Friday, June 14, 2019

Crew Wages, Porter's First Man

The Major League Soccer Players Association released their annual player salary list this week. Here are a few tidbits and observations from Columbus, about Columbus.

Let's hit the HEADLINES:

The original release had him making about $2.3 million a year. Which was quite a jump from his $630k salary in 2018. It was so large a jump that The Athletic took notice and off it went on other social media channels. Well, low and behold, less than 24 hours later the MLSPA said that figure was incorrect (it is now $1.5m). Strange happenings seem to follow Zardes around (the poor touch video that USSF forced off youtube comes to mind). This is strange and bad. It blows yet another big hole in the credibility of these released figures.

No doubt the front offices here in Columbus are busy with just making sure the lights are on after the change in operations, but you can't overlook the player side of the team. On the inbound side human body acquisition we have (wage, % change from 2018):

Joe Bendik ($144k, -24%)
David Accam (%1.1m, -5%)
Waylon Francis ($200k, +2%)
David Guzman ($320k, +33%)
Robinho ($198k, --%)

Red was used to highlight a change down in pay for Bendik and Accam. In MLS this typically means "spare parts." Alarmingly, Bendik dropped quite a bit. What this tells us is that the Crew were just looking for decent MLS players, not inspired (scouted) selections.

[I can't remember if Robinho was scouted before Berhalter left, but he was basically brought in to fill an outside mid-fielder role on the team. He's kinda done that, but again, no diamond in the rough. He does seem to be growing into the role, individually speaking.]

Lastly, and most importantly, David Guzman. Oh hell, let's give this a headline point...

David Guzman! Porter knows him from his Portland days. Coaches, especially big ego guys, tend to want to fill the room with "their guys." In some ways, it shows weakness in that you want a bunch of yes-men agreeing to nod along with you when you give out orders. In others, it's okay. It greases the rails a bit in the locker room. Regardless, we know that Guzman is Porter's guy because he got a hefty raise by coming to Columbus. No easier way to make a man yours than by giving him money. You don't see this sort of thing overtly anymore. It's possible that Guzman got a raise before Porter snagged him, but doubt it.

Regardless, he's the first Porter man. The start of the future. Think about that for a few minutes. No Federico Higuain 2.0 or even a Kei Kamara. Just a grinder in the midfield. Should that be celebrated or not? Who's to say.


The Crew 2019 report brings Columbus out of the stone ages and into the industrial revolution. Their $10.4m annual wage bill is good for 14th. Which is fine, from a top line number. Middle of the pack. A good chunk of the increase from 2018 ($7.7m) comes from pay increases. In fact, 63% of the wage increase is from raises that the current operator/investors don't have a lot to do with.

Perhaps that's were the problems with this group are coming from. Either way, that's all I got.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Ernst Tanner Event, Philly NPS

Continuing onward with applying a retail industry metric called Net Promoter Score to MLS players and teams - here is how the surprisingly 1st place in the east Philadelphia Union look.


+75 : Jamiro Monteiro
+67 : Kacper Przybylko

+50 : Carlos
+50 : Haris Medunjanin
+50 : Jack Elliott
+50 : Kai Wagner

+47 : Auston Trusty
+38 : Ilsinho
+33 : Matt Freese
+33 : Olivier Mbaizo
+31 : Raymon Gaddis
+25 : Alejandro Bedoya
+14 : Cory Burke
+13 : Fabrice-Jean Picault
+13 : Marco Fabian
+7 : Brenden Aaronson

0 : Andre Blake
0 : Anthony Fontana
0 : David Accam
0 : Mark McKenzie

-17 : Warren Creavalle
-25 : Sergio Santos
-50 : Derrick Jones
-100 : Michee Ngalina

(+100 : Aurélien Collin - only 1 appearance)


No question that Philly is born again under Sporting Director Ernst Tanner. He as reshaped this team since he joined about a year ago. Highlighted above are some of the players he has brought in. It's incredible when you look at it in comparison to Columbus. Tanner has brought in, arguably, 4 players of Pedro Santos' quality. Both Monteiro and Przybylko are ranked in's top 10. It's remarkable what Tanner has done.

You'll notice the spaces in between some of the names. It is in regards to this NPS retail metric. Once products start hitting +50 it means they are doing ok. +60 is getting even better and so on.

Like I've mentioned in previous posts, you want to look at the players that are performing badly in games. Philly has just four. Same with LAFC. Columbus has 10 players having more poor games than good. More than double.

Top NPS Performer, LAFC: Vela

After yesterday's look at Columbus Crew players using what's called a Net Promoter Score, I decided to take a look at the best team in the league and apply the same math to their players. Here's what happened.

Net Promoter Score : Player Name

+94 : Carlos Vela
+87 : Eduard Atuesta

+63 : Diego Rossi
+56 : Latif Blessing
+50 : Mark-Anthony Kaye

+47 : Walker Zimmerman
+45 : Steven Beitashour
+38 : Eddie Segura
+33 : Adama Diomande
+33 : Danilo Silva
+33 : Tristan Blackmon
+29 : Jordan Harvey
+14 : Christian Ramirez
+6 : Tyler Miller

0 : Javier Pérez
0 : Mohamed El-Munir
0 : Niko Hämälainen
0 : Peter-Lee Vassell
0 : Shaft Brewer

-14 Lee Nguyen
-17 Adrien Pérez
-20 André Horta
-50 Josh Pérez


Some quick callouts:

1. Columbus didn't have any players above +53 (Pedro Santos).

2. When looking at individual game performances, LAFC has 17 of the top 20 spots (8 are Carlos Vela).

3. 16% of all individual Crew player performances have resulted in a badly rated game. That number is only 7% for LAFC.

4. Crew have 10 players in the negative, LAFC only 4.


I'll run this by a few more teams, but it's looking like a solid way to measure player performance once the season gets going. Again, I love this metric because it tells me who is having bad outings. In retail, it told me what products were performing poorly with customers in the same way. It got to where I wanted, quickly. From there I can spend valuable time on those, instead of chasing one or two bad reviews/customer experiences.

Same thing with players. It's the old "you're only as strong as your weakest link" line. Columbus, thus far in 2019, just have too many players getting outplayed. That doesn't always mean it is the player's fault, but it is concerning for them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Top Performer of '19: Santos

Pedro Santos recorded the highest rated game of any Columbus Crew player last weekend in his first time out in injured Federico Higuain's number 10 position.

His performance was energetic, fast and direct - a stark contrast to Higuain's more methodical approach. Neither approach is right or wrong, per se, but you have to be incredibly good at what you do to take a more surgical approach. Santos' direct and fast approach gets attention because it is exciting! And he almost won the game for the team, to boot.

There is a dark side to the way Higuain plays, however. Slow and methodical is a close cousin to old and slow.  Santos is no spring chicken either at 31 and we may not see that sort of outburst from him again now that he will likely be playing it week in / week out.

Who Scored gave him a 9.15 rating against NYCFC. That's impressive. Anything in the nines means it was a special night. No other player has recorded anything over 8.5 in Columbus.

9.15 Pedro Santos (Week 16)
8.44 Zack Steffen (Week 2)
8.43 Federico Higuain (Week 12)
8.34 Robinho (Week 12)
8.29 Gaston Sauro (Week 3)

Good performances can be a little random and a little lucky so one thing I like to look at, particularly in MLS, is which players are having either really good outings or really bad ones while discounting the middle/average results. This is similar to the way a lot of survey companies look at data. It's also how some companies calculate customer satisfaction scores (or Net Promoter Scores).

The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors (or bad performances) from the percentage of customers who are Promoters (outstanding performances). For purposes of calculating a Net Promoter Score, Passives (average performances) count toward the total number of respondents, thus decreasing the percentage of detractors and promoters and pushing the net score toward 0.

What this math results in is a range from +100 to -100. Anything over +50 is great (+70 is outstanding, but no Crew players there). 0 to +50 is fine. Anything in the negative is bad.

Outstanding performances = 7.00 and up. Bad Performance is 6.00 and below.

NPS Score

+53 : Pedro Santos

+33 : Gyasi Zardes
+29 : Federico Higuain
+27 : Waylon Francis
+20 : Harrison Afful
+19 : Robinho
+15 : Artur
+13 : Wil Trapp
+11 : Josh Williams
+9 : Gastón Sauro
+7 : Héctor Jimenez

0 : Zack Steffen
0 : Connor Maloney
0 : Jon Kempin
0 : Lalas Abubakar
0 : Ricardo Clark

-11 : Justin Meram
-13 : Jonathan Mensah
-20 : David Accam
-25 : David Guzman
-33 : Eduardo Sosa
-40 : Luis Argudo
-43 : Niko Hansen
-50 : Patrick Mullins
-67 : J.J. Williams
-100 : Joe Bendik

Highlighted above are three regular starters that are performing not all that well. Interestingly enough, two of Porter's guys. I also called out Artur and Trapp. Both don't appear to be hurting the team but the interesting thing is that Artur was the one benched when maybe they should just split time. Trapp being captain (and the face of the team) prevents that, but a good benching might not be the worst thing for him right now.

One last thing about Santos. I think it is pretty remarkable that he is improving the way he is. This isn't to say he was as bad as prominent Crew fans (Twitter, Big Soccer, Reddit) would have you think. He came on to the team as a good player and played well. He's growing into the league and team. Something a lot of good/great players never seem to be able to do (or care to). I believe that a good chunk of this has to do with Federico Higuain and the culture he brings with him.

We shall see where this takes the team. They still have a ways to go this year. I'll consider a 10 goal, 10 assist year for Santos a huge win. He has it in him.

Projected MLS '19 Table Finish

Using current points per game as our guide, here is a look at how MLS would finish as of right now.

PtsTeamTeam 2Team 3
80Los Angeles FC
63Houston Dynamo
60Philadelphia UnionLA Galaxy
59Atlanta UnitedSeattle Sounders FC
54New York Red BullsDC United
52New York City FC
48Montreal ImpactFC DallasMinnesota United
44Toronto FCSan Jose Earthquakes
43Real Salt Lake
41Orlando City
38Chicago FireVancouver Whitecaps
37Portland Timbers
36Sporting Kansas CityColumbus Crew
34New England Revolution
27Colorado Rapids
25FC Cincinnati

LAFC is clearly a class above right now. Not just based on this year's results, but all-time MLS regular season points. They are on a pace to be 9 points clear of the most points in MLS history. NINE.

It is incredibly impressive, but for me it is more a function of rapid expansion. Think of it as basically two leagues.

1. The competitive league - everyone above 40 pts basically.

2. The noncompetitive league - below 40 pts.

When the league was smaller, you might have 2 or so teams that the members of the "competitive league" could walk over. What that mean is they earn something like 2 points a game on avg from them.

In today's world, you have at least eight teams that the good teams can draw points from. What this means is that a really good team like LAFC is in effect "super-sizing" their point total. It's also why the regular season point totals have been topped 2 years straight. This year will clearly be the 3rd in a row that record is broken.