Thursday, November 28, 2013

Crew Roster + Budget Snapshot

The Columbus Crew have had a busy roster move week so it's worthwhile to take a quick look at where things stand with the team.


IN: Waylon Francis
IN: Matt Wiet
IN: Brad Stuver

RE-SIGNED: Josh Williams

OUT: Glauber
OUT: Matias Sanchez
OUT: Jairo Arrieta*
OUT: Eddie Gaven
OUT: Danny O'Rourke*
OUT: Dominic Oduro*
OUT: Andy Gruenebaum*
OUT: Aaron Horton
OUT: Konrad Warzycha
OUT: Kyle Hyland
OUT: Drew Beckie

*Players believed to be in contract restructuring negotiations. Players agreeing to reduced deals with existing team is a moderately rare event in MLS.


Budget Hit : Name, Pos 2013 Base Salary
YES: Federico Higuaín, M 440k
YES: Chad Marshall, D 330k
YES: Tony Tchani, M 130k
YES: Agustin Viana, D 105k
YES: Wil Trapp, M 100k
YES: Waylon Francis, D 100k*
YES: Josh Williams, D 88k*
YES: Tyson Wahl, D 76k
YES: Ben Speas, M 62k
YES: Justin Meram, M 56k
YES: Ryan Finley, F 47k
YES: Ethan Finlay, M 47k
NO: Matt Wiet, D 46k*
NO: Aaron Schoenfeld, F 47k
NO: Bernardo Anor, M 47k
NO: Chad Barson, D 47k
NO: Eric Gehrig, D 47k
NO: Kevan George, M 47k
NO: Matt Lampson, GK 47k
NO: Brad Stuver, GK 47k*
NO: Daniel Withrow, GK 47k
NO: Shawn Sloan, M 47k

*Estimating new or re-signed player salaries.

Budget hit is what counts towards the league mandated "salary cap".

Only players 1-20 on each roster count towards the cap (1st team players). Teams fill those slots with players making about $80k and up with projected starters making >$100k.

Isolating the player that count to the MLS Budget along with projected 2014 wages (YOY wages, on average, increase between 10-15%):

$369k Federico Higuaín (DP)
$363k Chad Marshall
$143k Tony Tchani
$115k Agustin Viana
$110k Wil Trapp
$110k Waylon Francis
$88k Josh Williams
$83k Tyson Wahl
$68k Ben Speas
$61k Justin Meram
$52k Ethan Finlay
$51k Ryan Finley
$1.62 million

The players above are who Gregg Berhalter and company are planning to have locked in the 18 each game day. Since there are only 12 players here that leaves about 8 more open spots for "MLS level" players (>$80k).

This fits perfectly with the roster already at 22 players.


So who and what type of player will be filling the final 8 to budget spots?

SLOTS 1,2 maybe 3: Forwards. Crew only have Schoenfeld and Finley right now (Meram should be there, but will not). They will likely be spending big here. Oduro, Arrieta are still out there, yes. Wouldn't be surprised to see new faces though.

SLOT 4: Easy one: the 4th overall draft pick in the upcoming SuperDraft (he will likely be in the 60-90k pay range).

SLOT 5,6: Midfielders. The Crew are already crawling with mids but lack solid starters. Wil Trapp and Higuain are the only two that are locks. Anor? Maybe. Personally would like to see Speas get full games. I believe Berhalter will be looking for another CDM to push Trapp (or start over him) as well. Either way, MF weakest area in '13, needs improved. They will be shopping here.

SLOT 7,8: Defenders. With Marshall the only player to be locked into the starting back line the team will be on the hunt for defenders. Heath Pearce or Brad Rusin were just released and could be options. I would expect him to be a target to play next to Marshall. On the wings I think it will be Williams on the right and Francis (or Viana) on the left.


I have a few MLS budget sheets that I mess around with, even one's for other teams. This might be blasphemy in the world of sports blogging (particularly MLS where very few step out of their own team's bubble). Never the less, I do it. Reason being: a general understanding of a team's cap position is the single most important thing in MLS. Team budgets are ever present and is behind everything.

It's not perfect but I think it gets me close enough.

Questions, comments? Feel free to email me at ljbaby654(at)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Josh Williams, Returning for 2014

Word came down today that Williams will be playing in Columbus next season for the Crew. Big pick up for new owner Anthony Precourt and new head coach Gregg Berhalter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Viana Tackle

Neither of these guys are winning any track meets but that is an excellent tackle on Jeremy Brockie by Agustin Viana earlier this year.

After playing off and on as a holding midfielder (more of a secondary position for him), Viana settled in very well to his LB roll this past year where he proved he has above average technical skill and excellent decision making ability in defense.

The Columbus Crew are bringing him back for 2014. It depends a bit on what type of formation new head man Gregg Berhalter wants to play but I would expect Viana to be a regular starter for the 2014 Crew.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shawn Sloan: Part 1 of 6 !

During a damp summer Sunday Ohio morning reserve match at the Obetz training facility I joked with Fox Sports Ohio writer Rick Gethin that I was going to write a six part series about first year Crew player Shawn Sloan.

Rick rolled off a laugh as I made my case. I had seen Sloan play a couple times previous and thought he had something but the joke was that no player like him could possibly make it in a league structured like MLS. As the game progressed... I think both of us became more of a believer.

Sloan started in the back line but was moved up into the middle part of the field later on in the match. This type of thing is the hallmark of a player that is being used as filler on this less than glamorous Crew side. A competent warm body that fills the role of MLS reserve dummy. Or cone. Or what have you.

Seems there was something different in Sloan, though. It wasn't uncommon to see him barking at other players, frustrated that they were not where he thought they should be. In the wrong hands this type of behavior would earn him a spot on the bench. Or worse, disapproval from teammates. I'd seen it before, but neither happened.

I've been around MLS quite a bit since the size of rosters jumped from the low twenties to the thirty it is now back in 2010. Dozens of players like Sloan are left behind to continue on to whatever career track they were on in college a year before (in Shawn's case he could probably make more money not playing soccer).

Turns out, Shawn Sloan has been picked up by the Columbus Crew for the 2014 season.

After a year in which the team saw a new owner and along with a brand new coaching staff, this is pretty remarkable. All of the non-budget/cap players the old regime picked last year (Drew Beckie, Kyle Hyland, Konrad Warzycha) were let go after just a year with the team.

The decision to keep Sloan is a good one and tells me that new head coach and director of soccer ops Gregg Berhalter isn't moving about the early off season flippantly.

What's interesting to me is that Sloan likely matches Berhalter's thinking mind the most out of anyone on the team. Excited to see what's next.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I can't quite remember where I found out about the Kickstarter campaign to get this documentary made a couple years ago, but I'm glad I did.

"Medora" is a documentary that was created under the direction of Davy Rothbart and Andrew Cohn. It is something well worth your time.

Growing up with the sport of basketball I always find myself seeking out stories about basketball in Indiana. Most basketball playing white kids growing up in the 80's were heavily affected by the movie Hoosiers. At the time of it release, the mystique of Indiana basketball was only further enhanced by Larry Bird and his legendary career and Bobby Knight's time with IU.

I've read that "Medora" is some sort of "anti-Hoosiers" movie. A film that Jeannette Catsoulis of the NY Times calls, "a mournful Midwestern ballad devoid of grace notes, “Medora” views the crumbling of small-town America through the eyes of the Hornets"

That's elegantly put but this doc only pulls the curtain back for this generation. A lot of small town Indiana crumbled almost a half century ago now after a somewhat brief industrial boom that brought in laborers from all over the country.

Larry Bird was born just a couple years after the small town team depicted in Hoosiers won the state championship and he grew up on punishing poverty. His folks split when he was a teen and his father took his own life a couple years later.

No HD cameras back in the 70s to capture Bird's legendary plight in French Lick (some of the themes can be seen in the 1979 film Breaking Away, if your are so inclined), but thankfully there are excellent documentarians in Rothbart and Cohn to capture things as they are now in Medora.

What we see with "Medora" is exactly what is left after all this time. The destitution is generations old now and it's through the prism of that hopelessness that we see the simple joy a single win can bring a lost community in a forgotten corner of the world.

It is beautifully shot and the story is masterfully crafted. Highly recommended.


Though my contribution might have been small, I am proud to have my name listed among the many contributors to this movie in the credits.

"Medora" can be watched now through iTunes or at

If you live in Columbus, Ohio you can check a screening (I'm planning to be there!) on December 10 at the Wexner Center for the Arts.


On a family trip back when I was a teenager with big dreams of playing for Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers I came to Bloomington, Indiana to visit extended relatives. I'll never forget one night heading out back to play some pickup ball with cousins.

At first it was just a couple folks out there watching. Before I knew it there were well over a dozen people from around the neighborhood pulling up lawn chairs to watch a normal game of pickup between a bunch of complete strangers. As a kid from Northern Virginia this might as well have been a scene from another planet.

I went on to play basketball for a while, even some in college, and have some great memories from it. But that night in Indiana. It wasn't about the celebrity that has always seemingly dominated the sport or the skill of Larry Bird the legend of Bobby Knight.

It was about the sport itself. How it is in the blood of every Hoosier. I'll never forget it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Final Crew Player Rankings

Summarizing an entire season in one score is unfair to any individual player but it can tell a story.

Below is how things played out for each Crew player according to the only four player rating models that I know exist. HELLTOWN (me), WHOSCORED.COM (they hammer away at Opta data), CASTROL (they go their own way), FANTASY (MLS fantasy scoring, a rating is a rating).

So, there it is. Why is this not greeted with more fanfare? Maybe a giant post at Massive Report or even petition On the Fire to do it? Because it is basically a list of top minute earners to least.

For me, personally, this is something I noticed the first year I started tracking. The better players get to play more. So much is dictated by the coaches and the league. It's not so much the players ability that is being judged here but more the player's ability to fit into the league system that the play in.

Peel back another layer and you get to the place where Major League Soccer's competitive structure can be so frustrating. In this sport, above all others, good players need other good players to truly rise above the scrapheap of mediocrity (which is sold as parity in the United States).

Food for thought and all that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lenhart and Heinemann, Aug 2013

Aug 10, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps forward Tom Heinemann (29) and San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart (16) during the second half at BC Place Stadium. The Vancouver Whitecaps won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports. Edited by me using Google+ and Gimp


Steven Lenhart played for the Crew between the 2008 and 2010 seasons. Tommy Heinemann wore the black and gold in 2011 season and was injured for all of the 2012. Lenhart now plays for San Jose, Heinemann for Vancouver.

I ran across this picture while researching player performance data. For anyone that has followed this team over the past five years or so... what a random/great find. Wonder what they are talking about.

Both could, and should, still be here in Columbus. Man, I love this picture.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oduro, Gruenebaum, Williams Returning?

Gregg Berhalter's press conference was the big Crew news of the day but there was something that Mark McCullers said that is much bigger news to me.

In today's Covering the Crew, Adam Jardy brings up that Dominic Oduro, Andy Gruenebaum and Josh Williams are about to be without a MLS contract. Along with Bernardo Anor, these are the three guys that have the most question marks surrounding their futures.

From Jardy's Dispatch blog:

"McCullers said Berhalter has been handling the ongoing negotiations with the trio and that he feels each will return to the Crew next season."

I sort of did a double take on this little bit of information. I'm sure that Berhalter would rather not anyone in the organization say anything about any player. Let alone the guy that Anthony Precourt made a point to pry off roster decisions.

Oduro, Gruenebaum and Williams made up about $290k to the cap in 2013. Two of them, Oduro and Williams, are likely working on larger deals.

To keep Oduro it will likely take around $200k and Williams is probably seeking about double ($100 to 130k). Gruenebaum would probably move on to the next standard veteran contract, whatever that is (130-150k maybe).

It turns three players at $290k in 2013 to $450k in 2014.

This affects next year's roster a great deal and something I know Berhalter and Precourt have barely started looking at.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

MLS Witchcraft, Crew Budget Breakdown

Dug into the Crew budget/cap over at Massive Report.

You can check it out there if you want. If not, check out some of this HAIM. Your deal, man.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Final 2013 Crew KRAMB Scores

Kramb is a measurement / valuation I've been keeping track of over the past few years that helps tell me who is contributing to the success or failure of the side.

What it does is take an individual player's record when starting (PPG) and on pitch goal difference (GD) above or below team average. It looks like this:



0.04 : Tyson Wahl (1.21 - 1.21) + (-0.04 - -0.08)

The TEAM here is all the starters. TEAM GD of -0.08 is that of the starters only, compared to -0.12 overall team GD on the year. The drop indicates that subs lost ground (I'll look at that some other time)

Tyson is a good example because he is the replacement level player on the team. 12 players finished above him, 12 below. Here is the complete list, I'll use a five start minimum. At the bottom will be the lower start guys.

+0.77 : Eddie Gaven 10
+0.56 : Matt Lampson 13
+0.37 : Agustín Viana 20
+0.31 : Justin Meram 9
+0.29 : Bernardo Anor 19
+0.25 : Tony Tchani 13
+0.13 : Dominic Oduro 34
+0.11 : Federico Higuaín 29
+0.10 : Gláuber Berti 13
+0.09 : Chad Barson 18
+0.07 : Chad Marshall 30
+0.04 : Tyson Wahl 24
-0.13 : Wil Trapp 16
-0.13 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
-0.17 : Joshua Williams 25
-0.18 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21
-0.30 : Eric Gehrig 6
-0.34 : Danny O´Rourke 19
-0.42 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
-0.53 : Ben Speas 10
-0.83 : Matías Sánchez 10

(not enough games)
-0.13 : Konrad Warzycha 2
-0.46 : Ethan Finlay 3
-0.80 : Ryan Finley 3
-1.46 : Kevan George 3

I'll split it out now, starting with PPG (split will be at replacement level):

0.41 : Matt Lampson 13
0.35 : Justin Meram 9
0.29 : Eddie Gaven 10
0.29 : Konrad Warzycha 2
0.18 : Chad Barson 18
0.14 : Agustín Viana 20
0.12 : Eric Gehrig 6
0.10 : Wil Trapp 16
0.10 : Federico Higuaín 29
0.10 : Tony Tchani 13
0.05 : Bernardo Anor 19

0.02 : Gláuber Berti 13
0.00 : Tyson Wahl 24
0.00 : Dominic Oduro 34

-0.01 : Chad Marshall 30
-0.09 : Joshua Williams 25
-0.11 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21
-0.21 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
-0.21 : Ethan Finlay 3
-0.21 : Ryan Finley 3
-0.26 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
-0.26 : Danny O´Rourke 19
-0.31 : Ben Speas 10
-0.41 : Matías Sánchez 10
-0.88 : Kevan George 3

...and here's Goal Difference above/below replacement

+0.48 : Eddie Gaven 10
+0.24 : Bernardo Anor 19
+0.23 : Agustín Viana 20
+0.16 : Matt Lampson 13
+0.16 : Tony Tchani 13
+0.14 : Dominic Oduro 34
+0.08 : Gláuber Berti 13
+0.08 : Chad Marshall 30
+0.08 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
+0.04 : Tyson Wahl 24
+0.01 : Federico Higuaín 29

-0.03 : Justin Meram 9
-0.06 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21
-0.08 : Danny O´Rourke 19

-0.08 : Joshua Williams 25
-0.09 : Chad Barson 18
-0.16 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
-0.22 : Ben Speas 10
-0.23 : Wil Trapp 16
-0.25 : Ethan Finlay 3
-0.42 : Konrad Warzycha 2
-0.42 : Eric Gehrig 6
-0.42 : Matías Sánchez 10
-0.59 : Ryan Finley 3
-0.59 : Kevan George 3

Something that sticks out is the where a player falls on each list. This points to substitution patterns in most, but not all, cases. Next list will be the difference between (absolute value) the player's spot on each list.

18 : Konrad Warzycha 2
14 : Eric Gehrig 6
11 : Aaron Schoenfeld 3
11 : Chad Barson 18
11 : Wil Trapp 16
10 : Justin Meram 9
9 : Bernardo Anor 19
8 : Danny O´Rourke 19
8 : Dominic Oduro 34
7 : Chad Marshall 30
5 : Ben Speas 10

5 : Tony Tchani 13
4 : Andy Gruenebaum 21
4 : Jairo Obando Arrieta 21

4 : Ryan Finley 3
3 : Agustín Viana 20
3 : Gláuber Berti 13
3 : Matt Lampson 13
3 : Tyson Wahl 24
2 : Eddie Gaven 10
2 : Federico Higuaín 29
1 : Ethan Finlay 3
1 : Joshua Williams 25
1 : Matías Sánchez 10
0 : Kevan George 3

The guys toward the top aren't matching up. In Konrad's case it is more of a function of having only 2 starts.

Chad Barson is a good one to look at. He ended up 5th in PPG but 16th in GD. What this means is that the team scored after he was subbed out (which happened in Dallas late in the year). He got the win but was not part of the goal.

Fine margins, for sure, but it points to the enormity of a goal in this sport. A goal prevented here, another scored there... it's not just the difference in a single game but the difference between making the playoffs or not in MLS, particularly this year.



This measurement is just one way to look at things but it is something I find valuable and helps me to ask questions that lead down paths of better understanding of the team.

The largest, most direct path being the difficulty of opponent each starter faced. For example, Glauber ended up facing the easiest competition overall with an average opponent difficulty of 12.7 on the overall combined table.

Breaking Glauber's starts further tells us that 6 of his 13 total starts were against bottom 5 competition.

If you look at the ratio between a player's starts against top 5 and bottom five I see that Lampson, Barson, Anor, Trapp had the most difficult opponents.

For the guys with only a few starts, Kevan George sticks out. His only three starts were against top five teams. Talk about a tough row to hoe; New York, Sporting, LA.

Anyhow, assessing the difficulty of opponents is also affected by where the game is played (even what time it is played).

Gaven overall had easier opponents (only two in top 5) but 6 of his ten games were away. Guys like Anor (11/19 at home), Arrieta (12/21), Trapp (9/16) and Barson (10/18) benefited from home cookin'.

One callout here is Matias Sanchez who was like Gaven in that 6 of his 10 games were on the road (Viana also). Very difficult to get a decent GD this way.

So you can see that there are many ways to look at it.


I call it KRAMB after Ryan Kramb (PhD, MS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BS University of Dayton) who once asked questions about such wild things.

More to come on this topic over at Massive Report so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

If you have any questions you can email me at or find me on twitter @helltownbeer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

2013 MLS Table, Columbus is Yellow

Above is the MLS table week by week for the 2013 season. I usually update it about twice a week or so to keep up with things - so I decided it'd be fun to put them all together here. The Go! Team won out for this post but I kinda liked it with some Yann Tiersen as well. Do whatever you like, though. Go Crazy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


For whatever it's worth to you, the only independent voice on the Crew in Columbus.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reviewing My Preseason Crew Prediction

Way back on March 2nd of this year I contributed to a post at Massive Report that outlined Crew season predictions.

Pretty basic stuff. Record, Expectations, MVP, Biggest Surprise, Biggest Disappointment.

Indented in teal will be what I wrote and underneath will be comments on what actually happened.

15W, 4D, 15L (49 pts, 6th in East -3 Goal Diff)
Did pretty well here. I think I would have been closer were it not for Eddie Gaven going down. I don't think Glauber staying healthy would have added much above replacement. My Goal Diff was almost dead on (-4 was actual).

How the season plays out: The Crew will appear hot and cold this year because they will be able to handle lesser teams regularly but struggle with clubs equal to or better.
This was more or less true. Not hard to be wrong here. Teams always struggle with better competition. Lesson learned.
Over the past 3 years the Crew tend to start slow, do well in the middle and taper off at the end. Looking over the way the schedule is laid out there is no reason to think that will change this year (though, the Crew really have an opportunity to come charging out of the gates with 3 wins).
This wasn't that hard to predict. Under this Crew regime, it's same old song. Don't want to get into next year if they keep Bliss and Lapper but, well.. same regime. Not necessarily a bad thing, however.
I think that the Crew will fly up the table in June/July, possibly climbing to as high as 2nd or 3rd but struggle greatly late August and September. The Sept 14 (MTL), 21 (CHI) and 29 (FCD) games will likely be must wins to make the playoffs.
I was wrong about moving up the table. While they were higher they didn't really grab hold of anything. Those games in September were fairly key but the team was pretty out of by then.

MVP: Higuain. There really isn't another choice here right now, the attack is dependent on him and he has the talent to deliver. I think Williams and Arrieta have a shot at as well.
Well, Higuain was right. Arrieta different story but I felt he was more due to poor man management.

Biggest Surprise: Change(s) amongst the assistant coaching / technical staff during the season - also, Eric Wynalda will address speculation about coming to Columbus during the USA v. MEX qualifier.
Ah, Duncan. Even deep down in my cold analytic heart did this hurt. The Wynalda thing sort of kicked in to gear and a fake twitter account of his addressed it. I'll give myself a check for that.
Biggest Disappointment: Overreacting / correcting. Crew will play games safe with 2 DMs and struggle to score goals - than experiment with just one to try and chase goals - then go back to starting 2 different DMs. Rinse - repeat.
This last one sort of makes me angry because it is exactly what happened and it was so predictable. I have on idea why adjustments were not made to improve this philosophy. It's puzzling, really.

I'm fairly pleased with my prediction. Looking forward to doing this again in a few months. Quick Preview: this franchise will finish around the same spot next year unless drastic improvements are made.

Lots to happen between now and then, however. We'll see.

Friday, November 1, 2013

With Injured Gaven Photo Comes a Story

On May 29th 2013 the Crew were facing USL Pro side Dayton Dutch Lions for the 2nd straight year in a row in front of a few hundred folks.

Since the Crew had been knocked out the previous year by them Robert Warzycha and company decided it was important to field a very strong side that featured Federico Higuain, Danny O'Rourke and Eddie Gaven.

This was an exciting match for me as I had been watching a lot of the Lions before this game. Dayton had to play a couple USOC games just to get to this point and were starting to find some form.

In fact the Lions had already taken on the Crew not long before in Dayton for a Reserve match. That game was hotly contested so I expected a good one for the USOC.

The Crew ended up dominating most of the first half and not long into the second Eddie Gaven scored off a beautiful assist from Higuain to put the Crew up 1-0.

I think Warzycha thought this game was won by that point, so he took Higuain off the pitch to keep him from getting injured.

What happened as Higuain was jogging off I will never forget.

He took a detour and found Eddie and forceably applied the captains armband on him. He must have tried this before because it wasn't a hand off it was grabbing Eddies arm and looping it in. Higuain would then give a couple claps to the crowd and jog off.

Eddie, in true Eddie form, would drop his head and quickly slide off the armband and take it over to a nearby Danny O'Rourke. Danny didn't seem to hesitate in accepting it, almost like he expected it from Gaven.

Shortly before the game ended Eddie was chopped down, no foul was called but he tore his ACL.

The picture of Danny over Eddie reminds me of this exchange because you can see the captains armband sort of half put on, comforting Eddie.

No doubt a sad moment captured forever but it will always remind me of the armband exchange which has quickly become a favorite Gaven memory.

This is the type of player that he was, the kind of person he is. Wishing him the best in his post soccer career.

The top photo is one I took before the game started and the bottom one of an injured Gaven was taken by Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports but with my liberal use of filters, cause I'm addicted to them right now.