahl at CB and Chad Barson at RB. It also kept Tony Tchani in the starting lineup and Dominic Oduro playing in a right mid spot where opposing teams seemed to find goals. Challenges for the Crew await over the next few months.

• Despite being subbed off, Agustin Viana was awarded the Man of the Match star from This is something I follow, so should you. It's objective and that is very, very rare in MLS.

• Did I mention I was in God's country this weekend? Here's what that looks like from my folks front porch:

• Recharged and happy to be back in Columbus. Ready to take on the last game of the year and a fun off season!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Crew Player Values

One of the things I've kept track of over the past couple years is player salaries in relationship to my own rankings. Now that there are other rankings out there I can get a little more crazy with it and even separate it out by specific position. With Opta data I could even get into best CB or LW or whatever (if time permitted).

Didn't get that far but did get into how players fared against other players in their general position based on my rating system, WhoScored, Castrol and the fantasy system MLS uses. Pretty much all the rating systems that exist for MLS players.

I think if I were an MLS team I would roll this into previous seasons to get a truer market value but one season will have to do for me for now.

Go check it out over at Massive Report.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Esquire-NBC Poll: 1% Enjoy MLS on TV

Interesting and entertaining poll over at Esquire is worth a read, entitled: 13 Things That Define the New American Center.

It is a politically focused poll not a sports poll but buried down towards the bottom is this:

Reading between the lines (the poll within the poll) it's worth noting the pollsters felt the need to pull "MLS soccer" out from just "soccer". Why? Because NBC is Major League Soccer's TV partner. Oh boy.

The data, compiled by the Benenson Strategy Group (pollster for Obama for America '08 and '12) and Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies (lead pollster for Romney for President).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The North and South Difference

There were a couple of tweets by Crew beat writer Adam Jardy in the middle of summer that stuck with me all this time so I'm posting them up. Both of them included a photo of Crew players hanging out after practice. Top is three US players and the bottom is of two Argentinians.

One of the reasons these photos linger with me is because they were taken during a difficult spell for the franchise. The six games they played between June 22 and July 27 the Columbus Crew had one win and 5 losses.

Nobody is doing anything wrong in the photos as I know that the guys in the top photo have stayed after practice often to work on soccer things and are just keeping it loose.

It is just interesting to me and my simple brain and highlights differences.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dear Prudence, What to do with Bliss

Dug about as far in to the Brian Bliss situation as I want to go right now for Massive Report.

Unreasonable Expectations

One thing I realized is that it gets real sticky real fast. So so many things need repairing outside of the coaching staff, trainers and players first (General Manager is probably good place to start).

After looking at it I decided that Bliss wasn't given enough time in order to make a solid decision, which is unfortunate because he could have been given enough time and the FO could have made a sound decision.

There really wasn't any reason to not make the move sooner. Instead we got a misguided move based around making an impossible run at the playoffs.

I think I may come off in support of Bliss in that piece and in a way, I am. But it has more to do with circumstance.

The Crew might have sold some tickets on the promise of playoffs (which to me was more like that Bain prison hole in the last Christopher Nolan Batman movie) but they sacrificed a great opportunity to evaluate a potential coach and many players.

Anywho, like I said; Sticky.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Crew Rd 32, KC Shut Crew Down

Sporting KC abruptly end the Crew hot streak in Columbus (photo: Sam Fahmi, Massive Report).

Both sides started off in a test type mode trying to figure out the other side. Sporting proved to be the more evolved team and figured it out first.

After a quarter hour of KC went up of a Graham Zusi cross to Ike Opera right in the six yard box. Agustin Viana was laying on the ground with an apparent injury but camera angles would later show him peaking up to check the play.

The quality of Zusi's cross ultimately made Viana's decision to stay down look bad. Bad play by Viana (he popped up after the goal) but a goal was deserved as KC found plenty of space behind Trapp and Tchani all half.

Coming out of the locker room Sporting dropped eight back and stayed disciplined. It was very similar to how Seattle beat the Crew with 10 men about a month ago.

Because of their style, Columbus has no answer for team with a defensive posture. Dominic Oduro had no space to break free and Federico Higuain was jammed in the middle.

The Crew ended up only getting two total shots off from open play all game. The other 10 shots came from set pieces.

The game ended with an exhausted and frustrated Crew side.


• Sporting played the Crew smartly as Columbus basically has only two cards to play in attack:

1. Through balls that get behind the defense (Oduro's speed)
2. Set Pieces

• KC took care of both of those things. They shut the Crew down almost in total.

• Tchani and Trapp were playing on top of each other all night. This comes after three games were they kept good spacing in holding roles. This was more do to the way KC played and them not knowing how to work around it.

• Nobody on the Crew played terrible, KC just are better at more things.

• Federico Higuain seemed to pick up an injury early on but stayed in the game and slowed him.

• To many it might appear simple what KC did to the Crew but it always amazes me how many teams do not prepare for each opponent. KC prepared and executed. It should be appreciated.

• Columbus only has a week off than two matches against NE to finish up the schedule.

The offseason has basically started for this team.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Predictions: Crew (H) v Sporting

Big game at Crew Stadium tonight, Sporting KC is in town. Whistle blows at 7:30 PM EST, 6:30 PM Central.

CLB: Same lineup as previous 3 likely
CLB: Hot streak, have won last three
CLB: Recent results: have shutout NY, TFC, HOU, CHI at home
SKC: Oriol Rosell is out, Red Card
SKC: Decent results last 6, even GD 9 pts
SKC: Looking to catch NY for top spot in East

(in no particular order)

"Something about the timing and location of this game points to an upset in the making," writes team beat writer Adam Jardy.


Home team favorites at 31/20 but a little unusual that it isn't even (which has been the trend in MLS for home teams). Next most likely is SKC win 7/4 and draw 9/4.

Site Editor and Writer Drew Epperley has a hunch... "This one feels like a draw to me for some reason." has it at 1-1.

No preview yet, which is strange for this site. Reader prediction has this as a draw.


Looks pretty tight. Stake is on 1-1 and home side getting less than 50% (41% Crew, 33% draw). Crew slight favorite but close enough to call this even.

Contributors to the "Pick 'em" feature at the virtual home base of MLS are jumping on the Crew bandwagon. Four of the six picking Crew and the other two say draw.

Patrick Guldan thinks one of the important things for the Crew will be the play of Trapp and Tchani, saying "...the central midfield pair will have to work to move the ball around and unsettle a well drilled." He has this one finishing 1-1.

Graham Ruthven is a Crew believer now as well. After mentioning how the Crew have perked up in recent weeks, he is all in with them now. Even going as far as saying, "Dominic Oduro and Federico Higuain are among the most potent attackers in the league, and with Sporting KC's backline struggling at the moment the Crew's attacking duo could make the difference."

The Columbus Crew hot streak finds itself back in the friendly confines of Crew Stadium tonight after a wild 4-2 win at Dallas last week.

The indicators above tell us this one will be tight and I tend to agree.

Sporting KC is one of only two teams that can pull out point on the road in MLS this year. Facing a hot team on the road shouldn't phase them too much but this one really comes down to motivations.

Circumstance has got the Crew playing like a teenager hopped up on Mountain Drew right now and they have cut through less motivated teams recently.

Does Sporting have a whole lot to play for here?

They are within range of taking NY for the top spot in the east and also want to maintain a home advantage in the playoffs.

KC has abused the Crew in KC during previous two matches this year so this one is hot team verses good team situation.

Temps look to be a little above normal tonight here in Columbus. High 70s around kickoff. Storms are rolling through trying to flip the switch to fall temps, might be a little damp.

Enjoy the game.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

MLS General Trend

This is by no means a be-all end-all look at things, but is a good general indicator of interest.

I've been working in "e-commerce" for over a decade. I might not be on the merchandising/marketing side of things but know enough about trends to say that the above isn't all that great for MLS.

As a trend for a passer by, were this any other brand or product, it would have been a sell some time ago.

There are many things that factor into a chart like this that I'm not going dig in to now. It does warrant a much closer look, however. Especially in comparison with the NBA and NHL (reminder that MLS is closely associated with real estate, which is why I'm speaking in generalities, also why the line is smooth for "MLS").

Here is a link to the Google data.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DC United Win US Open Cup

One of the shots of the year in US Soccer. Ben Olsen post game. No photo credit was given, the MLS twitter account distributed it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Crew Rd 31, 90s Style MLS Win at Dallas

Columbus put together another away win Sunday as they see off Dallas at Toyota Stadium.

The Crew took advantage of a eager FC Dallas in the first half by using their speed to get past a attacking minded back four.

Columbus scored in the 9th and 17th minute before Dallas could tuck one away in the 21st. Just before half the Crew put another away on a disorganized, happy-go-lucky home side.

The whirlwind half ended 3-1 in favor of the Crew.

Much like the first. Dallas was disorganized and pushing forward and playing with very little to lose. The chaos paid of for them in the 54th when a lot of the Crew players thought the ball had gone out and stopped before the whistle. Mauro Alberto Díaz would end up walking the ball into the net (somewhat embarrassingly).

With the game 3-2 both sides decided the buckle down, grinding the free wheeling flow to a mess of subs, fouls and yellow cards.

In fact in the span of 17 minutes between the 66th and 83rd minute this game saw 10 fouls, 5 yellows and 4 substitutions.

by the final few moments of this game you sensed this this one was over. Bernardo Anor would put one last one past a (very poor) Raúl Fernández to end it 4-2.

This game reminded me of how MLS soccer played in the late 90s. Fast paced, fearless, and pin ball like possession (even between same team).

Dallas played like a collection of above average players with no coach. I'm not sure if they have given up on the season or just are poorly coached, really.

Columbus played with more structure, which is what won them the game. Dallas just didn't seem to want to play any defense, and their keeper... oh my.

All in all, what a crazy game. Flashbacks to my days perched in the RFK stands having flashbacks to the 1998 Tibetan Freedom Concert not to long before on the same grounds.