Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nordecke Luchador's Holiday Favorites

In 1996, the Nordecke Luchador first burst on to the underground Christmas DJ Scene with his breakthrough cult classic LP “What Is Going to Happen?” which climbed to No. 1 on the Bohemian Top 200. After a sabbatical that included stops in Tahoe and Mumbai, El Luchador returns with this instant timeless classic, a compilation of contemporary pieces, remixes and mash-ups, carefully selected to bring a Luchametric groove to any holiday occasion, from Hanukah to Kwanza and everywhere in between. Voted on Twitter as the 2009 recipient of the “Convergence Award,” this study in Americanism brings both comfort and a sense of disquieting rectitude on the long nights of winter. Below is a complete list from the album, which is available only by special order for people who have been nice. Niceness is determined by El Luchador in consultation with Santa. At right is a partial list available for play now. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from The Nordecke Luchador. Go Crew! Columbus Till I Die.


Los Lonely Boys - Feliz Navidad
Ella Fitzgerald - White Christmas
Stephen Colbert - Another Christmas Song
Mary Blige & Sheryl Crow – Rockin Around the Christmas Tree
Blind Boys of Alabama & Tom Waits – Go Tell it on the Mountain
Brian Setzer Orchestra – Sleigh Ride
Staple Sisters - The Last Month of the Year
Bob Crosby & His Orchestra – Skaters Waltz
Brian Setzer Orchestra My Favorite Things
Stephen Colbert Can I Interest You in Hannukah?
Neil Diamond – Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Stevie Wonder – The Christmas Song
Frank Sinatra – Ave Maria
Old and In the Way – Angel Band
Judy Garland – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Liza Minnelli – Bye, Bye Blackbird
Grateful Dead – We Bid You Goodnight

Monday, December 7, 2009

US vs England South Africa 2010: English Soccer Tyranny, Like Hell, is not Easily Conquered

By El Chupacabra

This is a rant. If you don't like them, tune out now.

US v England, Rustenberg, South Africa, June 12, 2010 at 20:30.

It's on people. Don't try to talk El Chupa off of the ledge. This ain't no friendly. El Chupa is not an Anglophile--oh, no, far from it. Pack your toothbrush, forswear fish and chips, English ale and Elizabeth Hurley and prepare to get it on. Seriously, El Chupa will never forgive Italy for Brian McBride's broken nose and the two red cards in 2006 when we held the cowardly Azzurri to a tie. Never. Few teams other than Italy and Mexico raise El Chupa's blood pressure. But this June he will add another vaunted foe to his list of nasties: Rooney and company--the limey bastards.

We may watch, follow and admire the EPL. But we do so for its international flavor and quality of play. The fact that it has Drogbas, and Van Persies and Torres. We don't watch, follow and admire it because toothless chavs populate the stands high on meth and cheap, high-alcohol English lager.

We were thinking of writing a funny piece using the usual stereotypes of the English in an ironic, gently humorous fashion. But we gave up. And we're dead serious. If you think any football fan in Europe has respect for American soccer, the American team, or American soccer fans, you're on crack. They don't. They may like Donovan, and Dempsey and Howard, but they know we're not deep, and they know and love the fact that our team embarrassed itself and the country in Germany in 2006.

Have you ever noticed how violent are the matches between our boys and the big powers in world soccer? Have you ever noticed that we never get the calls in said matches? And that we frequently acquire red cards on the most ridiculous of pretenses? It's not a conspiracy. It's a deep-seeded psychological resentment of American political, cultural and economic hegemony.

In the view of most of the soccer world, the beautiful game is theirs not ours, and we're like the handsome and successful outsider who comes to the wedding and all the girls want to do him and the local boys get pissed and wait outside to beat the leaving crap out of him when he tries to leave in his fancy new car none of them can afford. You've seen that movie? Right.

As such, I urge my readers to step up and stifle any friendly talk around the water cooler or in your local pub about this mother of all matches. This ain't no weeny roast. Get your Gadsden flag ready, stock the fridge with the American craft and micro brews that now put European and British ales to shame and get ready to freaking rumble. Yeah, we respect the other team, but we don't like them, not at all. It's time to earn the respect US soccer fans so desperately crave by sticking a big thumb in the eye of the Lion.

There's a malaise of mind in American soccer given its status as a sport of the white, upper-middle class, that sees it as a gentlemanly game much like tennis and golf. Bullshit. Have you tuned in on a sleepless night to the 1:00 am game on FSC or Gol to watch an obscure match from South America or Europe only to be astonished at how physical is the play? This ain't tiddly winks, as Elizabeth Lambert has so ably and admiringly demonstrated. And it's time American soccer fans acquire the ruthless madness of fanaticism required to urge our boys to victory. In the words of Thomas Paine:

"The summer soldier [think: polite American soccer fan] and the sunshine patriot [think: bandwagon fan] will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

In short, it's time to get just wee bit angry people, it's not time to get scared. This is Lexington and freaking Concord not an exhibition game of Old Maid. El Chupa is not at all scared. He can't wait for the bodies to hit the floor. Any US fan who says otherwise better step back.

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Friday, December 4, 2009

EPL Handicapping: Aston Villa over Hull City

By El Chupacabra
Villa over Hull at Villa Park (no U.S. TV). Do it. Here's why.

This is not a terribly interesting weekend in EPL betting-wise or even just in terms of good matches. Regarding the latter, Chelsea at Man City could be a good one to watch (its the only one that looks remotely interesting), but we think Chelsea will choke off City's attack and then dutifully put in a goal or two (or three). But other than this contest, there are no marquee match ups.

Hull at Villa is the best bet of the weekend. Villa at home at -220 earns you just under 50% and its the surest thing you'll find this weekend at decent odds. Remember, look for home teams you think have the best chance of winning and try to stay around a 50% return or better. Villa leads Hull in the Luchametric by over 1.0 StandDevs. Hull's recent form is definitely better than Villa, but Villa is at home looking for a sure three points from a league bottom-feeder. What's more, Villa are one of four finalists in the Carling Cup and have not lost at home since the opening day of the season, winning four of their last six matches in front of their own fans.

OUR PREDICTION: Villa to win.

LINE: Villa-220 Hull +755 Draw +358

LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage: Villa -
The Villans have an advantage of nearly 1.2 Stand Devs in the LM measure of production per game. We consider 1.0 StdDevs as indicative of a significant competitive difference between any two teams.

RECENT TRAVEL: Draw - Villa played at Portsmouth Tuesday in the Carling Cup. Hull has rested since last weekend's match away. Still, Hull has to travel to 137 miles or 2.5 hours by bus to get to Villa Park.

MOTIVATION: Draw - Villa's recent form and position in the table give them all the incentive in the world to grab three points and stay in the hunt for a top four finish. Hull look to continue their recent form and continue to climb out of relegation and erase the nightmare of the first few weeks of the season.

RECENT FORM: Advantage: Hull. Hull has earned nine points in their last six matches, Villa seven. Hull has two wins and two draws in their last four.

INJURIES: Draw - Both teams have have a few injuries but no major absences to report.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

EPL Power Rankings: Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea

By El Chupacabra

The Luchametric EPL Power Rankings have been fully updated through Sunday's fixtures. As always you may download an Excel file with the data here. Chelsea is on top (duh) followed by Man U, Arsenal and Spurs. Chelsea has opened quite a bit of space in the official table and in the rankings. They are now nearly a full StandDev (.92) over second place Man U. We have Arsenal ahead of Spurs by .37 of a Stand Dev. We think the nine goals Spurs scored against Wigan were a fluke and that they'll move further down the rankings in the weeks ahead.

Chelsea's dominance is most obvious on defense. They allow the fewest Goals Against per game in the league (.57), the fewest Shots on Goal Against per game in the league (2.5) and the lowest percentage of SOGA to SHTs Against (.26). This latter stat tells us that only 26% of the oppositions' shots are actually on goal, giving us a sense of how few quality chances Chelsea actually allows its opponents (the league average is 37%)

They also lead the league in Recent Form, and have now beaten Liverpool, Man U, Arsenal and Spurs. The season is far from over, and Man U lurks five points behind with a home game against Chelsea still to come. But seriously people, the Blues have a shot at the EPL crown, the Champions league and the FA cup. I'd still take Barca over Chelsea at this point, but what a match it would be.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Union Till I Die: Which Side Are You On?

By El Luchador
The capitalists who run the International House of Soccer (MLS) have long treated the workers like 19th Century French coal miners. For some time now, El Luchador’s sources within the soccer labor movement have warned that negotiations have not gone well for the collective bargaining agreement that expires at the end of this year.

The Columbus Dispatch this morning sensationalizes the situation on its front page. (Read article here.)

Brother Shawn Mitchell writes:

Major League Soccer players will strike or be locked out next season unless collective-bargaining negotiations between their union and the league make a drastic improvement, sources with knowledge of negotiations said.

A collective-bargaining proposal made by the league last week was "very disappointing," said Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer.

Set aside for a moment that Ohio's Greatest Home Newspaper will only put soccer on the front page when it is a negative story about a labor dispute. (Just think if the Crew were building a casino).

The Major League Soccer Players Union was formed in April 2003 to promote the best interests of all MLS Players. The founding members of the Players Union’s Executive Board included Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Chris Klein, Alexi Lalas and Ben Olsen. The Players Union serves as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for all current players in Major League Soccer.

League Pit Boss Don Garber strikes an optimistic tone in the Mitchell article, saying there is “plenty of time to finalize a new agreement … There will be many more meetings, many more discussions about a wide variety of issues.

El Luchador encourages his faithful followers to read the current collective bargaining agreement, which is available here.

You will see that it is structured to give the capitalists who control the means of production at the International House of Soccer the maximum ability to exploit the labor of the brave men who actually go out on the field and do the work.

Essentially, the American economic model for professional soccer is a form of 21st Century indentured servitude.

Union President Bob Foose and the players are working to alter the structure of MLS player contracts. The current agreement does not offer guaranteed contracts, or any form of free agency and entangles the players in one-way options that maximize the power of the teams over individual players. In most cases, players are forced to sign semi-guaranteed contracts, which allow the team bosses to cut players before July 1 without having to pay out their contracts.

This is highly exploitive of the lower level players, who are left with sweatshop wages and no measure of control over their careers. (Keep in mind, for example, that Steven Lenhart’s base salary this year was less than $34,000. That was a huge increase over his 2008 of $12,900.) For more on MLS salaries, read this article from the Luchametric archive.

After players are released, their teams retain their rights, which forces other teams to trade for those rights if they want to sign that player, thus making it very difficult for the players to negotiate and find a new home.

All the union wants is a collective bargaining agreement that abides by the same rules as the rest of the planet under FIFA.

As Crew Midfielder Brian Carroll told the Dispatch: “It's about rights more than money. But we want things to be fair. That's all anybody can ask for."

El Luchador stands behind his brothers in Black & Gold and across the MLS as they fight for economic justice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Arsenal and Chelsea Outpace the Pack in Updated Power Rankings

By El Chupacabra
The Luchametric EPL Power Rankings have been fully updated through Monday's match at Anfield. Arsenal is back on top followed, again extremely closely, by Chelsea. Man U and Man City round out the top four but are significantly back of the top two.

Notice that a mere .16th of a StandDev separates the Gunners from the Blues. Chelsea has more points and more wins, but Arsenal has more goals (as always, you can look at the comprehensive data here). The Goal Differential of both teams is nearly identical: 22 for Arsenal; 21 for Chelsea. Arsenal has played one game less than Chelsea, and this accounts for the difference in wins to some extent.

Before you Blues fans blow a gasket, consider that the difference between the two teams is really negligible, at least statistically, but it comes down to this: Arsenal is a better offensive club, Chelsea the better defensive club. And Chelsea is probably more balanced overall.
The Luchametric weighs a number of different variables, and it could be that we need to look at the defensive side of the model. We have a measure for Quality Scoring Chances, for example, and in this measure Arsenal is clearly superior. But we're still looking at comprenhesive statistical measures of a team's defense.

We can say this, however: A full 42 % of the Gunners' Shots on Goal become goals, compared to 30% for Chelsea. That's a 25% difference. Also, 32% of Arsenal's SOG Against become Goals Against, compared to 25% for Chelsea (the league average is 25%; the league leaders are Villa with an impressively low 18%). Arsenal allows 1.27 GA per game, while Chelsea allows a mere .67 GA per game. And Chelsea allows only 2.67 SOGA per game, while Arsenal allows 4.0 SOGA. That's fairly significant. Chelsea is unbelievably stingy. You may have noticed on Sunday if you caught the game against Man U that Chelsea had the usual four man back line, but then frequently had another two men behind that. They were in essence playing a sort of 2-4-3-1 or you could just call it a 5-4-1. This shows both their respect for Man U and the genius of Ancelotti.

At this point, given the history of the league and of the big four, its understandable why so much attention still gets paid to Liverpool, who really are in trouble at this point, and that so many people continue to doubt Wenger's confidence that his club is playing for the title. But the evidence is clear: this year, barring injuries (Bendtner), Chelsea and Arsenal are the cream of the league. We look forward to the November 29 match at Emirates against Chelsea. This will be the true test of the two teams and should be some outstanding football. The league's best attacking club against the league's most balanced and most stingy club. At Stamford bridge, we'd take Chelsea, but at Emirates, Arsenal will give the Blues all they can handle.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Crew 2, Real Salt Lake 3. The Nordecke Address

One score minus seven years ago, Clark Hunt's father brought forth on this continent, the Crew Soccer Nation, conceived in revelry, and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are equal in the Nordecke.

Now, we stand in defeat, having lost a great battle against a violent and undeserving foe, and this loss tests whether Crew Soccer Nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. The battle-field of Crew Stadium stands cold and empty after a promising season ended in misery. And we ask ourselves how we might honor that space and the august Men who dedicated their talent and energy and all their hearts to the battle.

Hesmer, Hejduk, Brunner, Marshall, Padula, Ekpo, Gaven, Carroll, O'Rourke, Schelotto, Moreno, we honor you. Lenhart, Rogers, Garry, Warzycha. We salute you.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, the ground where these men fell in defeat. Our words here are inadequate.

These brave men who struggled there, have consecrated Crew Stadium, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did there.

It is for us the fans, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought for us have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us: that from this humbling defeat at the hands of an incompetent referee and dishonest team, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that this defeat shall not have been endured in vain, that Crew Soccer Nation shall have a new birth of glory. And that Soccer of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Nordecke Luchador joins hands with his brothers and sisters across the land, in solidarity for the Black and Gold, from the Scioto to the Olentangy, from South Bloomfield to Delaware. From Reynoldburg to West Jeff. Columbus Till I Die.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

EPL Handicapping: Stoke at Hull City

By El Chupacabra

We've chosen Stoke at Hull as our pick of the week. And we like Stoke here. We REALLY like Stoke. The odds for this match make it the best bet of this weekend's fixtures. Hull City FC is in absolute turmoil. Given Jozy Altidor's presence on the squad, we'd love to root for the Tigers, but Altidor has behaved like an absolute moron, and Hull is clearly the weakest team in the league. Hull is beat up and their key creator Geovanni is out with two yellows.

OUR PREDICTION: Stoke to Win. Do it.

LINE: Hull +170 Stoke +150

LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage: Stoke
- Hull is one place from the bottom of the EPL Table and at the very bottom of the Luchametric Power Rankings. Stoke has an advantage of 1.3 Standard Devs over Hull. Stoke has had trouble scoring on the road but Hull has had trouble scoring, period, and they give up more goals. Finally, in a close match, even on the road, we expect Stoke to create better chances than Hull. They have a considerable advantage in our measure of quality scoring chances of nearly two full StandDevs.

RECENT TRAVEL: Hull City - Stoke will travel about 140 miles to Hull for the match. Both teams have not played since last weekend.

MOTIVATION: Draw - Hull City is in turmoil and looking to somehow get out of the relegation zone. Stoke City is looking to establish itself as a solid, upper level club and garner an invitation to the Europa League. If the Hull locker room hasn't succumbed already to defeatism, they'll come out swinging.

RECENT FORM: Advantage: Stoke - Nine points in its last six matches as compared to Hull's four. Most importantly, Stoke has two wins and a draw in its last three matches.

INJURIES: Advantage: Stoke - Hull is beat up. Stoke is at full strength.

The Logic of a Single Table for MLS: Garber Doesn't Get It

By El Chupacabra

If you saw the interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Fox Soccer Fone-In on Monday, you saw him respond to a question about implementing a Single Table for the MLS (listen to it here). His response was, and I paraphrase, that he doesn't "get it." His argument is that a single table would make games at the end of the season meaningless.

Said Garber (and I quote): "The Columbus Crew would have won 10 days before the end of the season. They would have been celebrating the championship at a game where they lost.

“I understand the heritage and tradition that people enjoy with a single table. But somebody would have to explain to me how that would be better than what we have now, because I’m not getting it."

Garber's logic is flawed in a few key ways. First and foremost, a single table does not preclude a playoff system. The FIFA tournaments and the UEFA Champions League use a group system and then a knock-out round. One could argue that the current MLS arrangement with two conferences and then a play-off is similar. However, the MLS playoff system as it currently stands takes the top two teams from each group (conference) and then the next four best teams regardless of group (conference). This arrangment essentially amounts to letting the top eight teams in a single table into a knock-out round, which the International House of Soccer calls the MLS Cup. What's worse, the MLS system lets in half of the teams in the league. This year, Real Salt Lake had more losses than wins and amassed a mere 40 pts over the course of the season. The average number of points earned in the league this year was 40.4.

El Chupa agrees that the games at the end of the season should have meaning. But this desire needs to be balanced with the logic of sport--and the logic of logic.

If the purpose of any competition is to determine who is the best team, then clearly the team that does the best over time is the best team. Period. The MLS system allows teams which are clearly inferior a shot at knocking off a better team in a short series. Anything can and will happen in a short home and away series. Rubin Kazan just "won" a home and away series over Barcelona. Yesterday in the frigid cold of Kazan's Central Stadium, Rubin kept six defenders back and essentially played for the draw, stifling Barca's vaunted offensive machine who all looked like they were literally freezing their asses off. Is Rubin a better team than Barca? Hardly. Barca will still most likely make it out of their group along with Inter, and the Russian Premier League champions will end up in the UEFA Europa competition. This is as it should be, as the group stage gives teams the chance to recover from upsets, thus insuring that only the very best teams make it through to the knock-out round

Now, don't El Chupa wrong, he loves it when an underdog sticks it to a better team. It makes for great sport. But such drama doesn't belong in a knock-out round where the true underdogs have no place. In a sound system, the inferior teams will have been eliminated. But in the MLS playoff system, teams that are not even AVERAGE get a shot at being a spoiler, as they aren't eliminated in the "group stage" (regular season).

Garber also spoke of American "sporting traditions and heritage." Um, by this does he mean he wants the International House of Soccer to follow in the footsteps of the NBA and the NHL, where bad teams get rewarded with a playoff spot for monetary reasons only? The NBA system is a joke. But even in the NBA, the first round is seven games, which make it a legitimate test. If the MLS had a three-game knockout round, it would be one thing. But the current system, which doesn't weight away goals like the UEFA competitions, doesn't do justice to the logic of a sport which demands its own distinct and reasonable means of determining not just the winner of individual competitions, but the best team over the course of several competitions.

Yes, some times the best team doesn't win. And that's what makes sport exciting. But the International House of Soccer is clearly going for entertainment value over competitive legitimacy.

We love the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, where Cinderella teams routinely make runs into the Sweet Sixteen--but generally no further and RARELY into the final four. And we certainly think it's the case that truly great teams need to step it up in high pressure situations. But there have to be limits. And we think the current MLS system is unbalanced in favor of sports-O-tainment and of the business of sport. We like salary caps and revenue sharing. We think the European leagues are unbalanced and less interesting than American leagues like the MLS and the NFL where smaller-market teams actually have a chance of being champion. But the fact is: Garber just doesn't get it.

The solution? A single table with a revamped playoff system that reduces the number of teams which make it to the knock-out stage with the compensation of participation in international competitions based on ranking in the single table. Major League Soccer Rumors offers a very interesting possibility here, and it's one El Chupa endorses. Researching this article has resulted in a dismaying number of douche-bags in the blogo-sphere, including Brian Strauss and Paul Pabst, who also don't get it, and who clearly are coming from a rather provincial perspective that bristles rather xenophobically at the infatuation American soccer fans have with the European leagues. To Pabst's credit, he misses only the obvious point that a single table doesn't preclude a playoff system nor is Pabst anti-European. Strauss is just, well, a douche.

If you can track down Garber's email (I failed), send him a note reminding him that as long as MLS continues to cater to American sports fans rather than American soccer fans, the MLS will remain the joke it is in the world of International Pancakes--er, I mean football.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fight the Power: Come Out Thursday. Do It.

By El Luchador
Thursday's home playoff match against the violent, undeserving thugs of Real Salt Lake is more than just an epic battle of good versus evil. It is an opportunity for thinking soccer fans who bleed Black and Gold to step up and show the mainstream establishment of Columbus that we do not subscribe to their way of life.

Among Columbus sports fans, there is a long-standing tradition, promoted by the Columbus Dispatch and perfected to an art from by Buckeyes: when the going gets rough, shit all over the coach.

The Dispatch's Mike Arace is trying this week to bring this tradition to the Columbus Crew. Don't let him do it.

In a screed published on Tuesday, Arace asks: "What was coach Robert Warzycha thinking?" He goes on, predictably, to answer that whatever Our Coach was thinking, it was wrong, and it's going to prove fatal, yada, yada, yada.

As is typically the case with the hamburger heads at "Ohio's Greatest Hometown Newspaper," Arace went for the low-hanging fruit, questioning Warzycha's decision to bench Guillermo Barros Schelotto in Game One at RSL.

Employing the Donald Rumsfeld Socratic method of asking sarcastic rhetorical questions, Arace writes: "Isn't that going too far? Was he giving his team its best chance to win? How so?"

This is the same type of Monday-morning whining that goes on every week across Ohio, as Buckeye Fans hammer the coach for every perceived misstep. Fueled by the pundits at the Dispatch and on stations like 610 WTVN, Buckeye fans funnel every disappointment and failure of their own personal lives into thoughtless criticism of their coach.

In Crew Soccer Nation, we stand by our coach. We do not subscribe to the fair weather approach of our Buckeye Brethren. We know that football is a fickle lover, that strategies and tactics are not a science but an art, and that history favors the winners.

Come out Thursday and show the world that we support the Crew through good times and bad. Show Warzycha that we understand and support his decision to start Luchadores Lenhart and Renteria up top in Game One. Show the Man that we shall not be moved by sedition. Show your Buckeye friends how real men and women stand up for their team and their coach in times of difficulty.

El Luchador's prediction: Crew 2-0 RSL. Robert Warzycha 1-0 Michael Arace.

Do it. Columbus 'Till I Die!

Monday, November 2, 2009

EPL Power Rankings: Blues on Top

By El Chupacabra

The Luchametric EPL Power Rankings have been fully updated through Wednesday's West Ham v Villa fixture. Chelsea is on top followed EXTREMELY closely by Arsenal. Man U and Man City round out the top four.

Chelsea's nine wins has put them on top of the official league table and at the top of our power rankings. They also allow very few Goals, Shots, and Shots on Goal compared to the rest of the league. Arsenal has scored a league-leading 32 total goals which has contributed much to it's place in the standings. The Gunners have a game in hand and with Chelsea and Man U playing next weekend, Arsenal will have a chance to pass Man U in the official table when they visit Wolves.

Other movement worth noting. Villa have dropped below Spurs as a result of their loss to the Hammers. West Ham itself is much higher in our table than in the official table. We stand by our rankings. The Hammers are better than the results they've achieved thus far.

Also, Portsmouth has climbed out of the cellar and perhaps have turned things around. We shall see.

We'll have more to report once we crunch the numbers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

UEFA Champions League Preview: Play the H1N1 Card

By El Chupacabra

You've heard of H1N1. Maybe your household has fallen pray to its ravages. But if there's any week that would be a good week to play the H1N1 card at work (um, call in "sick" because you're sure you've got the flu de pork) it's this week. There are great UEFA Champions league fixtures both Tuesday and Wednesday, and the very best are on FSC. If you don't have the cojones to call in sick, then set your DVR and tell the wife to clear your schedule Tuesday and Wednesday night after work (take advantage of the extra hour today to earn some bonus brownie points from the little lady if need be).

Here's our picks to watch this week. Taken together, they make this one of the best weeks of the Fall thus far for fans of the beautiful game.

Chelsea at Atletico Madrid - Tuesday, Nov 3 at 2:30 FSC. Chelsea is at the top of the EPL table, Atletico is near the bottom of the La Liga standings. Atletico is at the bottom of the group standings in Group D in the Champions League with a mere one point, and Chelsea is on top with nine. On the face of it, this is an abject mismatch. But Atletico has their backs to the wall, and Chelsea is flying to Madrid for a midweek match after playing on Saturday. Atletico needs a win to have any chance of surviving the group stage, and they need a win to turn their season around and avoid the embarrassment of relegation. This should be a tough match for Chelsea, and some very enjoyable football.

Real Madrid at AC Milan - Tuesday, Nov 3 at 2:45 (Live on FSE and Delayed until 7:00 on FSC). If this is the only match you catch this week, catch it. Ronaldo's still out and AC beat Madrid in Madrid in their first meeting. Both teams have six points in the group and both could use a positive result. This a tough group, with Marseille and Zurich lurking closely to the leaders and looking to find their way through. As Dr. Bumba is found of saying, this is "cracker jack" football at its best. Both teams need a win. Watch it. Do it.

Barca at Rubin Kazan - Wednesday, Nov 4 at 12:30 (Live on FSC). Rubin Kazan currently sits atop of the table in the Russian Premier League. Barca is Barca. Rubin Kazan shocked Barca two weeks ago at Camp Nou, embarassing the reigning UEFA Champions League Champions, Spanish La Liga Champions, and Spanish King's Cup holders. We consider Group F to be the toughest Group in the competition, with Barca, Inter, Rubin Kazan and the Dangerous Dynamo all vying to get through to the next stage. We look for Barca to come prepared but they are facing a long trip, midweek, to play a foe at home who has proven they can play with the best in the world. This should be a great match. We expect Barca to be motivated and prepared to play their very best. If they do, you will see the beautiful game at its absolute finest.

Liverpool at Lyon - Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:30 (Live on FSC). Liverpool is on their back, having lost last week to Arsenal in the Carling Cup and on Saturday to Fulham. Who knows? Benitez could be sacked before this match even starts. Needless to say, the Scousers need a win to salvage their chances in the Champions League and to turn their season around. There's too much money on the pitch when the Reds hit the turf for upper management to continue to tolerate mediocre play. Liverpool is not Fulham, nor are they Villa. In other words, playing only asbwell as the latter two clubs is unacceptable for one of richest clubs in the world. Expectations among fans and haters alike are higher than Benitez' squad has yet achieved this year. But enough about the Reds.

Lyon is in second place in Ligue 1, and on top of the Group with nine points. This is a tough group as well, as Fiorentina is a solid squad, with a dynamic international striker in Gilardino. If you know nothing about Lyon but hate (or love) Liverpool, this should be a good match to watch. Liverpool will push hard to earn three points away as a loss will put them face to face with being eliminated in the group stage.

There are other fine matches, such as Stuttgart at Sevilla. But if you're picking your spots and have a busy week, you could do much worse than to catch one or two of the above fixtures as you wait for Friday's Crew match against RSL. C-Bus 'till I die.

Crew Recap: No Fear

By El Chupacabra

Yes, we're disappointed at yesterday's playoff result. But not for the reasons the casual Crew fan might expect.

El Chupa was dismayed not to see Schelloto in the starting XI, but given the result and the comments by Warzycha, he agrees with the strategy.

We wrote that we'd be happy with the draw, and appprently Warzycha decided that he'd prefer shutting down RSL at midfield and at the back in exchange for looking to score only on the counter-attack. And for 88 minutes the strategy worked.

A quick review of the Crew blogs (click here and here) reveals how frustrated Crew Nation is at the moment, from the Scioto to the Olentangy, from South Bloomfield to Delaware. From Reynoldburg to West Jeff. And it's understandable. The Luchametric clearly shows how the Crew are an entirely different team with Big Willie running things, creating opportunities for others as well as threatening the opposition's goal by his lonesome.

But Luchametric tells us something positive about the Crew's chances in the home leg this Thursday: RSL stinks away from Rio Tinto. Barring a draw, a 1-0 loss was really the next-best result for the Crew. RSL scored only nine goals over 15 away games all season or .6 G/GM. And as we wrote in our preview, the two teams were virtually the same in every other category. The Crew return to their own beds and to the friendly confines of Crew Stadium where the Nordecke hordes have inspired them to score 25 goals or 1.67 G/GM. Keeping RSL from scoring was really the number one goal at Rio Tinto, as the Crew needs to advance on aggregate goals scored, and their best chance for scoring, even running up the score, is at home in C-Bus

In life, as in the beautiful game, there is randomness built into the very fibre of football. Statisticians who study football argue over things like the Bernoulli principle and the Poisson distribution. But for the serious fan who thinks numbers are very useful tools but doesn't feel like getting an advanced degree in higher math, you simply need to know that randomness, or uncontrollable variables, are part and parcel of the game. In short, luck plays a part in when, how, where, and how often goals get scored.

Yesterday RSL got lucky. That's the way it goes. It is unfortunate for the Crew, but they are hardly on the ropes. They score at home, and they defend well at home. So we relish the chance to see them crush the dirty thugs from RSL and send them packing.

Yes, they better come to play, and we better see Schelotto in the starting XI on Thursday. El Chupa knows that at every level of sport, a team has to come inspired. Cool and calm is, in short, bullshit. So the Crew needs to step it up. The games are played on the pitch, not on paper, or on your Playstation, Xbox, or Atari. You can bet RSL will be motivated. The Crew needs to play like it's the last game of the year and leave absolutely nothing on the pitch at the end of 90+. We expect they will play like the champions they are. C-bus 'till I die.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dispatch Printing Company Once Again Disrespects Soccer Fans

By El Luchador
If you have AT&T UVerse, you will miss the first half of tonight’s MLS Cup play-off game between the Crew and Real Salt Lake. Ray Stein, and the other Red State Buckeye-fetish troglodytes at the Dispatch Printing Company are demonstrating once again that their understanding of the World’s game is equivalent to the level of understanding that the Taliban have for women’s rights.

El Luchador has written before about the contempt that the Limbaugh-loving hamburger heads at the Dispatch Printing Company have for the Beautiful Game.

The Dispatch owns ONN (UVerse Channel 233). As we all know, unfortunately ONN is the company that owns the rights to broadcast grainy, community-television quality coverage of all Crew games that are not broadcast by real channels like ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel.

ONN is broadcasting tonight’s first-leg match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. Look at your ONN television listings on UVerse, and you will see that it is not even listed. It just lists “Local News” during the game’s 6-8 p.m. time slot. Read the Dispatch’s television listings in the sports section, and you will see that the game, which starts at 6 p.m., is listed on ONN at 6:45 p.m. with an asterisk and the following note: “* - the game will be seen in its entirety live at 6 p.m. on Time Warner Ch. 24, Insight 432, WOW! Ch 101 amd WBNS-DT 10.2.”

The Dispatch’s Game Preview lists “TV: ONN (joined in progress).”

In other words, the only professional sports franchise in Columbus history to ever win a championship tonight defends its title in the first leg of its playoff bid to become the first team in MLS history to win back-to-back MLS Cup and Supporters Shield victories, and the capitalists who run the home town media machine, “Ohio’s Greatest Home News Paper” and its television station will not show the entire game.

Calls by staff of the Luchametric Institute to ONN and the Dispatch Printing Company corporate headquarters were not returned.

Columbus ‘till I die.

Friday, October 30, 2009

MLS Playoffs: Crew at RSL-We'll take the draw.

By El Chupacabra

Their multiple wives may be homely, and they may not dress so well, but the polygimist mormons at Real Salt Lake can play some football and should not be overlooked.

Sure, the Crew have a substantial advantage over RSL in the Luchametric of about 1.6 StandDevs. However, the teams are closer than is comfortable. Except for wins and draws, the teams are virtually deadlocked when it comes to every other measure of team strength. In terms of sheer production of scoring chances, RSL has a slight advantage, creating more Shots and Shots on Goal and Corners than the Crew. However, in the Luchametric measure of Quality Scoring Chances, the Crew are better than RSL by nearly two whole StandDevs. Also, the Crew score a goal 30% of the time when they create a Shot on Goal, RSL scores a goal only 23% of the time. So, in spite of all the shots they get off, the Crew are more efficient and more consistent.

This game will be tough. The two teams split the two regular season matches, each team winning one at home and losing away. A draw at the high elevation of Rio Tinto would be a good result for the Crew. They could then come back to C-Bus and look for some home cooking to send them through to the next round.

Look, no team is as deep as the Crew. But they phoned it in the last month of the season, and RSL is very tough at home. We would assume that Warzycha at this point knows full well who are his best XI and that he will run them out tomorrow night to prove the Supporters Shield was not won by luck but by the talent the Crew bring to the pitch every match. Regardless, El Chupa thinks a draw here is more likely than a Crew win.

We hope he's proven wrong and the Crew put the dirty thugs of RSL (they lead the league this year in discipline) on their backs and score the win. Columbus 'till I die.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

EPL Handicapping: Gunners over Spurs

By El Chupacabra
Gunners over Spurs (8:30 EDT on ESPN2). Do it. Here's why.

The odds aren't great, but we think talk of Spurs going into Emirates and earning the draw, let alone the win, is mistaken. Here's the key: Spurs' defense is far weaker. They allow far more Shots, Shots on Goal, and Corners Against than do the Gunners. Yes, the Spurs score goals, but they've scored far fewer than Wenger's XI. And in our measure of Quality Chances Created, the Gunners are far superior. For example, Arsenal scores a goal 40% of the time when they create a SOG compared to the Spurs' 31% (the league average is 28%). And the Gunners lead Spurs in Goals per game, 3.22 to 2.10. They've both allowed the same number of Goals Against per Game, which may speak to the Gunners' goalkeeping woes. Regardless, the rest of the numbers reveal how loose Spurs is at the back. Overall, we consider Arsenal to be a better side by far and the cream of the EPL at this moment (along with Chelsea). We're thinking Gunners 3 Spurs 1.

OUR PREDICTION: Arsenal to Win.

LINE: Arsenal -180 Spurs +500 Draw +275

LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage: Arsenal -
The Gunners have an advantage of 1.2 Stand Devs in the LM measure of production per game. We consider 1.0 StdDevs as indicating a significant competitive difference between any two teams. Further, in the raw metric measuring production per game Arsenal are nearly twice as good as Spurs. And our measure of Quality Scoring Chances has them nearly three StandDevs over Tottenham. Look for Arsenal to light Spurs up at home on Saturday.

RECENT TRAVEL: Draw - Both teams played at home midweek in the Carling Cup. And this is a North London Derby, so both teams will be rested and won't have to travel. But Arsenal is at home and will still have a slight-to-significant advantage.

MOTIVATION Draw: This is a Derby and both teams will be up for the game. Spurs want to prove they are a top four team. But Keane has run his mouth off, and I suspect the home fans at Emirates will let him know it, the twit.

RECENT FORM: Advantage: Arsenal. The Gunners have earned thirteen points in their last six matches, Spurs a mere 7. And Arsenal just beat Liverpool. Keane is going to eat his words.

INJURIES: Advantage: Spurs - Arsenal just got their starting keeper back--and just lost him for three more weeks. Almunia has been in Wenger's dog house but might get the chance to regain his manager's confidence on Saturday, given that Mannone made a rather egregious error against West Ham last Sunday, leading to a goal that started the Hammers' comeback, which resulted in Arsenal blowing a two-goal lead and letting a sure three points slip away.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

EPL Power Rankings Updated: Gunners Still on Top

By El Chupacabra
The EPL Power Rankings have been updated in time for this weekend's fixtures. As always, you can access the data here. Arsenal is still on top followed by Chelsea, Man U and Man City. The top two teams are within .5 Standard Deviations of each other, indicating relative competitive equality. The Gunners have created some significant daylight between themselves and Man City, Liverpool and Spurs, indicating they are considerably better than the latter three teams.

Yeah, yeah, our rankings are different than the actual standings--that's the point. Our metric takes far more variables into consideration than do the standings, which only consider and weight wins and draws. Our rankings are thus more accurate, in our humble opinion.

Notice too that our bottom three are different from the official standings as well. Don't count West Ham out just yet people. Even the talking heads on Super Sunday think they are a better club than they've shown thus far, as the draw against Arsenal at home indicates. One final observation worth noting, we've got Stoke rather far down our table. Will look at it more closely and report back in the next few days. Full disclosure: El Chupa roots for the Gunners. Boo YAH!

MLS Power Rankings: Final Season Standings

By El Chupacabra
The mighty have fallen. The Crew limped home this season, losing three of their last four games. As a result, they've plummeted in the Luchametric ratings to fifth overall behind Seattle, Houston, LA and Chicago.

Their LM score puts them about .5 of a Standard Deviation behind League Leaders Seattle. As we've indicated throughout the year, .5 or less in the Z score indicates relative competitive equality.

Still, the Crew earned the most points this year in the league, and our season-ending tally has them below four other teams. How is this possible?

For starters, remember that the Luchametric is designed to be more precise than the league standings. As such, it is going to magnify certain differences that will get lost when you simply assign three points for a win, one for a draw, zero for a loss. In our view, the LM is more discriminating, hence the differences between it and the league standings.

Also, do not underestimate how much the last four games hurt the Crew's numbers. Their overall production fell off dramatically over the last month or so, allowing teams who surged at the end of the season and finished strong to overtake them. And again, the difference between the Crew and SEA is relatively small comparatively. And even in the official standings, only a few points separate the top teams in the league.

However, since we now have another full season of data, we'll be able to look very closely at the metric and see where we need to tweak it. We may be weighting some variables too much, some not enough. We'll look especially closely at the categories that are exclusive to the metric, like Quality Chances Created and Recent Form. But clearly, the Crew's recent form has killed them.

And so we fear for the Black and Gold. At their best they are the cream of the league. But this is a league with unparalleled parity in professional football. Regardless, they need to get their shite together and toot sweet. They may have won the Supporters' Shield, but they are fully capable of losing a two-game series on aggregate if they don't resume their mid-season form. Here's hoping Warzycha will have them ready on Saturday and that they won't sleep-walk their way to an early exit from the postseason.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Luchametric T-Shirt Now Available

While we have battled crime on the streets and helped the average Joe beat the bookies and earn a little more drinking money, fans have petitioned El Chupa and El Luchador for some type of paraphernalia that fellow foot soldiers can wear to signify their solidarity.

Many have said they are looking for a way to show the world that they are with Us in our fight against Them.

Well, my brothers and sisters, the time has arrived.

The famous Nordecke Luchador Masthead from our blog is now available on a T-shirt thanks to Columbus' own home grown shirt maker,

Visit our page on Skreened's site today to purchase your shirt. Wear it to church, to the synagogue, to the board meeting or anywhere else where it would be disruptive and subvert the authority of the Man.

Crew General Manager Mark McCullers is getting them for his familty this Christmas season. And you should too. Do it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crew Win Supporters Shield!

By El Luchador
You wouldn’t know it from listening to ESPN commentary, and it almost surely will not be covered in tomorrow’s Columbus Dispatch, but on this the 22nd Day of October 2009, the Columbus Crew became only the 2nd team in MLS history to win the Supporters Shield two seasons in a row.

In any other civilized footballing nation this would be front page news. After all, the Supporters Shield is awarded to the MLS team with the best season record. This is called the league title and is considered the highest honour in England, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, and almost every country on the planet.

Columbus won the title tonight not through any victory of their own but by virtue of the fact that the only other contender, Chivas USA, lost 1-0 at Chicago.

It came on a rain-soaked night at Toyota park on an own goal by Eduardo Lillingston on a corner by the Fire’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the 70th minute. It was a dramatic moment. At the conclusion of the match, one might have expected at least a passing comment from Alexi Lalas and the other dilettantes at ESPN that the result secured the league title for the Columbus Crew. El Luchador watched attentively, and it was clear that they didn’t even know this was the case. Douche bags.

Until the International House of Soccer (AKA MLS) and the U.S. Industrial Media Complex begin to show a modicum of respect for the game, by honoring and promoting the Supporters Shield at least as much as they do the MLS Cup, the American game will never be taken seriously. If the MLS wanted the Shield to get coverage, they could. But they've obviously decided that drawing attention to the Shield will take away from the Cup and only confuse the average sports fan. As we've said before, who cares what Joe and Jane Budlight think? The MLS is not going to increase their marketshare by trying to convert douche bags like Ray Stein. Cater to your base, O ye fools at the International House of Soccer. Cater to your base.

This will not happen until we have relegation and promotion . And this will not happen until thoughtful U.S. soccer fans demand a higher level of commentary on the game from the media and from the IHS (International House of Soccer). It would help if either the suits upstairs or the US media had at least a modicum of knowledge of how football is played and covered and understood everywhere else on God's green Earth.

Until then, the Masked One raises a glass to honour the accomplishment of the Black and Gold in winning back-to-back Supporters' Shields. If we go on to win the MLS Cup, the Crew will become the only team in MLS history to win the Supporters Shield and the Cup two years in a row. Do it.

Chicago v Chivas Will Be Low Scoring Game

By El Luchador
A disciplined betting system generally sticks to wagers only on wins and only for the home team. But, if El Luchador stands for any general principle in this meaningless post-modern world of ours, it’s this immutable principle: Rules were made to be broken. One such rule is that the over/under is a sucker’s bet. True, usually. But right now, there is a strong case to be made for checking out the MLS fixtures this week and selecting some choice opportunities to bet the under. Do it.

The reason that this makes sense is because teams are adopting a conservative approach heading into the last round of games, and the evidence shows that this approach is resulting in significantly fewer goals scored.

How many fewer? In the 17 games so far in October the average goals per game has been 1.94. This is nearly ½ a goal less per game than just last month. In 33 games in September, the average was 2.85 goals per game. The total average over time is right around 2.6, which is why the over/under is always set at 2.5.

What’s more, of the 17 games this month, there has been more than 2 goals in only 3 games, and just last week we saw two scoreless draws, the first time this has happened in MLS since July.

So what are the specific opportunities to bet the under this week? One good bet emerges from the ether as El Luchador consults his oracle:

Chivas USA at Chicago tonight. Both these teams will be playing cautious soccer as they both still have a chance at the playoffs and don’t want to blow it,especially the Fire in their home finale. Chivas has the stingiest defense in MLS allowing just .96 GA/GM, well below the league average of 1.26. And CHI also are allow below the average in goals allowed per game at 1.17.

Shop around for the best buy on this one. El Luchador saw 1.7 quoted and found a deal at 1.9 money line odds. Do it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

EPL Handicapping: Manchester City to Win Over Fulham at Home

By El Luchador
City are at home against Fulham this weekend at a critical time, and the Luchametric combined with our learned analysis points toward a victory. Despite the likely absence of Adebayor, Bellamy and Toure, City will close this deal. Do it.
OUR PREDICTION: Manchester City to Win.
LINE: Man City -222 TIE +300 Fulham +625
LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage City.
Almost 1 standard deviation separates these two teams as measured by the patented Luchametric power ranking system. On offense, City are averaging 2 goals per game, and Fulham are fourth from the bottom of the league in goals scored per game at less than 1. Also, Fulham are sound and fury signifying nothing: American Clint Dempsey is hitting 3.25 shots per game this season, the fourth highest rate. But he hasn’t scored a single goal.

RECENT TRAVEL Advantage City: City have been home for two weeks having faced neighboring Wigan just 30 miles down the road in a 1-1 tie on Oct. 18. Fulham will have played 3 games in 7 days having faced Hull City at home Monday (2-0 win) and AC Roma (2-1 loss) at home on Thursday in Europa Cup action before traveling 200 miles for this match at Man City.
HOME –v- AWAY FORM – Advantage City.
City have not lost or tied a single home match all season in all competition (3-0 at home in EPL play). Fulham meanwhile have won only one game on the road, a lame, 1-0 victory over the even lamer Portsmouth on Sept. 15.
It's early in the season yet, so both these teams have plenty to play for and have had good recent form. Fulham are coming off a convincing 2-0 home win against Hull on Monday. As Liverpool falter, City are in a position to vault into the top 4 with a win.
HISTORY Advantage City:
City lead in all competitions, 23-13-17. City and Fulham have already met once this season with City winning 2-1 Sept. 23 at home in the Carling Cup.
RECENT FORM Advantage City:
City – TTWWLW (11), Fulham – WTWLLL (7). Man City’s only loss this season has come against top flight opposition on the road: A 4-3 away loss to rival Manchester United on Sept. 20. City have won their last 6 EPL matches, and 12 of their last 13 games. City go for the win at home. They have gone 26 home games without a draw, the 10th-longest streak in EPL history.
This is where City will prove that they have depth. CITY OUT E Adebayor (Ankle/Foot) Injury; C Bellamy Groin Strain; K Toure Ankle/Foot; N Onuoha Thigh Muscle Strain; Robinho Ankle/Foot; B Mwaruwari Hip/Thigh. FULHAM OUT: D Stockdale Knee Injury; S Davies Ankle/Foot; T Kallio Achilles Heal.

If your children need new shoes, take the money you have saved and invest it in this match. Use the proceeds to buy the little rug rats two pair. This is a lock: Man City to win Sunday over Fulham.

EPL Power Rankings Updated: Gooners on Top

By El Chupacabra

The EPL Power Rankings have been fully updated through Monday's match between Fulham and Hull. Chelsea has been dethroned and Arsenal is on top followed closely by Man U. Why Arsenal? The six goals against Everton loom large in the metric. Note that the difference between the Gooners and Man U is a mere .28 of a standard deviation. This makes them virtually deadlocked. Remember, teams within .5 of a Standard Deviation in the Z Score on the LM are essentially equal. We've looked at the rest of the stats and the two are remarkably similar except for Total Goals scored. Arsenal has a game in hand and their LM may drop once they get caught up with the rest of the teams at the top of the table. Liverpool has dropped to sixth overall, not surprisingly given their loss to Sunderland, which we predicted.

Other anomalies worth pointing out include Bolton's position relative to their actual PTS earned. Their two away wins have pushed them up the rankings, but they are still well within the pack as a whole. Burnley continues to hover near the bottom of the rankings. They simply aren't generating enough shots, shots on goals, goals or wins to move them up. Finally, we have Hull below Portsmouth, but not by much. They both stink.

At this point, it looks as if Chelsea and Man U will be neck and neck throughout the season for the top spot. And Arsenal, Spurs and Man City will be fighting for the final two spots in the top four. It should be an interesting year. And things could certainly change. Let's hope Man U catches the injury H1N1 that has knocked Liverpool off the tracks the first two months of this season.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MLS Power Rankings Updated: Dallas Gets into the Top Eight; Chivas and Kissing Maradona

By El Chupacabra
The MLS Power Rankings have been fully updated through last weekend's games. There hasn't been much movement, although the Crew's loss has narrowed the gap between The black and gold and the rest of the league. Also, Dallas have won four in a row and our Recent Form variable in the metric has vaulted them into the top eight over the other teams stuck at 39 PTS in the standings.

Interestingly, Chivas has 45 PTS in the standings but the Luchametric puts them behind both SEA and CHI, teams with fewer points. This is due to the fact that CVS has fewer ties and more losses than both CHI and SEA. More wins and draws equals more points, but the losses hurt CVS in our metric. We are currently working on an article on the history of why leagues give wins three points and draws one when some soccer statisticians weight draws more heavily. Look for our analysis in a week or so.

Regardless, CVS's position in the standings raises an interesting question: should a team adjust its style such that they are willing to trade draws for losses and wins over the course of an entire season? In other words, does going for the win at the risk of losing pay off over the long haul compared to playing more conservatively and settling for draws? CVS's late rise into top eight perhaps suggests that trading a few draws for losses on the chance that you'll cop a win at some point might be the way to go. We'll look at the numbers and get back to you. But our short take is this.

If you play four games, and you tie three and lose one, you end up with three points. But if you play four games and are willing to risk a loss to gain a win, and you end up thus losing two, drawing one, BUT winning one, you'll end up with four points. Further, even if you risk a draw for a win and fail, losing three and winning only one, you still end up with three points. In short, three draws and one loss is worth just as much as three losses and one win, BUT it's worth LESS than two losses, a tie, and a win. So why not just damn the torpedoes and risk falling on your own sword, at least you'll go out nobly, at least in El Chupa's view.

To sum once again, if playing for the win increases your losses but also increases your wins, within certain parameters (say, you're gamble pays off such that you earn one win for every two draws that turn into losses) it might help more than playing for the tie--which we know is like kissing your sister. Of course, a loss is like kissing Maradona, so be careful O my brothers and sisters.

But we'll crunch the numbers and get back to you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Great American Striker: Where's Our Pele?

By El Chupacabra

Charlie Davies’ accident is a terrible blow to a young man who had a very bright future ahead of him in professional football. We sincerely hope that future is still bright and that he recovers fully from his injuries and lives a full life well-lived.

But Davies' injury allows us to address an issue that has haunted El Chupa for some time: where are the great American strikers?

The American style of football is tactical and team-oriented. From our youth we are trained to work together to build attacks and to defend as a unit. The emphasis is on learning the team game and on basic skills, and attacking football is not really emphasized, certainly not in terms of developing individual talent to go at defenders one-on-one and beat them. Passing, set plays, one-touch give-and-go, but no Maradona-like runs through the other team's defenses.

When El Chupa watches the MLS and the Men’s National Team, he has flashbacks to his own playing days. The US clearly produces international-level goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders. We seem to be very good at producing both keepers and attacking midfielders in particular. The tactical and team emphasis that is the lifeblood of US soccer from the youth level on up has done very well to produce true number tens, like Donovan, players who create for others, patrol the midfield, win the ball and distribute it, but who also can create opportunities for themselves and others. They also can finish when given the chance.

But where are our strikers? Where are our Drogbas? Our Messis? Our Eto’os? For El Chupa, Davies was that striker. Not only could he finish powerfully when fed balls by his teammates, he could hold the ball at the top of the penalty area and create for others as well. We love Altidore, but he is young and needs playing time to grow--which he's not getting at Hull City. But we see great things ahead for him should he reach his full potential.

But Davies seemed set to take the world by storm and lead the US out of the recent nightmares of World Cup play and out of the group stage next year in South Africa. The loss of Davies is thus a great loss for US football and an existential blow to our football psyche. At least it is for El Chupa.

Where will Davies' replacement come from? Conor Casey? Please. He's physically strong but just a tad too slow for the international level and, most importantly, he simply can't finish. His ratio of Shots to Shots on Goal and, most importantly, Goals to Shots on Goals is average for a striker in the MLS. He muffed it repeatedly the other night against Costa Rica. He's not the answer. Beasley? Apparently his vagina hurts too much when steps on the pitch for him to man up and do his job. Adu? He's fizzled in Europe and is a head-case who has a fork in his ass--turn him over he's done.

El Chupa's point is that perhaps there is not an answer to the question looming for Bob Bradley. And for someone in his 40s who grew up playing the beautiful game, who attended an NASL playoff when just a wee lad, and who has longed for soccer to finally take its rightful place in the American imagination and for the US to earn its place among the world's great football nations, the loss of Davies is a deep loss indeed.

Perhaps the emergence of Altidore and Davies suggests that the US is finally starting to produce the strikers we need to put the MNT in to the top ten in the world to stay. We also have hope for the first great Mexican-American players, sons of immigrants who will inevitably make their way to the US MNT in the years ahead, hopefully forgoing opportunities to play for Mexico (unlike Giuseppe Rossi, the loser born in New Jersey but who plays for Italy). Perhaps the first American Pele will come from that growing demographic.

For now, we wish Davies the best, and wait with baited breath for the first Great American Striker to lead his nation out of the wilderness of defensive football.