Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chart: Crew Passing Summary

No question that this year the Columbus Crew have topped the league in passing accuracy and ball possession (which go hand-in-hand because possession is tracked by number of passes and not actual clock time).

If you hover of each circle it should give you individual player minutes (also the size of the circle), % pass accuracy and average passes per game. The black dots are league averages. You'll notice that the Crew have players above most league averages save a few midfielders (Speas, Meram and Finlay slightly below).
Some other callouts; Crew forwards are mostly around league averages here (just that goal getting thing we need to look at). Ultimately, this just shows that most of the Crew players are performing At or Above league averages, with only a few exceptions.

Berhalter has been impressively successful in this category, which is why I'm looking at it here. There is certainly much more to look at when evaluating a individual player but I think most of it starts here for this Crew regime.

Final callout is Wil Trapp. He's the one on the upper right.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"We Had a Chance to Win" - Every Coach in History

Crew Head Coach (and Sporting Director, because it seems we must say that) Gregg Berhalter recently stated something of the curious kind that Mr. Adam Jardy rightly and keenly picked up on in his "Covering the Crew" blog over at

“There are very few games – actually I can’t think of one game where we didn’t have a chance to win the game,” Berhalter said after Monday’s training session at the Crew’s facility in Obetz.

Not sure if Berhalter is a mad genius or more just a thinker of a man with recording device in front of him. There's probably only a few people that have actually watched each Crew match this year and fewer still that know enough about the sport to say, "hey dude, yer wrong"

Looking at it that way, he's a mad genius.

For me, the Jury is deliberating on the the genius part, but what is undeniable to me is the Berhalter the Thinker side of things. Has the Crew been in most games this year? Yeah, okay. Sure they have. But you could also say that about Robert Warzycha coached teams the past few years as well.

Did you know that only three teams have lost more than half their games by more than one goal this year? I guess now that I write that, it seems pretty abstract. Even still. That'd be New England, Chivas USA and the godawful Houston Dynamo. Everyone else keeps it pretty close (which is the point of bringing up the abstract).

Major League Soccer is designed to do just this, so no real surprises here. Does make it boring as shit though. This is something I've thought a lot about over the past few years. Do I really want things to be close every year? Do I want a Warzycha and McCullers to have a chance each year? For you NFL fans... do you want a Mangini or Shurmur with a shot each year? How about those Cavs fans out there and Mike Brown. Byron Scott? Are you willing to look past and accept failure because the happen to be coaching in the city you happen to live in?

It becomes more of an philosophical type question if you continue down this path. Do YOU - as a person whose identity is so wrapped up in city - want to believe you have a chance to win a championship year in and year out no matter the incompetence or do you want to see your favorite sport played at the highest possible level, excellence and hard work rewarded.

It's an argument that reminds me of the famous Jacques-Louis David painting "The Death of Socrates." I was learned (rightly or wrongly) that it was Socrates pointing to the Divine. All the gods, or singular god, that he believed in. It was meant to be defiant. Stating that the purpose in life was to that of something higher, something not of humankind and that striving for the divine was the purpose in life.

Continuing with art history course, with Raphael's "The School of Athens" you again see this theme as Aristotle walks with Plato, both trying to reason whether or not that greatness was with the divine and not as reasoned here on earth.

What isn't unanswered - is that most of what teams in MLS strive for - is not anywhere close to what Socrates, Aristotle or Plato wrote about. No. MLS is looking more to build the perfect cheap labor. That TV stand you find at Walmart or Target - because you are willing to settle.

From this standpoint, there is something that interests me. It is that this Walmart / Target model is based on your willingness to settle for crap products. High sales good. Low... bad. They also look at customer satisfaction, though. Can't sell things that fall apart, right?


Or NPS. I like the idea. Throw out the average scores (close games) in favor of just the bad and good. In soccer I see it as the 1-0 or 0-1 or Draw type games. The close ones that Berhalter talks about. NPS tries to quantify that by just taking the low and high. Lose big, win big. Toss the rest. Let's look at who has done that then.

Who has won more by two or more than lost, per match played. I use a percentage as the "promoter". It's the percentage of more +2 games won as overall games played.

2+ Loss
2+ Win
Diff in 2+
Games Played
 L.A. Galaxy
 DC United
 Sporting KC
 San Jose
 Toronto FC
 FC Dallas
 Real Salt Lake
 New York RB
 Chicago Fire
 New England
 Montreal Impact
 Chivas USA

Not sure where this gets you, true reader (track it for yourself over here). Consider it the anti- "we are in most games" coach speak quote you always hear. This (like NPS metric) throws out those games and treats them as not important. The point is to be better than your opponent, not the same.

What is above are teams that win more by two goals then lose. Seems a good measurement of quality this far into the season, I guess. At least to me. Might not be Socrates, Aristotle or Plato but it's what we got here in Columbus.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Finlay Goal, Crew Win

Ethan Finlay might not of dragged the Columbus Crew to a victory yesterday, but he did score the winning goal in the sucker... Justin Meram's sublime touch (his first of the match, I think) providing the assist. Finlay is in some sort of rare form for a Crew player. Five goals and two assists in less than 800 minutes is some rare territory that I'll have to figure with over the new few days.

In the meantime; Ethan Finlay. A player in full form (he is getting close to league tops in goals plus assists with over 450 minutes played). A rare thing here in Columbus. Soak it in.

NPG+A* per 90 : Name (Team) Minutes
1.18 Clint Dempsey (SEA) 839
1.10 Fabian Espindola (DC) 1,222
1.00 Robbie Keane (LA) 1,439
0.92 Maximiliano Urruti (PDX) 786
0.91 Dominic Oduro (TOR) 494
0.88 Chad Barrett (SEA) 510
0.88 Obafemi Martins (SEA) 1,329
0.85 Kenny Cooper (SEA) 744
0.83 Fanendo Adi (PDX) 647
0.82 Thierry Henry (NY) 1,528
0.82 Joao Plata (RSL) 1,104
0.81 Luke Mulholland (RSL) 995
0.81 Brad Davis (HOU) 890
0.80 Mauro Diaz (DAL) 676
0.79 Ethan Finlay (CREW) 795

* Non-Penalty Goal + Assist

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode IX

Rick Gethin and Larry Johnson go over the latest in soccer news here in Central Ohio.

• Manchester United 7 vs LA Galaxy 0
• The other Manchester 4 vs Sporting KC 1
• Friendlies place in MLS season, Short vs Long Term
• DaMarcus Beasley to Houston Dynamo
• Summer window in the world of MLS
• Sporting KC "national training center"
• Sporting as a "club" with a mission statement!

• Looking at trends, 1-2 Crew win (2nd in a row)
• Praising Ethan Finlay, in form
• Postgame Gregg Berhalter comments, notes
• Roster stability leading to results, chemistry
• The "intangibles"
• When to tinker with lineup
• Team building
• Hating on fighting for playoff spot... average
• Berhalter has the mind for tops in East
• Transfer window notes
• Jermaine Jones, back to MLS?

• ...more Jones
• Columbus as a destination
• Seeing a lot of good players on one team
• Crew players learning to play on there own
• Frank Lampard signing for MLS side NYCFC

• Intangibles!
• Full year college soccer schedule
• Ian Thomson's piece (link)
• Aligning the schedules...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Predictions: Crew Rd 21, Revs Away

The Columbus Crew are up in New England today to take on the Revs at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 PM EST. Weather looks pleasant - clear and 70s.

CLB: Look to feature similar lineup as last week, Bedell up top
CLB: Parkhurst homecoming of sorts (drafted, played for Revs)
CLB: Haven't won on the road since March 30 (vs Seattle)
NER: Lost last 3 at home after winning previous 4
NER: 7 game losing streak overall
NER: Looking for answers, loaned away DP Jerry Bengtson

Percentage listed is picking Crew games only. Sorted in descending order.

Beat writer Adam Jardy's lean has gotten seven Crew matches out of the last ten correct. "The Crew has proved that it does not back down from a road challenge," he says this week.

0-1 for the Crew is the prediction from Graham Ruthven, "The Crew have a great chance to string together two straight MLS wins against a freefalling Revolution side."

Pick is based off probably about 3 votes on the reader interactive section. It's been this way for a few weeks now. has been very light on some of the MLS coverage, not hard to blame, interest is light. Attendance though.

45% MLSSOCCER ... (no picks yet)

Crew favored. 45% of the Your Votes and Medium Stake on 0-1 away win.

Fairly normal home odds this week 23/20 Revs (12/5 draw, 23/10 Away).


Despite the horrid losing streak, Revs still atop the Crew in PPG.

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

--% MASSIVE REPORT ... (no pick)
Head on over to MR to get the latest from Patrick Murphy and his notes form recent practices / match preview.


New England in is that familiar sports journalism area I like to call THE ZONE OF FUTILITY. I'm thinking about naming all these things because it's hard to explain how incredibly boring most of it is. What is THE ZONE OF FUTILITY? It's when you have a team on a bad run and writers just start talking about when the last time they had a bad run was and crank out a piece. I suppose it's fine, gotta write something, right?

Anyway, that's where the Revs are now and all their fans are now being subject to losing streaks of years past. This one is sort of special though and while long streaks like this do pepper result maps in MLS over recent times, they don't happen much. When they do, they are usually snapped after 6,7,8 games or so.

The Revs will eventually snap the streak and facing a below average Crew at Gillette is perfect opportunity. When I can't convince myself the Crew is a clear favorite alarm bells start going off. The Crew aren't here but if they play disciplined and frustrate the Revs early they will win.

Easier said than done however as a young and inexperienced group haven't performed well on the road this year and don't have a win since the opening month of the season.

We shall see. One thing is for certain - the pitch is fake.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

12 Hours The Wrong Way

Well, the Crew aren't going the wrong way. In fact, it was great seeing the team play with intensity and effort against Crystal Palace last night. It's also great to see the Crew work in some of their local players (and homegrowns) into the senior team.

Guys like Wil Trapp and Josh Williams have carved out places in the starting lineup with their local team but you also see Darlington Nagbe, Michael Nanchoff, Eric Brunner and Justin Morrow make it as MLS regulars elsewhere. Ohio has proven the ability to manufacture talent. As the sport grows in the US (not just MLS) it will be those that can tap into it that will keep there noses in front.

On top of a wise investment it's also a great story to tell the rest of the world.

What isn't a good story (nor a wise investment) to tell the world is the summer friendlies MLS insists on playing and the older European big name players the league insists on over paying for.


There are not enough excuses in the land of unicorns and rainbows MLS lives in for a 7-0 evisceration that Manchester United put on the LA Galaxy last night. The game ended sometime after midnight eastern time so many didn't know of the shocking result until morning.

Not to be over looked last night was also the 4-1 Manchester City result over Sporting KC. This one was a bit closer but ultimately ended one sided.

Both games were broadcast to a larger TV audience. ESPN carrying one and Fox Sports 1 the other. What this means is that many of the new soccer fans in the US gained post Brazil were tuning in to see MLS get steamrolled, thus cementing and confirming perceptions that the league is inferior to other leagues in abroad.

Were points at stake? No. But it is ignorant to say they were meaningless. Not only was the regular US soccer crowd watching, but all the new post-World Cup news ones were as well.


Inferiority might dog Major League Soccer but the number one perception the league has had almost since the beginning is that of being a "retirement league." One confirmed to the larger masses this morning, when 36 year old Chelsea legend Frank Lampard was announced as NYCFC's most recent signing.

So when you add up the events of the twelve hours from when KC kicked off verses Manchester City to when (the league's corporate site) promoting Lampard's signing this morning the sum is the same as it has always been.

The English side of me barely gets excited for Frank Lampard's arrival in MLS. Were you to pin him down, I think Frank is more excited about hanging out in NY next year just as much as he is playing a couple more competitive years. Not sure what going to be left of him after a short stint in Australia (not confirmed yet) while he waits for 2015.

Ultimately, at the end of today's announcement, I felt like MLS took a couple steps back and not forward (big steps, if you consider post World Cup attention). This isn't so much a knock on MLS or Lampard (or his father, since I used his pic up there). For folks that live in a MLS city, there is plenty to follow and like about the league but things like last night's results and today's signing only perpetuate stereotypes across the rest of the country (...and world).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Points Earned at Crew Stadium

The Columbus Crew got that win they were looking for last night, defeating last place Montreal Impact. Bernardo Anor's two goals along with a handful of key saves from Steve Clark were the difference in this one.

I paid to watch this one with my lady friend because the the Time Warner Sports Channel cameras were getting difficult to deal with (couldn't tell the flip-all goings on). Too close and the commentary... too much, I don't know... Hunt Sports (and 90s soccer)? Never been a fan of the TV product here in town because the real live-in-person-deal has always been so good.

The Crew might not have the right market but they've got the gameday thing down. People in Columbus love soccer. They have since I've been here anyway. It's the sales pitch that's gone all wrong. ONN, FSO, Time Warner... none of them have been able to capitalize on a good crowd at the leagues oldest.

Maybe the new guy(s) should look at that.

Good win for Berhalter and company.

Podcast: Red Cards in Helltown - Episode VIII

Rick Gethin, Jim Bach and Larry Johnson cover all the latest in this week's podcast.


00:55 SEGMENT 1 - Headlines
• MLS All-Star Roster
• "Having a Good Year Guy"
• includes their thoughts
• Bringing in foreign teams to play MLS teams
• Should it be in Portland?
• Graham Zusi, Matt Besler signing DP MLS deals
• Good for MLS... and USMNT?
• Chad Marshall (and Brad Evan) talk, Sigi
• Seattle Sounders vs Tottenham Hotspur

21:58 SEGMENT 2 - Columbus Crew
• Giancarlo Gonzalez conversation, thoughts
• Final thoughts on Alvaro Rey situation
• Recent Crew results
• Berhalter audio
• Looking at owner / investors, Sporting KC
• Transfer window open, current Crew cap situation
• MLS coverage (wish we could have gotten to Bob Hunter)

48:00 SEGMENT 3 - MLS Notes
• Geoff Baker article of the Seattle Times
• Ate there 3 guys in a bunker in Antwerp?
• MLS television ratings

55:00 SEGMENT 4 - Quick Hit, Wrap Up
• New York Times piece on Jurgen Klinsmann, too American?
• USMNT style? Is there a thing?
• Klinsmann - right place, right time

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Predictions: Crew Rd 20, MTL at Home

Another one at Crew Stadium tonight. 7:30 PM Eastern kickoff, weather will be mid 70's, partly cloudy and a little damp.

CLB: Limited roster availability (injuries, suspensions, a rib being removed)
CLB: Higuain carrying nagging injury, not 100%
CLB: Crew one of only 4 teams with negative home goal diff, only 8 goals in 9.
MTL: Only 5 goals in 8 away this year, zero wins
MTL: Last place team
MTL: Do have 2 wins in last 6, not great but better than Crew

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

"This one is hard to call, with both teams coming into the game in poor form. It could be case of who isn't the worst on the day." - The Oracle (Graham Ruthven). Has this one ending even.

A lot of good Crew info in the Dispatch as of late. Gonzalez transfer news, Williams updates, pick up a paper!

47% GOAL.COM ... DRAW (for now)
No preview up yet.

4 picks for the Crew this week, remaining 2 are a draw.

Heavy Crew lean this week, 56% picked to win (12% Montreal). Large Stake is on 2-0 home win.

Home team surprisingly heavy favorites today (17/20 odds, 12/5 draw, 10/3 Impact).


Gotta be pretty low to be behind 16th place Columbus, but here we are.

--% WV HOOLIGAN ... (no picks)
Drew Epperley stopped predicting games some time ago but that shouldn't stop you from visiting his site.

--% MASSIVE REPORT ... (no pick)
Head over to Massive Report for Patrick Murphy's latest on the Columbus Crew. He's got a fair take on the current situation.

Hard to overstate how limited the Crew are with their roster. Fully fit, this is a mid-table / average team but with Wil Trapp out (suspension), Hector Jimenez (long term injury), Josh Williams (blood clot), Jairo Arrieta (pulled muscle) and Federico Higuain not all the way back (and used in both games in past week already)... this team is in peril.

All that said, there only a couple teams that the Crew could beat in their current shape on one of them is in town today. Montreal is pretty bad this year. Not patient, not defending well, no cohesion. Just a mess, which is why you seen a heavily favored Columbus.

Pretty sure well see the Crew passing around a non-possession oriented Impact relatively easily but I think the only way this one doesn't end as draw is if we see a penalty or some other kind of mistake late in the match.

Sometimes these lower table games can surprise, though. Both teams will feel this is a good chance to get after it. Worried a little about the Crew defending without Trapp back there helping out an out of form Francis and a Chad Barson who can sometimes get beaten off the dibble (re: Marco di Vaio).

Ultimately, I hope it is a wide open game. Crew Stadium attendance is below average this year and I'm sure some of the fans want to see excitement.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Get Well Josh Williams

Not sure the best way to approach this, so will jump right in with Mr. Adam Jardy and the Columbus Dispatch:
"The 26-year-old defender underwent a thoracic outlook procedure Wednesday to remove his first rib due to compression of the vein causing clotting problems. Williams has been discharged from the Ohio State University Medical Center and will be re-assessed in two months. For now, he has been placed on the disabled list, which means he must miss a minimum of six games."
Don't want to get too dark here but recently lost a co-worker from blood clot complications. Believe it or not, he was a former Clemson Tiger gridiron player. Lesson: It is to be taken seriously.

Josh has been one of my favorite Crew players since he started. His passion, approach and drive is infectious. I'm not alone in this. Just recently I heard a story about a roving band of female Williams' supporters in the Nordecke that strike down non-believers (true story).

When he first started getting playing time I wrote about his pretty remarkable impact HERE.

In that post, I talked about how Williams is some sort of athletic mistake. Like he was more destine to be on the gridiron or on the hardwood. I still think that. What I've seen of him over the years is a player that has all those tools you see jackass pundits talk about. Heart, effort, leadership, intangibles! More times than not, the players they describe don't have those things.

I'm not just saying that as another jackass. What he lacks in technical ability, he makes up for in all the other categories. Go back and watch the games where he is on the pitch. Note the intensity, the feel, pace. Communication from the sidelines, the crowd involvement. The sideline reporter once gave a passionate report on him taking off his wrist tape! These are things that just don't happen without certain types of player. Case and point: right now with the Columbus Crew.

What also doesn't hurt is that when he plays, the Crew have better results.

In a lot of ways, good or bad, the Crew are Josh Williams over the past 4 seasons. My favorite example comes in the form of a US Open Cup match a couple years ago when Dayton was beating the Crew. I witnessed Williams single highhandedly trying to drag 10 unmotivated teammates to victory. In the sport of soccer there are only a rare few that can change a match with talent. Messi, Ronaldo, Muller types. Rarer still, at least in my eyes, are guys that know they aren't those guys but clock in anyway with 150%, etc... Programmed to go all day, every day.

Drop him into a new spot and expect him to learn it on his own. Ask him to remain true to an organization going through a investor / operator change and three different coaches. Ask him to thank the supporters after all the dark summer nights in Columbus. Ask him, and he'll do it.

Can't wait to see Josh Williams back out there giving it his all.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sporting Don't Take Crew Seriously, Win Anyway

Sporting KC players seemed more interested in their botched travel itinerary than they did facing the Crew in Columbus last night. Hard to blame them after bits and pieces of various player tweets and instagrams started making it out to fans and press. On top of their travel problems, Peter Vermes (usually very animated but passive on the evening) and company didn't even travel a full road roster and only had six on the bench for the match.

Meanwhile, on the Columbus side of things, Coach Gregg Berhalter seems to be adrift at sea a bit as far as his own roster's situation and what to do with it. After trying what could be classified as a radical decision to play without a true forward to start, his team was out played (and out scored via goal right before half) which lead to a correction at the start of 2nd half by making two halftime subs.

The situation did improve for Columbus when AurĂ©lien Collin was sent off early in the 2nd for an elbow to Adam Bedell's face. Some positive wing play directly lead to an own goal by Sporting to put the Crew back level but the Crew couldn't sustain the attack from then on.

Lack of effort, discipline and quality talent in the closing seconds allowed Benny Feilhaber to rip a goal from distance to put SKC up 2-1 for good.

Columbus is already on their 2nd extended non-win streak of the season now with none in last 7 (last one was 8 winless before the win on 5-24). While some of the near and far term metrics are looking pretty bad, results are probably the least of Berhalter's worries at the moment as he needs to focus on keeping his team engaged, healthy and motivated or he likely risks an abrupt end to a short MLS administrative career.

• Crew 75% pass accuracy one of the lowest of the year, KC only completed 66%
• Feilhaber's strike was only real shot by either side. Game was a bit sloppy
• Daniel Paladini continued his forgettable season as he was curiously inserted into a CAM role behind a frustrated Higuain.
• Wil Trapp is suspended next game for persistent fouling.
• Berhalter opted to not insert fresh legs even when up a man in the 2nd half. Speas was option on the bench.
• The Crew take on another struggling team this weekend in Montreal.
• After this loss, Sports Club Stats has Crew chances of making the playoffs down near 25%.