Sunday, March 30, 2014

Red+PK Undo Seattle, Crew Wins

This match was flipped upside down in the 58th minute when frenzied play in Seattle's 18 yard box lead to a Djimi Traore red card dismissal and penalty conversion for the Crew.

1ST HALF (0-1)
Seattle came out looking much more dangerous than the Crew. The turf was wet, slick and fast and it lead to a lot of breaks for the Sounders. One of which Kenny Cooper ripped across Crew 'keeper Steve Clark for a goal.

The Crew, however, continued to stick to their possession based game even though they didn't get a whole lot of chances (only one shot on target) in the first half. By the time 45 minutes rolled around, Seattle looked to be in the driver's seat.

2ND HALF (2-0)
The Sounders came out strong and even wrestled possession away from the Crew in the early going. Columbus looked out of shape, with a few players misjudging ball bounces and pass distances.

This all changed when a ball bounced into Seattle's box in near the 60th minute and Traore found himself behind Dominic Oduro in the box. Oduro stopped to try and trap the ball and Traore tried to kick around the side of him, bumping him and sending him to the turf. The referee called the foul in the box and issued a red card. Federico Higuain stepped up and evened the score.

From there the Crew showed why knowing how to possess the ball is valuable, especially a man up and on the road. They did just that and forced Seattle to have to be very choosy about when and how to attack.

In the end it lead to a lot of tired legs and a somewhat frantic / bizarre ending where the Crew caught everybody by surprise (including the ref?) by taking a fast corner kick. Federico Higuain found a wide open Justin Meram a top the box and he quickly looped a great shot into the upper corner for the game winner.

Ref ended the match right upon the kickoff that followed.

• CenturyLink matches play different (fast, bouncy turf) and feel different (huge NFL stadium half filled with soccer fans). The combination of those two things often lead to wild and frantic moments at the end of matches. Last night was the same.

• Crew win third straight. Last time they did it wasn't that long ago, interestingly. It was shortly after Brian Bliss took over the team last year.

• Another huge passing day for the Crew, helped by the red card this time.

• Seattle should feel hard done. Don't feel the red card was necessary and felt the ref let the game go too long. Issuing a red and a penalty dooms your team to failure, the punishment last night far outweighed the crime.

• Crew face Toronto next weekend.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Crew Rd 3 Predictions (SEA Away)

Late one tonight for the Columbus Crew as they travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders - and because MLS cares about honest competition about as much as Sounder fans are self aware (ohhh)... 10 PM EST kickoff.

CLB: Still healthy through 3, similar/stable 11 expected
CLB: Only one poor half of play so far (1/4)
CLB: Turf can change / disrupt league leading passing game
SEA: Up and down start to season (2 Wins, 1 Loss)
SEA: Clint Dempsey out (suspension)
SEA: Chad Marshall facing old team

Going to order my usual ten predictions by pick accuracy this year. Only two rounds in but only two have picked correctly. On the left is % correct.

Man on the beat, Adam Jardy; "This one will be played in front of a hostile crowd against an opponent on the short list of MLS Cup favorites." Pick up today's Dispatch around town if you can. Reading printed materials allows you to enter into a relationship with the written word and not a zillion distractions just a click away. You are also free to make your own opinion instead of having it shaped by the type of person that likes to post comments on sports articles.

Whoa, surprise pick here for the Crew (50% of "Your Vote"). Seattle only getting 20%. There is also a Large Stake on the Away side 0-1.

A little bit of a different story at this large betting site. Seattle at better than even (17/20). Crew 10/3, Draw 12/5. No Away favorites this week.

Thomas Floyd focuses on Seattle this week and thinks this will be the Crew's "sternest test yet."

Over the last three years MLS home sides have won north of 55% of matches. Last two years is been almost 60%. This year is no different.

Oddly, the first time I've ever seen a split panel. Three like Seattle, three like a Draw. None like the Crew, however.

Graham Ruthven believes that if Seattle's "key players turn up, the Sounders will claim all three points."

Drew Epperley is high on the Sounders for today's "Sigi Bowl" (his words, not mine). More from Drew, "While I think Columbus is far better in the defense than Montreal is, Seattle still has too much talent up top to stop."

n/a% MASSIVE REPORT ... (no lean)
Go check out Pat Murphy's excellent pre-match piece to find out why after the game there will be hugs.

Still not enough games. I'll wait till five in I reckon.

yeah, shocker
To a fault, I get hung up on eastern timezone teams playing late out west. I look at it about once a year to see what the advantage is and it nuts. Not only to home sides win at almost 60% of the time in MLS you also have an added factor of a post 9 PM EST degree of difficulty to deal with.

Three teams from the East have late kickoffs tonight. Toronto, New England and the Crew. If it's a TV thing then it is a local agreement because none of these games are on national TV. It's frustrating.

Anyway, on the the game.

Turf can be tricky for a natural surface team. For the Crew, who lead the league in passing accuracy and are near the top in possession, it will be even more so. A lot of their game this year has revolved around being able to keep the ball. The only time they failed at keeping it was the 2nd half of last weeks game against Philly and it looked not all that pretty.

Going to be a tough one for the Crew, especially for players that have never played at CenturyLink Field, but Seattle hasn't done anything this year so far that blows my hair back.

With Berhalter and his staff the Crew are capable of managing the distractions (atmosphere, kickoff time, turf) that come with a late match in Seattle. That said, win tonight would be very impressive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Blunt Note to Time Warner Cable of Columbus

By: Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

There has been much ado concerning the Columbus Crew and their television deal with Time Warner Cable. In my opinion, the ball is now in Time Warner's defensive third.

Clearly, the Crew would like all of their games available to all fans. The Crew is working to foster a solution.

Is Time Warner working towards a solution which benefits their own company? The center ref is ready to pull out a red card. Time Warner's behavior is under intense scrutiny.

There is a direct path to the promised land of many more customers switching to Time Warner's product.


The customers that Time Warner Cable is attempting to sell its product to, through the broadcast deal with the Crew, are soccer fans. There are many thousands of these "soccer fans" eagerly searching for the perfect option in terms of cable/dish/wifi provider.

Almost no one is going to switch providers, especially not soccer fans, in order to gain access to a mere handful of games, even if those games involve their beloved Black and Gold.

But, most of that same legion of soccer fans would jump over to Time Warner Cable...if Time Warner Cable added a robust/unique package of soccer content to go along with the new Columbus Crew deal.

To be blunt, Time Warner Cable wants more subscribers. Well, boys, if you want that business you have to offer an attractive package of options, and not of the type in the photos above.

Best of luck to TWC.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Give it all 'ya got and bring in all your ships, wing abreast...

"There are many moments for ruthless action - what is often called ruthless - what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it..."

Anthony Precourt and the Columbus Crew have "parted ways" with Mark McCullers, as many of you, if not most, know by now. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, as new owners, almost inevitably, clean house. The timescale has been relatively short since Precourt has been in charge, but he's fired a head coach (Robert Warzycha), hired a head coach and Sporting Director (Gregg Berhalter) and now "parted ways" with the club's President (Mark McCullers).

Make no mistake, McCullers had to go. He failed to achieve, or surpass, the ten thousand season ticket holder threshold. He failed to deliver a stadium sponsor. And, most recently was the face of a seemingly very bad, from a public relations standpoint (at the very least), television broadcast deal. The outrage from this latest transgression has abated but is still felt through the outlet of social media.

"What are they gonna say about him? What are they gonna say? That he was a kind man? That he was a wise man? That he had plans, man? That he had wisdom? Bullshit, man!"

There is no doubt that Mark McCullers did a whole lot of good work while he was a part of the Black and Gold family. But failing to deliver on these three items, which are HUGE for any club, would be the death knell for any club President. And so it was with McCullers. At the end of the day, he was not going to be a part of Anthony Precourt, and Precourt Sports Ventures, plans of making the Columbus Crew not only profitable, but respectable.

"Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irration, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature."

The issue that oozes its way to the forefront of your cerebral cortex is the fact that the supporters, hardcore and casual alike, have been taken for granted for too many years. They were the fodder upon which future projections were made. Raise ticket prices, sit in your seats, no swearing and absolutely no smoke bombs... rules, rules, rules...

Whatever happened to the enjoyment of being a part of a family? Oh sure, the commercials on television last year hyped-up the "family" angle. But in reality, it was never further from the truth. Do this, don't do that, and as sure as the sun rises in the East every morning, don't make waves.

"Well, he wasn't a bad officer, I guess. He loved his boys, and he felt safe with 'em. He was just one of those guys with that weird light around him. He just knew he wasn't gonna get so much as a scratch here."

This may be Anthony Precourt's first venture into the world of being a sports club owner, but he seems to know, and more importantly listen to, the supporters and what they are craving. Make no mistake, this is a business. He will treat it as such. But, From what I've seen since he acquired the club last July, he's genuinely interested in what the supporters have to say and feel about a club they've bled Black and Gold for, now approaching twenty years of sweat and toil. 

He's a businessman that also happens to have, at times, a "frat boy" sensibility of being one of the guys who just so happens to own the team. He's "hip" but not a hipster. He wants the supporters to be even more proud of the fact that they are fans of the Black and Gold. He wants to make it"cooler" for everybody. 

Last august, less than a month after becoming the new owner, he made the rounds of local Crew supporter establishments and quaffed some frosty beverages with the faithful. He listened. He asked questions. But most of all, he was seen as being one of them.

"No, no, we go together... on the boat! We came this far, so we go together. All the way! We'll take you up there, we'll go with you... but on the boat! Okay?"

Anthony Precourt has made sweeping changes since taking the reins of the Crew. Of that, there is no doubt. Will the changes that he has made make a difference? On the surface, the answer has to be an unequivocal "yes". But, it remains to be seen if the ultimate goals of relevancy and success become the fruits of his labors.

At the end of the day, Precourt seems to be saying "we're in this together. I'll lead the way, as long as you follow in my footsteps." Ultimately, is that such a bad position to be in?

As for the title of this little jaunt through the weirdness, time to get you kids educated on a classic. And yes, I can see Anthony Precourt playing the part of Colonel Kilgore...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A New Era? It's a "New" something, alright....

Groggen was a warrior,  from the land of the midnight sun,
With a license for hire, coaching to be done.
The deal was made in Sweden, on a dark and stormy day,
So he set out for Columbus, to join the football fray...

Long story short... Two matches plus two wins equals six points.

But it's never as simple as it seems, is it? With my apologies to the late, great Warren Zevon for bastardizing what is essentially one of the greatest songs in the last forty years, is Berhalter the answer to what has ailed the Crew since winning its first, and only, MLS Cup in 2008? It's too early to have a definitive answer to that question, but he does seem to be on the right trajectory to clean up the morass and add needed structure to the club.

Much has changed for the Black and Gold in the last nine months. Anthony Precourt bought the club last July and ushered in change by firing "The Polish Rifle", a long-time member of the Crew, both on the pitch as a player and as a coach. In November, he hired "Groggen" as the Sporting Director and head coach. Berhalter is now the "Head Cheese in Charge" and the Crew's fortunes will live and die with the decisions that he makes.

The roster has been turned over, with the driftwood culled from the disjointed pile that has accumulated over the last half decade. And yet, there still is the lacking element of on-pitch chemistry that seems to be missing. Good players should make other players better. Alas, that has yet to happen.

After a convincing, at least on the surface, 3-nil win over DC United to open the 2014 campaign, the hope of many supporters was reinforced. But, digging a bit deeper you will find that DC United, regardless of the roster change in the nation's capital, is still the same team as last year. Yes, Columbus played a decent match. And yes, they got the 3 points available. But really, given the quality of their opponent, was the outcome ever in doubt?

On a chilly Saturday evening in the heart of Black and Gold country, the Crew increased their point total to six by winning their second game of the season over the Philadelphia Union. For the first time in the history of a club that is a "plank owner" in MLS, Columbus won their first two matches to start a season. Seriously? It took this long for that happen?

The Crew seemed hesitant, at times, with their transition game not very fast, at all. They had defensive lapses in judgement that could have, but did not, lead to Philly goals (save for the Fernandes goal at 62'). For the majority of the match, Crew defenders left Union players un-tracked and unfettered access to the goal. Communication is key in these types of situations, and there wasn't a whole lot of that last night.

Post-match, Berhalter said "A lot of crosses in the box and it made it difficult for us. So, besides the first ten minutes in the second half, the next 15 minutes after that was all Philly." And about his defenders, he said "We’re going to have to address it a little bit, but they do a good job in covering up for the mistakes." If they don't correct those mistakes, this will make for a very long season, indeed.

"Pipita" was brought into the Crew fold in July 2012. He is a play-maker that can turn a match on its head. Unfortunately, there is still not one player in Columbus that has the vision that Higuain has and can be where he places the ball. They still, after this amount of time, seem to be somewhat in awe of him. That has consistently led to a waste of his play-making skill. 

And still, the Crew has six points and sits in second place in the East, behind the Houston Dynamo. Homegrown player Will Trapp has been a bright spot in the midfield for Columbus through the first two matches. But, the thing to remember kids is that he will make mistakes, as he's still a young man at the age of twenty-one. 

And now, we reach the crux of the biscuit, also known as the new television deal. "Deal" is the key word in the previous sentence, as in, it's a deal for both the Crew and for Time Warner Cable Sports Channel. Much has been written about this and said through social media, very little good and most of it bad. 

On March 6, two days before Columbus opened the 2014 season, Crew President Mark McCullers addressed some of the very sticky issues that had cropped up in the wake of the announced broadcast deal. It really sounded pretty decent, at the time.

"Never before have we had the typo (sic) of pre and post-game programming bookending our broadcasts, a full 30 minutes before and after. Weekly magazine-style shows, ESPN 30-for-30-type shorts: the content, player profiles and the programming that will be delivered will be like nothing we've ever had before", said McCullers. 

"Pre and post-game"? I call SHENANIGANS on your pre-game coverage of the team. A half-assed, semi-pro general MLS/USMNT thirty minute soccer show DOES NOT constitute a "pre-game" show. Like nothing you've ever had before? Well, that statement is true. The point is simply this. The supporters don't want a generic pre-game show. No, they crave a Columbus Crew-specific pre-game show. 

As for the few households that have TWCSC within the 75 mile blackout radius surrounding Crew Stadium? I can only guess, but I think at most, it was a few thousand households that actually had the match on their television sets. Ironically, McCullers also said "If you have access to TWC, then you have access to the Crew." The wonder is, does he understand that many supporters are not going to switch to TWC?

I could go on, ad nauseam, about this... but my head hurts from thinking about this. Come to your own conclusions. The club might do much better this year, but the question is..... how many will actually see this happen?

Crew Top Philly in Home Opener

After going up by two Bernardo Anor goals in the first half, the Columbus Crew withstand a barrage of shots in the second en route to earning three points.

1ST HALF (2-0)
This one started fairly evenly but the Crew wrestled control of this match away from the Union by way of an expertly taken corner that found the head of Bernardo Anor for a goal in the 24th minute. From there the Crew successfully and impressively applied clamps to any fevered response the Union could muster, earning three more corner kicks in the next few minutes.

Philly eventually regained some footing shortly before half but it Anor scored again just before half with a screaming shot from 30 yards out.

2ND HALF (0-1)
You could tell that Columbus started the half well because a few of the Union players were getting visibly frustrated in the opening minutes. Most notably was new signing Cristián Maidana, who was having a poor match. John Hackworth didn't wait long to pull the new Argentinian #10 and did so in the 55th minute.

Things completely changed for the Union then as they pounced on the Crew with big chance after big chance. In fact the ripped off nearly ten shots in the next 15 minutes, however, only converting one.

• Wil Trapp, more than any player on the Crew so far, is looking every bit of the part. There were a number of times were he battled US International Maurice Edu last night and looked the part.

• With Bernardo Anor there are some games when it looks like he's in his own world out there. Not above or below, just separate. Drifting between different planes of game reality. Yesterday was one of those games.

• Midway through the second half Philly found out how to unlock the Crew outside backs in Waylon Francis and Josh Williams. Very easily. If they could finish, this one might have looked completely different.

• Teams will expose if the Crew are going to be pushing fullbacks up all game, with the lead or not. Most of the Union chances come once they figured it out. Berhalter mentioned he wanted to continue pressure in the 2nd half but so much of that depends on backs making 50 yard run after run.

• Crew start the season with six points out of the first two, first time in team history. Believe it... or not.

• Three great halfs to start the year for the Crew, this 2nd half one is a little worrisome. Is this start for real or it a case of new coach, new era, great start that we seemingly always see in sports? I don't have a definitive answer yet. We'll see.

• A lot going on off the pitch for this home opener. Can't say enough about the hard work Justin Bell and his group have put in to help create a great atmosphere at Crew Stadium yesterday. Also much credit to the Crew Union and Hudson Street Hooligans for that. I know there are many more but speaking for the fans on hand on a chilly Ohio night, y'all warmed it up nicely.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Crew Rd 2 Predictions (Home vs PHI)

Two teams looking improved over last year are in action tonight as the Philadelphia Union are in town to take on the Columbus Crew. Game starts 6:00 PM EST.

CLB: Healthy so far this season.
CLB: Oduro off suspension, should play role tonight.
CLB: Crewsmas Day in Columbus, fun for fans.
PHI: Looks like missing Austin Berry today, if so? big loss.
PHI: Played Crew to draw in Columbus last year.
PHI: Maurice Edu will be in mid controlling action.


Folks in the know like the Crew this week. Small stake on 1-0 home win. "Your Votes" also has the Crew with 42% (37% Draw, 20% Philly)

Adam Jardy does think the Union will be "more formidable test for the Crew" than last weeks DC team, but in the end finds it hard to find a reason for the Crew not to get 3 pts. Pick up a copy of the Dispatch today to read all about it.

Leaning heavily on the Home teams across the entire league today. Crew no different at almost even (21/20 fav). Draw 11/5 and PHI 11/4.

Home teams are dominate in MLS thus far in 2014, only losing 3 games out of 16 played.

Thomas Floyd thinks "The outlook is better for Columbus, with Parkhurst set to play after recovering from a calf knock and Dominic Oduro ready to make his 2014 debut." Reader predictions likes Philly, however.

6. MASSIVE REPORT ... (no lean)
Pat Murphy points out that the Crew have never started a season with two wins. Give his good match preview a read.

Graham Ruthven thinks "...Berhalter's team put down an impressive marker in the capital but now face a tougher challenge on Saturday," he likes the Crew 2-1.

8. TABLE POSITION ... (too early)
Only a couple weeks in, chill dude.

The "pick em" crew likes the Crew this week, 5 of the 6 going with them. Only Nick Rosano likes this one a draw.

Drew Epperley is the only one this week that see's this any other way than a Crew win thinking; "Both teams have plenty to be excited by surrounding them." Score prediction: 1-1.


Think bigger, kid.
There's always a buzz in the crowd for home openers and that should be no different for the Crew today. Rumors have the Nordecke sold out, so the atmosphere should be hoppin' over there at the very least.

Both the Crew and Philly are improved over last year which means the soccer might be fun to watch... later this year. Since this is early in the season we will see a lot of pressing and (likely) a lot of fouls which means free(ish) flowing match from last week will not re-appear this week.

Like many on my list above I also think this will be a good test for both sides. I expect Hackworth and Berhalter to try and control the match in the middle of the pitch from the get-go today and the score line to be low and close.

A couple key things to watch for will be if Dominic Oduro starts or not (up top or in the MF) and if Philly's Austin Berry goes (injured?).

Oduro hasn't played a competitive match with the first team since February 26th against Orlando in the preseason. Speaking of the preseason, these two met early on and it was a midfield tug of war. Federico eventually put the Crew up but it took a 88th minute penalty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

MR Podcast Reaches 100th Episode (but 99th was more interesting)

The 100th Massive Report podcast recorded yesterday and most of the original group that started it a few years back were on hand to talk about old times. If you are interested, all of the MR podcast episodes can be found at the Massive Report site or on Stitcher.

I've only been a part of it for a little over a year (though it has been a good chunk, 35+ or so?) but it has been a fun and interesting experience.

Speaking of interesting...

Episode 99 of the MR podcast featured none other than Columbus Crew President Mark McCullers. The reason for Mr. McCullers visit to a fan generated outlet was due in large part to the negative response to the new TV deal the team signed with Time Warner.

The news of a guest of McCullers' stature arrived late to the Massive Report team and it wasn't until the show was going live that most of the regular 'round table' participants found out that the interview was to be a one on one with regular podcast host Matt Goshert (with producer Sam Fahmi chiming in).

The decision to exclude regular MR participants caused friction with some of the rest of the regular MR podcast team, myself included. There were some that felt that if the Crew weren't willing to put a guest on under normal podcast circumstances (as many, many others have including the likes of Simon Borg, Steve Davis, Frankie Hejduk, Robert Warzycha, Steve Sirk and even a former MLB player that ripped soccer) then Massive Report should say "no thanks."

The whole thing was last minute, rushed and somewhat intense. Adding to that intensity was a number of high ranking Crew employees making a visit. Matt Goshert couldn't have done a better job but would I have liked to see the Massive Report team have McCullers on to do a round table discussion? Yes, of course.

However, on the flip side, is agreeing to a round table discussion with the likes of Justin Bell, Chris LaMacchia, Jim Bach, Nate Beckman, Larry Johnson (me!) and/or Patrick Guldan (Managing Editor of Massive Report) intimidating? Yes, but this approach is why the MR podcast works and I believe if the Crew were to embrace it that it would go a long, long way with fans.

I've learned a boatload of things being part of the MR podcast since the beginning of last year and appreciate the time I've been allowed to spend taking part there. It's certainly never been dull and the 99th episode only stands in proof of that. What a powerful thing individuals can become.

The strongest steel is forged from the hottest fires. A big old congrats to Massive Report Podcast on 100 shows.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Machine Behind Results: Houston Start Strong, East Conf Impressions

We are two weeks in and every team in Major League Soccer has played at least one game (over half has played two!). What's this mean? Well, as far as final results go, very little. In fact early season scores can be very misleading. RE: POWER RANKINGS.

What isn't misleading is the machine that is behind the results - the teams that have the tools and the correct system even if the final scoreline doesn't reflect it. Certainties might be few in MLS but there are a handful of indicators that do point to success in the league.

It might be June before the numbers are telling us who is possessing the ball well or preventing shots on frame or whatever, so for now we have to settle for teams that are at least trying to do the right things.

With that in mind, here we go...

 LOOKING THE PART, MLS EAST------------------

 1. Houston Dynamo
In an unusual turn of MLS scheduling, the Dynamo have taking on two of the stronger Eastern Conf teams from last year in the Revs and Impact and easily handled both. Will Bruin has already notched three goals and Houston looks to be doing what Houston does this year; Which is be good.

 2. Columbus Crew
The Crew were as impressive as I have seen them in the last three years last weekend against DC in DC. The Crew have played plenty of bad teams in that time, so it wasn't just DC. At least I don't think it was.

  THE MIDDLE -----------------

 3. Philadelphia Union
A draw away in Portland to start the year and a win back at home against a Jose Goncalves-less Revs team is a great way to start the year. I got to see these guys in person down in Orlando during the preseason, they looked solid.

 4. Chicago Fire
After a wild second half against Chivas in their opener and a somewhat solid performance away in Portland, I think this team is in pretty good shape. The situation with Mike Magee is strange, but he only adds to what is already a very good looking team... if they can hold out till things settle in.

 5. Sporting KC
CONCACAF Champions League has got her hooks in this MLS side. They showed up with a weak lineup against Seattle to start the year, fouled the hell out of them and still lost. After that they probably expected to get a result from the FC Dallas match at home. They didn't. They also royally messed up a tifo event at the same time.

 6. NY Red Bulls
Much of what they do this year will depend upon how Thierry Henry approaches the season. The draw at home was fine. They will be fine. But they will not be Supporters' Shield contenders this year.

 7. Toronto FC
The Jermain Defoe Show so far. There wasn't much to go off of in that first game against a Seattle team that is inches away from finally spiraling off into the abyss.

  THE BOTTOM -----------------

 8. Montreal Impact
The Impact are struggling a bit without Di Vaio (suspension) and have lost their first two. Fans of the team will point to the fact that both were on the road. I see that, but I also see a team that is sort of drifting this year with a makeshift lineup and a new coach. Di Vaio though. He alone can keep this team competitive.

 9. New England Revs
There are a couple unfortunate things going for head coach Jay Heaps. First up; that God-forsaken pitch they play on. Second is the tricky situation with 2013 defender of the year.

 10. DC United
Plenty of MLS talent but need a better coach to pull it together before this season is out of reach. The first game against the Crew was a mess. Have the ability to get into the playoff hunt. We see.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Crew Loan 5, Finley Will Score Goals

Ryan Finley, 9th pick in the 2013 MLS college draft, is one of the five Crew players loaned to Dayton as part of the new affiliation program between MLS and USL Pro.

Finley only saw limited first team duty for the Columbus Crew in 2013 logging 430 regular season minutes, but did earn a goal and an an assist. By the end of the calendar year Ryan made the gameday squad 26 times but started only 3 (vs. all playoff teams Seattle, Houston, KC).

On the critical side, most of Finley's regular season minutes were awkward (he isn't the quickest, arms wide and head down), clunky (getting caught offside or going to ground a tad too easy when in open field) and forced (inconsistent apps, poor MLS coaching). His first touch and ball control also not the best, seems rushed. However, all that said... he finds a way. On the reserve league level last year he tore it up by notching a goal about every 90 minutes. When he was hot - he was hot. Three games he had a brace and one other with a hat trick. To top that off he managed to also get a goal against FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic in a exhibition last summer.

A different player, but just as Vidda Grubin mentioned about Justin Meram a couple weeks ago, Ryan Finley can score goals. He's did it in college to an almost absurd degree, with the Crew Reserves and had decent success in his limited time getting a start on the senior team. There is nothing to tell us that he won't keep that going this year with Dayton in the 3rd tier of US soccer.

Others loaned to Dayton for the time being are newcomers Ross Friedman, Matt Walker and Brad Stuver. Kevan George has also been sent out but, like Finley, is looking to prove himself having been in the league for a couple years.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Crew Player Passing %, Trapp Tops

Don't want to spend too much time on this one stat, but do feel this one is notable. Since the beginning of last year Wil Trapp is the most accurate with his passes on the Crew (this is Opta data).

Trapp just turned 21 last month has captained the Crew once this offseason under Berhalter. In the first match of the 2014 MLS season the Crew made a point to mention that he was Vice-Captain behind US International Michael Parkhurst. Players in gray are no longer with the Columbus Crew.

 Pass%, Name, Sum of Pass
84.3% Wil Trapp 887
83.4% Danny O'Rourke 732
81.3% Chad Marshall 820
80.5% Bernardo Anor 725
80.4% Federico Higuaín 1531
79.3% Jairo Arrieta 543
79.2% Chad Barson 532
78.9% Matías Sánchez 470
78.5% Eddie Gaven 359
78.1% Kevan George 161
76.4% Josh Williams 931
76.4% Tony Tchani 842
74.3% Gláuber 427
73.6% Agustin Viana 720
73.3% Tyson Wahl 821
73.0% Ben Speas 316
72.9% Dominic Oduro 842
71.8% Konrad Warzycha 120
68.7% Eric Gehrig 166
68.6% Justin Meram 343
66.9% Ethan Finlay 139
64.4% Aaron Schoenfeld 107
48.3% Matt Lampson 213
44.1% Andy Gruenebaum 387

Players with less than 100 passes...

100.0% Adam Bedell 1
92.0% Michael Parkhurst 51
86.0% Héctor Jiménez 29
83.0% Giancarlo Gonzalez 42
76.0% Waylon Francis 41
73.5% Ryan Finley 79
65.0% Steve Clark 20

Messing around with Tableau within the new Helltown space. Work in progress. Play around as you wish here. I'll get better, promise. Here's a link (also bigger) if your phone or desktop browser is wigging out.. GO.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Advocate's Devil

There are moments in time, moments when the rampaging crowd is armed, liquored-up and encouraged by a modicum of righteous indignation, that scream out for some poor misguided soul to step directly into the path of the blood-sacrifice seeking horde. I come in peace. Please don't kill me.

Recent events regarding The Columbus Crew have conspired to turn the (usually cynical-at-worst) Crew fan base into a mob of Twitter, Facebook and blog posting demons. The vitriol spewed throughout social media, vitriol aimed at The Crew and Time Warner Cable, is certainly merited in many regards. Yet, if recent events: TV contracts, a new owner, a new coach and a seemingly more competitive and enjoyable team to watch on the field are viewed without seething hate and anger, very interesting mid and long term implications for The Columbus Crew, their fans and their partners can be seen.

The most obvious of these "implications" is The Columbus Crew having a television broadcast partner who is just as interested in seeing the team succeed as the organization itself. Pre and post game shows, multiple replays of each Black and Gold game and a regional marketing push can only be a good thing. A multi-year contract lends depth to the above facts.

A less obvious advantage to our Crew is what Time Warner Cable buying the broadcasting rights means to TWC, besides the hoped for profits. They are a business, right?

To make the purchase of broadcasting rights a net positive, TWC must find ways to leverage The Crew brand and draw more customers to their service. It goes without saying that soccer is at the core of this broadcast partnership; so, soccer must be at the core of all efforts to leverage The Columbus Crew brand.

Put down your pitchforks, Uzi's and hyper Twittering fingers for a moment and think about some of the things that TWC could do with, and alongside, The Crew game broadcasts. The list grows rather quickly.

How about a high school game of the week sponsored by TWC, The Crew, Barbasol, etc?

How about Ohio's College Game of the Week?

What about the new Dayton affiliate?

Perhaps broadcasts of the highest level youth club matches. Say...U16 and above age groups, things like state cup semi's and final, Crew Academy games, there are loads of potential matches.

Add to those local possibilities other desirable national and international soccer related opportunities, and Time Warner Cable in Columbus, Ohio and the region has a very real chance to create a unique space within their portfolio of channels. This "unique space" would be attractive to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of potential new customers, as well as TWC's existing base.

The above thoughts are of little solace to the many Crew fans who are currently missing out on watching The Black and Gold on TV. And indeed, Time Warner Cable may not have the slightest intention of doing any of those things. Undeniably though, a creative, forward looking company will have already begun to plan how to leverage the purchase of broadcast rights to our Columbus Crew. If TWC executives are creative and forward looking they will have already come up with these and many more ideas.

I cannot speak for the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans reading this blog; but, I do believe that many of you would switch to Time Warner Cable if the company leverages The Crew brand and the popularity of soccer across all demographics. Crew fans, The Crew and TWC would end up singing Kumbaya down by the Scioto River in the intimate 35,000 seat Crew Brew District Stadium, on Saturday nights, as the sun sinks in the west and The Black and Gold destroy the latest in a long line of over-hyped, over-priced, no-talent City's, United's, Galaxy's and FC's.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Parkhurst, Williams, Higuain Shine in Impressive Season Opening Win

A prepared Columbus Crew took down a disorganized and out of shape DC United team yesterday.

 1ST HALF (0:2)     
The first 30 minutes of this game were enjoyable to watch as both teams were willing to let the other maintain possession. DC, however, was giving way too much space to Hector Jimenez and Josh Williams on the right side of the attacking half and it cost them dearly.

Some good one touch passing (on the ground) set up Jairo Arrieta on the first goal in the 18th and further attacking play on the right side earned the corner that led to Perry Kitchen pulling down Micheal Parkhurst in the box for a penalty in the 27th.

 2ND HALF (0:1)     
The Crew came out playing much as they did in the first half and never really dropped back into a shell even with a two goal lead. They had no reason too as DC had zero ideas going forward. Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola were just hung out to dry most of the game.

Much less enjoyable game in the second half. Late in the game Ben Olsen pulled a defender to put in one of his favorite players in Porter. DC seemed to perk up a bit in the attack but most of the players looked gassed.

DC's fatigue showed in the finishing. The created a decent amount of chances (11 Shots, 1 on frame) but just didn't have the legs to get them on target.

Justin Meram found Higuain late on in extra time to finish the game off.

The opening month to a MLS season is often more of a final exam for a team's offseason than it is as a full season predictor. With that, the Crew get and A for the second year in a row and DC gets another F. Bill Hamid was terrible and for some reason looked like he had no confidence (in a season opener?) and Perry Kitchen is proving that he is not an MLS starter.

DC also have another problem in Ben Olsen. I'm hesitantly chalking this one up to early season chemistry problems but this DC version 2014, with upgrades all over the field, looked identical to DC 2013. That's on Olsen and he needs to improve. I know that team wanted to come out with a big win to wash last year out of their mouths and instead they looked a mess again.

This shouldn't discount what the Crew did, however. They played organized, coached and very well. One game far from something to draw conclusions from. We'll know a lot more about this team by the end of April.

To put the Crew performance in some perspective, here are how each MLS team did according to

7.67 : Houston Dynamo
7.27 : Real Salt Lake
7.16 : Vancouver Whitecaps
7.15 : FC Dallas
7.11 : Columbus Crew
7.03 : Seattle Sounders
6.90 : Montreal Impact
6.84 : LA Galaxy
6.84 : Portland Timbers
6.82 : Philadelphia Union
6.62 : Sporting KC
6.34 : NY Red Bulls
6.26 : New England Revs
6.24 : DC United

The Crew have an extra week before Philly comes to town on March 22nd.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Crew Round 1 Preview and Predictions (Away, DC)

First game of the year for the Crew as they travel to the nations capital to take on DC United at RFK Stadium. A replacement ref will blow the whistle to start this one at 7 PM EST.

CLB: Without Dominic Oduro, red card last game (last minute) of 2013.
CLB: Come off a good preseason, throttled KC in dress rehersal.
CLB: Won early match in DC last year 2-1.
DCU: Looking to erase last year from memory bank.
DCU: Lots of MLS experience on the team this year.
DCU: Eddie Johnson got paid.


1. BET365 ... DC UNITED
This changed from just two days ago (they must have read my tweet!). They've got DC at 7/5, Crew at 19/10 right now.

Reminder: Just picking the home team in every match will be the correct pick about half the time.

Thomas Floyd with the preview today and he just sort of runs through a quick fact check. Judging by what he wrote, I think he leans DC without Oduro in there. Down at the readers poll, looks like DC as well with 70% of the vote.

(will update when preview available)

Adam Jardy is still assigned to the beat and thinks that while this one might be bumpy, "...the Crew has an edge with a defense that should be much improved from a year ago." Be sure to pick up a Dispatch if you can, also look around for yesterday's copy, it has a great season preview.

Graham Ruthven with the game prediction going 1-0 DC, "DC United have done a good job of rebuilding over the off-season, but it could take some time for Olsen's team to gel." Also worth noting that there are a number of errors on the preview page (Oduro starting, Glauber injured?).

No games yet man.

We've got an away favorite today, a special treat. Very rare for the Crew to get that. Wiseguys think this is 2-1 road team and the 'your votes' section has the Crew 44% picked to win (DC 25%).

Whoa, Cobi Jones joins the panel this year. Not sure who he replaced but they have kept same number of pickers at six. I'll check some other time. Anyway, looks like we've got 4 of the 6 going DC. Dir. of Video likes the Crew. Cobi likes it a Draw. Comin' strong, like his playin' days.

League watcher Drew Epperley believes, "...United do enough to start out the season in a better way than the whole of 2013."


Above: MLS
Tempered expectations for both sides this year. Best way to describe DC is 'wildcard' because they have completely rebuilt the roster, which might spell doom for most, but they have done it with experienced and very good MLS players. As for the Crew, gone are the lofty "the Cup comes through Columbus" expectations. New owner has new coach and reason has returned.

Looking at the lineups I think DC has the ability to jump all over the Crew had it not been for the fact that they are still a team learning to play together. The key to this one for the Crew will be to keep it from turning into a mess. The responsibility falls on the the Crew to hold this one together.

The Crew cannot win a multiple goal type game today. DC is much more capable of that than they are. If they can maintain discipline in the back and have solid possession in the middle they can come out of this with a solid point. Three points might prove to be tough, but who knows this early on.

Can't believe it's already here, game on!

Quick! MLS Eastern Conf Final Table Prediction

The Major League Soccer season is here already so here's my look at where teams in the Eastern Conference might finish based on projected player minutes, goals and team carryover.

Projected Pts : TEAM
67 : Sporting Kansas City
53 : Houston Dynamo
52 : Chicago Fire
51 : DC United
47 : NY Red Bulls
46 : Columbus Crew
44 : Impact Montreal
42 : Toronto FC
42 : New England Revs
42 : Philadelphia Union

The way I approached it was to start with minutes and then from there use players historical goal scoring rates (if available). While there is definitely some dark arts involved in estimating minutes for players, it's not just a blind guess. Putting this together I found that 8 of the 10 East teams are bringing back greater than 75% of possible MLS minutes in a 34 game regular season (there is even a healthy 146 of the 279 players in East registering MLS minutes in previous two years).

For the new guys I made projections based on groups, like; 1st year MLS college player, starting international signing, roster signing (in the 18), non-college youth signing, etc. From there I made general estimations based on position, expected minutes and goals. It is also based it off of my observations of the league since 2011.

There is also a tricky third group that players like Dom Dwyer fall into which is guys that have played in the league but will be getting significantly more minutes.

Here is what I'm projecting for goals for:
53 : TFC
52 : DCU
50 : SKC
47 : NY
46 : MTL
46 : HOU
46 : CHI
43 : CLB
43 : NER
40 : PHI


Once I got minutes and goals down looked at goal to point values for each team over the last two years. Goal value here is how many points each goal is worth to a team or Points per Goal (league average is 1.05 pts earned per goal scored). I like pts earned per goal because it takes in to account goals against (defense) and it is simple.

Pts Per Goal : Team (pts, goals last 2 yrs)
1.36 : SKC (121,89)
1.17 : HOU (104,89)
1.14 : CHI (106,93)
1.08 : CLB (93,86)
1.04 : PHL (82,79)
1.01 : NY (116,115)
0.99 : DCU (74,75)
0.98 : NER (86,88)
0.96 : MTL (91,95)
0.79 : TFC (52,66)

Now that I had what a goal is worth to each team I multiplied times my goal projection to get a points projection at the top of the post.


They range you see on the chart from each team is based on returning MLS Minutes (carryover). The idea behind that is teams that bring players back or build rosters with experienced MLS players tend to be more successful (and predictable).

I kept it simple so, for example; I'm estimating that 83% of Dynamo minutes this year will be played by former Dynamo / MLS players. What this means is that 17% is all new (that's about average). I just added and subtracted that percentage from my expected pts to get the range.

The reason the Crew has such a wide range is because so many of the 33660 possible minutes will be played but new-to-MLS players (32% projection, even greater than Toronto! but then again, who knows what the heck their roster will look like by year end).


Because of the structure of MLS the goal of each team is to really just finish in the top five. Looking at the chart I see that Sporting KC, Houston, Chicago and DC United are likely participants based of this model.

DC not being a surprise because they are stocked with MLS players. In a strange way they have out Bezbatchenko-ed Toronto's new mastermind Tim Bezbatchenko.


Again, this is just putting a little bit of something behind a prediction than just going off, well... nothing. Running up and down the rosters player by player and looking at what they've done the last couple years is very informative. Brushing up on how well teams have done over the past few years is also good for me.

With MLS roster rules the way they are the starting point for these teams might look very much different in just two months. Throw in a World Cup right around the time teams are finding stride and injuries to key players and things go sideways.

This makes me wonder why I do this! But it's fun and also need to look back at after the year is done and match up some of the expectations.

Friday, March 7, 2014

New Crew TV Deal, Time Warner

Much to the chagrin of about half the households in the Columbus area and nearby cities that have Fox Sports Ohio, Time Warner Cable Sports Channel will be the new broadcast partner of the Crew for the next few years. (link)

In a statement to Adam Jardy (link) and the Columbus Dispatch, Fox Sports Ohio (FSO) said the following:

"We think FOX Sports is the right home for the Columbus Crew. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to terms with the Crew on a renewal that made sense for our business. We wish them well."

The reaction from fans in central Ohio has been overwhelmingly negative. Along with a good percentage of the fans now not able to watch games that could previously, the games will also be blacked out locally on MLS Live.


As things stand now the Crew will lose the exposure FSO gave them to larger cities in the midwest region. They also lose a channel that was on multiple cable and satellite providers. Even if fans of the Indians, Reds, Cavs or even Chuck's Last Call didn't watch the Crew, at least they were exposed to the team indirectly.

On top of that, staying with FSO would have created continuity and help build regular viewership. From a business ops perspective the Crew need continuity, if for nothing else just so they are able to measure organic growth.

This deal feels like something fans would have liked in the 90s - but not now, not with people use to getting sports when they want and how they want. Half the Crew fans out there have every right to be upset. The team has taken something from them that they once had.

The wrong thing to do is to put up more barriers between you and your customers. On top of that, Cable is a dying industry and some of her last gasps of air are buying rights to live sports. It's surprising to me that this was an option for the Crew.

Words of comfort for frustrated fans; The market has a way of sorting things out, she always does. If it is truly a bad deal then the Crew will have to seek alternative.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

MR Post: Dispatch from Orlando

Spent some time gathering my thoughts on what I saw down in Orlando last weekend during the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Head on over to Massive Report to check it out HERE.