Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Improbable Book From Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

Vidda Grubin is a writer, author, poet, contributor to Helltown and he has a new book you should check out. My first experience with it was while I was travelling to Orlando for a sign and graphics trade show, a visual experience, to say the least, but all I remember for that trip are images this in my head from Vidda's book. Once you're in, you're in - from there it's one of the best rides you'll ever get on. [Purchase Helton Janglom’s Template for Life on Vidda’s HERE]


Helton Janglom’s Template for Life

What happens when Helton Janglom's challenging but enchanted life collides with the confusingly cynical world of Hsrah Macs Macs, yogi monk from the planet Coinfenced? Quite a bit...and not all of it good.

If Helton and his friends, Alya and Bird, can successfully navigate riots, scam artists, oceans, and delinquent parents, and Hsrah can stay a step ahead of the American Department of Justice, while managing not to be slaughtered by a murderous three-armed heathen from Coinfenced, there is bound to be some pick-up soccer and a few hands of poker played. Maybe, just maybe, one or two miracles will join the world of scam artists and eleven-year-old runaways.

The probability of even one miracle is slim, but in Helton's universe the improbable seems to happen way more than is realistically probable. Certainly the Gua Gua know the odds are good. Don't they?

The Author

Vidda "JibJab" Grubin lives in the stream. He tends to make earthly appearances without a set schedule. What fun is a schedule? He has written a number of novels (not many, but the number is greater than one), kids short stories, some poetry and too many articles and outlandish prognostications about the beguilingly beautiful sport of soccer. Vidda's favorite food is Gua Gua. His favorite place is hiking and his favorite random time destroyer is poker. He's not good at the damn game, but where else can one find the whole of humanity generally getting along? As always, Vidda hopes you help create everything in a moderately positive fashion. There's so much empty space out there. If you're going to fill a tiny bit of the void, please, the very least you can do is smile inside.


Purchase Helton Janglom’s Template for Life on Vidda’s Create Space page: HERE

Or on Amazon. And for goodness sakes, watch out for tiny meteors!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Chant Too Far...

There's an undercurrent of misogyny that happens at MAPFRE Stadium with alarming frequency. Those being misogynistic may very well not even know that their chants are harmful or even what the word misogyny means. Look it up, kids. Knowledge is Power.

Jeff Regensburger wrote a post on his own blog about the chants heard from within the stadium on match days. Read his post HERE. He notes that the chants are choreographed and fly in the face of Major League Soccer's campaign of "Don't Cross The Line".

One would have to think that many of those chanting such things have no children of their own. If they do, would they think it's okay for those kids to hear these chants? And while it may not seem that harmful to those participating, what if you had a daughter that was hearing such things on a weekly basis? 

Major League Soccer has made their stance on such things pretty clear. Nowhere within the phrase "Unity, Inclusion, Respect, Fair Play" does the word misogyny fit. In other words, "Don't Cross The Line".

Is there a place for chants at a soccer match? Of course there is. It's part of the fabric and the culture in which we enjoy the game of soccer. But when it drives people away from the game, is that a good thing? Can MLS and the Columbus Crew SC afford to have people take their money elsewhere? 

"Well, as you know, I always thought we tried to go a chant too far."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

[PODCAST] Red Cards in Helltown: Season 2, Episode 11

There he goes, one of God's own prototypes. A high powered mutant of some kind. Never considered for mass production. Too weird to live, too rare to die. Rick Gethin and Larry Johnson are back this week with the latest and greatest way to spend an hour in 2015.

► Gold Cup, USMNT v Panama
► US players - can see the bottom of the pool (as David Burgin would say)
► Were does the US go from "Dempsey, Donovan (and Beasley)"
► Controversy surrounding the Gold Cup
► Fallout from finishing 4th
► Wold Cup Qualifying draw, Concacaf
► MLS All-Star news, Frank Lampard out - Dax McCarty in
► International Champions Cup news

► Crew SC blow a three goal lead, Berhalter not upset (publicly anyway)
► The MLS table is an illuuuussssion, Crew not 2nd place
► Crew got points from Chicago but didn't necessarily look good
► Toronto game not a "tale of two half's"
► Have to recognize that Altidore is looking for a penalty late
► Berhalter audio (24:00)
► Berhalter didn't seem upset about the result
► Player's meeting always a sign of something bad
► What's going on with Pogatetz
► All the Eastern Conference teams giving up the most goals
► MAPFRE STADIUM SELLOUT!! (aka Dollar Beer and Brat Night)
►Berhalter irritated (and arrogant, but that's not all bad)

► ...okay, a few good words on Berhalter, managed change very well
► A look at the MLS table, East and West
► East as some garbage teams this year
► LA looked disinterested in the Houston heat (and sprinklers)
► Seattle slide, a look at the Supporters' Shield race
► Drogba talk

► Opening weekend of EPL coming up
► Appreciating of the honesty of the Premier League structure
► Refreshing, playing once at home and once away. Simple!
► Kudos to NBC Sports Network coverage
► Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda opinions of Jurgen Klinsmann
► How did some of the 90s stars get good, is the US regressing?
► US slipping to a level Jamaica is rising to

Thanks for listening! You can also find us on iTunes and Facebook. In fact, 1st listener to email me at ljohnson@helltownbeer.com with what Meram says right at the end of the podcast will get a $20 iTunes gift card. No foolin'!

From Budapest, Ciao Jules...

The family of the late Jules Bianchi joins the current F1
drivers in a minute of silence before the start of the
Hungarian Grand Prix

Cette victoire est pour Jules…

On a somber Sunday afternoon twelve miles outside of Budapest, the first words spoken by race-winner Sebastian Vettel on the podium were dedicated to the first driver to lose his life from a racing incident in 21 years.

Indeed, all three drivers on the podium toasted the heavens with their champagne bottles. Jules Bianchi was just 25 years old when he lost his fight and succumbed to his injuries nine days ago.

It was a day full of emotion and spectacular racing, starting with a minutes silence before the race began. “The minutes silence for Jules before the race was very emotional,” said Fernando Alonso. “But today, we respected Jules and we respected the sport.”

From the opening lap, when the prancing horse of Vettel’s Ferrari surged to the lead and never looked back, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was under the gun to make his car perform. Alas, it was all for naught. Hamilton would wind up serving a drive-thru penalty for causing a collision with Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo in the waning laps of the race.

Riccardo would survive hits from Williams’ Bottas, Hamilton and Mercedes’ Rosberg to stand on the third step of the podium at race end.

For a track that historically is known for lack of overtaking, the Hungaroring provided some of the most exciting racing of the season. The end results were proof positive of that. In addition to Vettel, Kvyat and Riccardo on the podium, fourth place through tenth were as follows: Verstappen, Alonso, Hamilton, Grosjean, Rosberg, Button and Ericsson.

While the racing was hot and heavy as the drivers jockeyed for position, the penalties meted out post-race matched what was seen on-track.

With the win, Vettel has matched the great Ayrton Senna’s record of 41 race wins and has fully integrated himself within the walls of the team from Maranello, Italy. On his victory lap, he thanked the Ferrari team in Italian for their work in giving him a car with which to win.

Another great sign was both McLaren Honda cars finishing in the top-ten and garnering points, with Alonso finishing fifth and Button in ninth. While they still have a ways to go in hopes of running consistently at the top, the positive steps are there.

The teams now take a three week break before resuming the F1 schedule in the Ardennes at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Will Mercedes return to the top of the podium? Will Ferrari replicate their result from Budapest? Or will the leader-board be rewritten once again?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG top qualifying in Hungary

Fernando Alonso pushes his car back to pitlane in Q2

On a scorching day twelve miles outside Budapest where the track temperature hit 129 degrees, Lewis Hamilton topped timing and scoring (1:22:020) in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring. He out-paced his factory-Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, by half a second (1:22:595).

Former teammates Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari - 1:22:739) and Daniel Riccardo (Red Bull - 1:22:774) round out the second row.

The remainder of the top ten: Kimi Raikkonen (P5, Ferrari - 1:23:020), Valtteri Bottas (P6, Williams - 1:23:222), Daniil Kvyat (P7, Red Bull - 1:23:332), Felipe Massa (P8, Williams - 1:23:537), Max Verstappen (P9, Toro Rosso - 1:23:679) and Romain Grosjean (P10, Lotus - 1:24:181).

Q2 saw a red flag as Fernando Alonso nursed his broken McLaren Honda to he side of the track at the entrance to pitlane. With the help of track marshals, Alonso pushed his car to the team's garage. Unable to rejoin the qualifying session, Alonso will start 15th, one position in front of his McLaren teammate Jenson Button.

"Jenson had a problem with the KERS and for me with the car switched off," said the Spaniard. "Not the right time, but hopefully we learn for tomorrow."

With teammates Hamilton and Rosberg locking out the front row yet again, coupled with the notoriously difficult to overtake Hungaroring, Mercedes AMG will likely extend their constructors championship lead, barring any mechanical setbacks.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finlay, Kamara Tops

Updating my numbers tonight. Kei Kamara and Ethan Finlay still hanging in the top 10 in MLS. Added 2015 salaries to the image above. Lots of good players in MLS outside the million dollar guys, for what it's worth.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Position for Kenwyne Jones???

Sooo...this might be ludicrous, buuut...Kenwyne Jones seems like the type of fellow who would be open to a significant position change.

Captains his Trinidad and Tobago national team. All-around good guy from most accounts. Could possibly extend his career a couple years...

Central Back???

Would add speed to a backline lacking in the same, with the exception of Waylon Francis on the left.

Just a...thought? Anyway, clearly, he's the kind of player who immediately adds depth at multiple positions. The kind of player who could help the Crew anywhere he steps on the field.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (USD)

"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool." - Ancient English Proverb (...William Shakespeare). The English have a long history of such things, jesters and all. Today, no different. And it was good. US Dollars and all (looking at you USSF. Chuck Blazer. Gold Cup!).

Bring football back under the stewardship of England. For the good of the game.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Special K Heads in the game-winner, yet Crew SC still searching for killer instinct

Crew SC forward Kei Kamara get's game-winning goal in 3-1
victory over Chicago Fire.
Photo courtesy of Sameh Fahmi/Studio 79
Columbus, Ohio – Delayed by rain and lightning for their first nationally televised match of the season, the Crew SC beat the visiting Chicago Fire 3-1 in front of a less-than full house.

This is a Chicago team that the Crew SC had just beaten four days previous in the Second City. This is also a Chicago team that sits dead last in the MLS table with 18 points and has yet to win an away match. To say that head coach Frank Yallop is fighting for his job would be an understatement.

Despite scoring on a penalty kick (earliest in MLS history) for the early lead at the 2’ mark, Columbus conceded an early goal (9’), yet again. This is still a disturbing trend in the play of the team as they ascend to second place in the Eastern Conference.

As I sit here post-match listening to The Devil in California’s “Sell Me a Reason”, I’m reminded of the fact that the Crew SC still doesn’t have that killer instinct that championship teams display. Playing the last place team should be a walk in the park, unless your passing is not crisp and you give the ball away. This happened with alarming frequency Sunday evening in Mapfre Stadium for Columbus.

Where do I go? Where do I run?
If I double back again, I might come undone…

The Fire’s Jason Johnson saw his second yellow card for a dubious embellishment in the early stages of the second half, leading to a red card and his being sent off. This should have led to domination by the home team. And yet, there were many times that they had to get goalkeeper Steve Clark involved to clear the ball upfield.

In essence, they were chasing the game. This is not to say that they played like complete poo, because they did not. The victory and the three points garnered vault them into second place in the conference standings. And yet, there is still something missing that convinces people that Columbus is on the upswing.

“I think there were a number of challenges,” said head coach Gregg Berhalter past-match. “The first thing is that it was the third game in nine days, so there was obviously fatigue. Both teams had fatigue but I think that led, overall, to the quality of the match.”

“But the second thing is,” he continued, “they had to reorganize and they had to figure out a way to stop us, and we wanted to be the proactive team, and it’s always harder to build than it is to destroy, and I’ve said that a lot. So it was challenging, and then battling the weather as well with it being pretty warm, I think it led to a number of factors.

The game-winning goal came at the 17’ mark as Special K, also known as forward Kei Kamara, leapt head and shoulders above the Chicago defenders in the box to head one home. He is the MLS leader with 14 goals scored of the Crew SC’s total of 31. And still, he ended up being a coach’s selection for the MLS All-Star Game on July 29.

Definitely it wasn’t our best,” said Kamara of the match. “At some point I even forgot we were a man up. I felt like Chicago was controlling the game a lot. But, again, it’s really good for us to come out of there with three points and multiple goals. Being at home, always, we have to take three points from those games. Doing it twice against Chicago back-to-back is definitely good for us.

Yes, the points are good. But do they portend good things for the team moving forward? They have a week of rest and training before hosting Toronto FC on Saturday, July 25. There is time to regroup and refocus their collective mindset ahead of that match.

Happiness comes in small does when you beat the worst team in the MLS. But, they earned six points over the last two matches, and that helps in keeping them above the playoff line.

The limits abound, there’s nowhere to be found. It’s where it begins, not where it ends, yeah…

Sell me a reason, indeed.

A Lot on the Line, Crew SC TV Game

MLS Viewership by week on ESPN

It's no secret that MLS TV ratings drag those of of other professional leagues in the US. For whatever reason (a post for another day) people just don't seem to want to tune in. This doesn't mean that soccer hasn't made it in the US because it has. It absolutely has, for decades. Fans will watch US National team games ("Team USA") to record smashing degrees and the Barclays Premier League, whose TV viewership on a smaller network beats that of MLS on ESPN, but when it comes to this country's domestic league, it's pretty much crickets.

Columbus Crew SC will be on ESPN 2 this afternoon for the first and only scheduled time of the year and it is against Chicago. Not the sexiest of matchups but not the worst either (I think). The lowest viewed game so far on ESPN 2 is the delayed game (heat) in Portland a couple weeks ago with 133k average viewership. Next lowest is a game in Chicago back in March, 152k.

In my opinion there are two things that Columbus needs in order to make an impression. Why this week? For many, this will be the only game they see on TV in Columbus - both local (thanks TWC) and casual MLS fans.

Columbus hasn't had a real sellout yet this year. LA was reported as one but it was rain delayed. For the most part Mapfre Stadium has been about half to three quarters full. MLS can announce that there is three million at this game but unless there are people filling up that camera facing side, it will hurt the team's chances of getting more games next year.

Prediction: 15,000 announced, half full as far as butts in seats.

Attendance, in a way, goes hand in hand with TV ratings. Have a full, loud place and people will tune in. Crew (Mapfre) Stadium can get loud, as USMNT games have proven, but for Crew games it can get a little embarrassing when the only noise emanating from the stands is that of a couple guys (that I know, bless 'em) and La Turbina's drums.

Prediction: 130,000 average viewers.

My hope is that Gregg Berhalter has this team ready to go and plays the brand of soccer that they have proven to be able to do before. Soccer fans will take note and will return to watch the Crew if this is the case.

We'll have to see. Crew SC seem to be a little snake bit this year in regards to weather and it appears a thunderstorm is on the way.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kei Kamara lone Crew SC representative on MLS All-Star roster

It was announced today that forward Kei Kamara has been named to the 22-man Major League Soccer All-Star roster for the 2015 MLS All-Star Game against Barclay's Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur FC. The game will take place July 29 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Colorado Rapids) at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Kamara leads the league with 13 goals. He's second in MLS with 4.5 shots per game, second in shots (89) and third in shots on goal (36). MLS All-Star head coach Pablo Mastroeni (Rapids head coach) selected Kamara for the gameday roster. Kamara is the 19th Crew SC player all-time to be named to the MLS All-Star roster.

While Kamara was named to the MLS All-Star roster in 2012 with Sporting Kansas City (inactive player), this is his first selection as an active player. The 30 year old Sierra Leonean has 166 starts in MLS, amassing 65 goals and 28 assists.

Noticeably absent from the roster is 24 year old Crew SC attacking midfielder Ethan Finlay. He's tied for first in MLS with Toronto's Sebastian Giovinco with 9 assists. It can be argued that Finlay, on merit alone, should have been named to the 2015 MLS All-Star roster.

The complete roster:

Goalkeepers (2): David Ousted (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids), Chris Tierney (New England Revolution)
Midfielders (7): Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Castillo (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Kaka (Orlando City SC), Frank Lampard (New York City FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards (5): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), David Villa (New York City FC)
Tottenham Hotspur finished 5th in the Premier League table for the 2014/15 season, qualifying them for UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League play.

Friday, July 17, 2015

F1 driver Jules Bianchi dead at 25

The family of Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi has confirmed that he passed away from injuries sustained during the Japanese Grand Prix, October 5, 2014 in Suzuka, Japan.

Bianchi, 25, sustained head injuries after hitting at track marshall's vehicle that was removing another car that had spun off the track during very wet conditions. He suffered a diffuse axonal injury (head trauma or brain injury) as a result. His helmet became lodged underneath a mobile crane after his car slid underneath it.

After being stabilized in Japan, Bianchi was flown to Nice, France in November, where he was hospitalized and in a coma. There were very little, if any, signs of progress for the young Frenchman.

His family released the following statement:

"It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away last night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France) where he was admitted following the accident of 5th October 2014 at Suzuka Circuit during the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.
“Furthermore, we thank Jules’ colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.
“We would like to ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time, while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules.”

The staff of the Helltown Beer blog would like to offer their condolences to the Bianchi family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top 40 in MLS (Merit Based All-Stars)

Helltown's MLS Allstars
Since the MLS way of selecting all-star players stinks (the whole thing, really), I've decided to figure out a way to get a handle on the real all-stars of the 2015 season.

What I've done below is look of the rank of players on WhoScored.com, Squawka and Helltown (mine!) to determine who the best in the league is. There can be some disparity between each system so instead of taking the average of the three, I took the middle number. They were close anyway (mostly...).

Contrary to what the central office projects, there are good players in MLS that are trying to make something of it. It sucks MLS undermines the hard work some of these players put in. Anyway, familiar faces at the top and, generally speaking, matches up with what I've observed this year.

Here's the top 40 players in MLS, halfway through the season.

1 : Sebastian Giovinco - Toronto FC, 28, AM(CLR),FW
2 : Omar González - L.A. Galaxy, 26, D(C)
5 : Benny Feilhaber - Sporting Kansas City, 30, M(C)
6 : Kei Kamara - Columbus Crew, 30, AM(LR),FW
8 : Matt Besler - Sporting Kansas City, 28, D(C)
10 : Laurent Ciman - Montreal Impact, 29, D(C)
11 : Felipe - New York Red Bulls, 24, M(C)
14 : David Villa - New York City FC, 33, AM(LR),FW
14 : Juninho - L.A. Galaxy, 26, DM(C)
14 : Chris Rolfe - DC United, 32, AM(CL),FW
15 : Kendall Waston - Vancouver Whitecaps, 27, D(C)
16 : Fabian Castillo - FC Dallas, 23, AM(CLR),FW
16 : Clint Dempsey - Seattle Sounders FC, 32, AM(CLR),FW
21 : Bill Hamid - DC United, 24, GK
21 : Bobby Boswell - DC United, 32, D(C)
22 : Darwin Ceren - Orlando City, 25, DM(C)
23 : Darlington Nagbe - Portland Timbers, 24, AM(CLR)
23 : Chad Marshall - Seattle Sounders FC, 30, D(C)
24 : Chris Wondolowski - San Jose Earthquakes, 32, AM(C),FW
24 : Kaká - Orlando City, 33, AM(CLR),FW
25 : Leonardo - L.A. Galaxy, 27, D©
26 : Matt Miazga - New York Red Bulls, 19, D(C)
27 : Ignacio Piatti - Montreal Impact, 30, AM(C)
29 : Jorge Villafaña - Portland Timbers, 25, D(L),M(L)
30 : Alvas Powell - Portland Timbers, 20, D(R)
30 : Seb Hines - Orlando City, 27, D(C)
30 : Michael Bradley - Toronto FC, 27, M(C)
31 : Dax McCarty - New York Red Bulls, 28, DM(C)
32 : Robbie Keane - L.A. Galaxy, 35, AM(C),FW
33 : Jeff Larentowicz - Chicago Fire, 31, D(C),DM(C)
33 : Clarence Goodson - San Jose Earthquakes, 33, D(C)
34 : Harry Shipp - Chicago Fire, 23, AM(CLR)
35 : Krisztian Németh - Sporting Kansas City, 26, AM(L),FW
35 : Jalil Anibaba - Sporting Kansas City, 26, D(CR)
36 : Kevin Ellis - Sporting Kansas City, 24, D(CR)
36 : Roger Espinoza - Sporting Kansas City, 28, M(CL)
37 : Matías Pérez García - San Jose Earthquakes, 30, AM(C)
39 : Stefan Ishizaki - L.A. Galaxy, 33, AM(CR)
39 : Stefan Frei - Seattle Sounders FC, 29, GK
39 : Emanuel Pogatetz - Columbus Crew, 32, D(C)
40 : Mauro Díaz - FC Dallas, 24, AM(C)

(for those of you looking for Ethan Finlay - he falls outside the top 50 in both WhoScored.com and Squawka. I've got him top ten.)

Counterpoint to Rick Gethin's...

For the Crew SC, a course correction is needed

Presenting for the number 42, while wearing a paper bag for a hat, Vidda "JibJab" Grubin

In the convivial spirit of Helltown Beer's Red Cards in Helltown Podcast, I present an alternative view of where Gregg Berhalter's Columbus Crew SC find themselves, currently, and where the Black and Gold could find themselves at the end of the 2015 Major League Soccer season.

Before starting the scathing critique of his post...a hearty cheers to Rick on bringing the frozen and burning rubber to the Helltown Beer Blog. I look forward to reading about fast cars, slap shots and, hopefully, the often sultry and exotic culture and locales winding through Formula 1 racing.

Now...start your engines and let the era of Point>Counter<Point in Helltown begin.

The 2015 Columbus Crew have indeed been enigmatic at best, average according to the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Rick states, "They currently sit 5th and mired in a logjam of four teams with 24 points in the Eastern Conference. This does not mean that they are good, but merely that the mid-table of the East is really not that good." The beginning of this statement stands on its own, factual, the Crew are in 5th place, but then devolves into dismissive opinion, the idea that The Crew are not good and neither are the other teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference.

As has been the conundrum with Major League Soccer since its inception in 1996, other than the league's four or five bottom dwellers each season, it is difficult to break-down the rest of the teams into average-good-better-best. That being said, the ongoing five year trend brought to you by franchise central, MLS league headquarters in New York City, which allows the wealthiest franchise owners to spend freely on an increasing number of quality high-profile players, is making the task of recognizing the "best" teams in MLS much easier. But which teams can compete with the, now, star laden teams? Which teams in that middle group are in the "better" camp and could challenge for MLS Cup?

Are the Mapfre Stadium Gang one of the "better" teams in MLS? Again, Rick looks at The Columbus Crew and states, "Twenty months into Gregg Berhalter’s tenure as Sporting Director/Head Coach, it is evident that consistency on the pitch is lacking at this point. His midfield is not up-to-par and the defense porous, as evidenced by the consistent early goals allowed. The team is taking on his personality, showing little emotion." And, again, there is much truth in this statement. The Crew have been inconsistent, the defense, at times, porous. But do these trends speak to a team which is not good or passionate? Or, do these trends reveal a deeper meaning?

The revelation for Crew fans since Gregg Berhalter took his place on the touch-line in Columbus has been a wealth of entertaining soccer. Attacking in numbers, goals and young players coming into their own: Finlay, Meram, Tchani and others, have all led to games worth tuning into. Far from being "not good," the Black and Gold are a quality side, able to compete with the best in Major League Soccer.

So what's with the mediocre, inconsistent, results? You have to go back to last year. Gregg Berhalter stated on numerous occasions that he wants The Crew to play dominant, possession oriented soccer. At times in 2014, without a quality striker, young in midfield and very thin in back, Columbus showed signs of developing a style and personality unlike any seen in the history of MLS. 2015 has also seen glimpses of Berhalter's vision.

At some point during this season, the players and the coaching staff began to move away from the steady, yet somewhat erratic, implementation of Berhalter's vision. Ultimately the responsibility for the change falls on Gregg Berhalter; but with such a lofty goal, it is easy for players to take the easier path, the path more travelled. That path is one of simplifying individual responsibility, less pressure, lower standards, a very natural response to striving for the unique and complex.

So, while Rick points out rightly that, "In short, the team has no depth. And no amount of speculation over which player might be enticed into donning the canary kit will change that. The long view must be taken with the goal being that of making the team consistently better. Change must begin to take place now in order for the team to be competitive in the future." That "long view" is going back to the club Gregg Berhalter envisions. The players and coaches have to buy back into the goal of setting the style of The Columbus Crew SC in granite for the rest of time, dominant, possession oriented, dynamic, attacking soccer.

I believe Gregg Berhalter to be very passionate about the sport of soccer. His goals, what he has tried to achieve with Columbus, are outside the norm. Most coaches in professional sports don't have the guts to try and implement such lofty plans, and in Columbus of all places. Most are worried about job security and the immediate future.

Yes, Crew SC and Anthony Precourt must find quality depth for the current squad. Yes, Crew SC must find a way to stop conceding early. But, most importantly, if Gregg Berhalter is going to stick around the C-Bus, he must insist, no, demand that his players and assistant coaches buy back into the vision of the Black and Gold as a unique and dominant force in American professional soccer. That's who Gregg Berhalter is, and for him to approach the sport in any other way will be doomed to disaster. He didn't roam the European countryside in search of the game on a whim. He didn't end up in Spain by accident.

Ironically, The Crew must go back to go forward. As long as Gregg Berhalter is in charge, they must find the place they let their quest for the sublime slip into the everyday, and then unequivocally commit to the unique and complex. As Rick summed-up "For the Crew SC, that time is now." Indeed.

Monday, July 13, 2015

For the Crew SC, a course correction is needed

photo by Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports
COLUMBUS, OHIO – After traveling north to land of poutine and the majestic St. Lawrence river, the Crew SC returned to Columbus with nothing to show for their effort except a bad case of indigestion that a 3-nil thrashing will induce.

While it can be spun that they haven’t lost a game in some time, their 6-6-7 record after 19 games is less than awe-inspiring. They currently sit 5th and mired in a logjam of four teams with 24 points in the Eastern Conference. This does not mean that they are good, but merely that the mid-table of the East is really not that good.

The Crew SC’s run-of-form has been run-of-the-mill since mid-May. While they may yet pick it up as the latter half of the season unfolds, that kind of effort will most likely yield the same result as last year… a Round 1 exit from the playoffs.

Twenty months into Gregg Berhalter’s tenure as Sporting Director/Head Coach, it is evident that consistency on the pitch is lacking at this point. His midfield is not up-to-par and the defense porous, as evidenced by the consistent early goals allowed. The team is taking on his personality, showing little emotion.

And yet, he says many of the same things after each loss. “It puts us in a difficult position,” Berhalter said after the 3-0 loss in Montreal. “Going down 2-0 that early in the game… From us, it wasn’t good. It wasn’t an acceptable performance.”

Losing should never be acceptable, no matter how well the team may play. The goal should not be to simply make the playoffs. The goal should always be the ultimate quest… winning the MLS Cup.

The Crew SC’s six wins equate to one win in March, two in April and one win each in May, June and July. This is not a recipe for success, for as time goes on, the stronger teams will rise to the occasion and become powerhouses as the regular season draws to its conclusion.

Competition breeds fierce and competitive play among players for time in the starting XI. The Crew SC do not have that ingredient. There is complacency and a steadfast knowledge that the players’ positions on the roster are safe.

In short, the team has no depth. And no amount of speculation over which player might be enticed into donning the canary kit will change that. The long view must be taken with the goal being that of making the team consistently better. Change must begin to take place now in order for the team to be competitive in the future.

The problems faced by the Crew SC may be many, but they are not insurmountable. But in order to fix those issues, they must admit first that there exists a problem. For that is the path to enlightenment and building a winning culture with the walls of the locker room.

For the Crew SC, that time is now.

What Will The Future Bring?

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards does his
best to answer my arcane questions prior to the start of
the 2014/15 NHL season.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – As I sit in my office on a rather rainy and wet Monday afternoon, Genesis’ 1981 album “Abacab” serenading me in the background, the realization has set-in that I’ve lived in Ohio longer than anywhere else I’ve lived in my life. Just over eleven years ago I made the decision to move to the Midwest. I now call Columbus home.

It really is a great, progressive city that is full of life. There’s music at any number of nightclubs, bars, etc. The food menu that is offered all over the city means you can have almost any food from anywhere in the world. And of course, there are sports.

With their pro football team… um, I meant to say college football team, filling Ohio Stadium with over one hundred thousand delirious fans six times a year, one would think that’s all the ‘Bus has to offer.

But professional sports teams do inhabit the Arch city. There is the Ohio Machine (Major League Lacrosse) and the Columbus Clippers (AAA baseball and farm team of the Cleveland Indians). There is also the Major League Soccer, and original 1996 team, the Columbus Crew SC. There is a sizable Formula 1 fan base, too. And last, but certainly not least, are the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League.

So, why have I fallen in love with Columbus? There are myriad reasons, and the above-mentioned are just a few. The people are friendly and full of Midwestern charm. I’m privileged to call many of the people I’ve met friends.

I never set-out to be a sports writer/reporter. It just kind of happened to evolve. I started writing about sports in 2005 on a personal blog. That morphed into covering the Blue Jackets in their first playoff season of 2008/09. I was covering the Crew SC when they made a coaching and an ownership change in the summer of 2013. Along the way, I’ve also covered the NBA and other NHL teams for various media outlets.

Interviewing Crew SC goalkeeper Matt Lampson
after a match with the Dayton Dutch Lions in 2013

The owner of the Helltown Beer blog, Larry Johnson, is a knowledgeable guy about many things, but especially soccer. I’ve been honored to call him a friend for quite a few years. We record the Red Cards in Helltown podcast every other Sunday morning over coffee. We then have a beer and talk about the world of soccer. There’s a reason I call him the “Stat Man” on the show, and if you’ve read the blog and/or listened to the podcast, you will know why.

Recently, after wrapping up another episode of the podcast, Larry told me he wanted to expand the coverage of his blog to include hockey and Formula 1 racing. This excited me, as I had been writing for the regional Fox Sports affiliate covering the Blue Jackets until they decided that they would not renew my, and many others’ contracts.

And so, I now find myself writing once again about the sports I love. I will be writing about soccer (worldwide) with a Columbus Crew SC focus, the Columbus Blue Jackets (and NHL in general) and of course my long-time love of F1. Along the way, you may find musical references sprinkled in, just to keep it interesting.

I hope that you will join me and the other fine writers at Helltown Beer on this journey into the next chapter of online sports media coverage in Columbus. I promise you that it will not be boring. It may not always be what you, as a fan, want to hear about your favorite team, but it will be real, unvarnished analysis.

So, join in the conversation and let us know your thoughts on what is important to you about your team. This just may the beginning of something beautiful. Then again, it could get a little gonzo, too.

All the best,

   Rick Gethin

Tide Turning on Stadium Funding

As little as five years ago you wouldn't hear much push back on cities heavily funding new stadiums with public dollars. The general sentiment is changing, however. This bit from John Oliver is really good.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

[PODCAST] Red Card in Helltown: Season 2, Episode 10

David Burgin and Larry Johnson join host Rick Gethin this week for another episode of RCiD. Great show this week with one of the best Crew SC segments we've ever recorded. Enjoy!

► US Women's National Team win 3rd World Cup
► Better than the '99 team?
► Game way more enjoyable to watch now
► FIFA updates, Chuck Blazer banned for life
► CNN report on FIFA, Blazer LINK
► CONCACAF Gold Cup update
► How meaningful is the Gold Cup and to whom
► Steven Gerrard introduction, Pirlo, Lampard

► Montreal blank Columbus 3-0, early goals!!
► Dwight Burgess and Neil Sika losing their minds!
► Lack of emotion from coach extending into the team (a calm?)
► Crew lost part of what was developing last year, ability to control pace
► Predictable approach
► Aging group with nothing behind them on the bench
► Debate sparked over Berhalter's role, team needs
► Bench Parkhurst? New captain? Berhalter brave enough?
► Conversation continues on Berhalter's work load

► Target Allocation Money (TAM)
► Adding difficulty to finding players
► Who benefits? Who does it hurt?
► How TAM impacts the Crew and other teams
► Parity as a sales pitch is gone
► Watching good teams is fun!
► 2015 LA looking like best team in MLS history
► Fix the cap

► Question of the week: How can you tell you're watching a bad MLS team
► Points worst indicator of good team in MLS...
► David breaks down what equals a good game
► Summer distractions for MLS
► Schedule needs to change

Really fun show, thanks for listening!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

“USSF and MLS appear to behave in a conspiratorial manner"

“USSF and MLS appear to behave in a conspiratorial manner, acting side-by-side to deny U.S. youth soccer clubs any training compensation and solidarity fees because they are afraid that the dam will burst and MLS will have to pay training compensation. Although not specifically relevant to the relief that Crossfire and the U.S. youth soccer clubs are seeking here, the Executive Committee may wish to explore the seemingly improper relationship between USSF and MLS shown here. The facts are clear that the two are closely aligned in an anticompetitive manner in the U.S.”

- Letter from Development Academy club Crossfire to FIFA, asking it to address the alleged interference of MLS and U.S. Soccer into the Seattle area club receiving FIFA-mandated payment of solidarity contributions from the sale of former Crossfire youth player DeAndre Yedlin by the Seattle Sounders to Tottenham. (SI.com)

Monday, July 6, 2015

MLS Cost per Point, per Goal

MLS is just a hair over 50% complete with the season, so what better time to look at cost per point earned and cost per goal scored. Keeping it simple - take the total wage bill for each team (as reported by ESPN earlier this year) and multiply it by the percentage of the season complete to get how much each team has spent thus far.

Example; Columbus has a reported yearly wage bill of 4.2 million dollars this year. They are 18 games in, which is 53% of the season complete. That means they have paid 2.22m in salary so far.

First up is Dollars per point earned...

74,118 - DC United
76,688 - Sporting Kansas City
87,627 - FC Dallas
92,000 - San Jose Earthquakes
92,647 - Columbus Crew
94,301 - Vancouver Whitecaps
105,882 - Colorado Rapids
106,357 - Portland Timbers
106,905 - Real Salt Lake
112,745 - Montreal Impact
113,445 - Houston Dynamo
132,353 - Philadelphia Union
166,275 - Chicago Fire
170,255 - League Average
178,922 - New England Rev.
218,290 - Seattle Sounders FC
293,478 - New York Red Bulls
297,794 - Orlando City
306,831 - L.A. Galaxy
397,059 - New York City FC
419,437 - Toronto FC

...and here is dollars spent per goal.

82,353 - Columbus Crew
82,824 - Sporting Kansas City
101,471 - Montreal Impact
105,882 - FC Dallas
108,289 - Houston Dynamo
112,788 - DC United
114,305 - Philadelphia Union
121,053 - San Jose Earthquakes
131,202 - Vancouver Whitecaps
136,134 - Colorado Rapids
136,601 - Real Salt Lake
138,562 - Chicago Fire
149,866 - Portland Timbers
171,765 - New England Rev.
188,578 - League Average
279,412 - Seattle Sounders FC
293,478 - New York Red Bulls
306,831 - L.A. Galaxy
310,742 - Orlando City
397,059 - New York City FC
438,503 - Toronto FC

Sunday, July 5, 2015

PODCAST: Red Cards in Helltown: Season 2, Episode 9

Host Rick Gethin and analyst Larry Johnson go over the latest in the world of, in and around soccer in the US. Enjoy!

► Women's World Cup
► FOX Sports hashtag "#ScoreToSettle"
► WWC setup
► Standout players (Larry = Johnston, Rick = Heath)
► Jill Ellis approach (the Narrative)
► Copa America - Chile v Argentina final
► "There is no evil that lasts 100 years"
► Big name transfer rumors MLS, summer window

► Crew record A SIGN
► Place on the table, where they always seem to be
► Kamara and Finlay leading league in key cats
► Impact of Cedrick's arrival, change in tactics
► Meram maturation, future with team
► MLS players kinda stuck, difference with NHL and other leagues
► TWC broadcast missed red card
► Crew bow out of US Open Cup vs Orlando City
► NY tired themselves out midweek against NY Cosmos
► Realistically the only path to CCL for Crew

► The hard break
► Rick and Larry solve some MLS problems
► New "Core Player" rule
► Hard Cap a solution?
► Impact of the Designated Player looms large in today's MLS
► Playing a board game and the rules change halfway through
► How the Core Player works

► Sepp Blatter not in town for the WWC Final
► 13th edition of the Gold Cup, news notes
► Going to be a couple games played in an inferno (like... Qatar? hmm)
► A look at where the games are being played

That's all! Don't forget we are on iTunes as well. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Turnovers in the Crew SC Midfield

It's important to not turnover the ball, especially when you play on possession style team like Crew SC. Here is a snapshot of how many times a player loses the ball, as a percentage, last three years with the defensive mids separated from the rest (TO = Turnover, DISP = Dispossessed).

9.78% : Ethan Finlay - 2015 (491)
9.57% : Ethan Finlay - 2014 (899)
8.53% : Dominic Oduro - 2014 (211)
8.48% : Kristinn Steindorsson - 2015 (224)
8.09% : Justin Meram - 2015 (618)
7.87% : Justin Meram - 2013 (508)
7.29% : Ben Speas - 2013 (494)
7.08% : Bernardo Anor - 2013 (1031)
6.23% : Justin Meram - 2014 (1076)
5.40% : Bernardo Anor - 2014 (1240)
5.29% : Ethan Finlay - 2013 (227)
4.84% : Federico Higuaín - 2013 (1963)
4.70% : Eddie Gaven - 2013 (532)
4.41% : Federico Higuaín - 2015 (1021)
4.11% : Héctor Jiménez - 2014 (1144)
3.69% : Federico Higuaín - 2014 (2248)
3.10% : Ben Speas - 2014 (323)

...and here are the Defensive Mids

7.32% : Dan Paladini - 2014 (164)
6.90% : Konrad Warzycha - 2013 (174)
4.69% : Tony Tchani - 2013 (1023)
3.60% : Tony Tchani - 2014 (2582)
3.43% : Tony Tchani - 2015 (990)
2.16% : Danny O'Rourke - 2013 (970)
2.16% : Kevan George - 2013 (231)
2.05% : Mohammed Saeid - 2015 (876)
1.90% : Wil Trapp - 2015 (210)
1.90% : Wil Trapp - 2014 (2366)
1.82% : Kevan George - 2014 (165)
1.69% : Wil Trapp - 2013 (1007)
1.53% : Matías Sánchez - 2013 (590)
1.14% : Kevan George - 2015 (175)

The lower the better. This confirms some of my hunches about Meram and Finlay. They are able to produce on the offense end but turn it over much more than a Eddie Gaven or Hector Jimenez (who I would prefer in the midfield right now).