Sunday, June 29, 2014

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode VI

00:25 SEGMENT 1 - Headlines
• US Advances, surprises
• Argentina underachieving
• ESPN viewership ratings, Watch ESPN
• Non-soccer pundits really trying

18:45 SEGMENT 2 -Columbus Crew
• Crew news and notes
• Our best goes out to Stu Tudor and family
• US Open Cup, Chicago Fire / Crew wrap up
• Roster challenges, needs
• Alvaro Rey confusion
• David talks U19, Bliss absence and impact

42:25 SEGMENT 3 - World Cup
• Round of 16 comments
• US / Belgium preview, thoughts
• "club" feel to USMNT
• Is this "building for 2018" false?

55:40 SEGMENT 4 - Quick Hit, Wrap Up
• Crew re-brand, is it necessary... when does it happen

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Predictions, Crew Rd 16 (Home vs FC Dallas)

FC Dallas is in Columbus today to take on the Crew. Kickoff a slightly later 8:00 PM EST so there is some night for post game fireworks (always brings in a crowd here in the midwest).

CLB: Limited roster, Higuain likely out, Trapp recovering
CLB: Win will help separate from lower half of table
CLB: 1st league game since World Cup break
FCD: Only 1 win last 10 (Crew 1 in last 12)
FCD: Won both US Open Cup games during break
FCD: Missing too many players to mention

Number on left is percentage accuracy picking 2014 Columbus Crew results only.

Graham Ruthven gives the edge to Dallas in the game notes saying "If FC Dallas can pick up where they left off, they could take the points from this one," but thinks ultimately it ends with a 1-1 scoreline.

Beat writer Adam Jardy admits that this one is a hard to call but in the end seems to think FC Dallas is a team the Crew can beat; "...this is the type of game it needs to win."

Picking Crew with gusto! All six votes.

Medium Stake on 1-0 home win, Your Votes heavy on Crew (60%, Draw 33%, Away 16%).

40% GOAL.COM ... DRAW (Crew lean)
Jon Arnold more or less runs down list of player absences, no lean either way. The fan prediction leans towards Crew.

Crew at better than even (10/11). FC Dallas 3/1, Draw 12/5.



--% WV HOOLIGAN ... (no pick)

--% MASSIVE REPORT ... (no pick)


Not many would have predicted Costa Rica to still be in Brazil, but here they are. The Crew are a severely depleted side, both in starters available and overall. Along with absences of starters Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis to the World Cup the Crew are also missing Josh Williams and Ethan Finlay. Michael Parkhurst is somewhat questionable as are Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain. Not sure I've seen a Crew roster this way in the last few years.

Dallas isn't much better but their roster is always seems to be a patchwork one. In some ways the two sides have mirrored each other for some time. Inconsistent results and questionable roster decisions at the admin level. Crew fans are hoping that changes in coming months, years.

The Crew might have the edge in this one with the home crowd. Slight chance of rain for the fireworks but weather otherwise looks outstanding. Enjoy the match.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Giancarlo Gonzalez

1st year Columbus Crew defender Giancarlo Gonzalez anchored a Costa Rican backline that was one of only three teams that allowed one goal during this year's World Cup group stage (Belgium, Mexico the other two).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

US Open Cup Loss Highlights Roster Management Challenge for Crew

The Columbus Crew dropped out of the 101st Lamar Hunt US Open Cup last night by way of 4-2 aet loss in Chicago to the Fire. Outside the result, this match might be remembered for a couple things - one being tied to the other.

1) The Crew only had 15 players available (one was a pool 'keeper)
2) Berhalter implemented a new formation system just hours before the game started

“Today in the pregame, we basically unrolled a new system and explained it to the guys and said, ‘This is how we want to play, and go out and do it,’  ” Berhalter said. “That’s not easy to do." (Columbus Dispatch, June 26, 2014)

Not often that we see a professional team just flat out not able to field a full 18. I've seen it a couple times by choice in the US Open Cup (LA Galaxy comes to mind) as well as in Reserve matches but can't think of a time where a team had to do it out of necessity and only able to pull together 14 players.

Here is a quick rundown of the roster, as I have it:

Jairo Arrieta - Okay
Hector Jimenez - Okay
Tony Tchani - Okay
Bernardo Anor - Okay
Steve Clark - Okay
Chad Barson - Okay
Justin Meram - Okay
Tyson Wahl - Okay
Ben Speas - Okay
Eric Gehrig - Okay
Ben Sweat - Okay
Kevan George - Okay

Wil Trapp - Okay, recovering
Michael Parkhurst - Okay, recovering

Josh Williams - Okay - Healthy scratch(?)
Giancarlo Gonzalez - Out, World Cup
Waylon Francis - Out, World Cup
Aaron Schoenfeld - Out, Loan with Dayton, Cup Tied
Ross Friedman - Out, Loan with Dayton, Cup Tied
Matt Walker - Out, Loan with Dayton, Cup Tied
Alvaro Rey - Out, International transfer window not open yet
Adam Bedell - Out, Red Card Suspension
Daniel Paladini - Out, Red Card Suspension

Ethan Finlay - Out, Appendicitis
Fifi Baiden - Out, Injury
Agustin Viana - Out, Injury
Matt Lampson - Out, Injury
Brad Stuver - Out, Injury
Federico Higuaín - Out, Injury
Matt Wiet - Out, Still on IR

After a strong start to the season and a couple months of stability at the player level, all the sudden the Crew have players in numerous stages of availability. Plenty of excuses out there, World Cup being the big one, but not being able to field enough players when 30 is allowed is worrisome for the team.

While the team was more than competitive with Chicago in the match the Crew will not be able to hold on to there table position with a roster in pieces like it currently is. Not only will results suffer but practices will as well with half the team not available.

MLS regular season starts back up this weekend as FC Dallas are in town. Crew will have to be at there best to navigate the next few weeks or they will risk falling off pace to make the MLS Cup play-offs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The New USMNT: Familiarity, Preparation and Eliminating Mistakes

david scheirer, Whale Tails and Red Fox
This year’s World Cup has started in similar fashion as 2002 for the US. A hard fought win in the first match and a draw in the second is the same as it was 12 years ago. Four points earned with little risk from only one uncontrollable outcome to finish off the group stage. Interestingly, in ’02 it was the US hoping for a Portugal loss in the third game (which happened) and the US looking for a positive result against Poland (which didn't happen).

So, the similarities are there but that internationally experience heavy team went on to the Quarter-finals where this one might not have that ability and the road a bit tougher (Belgium awaits in the round of 16) so they will have to continue to rely on some other tools.

Looking back now, three World Cup cycles on from 2002, it seems more the US finally jumped back to where it should have been for the previous half century.

Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley should take loads of credit for making this happen but there are a number of things Jurgen Klinsmann has done that they were never interested in - first of which is taking the US and making them part of the world’s game instead of keeping them separate. This, to me, is the marked advancement for Team USA this go ‘round.

By taking part in the global game at the international level the US is no longer an outlier. No longer that very large, feral and bizarre animal that has somehow wondered into the city from the woods every four years. In a weird way, Klinsmann has trained it and is able to take it out in social situations at the park.

Now you have a coach that the rest of the world knows and one now that makes it okay for the rest of the world to care. A stamp of legitimacy. Sort of like the difference between Billy Ray Cyrus giving you advice in an old country song verses Dr. William R. Cyrus doing it in a medical journal.

Klinsmann also has a deep understanding of the game's place within culture. The importance of it. The rhythm of it. The pulse of tournaments, seasons, leagues and the World Cup.


One of most critical ingredients in building something successful and long lasting is to focus on the process that gets you there. Once you have the process down and have repeatable output (results) you can start to improve, even if the output is not all that great at least you know why. Only when you understand the inputs into the process, can you make it better. Otherwise it’s random events and your chasing ghosts.

Klinsmann has brought this, knowingly or just by the fact he is German, to the US Men’s team. It’s built into him. He knows that if you eliminate errors you reduce risk. How do you eliminate them? By finding them and working on them.

In this last game where the US gave up a late goal to Portugal it was because of a number of little errors that I’m sure will drive Klinsmann crazy, but he can take comfort in the fact that it is rare since he took over. This approach to the game shown through results over the past couple years. It’s not that this team has better talent - it’s that they don’t make as many mistakes.

Opta tracks how many times a player is dispossessed or turns the ball over. What I've done below here is take the amount of time each team has had the ball using possession % and calculate how many minutes elapse, on average, before the ball is lost by error (Turnover, TO and Dispossessed, Disp).

Min of Possession to Disp or TO

Looks like we have a little normal distribution of data in the table above, with the USA only behind Germany. There are a lot of things that can be pulled from this but the main takeaway is that it's not necessarily Klinsmann's soccer philosophy that puts the US were it is, as much as it is the country he is from.

Reducing errors certainly isn't the only ingredient in the formula for success but it is one of the parts of the overall game that can best be controlled and are absolute gold dust when attributes like superior talent, instinct, individual drive and the like are scarce.

Identify inputs, put in controls, achieve consistent results and then work on improving them. The Germans have perfected this and while Jurgen Klinsmann is here, the USMNT have it too. The real trick will be to keep it going after he moves on. Is the US in the middle of a "golden age" then? Likely.

Unless the US wants to return to "run fast, try hard," I'd look at A) hiring another German with an excellent world perspective and a love for the United States or B) reading up on sustainability. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode V

 00:50 SEGMENT 1 - Headlines
• Where does the the 2014 World Cup fall compared to others
• World Cup surprises
• The long race vs. each match a 'super bowl'
• Controversies taking a back seat
• England vs. Uruguay, home field advantage, stopping momentum
• FiveThirtyEight, predictions

 19:00 SEGMENT 2 -Columbus Crew
• 4th round of US Open Cup against Indy Eleven
• Peter Wilt, impressive job with Indy,
• NASL stamp on pro soccer in US
• Crew roster notes, limited news from local press
• Alvaro Rey update
• Change management, new mountains to climb
• Berhalter taking on too much?
• This year's place on the table, years past

 40:00 SEGMENT 3 - World Cup
• A run through of groups
• Discussion on age and quality
• Put Spain in a weaker group, what then?
• USMNT preview, outlook

 55:05 SEGMENT 4 - Quick Hit, Wrap Up
• Looking at NBA and NHL rosters vs MLS, international players

Song "Forty-Four" used with permission from Karma to Burn and William Mecum

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crew Advance Past Indy Eleven in US Open Cup Play

A little bit of history was made here in the midwest as Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew beat NASL's Indy Eleven in this year's edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

It took 120 minutes to separate this one but a late penalty earned by Ethan Finlay set up Jairo Arrieta's made penalty put the Crew up 2-1 in the dying embers.

The closely contested match between competing league sides was played at a neutral site on the University of Akron's campus. A number of current Crew players spent time at the University recently under the managing care of now Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter, so there was a very pro-Columbus crowd on hand.

With the win, the Crew advance on to the 5th round of the tournament now to either face the Chicago Fire (away) or the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Pro (home).

Personal Note: After the match I spotted Peter Wilt, President and General Manager of Indy Eleven and was able to briefly wish him success in the fall NASL season. Mr. Wilt was as nice as he could be after a loss and clearly cares deeply about Indy and soccer in that state.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Little Magic. A Lot of Heart.

United State 2—Ghana 1

“Hey, Tony!”

The heat outside rolls off the partially filled asphalt parking lot. The threatening skies seem distant. I am already comfortable, squeezed between one clean and well-worn table and the chairs of the table behind my spot. Pre-game is on and Tony rates a shout-out, but the courtesy of standing to greet the third of many friendly faces will have to wait a few seconds.

Two more sips of iced tea, pacing, pacing, pacing, at fifty pacing is important, beer in good time. Now, rise, smile, shake, and feel that much more comfortable.


“Tony, great to see you!”

The hum of televisions is a conduit for the excitement building within each like-minded red, white and blue clad soul. It’s as if the moving pictures on the screen snatch a small piece of our wide-eyed excitement. The players formed by the imperceptible pixels run, stop, turn, spin, dribble, and pass with a current of energy stretching over mountains, oceans and beaches. Even in Natal’s sand dune covered tropical brilliance, the current cannot be seduced by the warm water melting into the endless shore. The connection is made, the energy flows, impossibly, back and forth.

And then, IT happens. Only thirty seconds have passed, but so have four years. The unthinkable. A forward pass to feet. A simple single touch to an onrushing player. With purpose, a first touch through two. A second touch past an unsure, penalty area stranded, central defender. Bring the ball back in line, never breaking stride. The finishing touch, inside of the left and the ball caroms off the far post and settles in the goal. 1-0 to the team mystically powered by the throngs of red, white and blue clad souls thousands of miles away.

Step back now. The energy is still there. The connection has not been broken, yet it all seems too much. Gather in numbers. Don’t let the spaces between become heart rending chasms. One sliver of magic, can it really be enough? More than an entire game seems to pass.

There is another current. It bleeds red, yellow and green. It too stretches across an ocean. The very same space on the pristine green field, which started the unthinkable thirtieth second goal, has retained some of the magic of the red, white and blue. This time, the red, yellow and green heart slices through a trio of players and places the ball neatly inside the near post.

The pixels of the televisions slow. So achingly slow, they become visible. The players in red, white and blue are not whole, just pieces without purpose. Only a few minutes remain and the connection is almost lost. Millions stand at home. Wherever they gather, through sheer strength of will, they create the connection anew. The tiny, meaningless, pieces on the screen come together again.

A foray forward. A last ditch lunge results in the ball being placed in the quarter-arch of the corner. The ball is whipped in. A young American rises. Forehead meets ball, and in the eighty-sixth minute the red, white and blue have collected three precious points.


“Oh yeah!”

“6pm. Do you think we can win?”

“2-1 again. I’m calling it right now.”

“Sounds good. Meet here, 4:30.”


(If you are so inclined, you might take a moment and check out Helton Janglom’s Template for Life. Find Helton online at the Amazon bookstore. For the incredibly low price of $4.99 you will get to follow Helton from Basu, Senegal, to Columbus, Ohio. Helltown’s own Larry W. Johnson designed the cover. Yours truly, Vidda “JibJab” Grubin is the humble author. If you do read Helton, many thanks. I hope you enjoy)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode IV

[Listen on SoundCloud]

In this episode host Rick Gethin, David Burgin and I catch up with the World Cup, get ready for a Columbus Crew vs Indy Eleven Match, dig in to the NASL and their positive impact on the US Open Cup this year, World Cup matches - and much, much more.

 01:00  SEGMENT 1 - Headlines
• Franz Beckenbauer Suspension, what it means
• Larger FIFA picture, Qatar
• Unbalanced officiating, growing the game

 16:35  SEGMENT 2 -Columbus Crew
• NASLs early positive results vs MLS
• Big match for the Cosmos with win over MLS outlet NY Red Bulls
• Challenging "Division I"
• Look at the Crew vs Indy Eleven
• Will MLS spend and get into Copa Libertadores
• Crew interest still waning

 34:45  SEGMENT 3 - World Cup
• Spain vs. Netherlands match
• England vs. Italy, result not surprising, positives for England
• Costa Rica vs. Uruguay, opens possibility of 3 CONCACAF teams advance
• Growth of competitiveness in 'developing soccer nations' justifying FIFA?
• US preview, must win match changes group
• Klinsmann's approach changed over recent years
• More on Costa Rica

 53:30  SEGMENT 4 - Quick Hit, Wrap Up
• Further examination of FIFA
• FIFA now vs FIFA then
• Final update on Messi missing CL matches with other priorities

Thanks for listening!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

On ESPN: Two World Cup Observations Saved by Another Two

The long awaited event is finally here and the ugly drunk side of (everything is a controversy, hot take, argument-) ESPN showed up. Even Ian Darke has been sucked down into the muck. It got bad enough for me early on to have me saving links of foreign streams.

Fortunately, there were the right guys calling the right game and things have hopefully switched back to a focus on the matches and not the organization covering it here in the US.

Here are a few observations from the couple days of the 20th World Cup on ESPN off my chest so I can (hopefully) move on the the games.

1. TWELLMAN TRIBALISM: ESPN's Rotten Side Manifests
Taylor Twellman completely lost me in the early going of this World Cup. The whiny, contentious, breaking news vessel type personality he has honed (and gotten away with) covering MLS games and arguing on social media is a train wreck for something like the World Cup. Everything is a DISASTER or JUST HORRIBLE. Twellman seemed incapable of normal, engaging discussion. Each time he smirked into the camera, I cringed. I think the tone was set opening game however, by...

Ever since making that "go-go USA" call during the last event, everyone has wanted Darke to call games. I loved the guy in the last World Cup, he was great. This go around he still can be but he has to shake the - EVERYTHING IS A CONTROVERSY so let's fight about it on a debate show (and belittle the sport at the same time!) - that he has learned from ESPN. He set the tone for the the studio team the first night and Bob Ley bought in hook line and sinker. It carried over to this afternoon in the Mexico / Cameroon match when Twellman would. not. stop. about the officiating. There was even a point where I was already about done with the whole event when Ley broke in with news of Franz Beckenbauer getting suspended for 90 days from FIFA and ESPN just turned the halftime of a match into Outside the Lines.

Robin van Persie Headed Goal
There was more quality in this match than the first half of the 2014 MLS season. As such, it's pretty difficult for me to explain how I took this match in. It was like it was from another planet. By the time the second half started I was sitting on the edge of my couch completely still. The Dutch I've wanted to see for 20 years finally showed up and it was poetic. The sport again became like a great painting to me. Just amazing.

After Ian Darke and Steve McManaman's opening call and the Mexico match where Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno's tone matched the emotions of El Tri, I had about had it. I love the emotion of Palomo had and maybe had it not been for the negative slant the studio had taken I would have liked it but after months and months of anticipation this sucker started out with a thud on ESPN until the tandem of Jon Champion and Stewart Robson came along. Martin Tyler, Champion is likely not but he was the perfect person to have on the Netherlands v Spain match. It brought the special feel of the World Cup back.

The first four matches ended with Chile taking care of Australia 3-1 with a very good Daniel Mann and a very green Kasey Keller. The match was full of heart and emotion and Keller was kind of a drone-like at times but overall it was fine. Also fine is Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas in handling the studio. Roberto Martinez and Ruud van Nistelrooy have excellent observations on each match.

Here's the Lineup for this weekend, highlighted will be the best calls and probably the best matches (to be honest). I'd recommend finding a stream of the Colombia, Greece match. The Ivory Coast, Japan matchup should be a treat with Rae and Ekoku.

June 14 (Sat.): Colombia vs. Greece, ABC, 11:30 a.m. (Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman)
June 14 (Sat.): Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, ABC, 2:30 p.m. (Jon Champion and Stewart Robson).
June 14 (Sat.): England vs. Italy, ESPN, 5:30 p.m. (Ian Darke and Steve McManaman).
June 14 (Sat.): Ivory Coast vs. Japan, ESPN, 8:30 p.m. (Derek Rae and Efan Ekoku).

June 15 (Sun.): Switzerland vs. Ecuador, ABC, 11:30 a.m. (Adrian Healey and Alejandro Moreno).
June 15 (Sun.): France vs. Honduras, ABC, 2:30 p.m. (Daniel Mann and Kasey Keller).
June 15 (Sun.): Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, ESPN, 5:30 p.m. (Derek Rae and Roberto Martinez).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

2014 World Cup Brazil Group Stage Predictions

The 2014 World Cup is upon us. The panel from the "Red Cards in Helltown" podcast decided to make our predictions about who will advance out of the Group Stage for each group. There are some sound choices, some off the wall choices and some were made just to be different. How will the panel fare when the Group Stage matches are complete? Time will tell...

The chart has the podcast panel across the top with each group vertically down the left-hand side. Each panelist picked their group winner and the runner-up. Do you agree with their picks?

It's Here!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Nav

Added navigational links to the top of this site... you'll find them under the image header or in the drop down "pages" menu on your fancy pants mobile device. While you are clicking around, check out the podcast.

Monday, June 9, 2014

After 0-0 Draw in DC, Crew Enter World Cup Break Mid-Table

Not much in this one as neither the Crew or DC can find the back of the net the weekend before the World Cup starts.

1ST HALF (0-0)
Crew make do while missing starters Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis (World Cup, Costa Rica), Federico Higuain (hamstring) and Wil Trapp (knee sprain, or something...). Ben Speas and Agustin Viana fill in the midfield as Eric Gehrig and Tyson Wahl also get starts. Not much happens. An early shot from Fabian Espindola is all we got.

2ND HALF (0-0)
Three more shots on frame (Adam Bedell's take late was alright) and a horribly missed penalty from Espindola at the death bring this one to an end.

FINAL (0-0)
Despite playing with a number of backups, the Crew were the better side on this night. The patchwork defense of Gehrig, Wahl along with Viana in the middle played really well. Bernardo Anor also had a good one but he was often overrunning Hector Jimenez from the left back position. Might take them a few games to get used playing together.

The Crew enter the World Cup break 14th on the overall true table (ppg table) and right on the edge of the eastern conference playoff picture, for whatever that is worth.

Not sure this is how Anthony Precourt drew up the season but with only one win since we were freezing our tails off back in March whatever, the Crew can count themselves lucky. World Cup here we come!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

PODCAST: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode III

Helltown on SoundCloud

Third episode of our Red Cards in Helltown podcast recorded today as Jim Bach, David Burgin and myself join host Rick Gethin to gather our thoughts on a variety of topics.

 01:05  SEGMENT 1 - Headlines
• World Cup starts this week, quick overviews, favorites's "Bridging the Great Divide..." kicks off discussion on MLS
• David Villa loan to ALeague, future of big club expansion

 19:05  SEGMENT 2 -Columbus Crew
• Dominic Oduro, Álvaro Rey trade
• DC United (Jim called it, dull match)
• Berhalter sounds happy to David, is a striker coming?
• Trapp injury or The Conspiracy Theory (??)

 35:35  SEGMENT 3 - World Cup
• US Men's National Team
• Group G discussion
• A rundown of all groups, who's advancing, who isn't (saving these!)

 55:00  SEGMENT 4 - Quick Hit, Wrap Up
• Jim talks about top jersey's sold in MLS

That's it for this week, thanks for listening!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Predictions: Crew Rd 15 (DC away)

The Columbus Crew wrap up their busy week with a game in the nation's capital today when they face DC United at RFK FedEx Field. Should be a huge crowd on hand as there is a lead-in international friendly between El Salvador and Spain.

CLB: Two major absences - Federico Higuain and Wil Trapp
CLB: Loss puts them firmly in bottom half blender
CLB: Away form is 5 pts from last 6, -3 goal difference
DCU: Only 1 loss at home this year (1st game vs Crew)
DCU: Look to have full accompaniment of regular starters (save Kitchen)
DCU: Only allowed 7 goals in 8 games at RFK this year

Number on left is percentage accuracy picking 2014 Columbus Crew results only.

Graham Ruthven has been hitting on Crew games with astonishing accuracy. Calls Columbus an erratic side and, at the time of the writing, that's with Higuain playing. 2-1 DC.

"The losses of Wil Trapp (knee) and Federico Higuain (hamstring) to injuries will exacerbate the situation," says Adam Jardy. Pick up a paper today, Jardy has all the details on the Oduro, Rey trade.

Overwhelmingly DC today, 5 of 6 and only one Draw. Everybody there is doing better with picks this year, strangely five of them are right on 40% correct. Only Jason Saghini stands above with 44%.

Your Votes section has Crew at lowest percentage of year with 16%. DC walking way with 53%. Medium stake on 2-0 home win.

36% BET365 ... DC UNITED
23/20 DC (fav), 20/10 draw, 12/5 Crew

No lean to be found in Thomas Floyd's preview today. Does mention host of absences for both sides.



--% WV HOOLIGAN ... (no pick)

--% MASSIVE REPORT ... (no pick)
Head on over to Massive Report or Black and Red United to read Patrick Murphy's excellent take on today's match.


I'm kidding. This one is about as a sure thing as you will ever see for a MLS game. Outside of the lead in game there is the fact that DC doesn't have that last day of school feel yet that the Crew have (which was evident with some of the player tweets last night (WHICH IS PERFECTLY OK, WHICH I LIKE, WHICH MAKES THE TEAM MORE FUN, WHICH THEY USE TO DO MORE OFTEN AND IT WAS FINE)).

You also find some evidence of that last day before break with handling of Federico Higuain and Wil Trapp injuries. I reached out to Massive Report's Managing Editor Patrick Guldan and beat writer Patrick Murphy they both believed Higuain would be out but they were not sure on Trapp. In either case, the decision to hold them out is easier when a break is eminent.

This DC team is about as MLS experienced as they get and you need that experience to know how to play during a season so disrupted by the World Cup. This is a first for all the Crew players except Tyson Wahl.

A couple things to watch this evening on the Crew side is if Ethan Finlay can keep things humming (he is in full form, 3 goals and an assist in just 275 mins this year) and see if Ben Speas (two assists in last two appearances) gets a crack at a starting role. Tonight is also a great opportunity for the other midfielders to leave Crew HC Berhalter with a good impression before new arrival Alvaro Rey joins the squad.

Expect Columbus to maintain control of the ball this match with DC looking for daggers on the counter or quick transitions from interceptions and mistakes.

Weather looks perfect over there in my old stomping grounds. Should be a great day for soccer fans out there.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Crew Remain Mystery, Draw RSL

Late goal salvages point for the Crew at home when they should have earned three.

1ST HALF (0-0)
Early in the match former Crew college draft pick Rich Balchan pulls down Austin Viana in the box and earns a penalty that Federico Higuain misses. Not long after Higuain appears to pull his hamstring, gets subbed before half.

A Josh Williams rip around the 20th is the only shot on target from either side. After these few events, the game continues on at a half speed pace till half.

2ND HALF (1-1)
Salt Lake hangs back for the opening minutes of the half before turning up the pressure on the Crew in search for a goal. After pushing the Crew back for about five full minutes RSL gets the breakthrough they were looking for when Luis Gil scores off a rebound from a Kenny Mansally shot from distance.

Nearly thirty minutes passed before the Crew started to apply pressure to RSL to pull it back, which they did when Ben Speas placed a beautiful and perfectly placed through ball to Ethan Finlay for a crafty chip that beat the goalkeeper for a goal.

FINAL (1-1)
The final stats (those shitty stats pundits talk about, not the ones I like) tell us that the Columbus Crew dominated this game. Plenty of shots (21!) and shots on target (7!!). Heck, check out what the mighty summed up the Crew events:

• Created a high number of chances relative to their possession
• Were effective at creating goalscoring opportunities from through balls
• Were effective at creating goalscoring opportunities from the flanks
• Were effective at creating goalscoring opportunities from set-pieces

Wow! No. Not really. Five of the Crew 7 shots on frame didn't come till the 75th minute. This game didn't have much of a pulse for long stretches. Even after RSL scored the Crew showed zero urgency. It had me thinking that the players were more concerned with holding to a system than getting after a win.

Old me might have thought poorly of that but I'm not so sure these days. Is it bad not to chase a goal directly after your opponent scores when you have 30 minutes to make it up? Depends, I guess. What we do know is that the Crew were doing most of the things right in possession but didn't have anything going up to, and 20 minutes after, the RSL goal.

It wasn't until an on fire Ethan Finlay and hungry Ben Speas warmed up to the match in sub roles that something magical happened to save a point. Well, mostly magical. After the goal Crew players and fans (including smoke from the Nordecke) acted like the team won the MLS Cup instead of grabbing the ball quickly in order to get the game restarted.

I try and keep up with Crew games by not only watching them but sitting down for a couple hours trying to sort them out. A good old fashioned postmortem, if you will (says the 13 year vet of manufacturing). I think it's vital to understanding the local team and the league as a whole. Usually, at least since 2011 when I started following closely, I have the Crew pegged by June. Even sorted out the Higuain signing.

This year? Still working on it. Results have been poor but the metrics say this team is in good (not great) shape even though they only have one win since starting the season off with three a million years ago.

So as site writer and Red Cards in Helltown colleague said... "with their position and goal difference, they have to be doing something right."

What that is? Not sure yet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Predictions: Crew Rd 14 v. RSL

Real Salt Lake is in town this evening to take on the Crew. Kickoff is 7:30 PM Eastern.

CLB: Missing Gonzalez and Francis from back line (World Cup)
CLB: Trapp looks to start, slight knee injury
RSL: Nightmare loss to Seattle past weekend 4-0
RSL: Missing a couple (including Kyle Beckerman) to World Cup

Number on left is percentage accuracy picking 2014 Columbus Crew results only.

"Without Kyle Beckerman, Jess Cassar's side lack its midfield spine and this is a chance for the Crew to exploit that," says Graham Ruthven. Ultimatly see's this one as even.

No real prediction from Adam Jardy this week. He does mention that the Crew are "under pressure to earn crucial points before the World Cup break against a formidable team that will be missing some key parts because of injury and call-ups."

For an away side, very strong for RSL this week in both vote (42%) and medium stake on Away win 0-1.

Home side odds tonight 21/20 Crew (12/5 Draw, 5/2 Away).


This one is straight down the middle. Two Crew, Two RSL, Two Draw.

No real lean in the summary, Readers like RSL.


--% MASSIVE REPORT ... (no pick)
Head on over to Massive Report to get the latest on the Crew.

--% WV HOOLIGAN ... (no pick)

Anything is possible tonight with all the missing players, which is probably why we see a lot of "draw" predictions. I think that's fair. In other news: Crew fans could see the playing return of both Cole Grossman and Rich Balchan tonight for RSL.

Might see some more rain tonight, either way the playing surface will be slick. Don't expect many at this one but should be a nice one to watch. Enjoy the match.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Late Game Mistakes, Crew Fall to Reds

Mistakes do the Columbus Crew as they go from being a goal up in the 80th minute to a goal down by the time the final whistle blows.

1ST HALF (1-1)
New faces in both line ups meant sloppy play for most of the first half but there was a moment of some brilliance in the 18th when the Crew countered Toronto and scored via Justin Meram. The transition from defending to attacking was the best we've seen from Columbus all year.

Celebrations didn't last too long because Toronto immediately pressed hard for a goal and got one when Tyson Wahl reached out and grabbed Jermaine Defoe's shoulder as he slipped past. Penalty called and finished.

2ND HALF (2-1)
The uneven, broken play of the first half subsided and both teams found some rhythm for the first 20 minutes of the 2nd half. A Ben Speas sub in the 61st minute paid off immediately when he played a perfect corner to Agustin Viana for headed goal to put the Crew up 1-2 with 15 minutes left to play.

Toronto became more and more aggressive in their attack subbing on Gilberto and Dwayne De Rosario late. The Crew didn't have enough to hold them off for long and they ended up with two goals in the final 10 minutes of play (Defoe 81' - off a Parkhurst ball handing error and Henry in added time, poor marking on the big lad).

FINAL (3-2)
The Crew are probably frustrated because they let the lead go twice but Toronto always looked good for a few goals in this one. With both Federico Higuain and Wil Trapp out (as well has Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis on World Cup duty) the attacking abilities of Toronto was too much for Columbus to overcome.

A busy week for Columbus continues Wednesday when they take on Real Salt Lake at home.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

PODCAST: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode II

Episode II of Red Cards in Helltown podcast recorded this Sunday morning with a full panel of contributors. Host Rick Gethin, Justin Bell, Jim Bach, David Burgin and myself dig into a whole lot and probably more than we should.

Just like last week (and as we will do going forward) the show is limited to 60 minutes and recorded straight through (warts and all). Still early in the process but we are happy with how it's going and having a great time. Hope you like it, thanks for listening!

Here's a rundown of the topics we cover this week:

• US Open Cup, NASL vs (the) MLS vs ... motivation
• Indy Eleven, Columbus Crew (Dayton Dutch Lions)
• NYCFC, Frank Lampard, David Villa
• Cost of performance and cost of world wide brands

• Disagreement on whether or not results matter this year
• Spending money in the right place
• Team building
• Scoring costs money, commitment to spending
• "Something good going on"... Zero goal difference
• RSL preview, should be good
• "We don't have very good players. To sum up... we don't have really good players"

• Match fixing ("Bags of hundred dollar bills")
• Picking the best 23 players, transform USMNT program
• Copa America, going to be awesome
• Klinsmann Donovan, Warzycha GBS

• Issues with German team heading into the World Cup
• "Deserving Wins" in MLS
• "Earning your way in"
• NYCFC "earn" the right to play in a baseball stadium