Wednesday, September 25, 2019

New Crew Stadium: Criticisms, Praise

The Columbus Crew released new renderings of their proposed new stadium that is located in the downtown area near (in?) the Arena District. The same place where the Columbus Blue Jackets and Clippers already have stadiums.


It's hard to get past the fact that this team has gone from, well, being gone to on the edge of having a modern stadium in the last 18 months is pretty amazing. Crew fans are celebrating and quite drunk on all the good things happening to their favorite thing.

The stadium itself looks in line with other MLS stadiums that are popping up in recent years. I'm not sure how you hit a home run in regards to stadium renderings for something in a city like Columbus, but I reckon this is it.


This will be more of a high-level look at things as that's about all renderings give you.

I'm most confused by the full roof. I get that some shade is needed because I've been going to Crew Stadium for over a decade. There is no mercy if the sun is out during the summer. And no cover from rain or snow. But for me, a full roof taketh more than it giveth.

For example: Columbus has a couple storm delays a year. It does seem more frequent in recent times, but it's only a small number. Roofs don't prevent delays but do provide cover. Good! But this isn't Manchester, England. You don't need a roof for a few spring evenings of rain and maybe MAYBE one snow (if we are lucky! those are great).

I do see the need to create some much-needed shade for fans, however. But that comes with a drawback as well. The roof appears to be black. Which means it'll be absorbing all the heat and literally cooking fans during the summer. Shade, good! Cooking in an oven, bad!

This is what happens most at Crew games - Hot to very warm summer evenings. 85 degrees turns in to 105 under a dark-colored roof on a sunny day. Think of getting into a black colored car in the summer. Or with homes - they are usually a light color because dark colors absorb all the heat. How many houses in your hood are black?

Two more drawbacks on the full roof. Both fall into the "Larry Experience" category.

1. Even though it is downtown, you can't friggin see the downtown. One image has a keyhole view of it. Why mess with that?

2. When you shade the fans you also lose a beautiful midwestern sky. I'll argue with anyone that doesn't agree that the most appealing things about the current stadium is the damn sky. and how much of it you get to see. The sunsets on summer evenings are impossible to beat.

That's all I got. The beer garden, supporters' standing section, plaza, etc etc are all kinda standard stuff.


If I'm in the stands I want an injection of COLUMBUS into my veins. A fully covered stand might as well be in Timbuktu. Having a roof is a kinda "we have it or don't have it" proposition. There isn't an inbetween unless you are attached to an NFL team (in the same city). I think if you are going to have a roof you have to open up one side of the stadium. Or, perhaps, chop off the second level on the side facing the city and or sunset. Compromise.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Crew Box and Whisker, Connor Maloney

Another way to look at WhoScored player ratings for the Crew this year is via box and whisker:

A couple surprises: Connor Maloney and Youness Mokhtar.

I had to do a double-take on Luis Argudo because I thought his performances had been good. Turns out he's just a little up and down.

A general rule of thumb - you want player performances to be above 6.5 - at least. Only Pedro Santos is pulling that off, with Maloney and Trapp nearly there.


I'm going to go ahead and state that Maloney should be starting the rest of the season and get a new deal ASAP (currently at $70k, 3rd season). With these performances, he should be somewhere around $150-200k.

His last four starts: 7.39... 6.93... 6.80... 6.82 - Solid.

 Here are players that are currently in that range that play right and/or left back, for comparison.

6.84Donny ToiaTucson, ArizonaRSL27$131,254
6.84Graham ZusiOrlando, FloridaSKC33$688,333
6.83Kelvin LeerdamParamaribo, SurinameSEA29$600,000
6.83AuroSao Paulo, BrazilTFC24$276,667
6.83Connor LadeMorristown, New JerseyNYR30$132,750
6.8Brad SmithPenrith, AustraliaSEA25$564,365
6.8Joao MoutinhoLisbon, PortugalORL22$203,000
6.79Kai WagnerGeislingen an der Steige, GermanyPHI23$360,150
6.79Edgar CastilloLos Cruces, New MexicoNER33$250,000

Median age is 27 (Maloney is 24) and the median salary is $277k.

Milton Valenzuela returns next year after a major knee injury that will put Maloney back on the bench, but I think his play, even at this early stage of evaluation, warrants a new deal and regular spot in the gameday 18. If he's able to keep this up, he may even have a shot at challenging Harrison Afful ($364k) for the RB role.

When I see a player crush his opportunity after waiting for one over multiple seasons, well, it warms me inside. Means the guy has been staying in shape and working hard outside the spotlight. You can't underestimate the value of that in regards to predicting what type of player he will be going forward.

Another sign of a quality person is Maloney was voted by teammates as the Kirk Urso Heart Award winner in 2018.

A solid $200k, gameday 18 endorsement from Helltown.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Updated Crew Player NPS

Here's another update to Crew player's Net Promoter Score (NPS). I've been tracking this metric throughout the season. If you want to see previous scores you can go here, here or here.

NPS is a commonly used retail metric used in tracking product quality or customer satisfaction. Here, it takes the % of Great Games and subtracts the number of Bad Games. I used Who Scored to determine good/bad.

The philosophy behind this simple measurement is sound. It quickly creates actionable data instead of mulling over average products forever.

Here are how Crew players look over the last 10 games.

Grand TotalNameGames
70%Pedro Santos10
67%Josh Williams3
56%Gyasi Zardes9
40%Harrison Afful10
40%Luis Argudo10
33%Aboubacar K6
33%Jonathan Mensah6
20%Luis Díaz 10
17%Connor Maloney6
14%Romario Williams7
11%Wil Trapp 9
0%Eloy Room9
0%Alex Crognale8
0%David Accam8
0%David Guzmán4
0%Héctor Jimé4
-20%Youness Mok5

A couple quick notes:

- Only one player in the negative is good for the Crew
- I like what I'm seeing from Diaz


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Iron Front Symbol has Consumed MLS

MLS is currently entangled in a "left vs. right" power struggle that might be best described as a "B movie" version of what the NFL went through last year with Colin Kaepernick.

It's not so much about what the issues are, it's about who supports them and who doesn't.

What's the controversy? Here's the one-sentence summary: Supporters are being banned for bringing "iron front" symbols to games. I'm sure you can look up the symbol and meaning faster than I can describe it here, so do that and form your own opinion of it, if you haven't done so already.

People seem to be befuddled at why MLS is taking a stand against the symbol are being either naive or disingenuous. The reason it is banned is simple.

It is a symbol closely associated with the politically leaning "left" and MLS does not want their league to drift too far any which way. THAT'S IT. It has nothing to do with Don Garber or any other investor being an actual fascist.

MLS has made it abundantly clear - it does not want to be what it has quickly become - a "politically progressive" gathering place in the way NASCAR is a politically opposite of that.


My wife (Autumn) and I recently took our 3-year-old to a Columbus Crew game a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had been to a game in some time and for Autumn even longer. For those that haven't been, Crew Stadium is a great place to go on late summer nights. The air is cool, the midwestern sunset is fantastic, and the people are friendly.

Orlando City Fans
Autumn did notice something a little different, however. The supporters' section seemed to be more about other things than the Crew. Various pride flags and other non-team imagery were in ample supply. Also, the way fans were dressed. All of it is something familiar to me and my regular watching of MLS, but to my wife, it was a little jolting how much it had changed in just a short period of time. I commented, somewhat old-man dismissively, that it looked like a bunch of freshman art students took over the Nordecke (before you get all judge-y, I have a BA in Graphic Design with a minor in Fine Art which makes me an expert on bad art, particularly of my own making:).

Between the two of us, the conclusion was that it looked like some sort of cosplay/left-leaning political rally on the city hall steps at the end of a parade and not so much a group of taem supporters. I know that kind of brings a giant "meh, who cares they can do what they want" to your mind, but we aren't on the hook for league cash flow. My wife and I are not the types that get particularly offended by these things in the soccer world (it happens all over), but if we are noticing a big shift in Columbus - everyone involved in the league does too.

That doesn't just mean fans, pundits, and hopeless bloggers - that means business executives, ESPN, sponsors, employees, FOX, general sportsperson in the USA and (importantly) abroad, etc etc. The political climate of MLS has drifted as far left as, say, NASCAR is far "right."

So, the question becomes whether or not being a "left" league is lucrative. Will more fans go? Will more sponsors come? Will ESPN, Fox, and Univision pay more for the next TV deal? How about business overseas?

These are the questions Don Garber and the rest of the investors in the league are asking - the same that the NFL, Garber's career birthplace, asked during the issues with kneeling. It's not the specific reasons. It's about left and right and the drift too far one way.


Minnesota United Supporters
MLS is generally bad in the way it treats fans and players, so it isn't surprising that they are doing what they are doing now. You can see my main criticism of MLS clearly at work here in that it is a centrally controlled league that you have to pay to enter. Since this is the case, there is only room for one voice - the league.

If Seattle, Portland, Minnesota, and Atlanta (the places where this issue is HOT) were independent, perhaps even fan-owned, they could make their own call on these things. As it stands, you are all owned by a single group and must comply with them.

I have a decade of writing (and podcasting) about MLS under my belt at this site. There was a time around 2012-2013 where I felt too much of my identity was falling under a stupid league so I made the decision to not let it become part of me and just a thing I enjoyed keeping up with. It's been easier since then.

My recommendation is to not let MLS (or any other sports league/team) become part of your self-identity. If you do let that happen,  like many out there on social media, you will find that things like this recent controversy impact you personally, when it really shouldn't.

It's a business, they want your money. If you are part of a demo that has a lot of money (particularly the demo that buys teams, ie. conservative folks), they will cater to you. That's all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

It's Gregg Berhalter's Narrative

“I see where the narrative is going now, it’s ‘Why are we playing the way we’re playing?’” Berhalter said. “The second is, ‘We don’t have the players to do it.’ That’s what all of you guys are thinking. And to me, it’s about developing players. We’re making progress. That’s not going to be your narrative right now, and I understand that. But internally, we believe we’re making progress.”

I'm taking a look at Gregg Berhalter's postgame comments after last Friday's 0-3 lost to Mexico. Just purely looking at the comments, and not looking at his demeanor from the videos or anything like that - he appears frustrated. It's clear he tried to head off criticism by putting forward what he thought the press would say after the loss, which, for me is a bit narcissistic. Deflecting criticism before it even got to him is "smartest guy in the room" stuff, not a great look.

Several media outlets, including heavy hitters (relatively in the soccer universe) like Yahoo Sports and The Athletic, have done exactly what Berhalter thought they would do in regards to the narrative after the game. Berhalter also claimed that he believed internally they were making progress and without a doubt, I do believe after following him here in Columbus for a number of years that he believes that. He did that exact same thing with the Crew when he stuck with it through losses and really poor results one of them led to the second-worst season in crew history back in 2016.

But my criticism of the way Berhalter is approaching this is simple and stems from the fact that he believes that he is developing these players. Whether that means he's developing them as overall players or developing them to fit into his specific system. I don't believe that you can run much of a rigid system at the National Team level because it is a revolving door of guys that are being called in and time with them is limited - it's just not possible.

Another thing to look at is trying to have players learn system like he's coaching some sort of Club is that players don't have the time to learn it. Both Sebastian Lletget and Christian Pulisic made mention of this after the game.

National team players, when they're called up, are usually on break or it's during the summer or something similar. They are mixing in vacations, recovery, or time off. I don't think a lot of the players are all that interested in really going out there and learning an entirely new system outside of what they're doing with their club - which is usually pretty intensive because these are good players.

No doubt Gregg Berhalter has a little bit of a mess on his hands. I don't think he really has a plan B outside of players just buckling down and learning what he has planned out.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” Pulisic said after Friday’s defeat. “You have short periods to train, and it’s hard to teach a real system and be very specific with it.”