Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Church of Jason Kreis And Later Day Taint

The Crew look to bounce back from two disappointing 1-1 ties to start the season with an away win Thursday over Real Salt Lake, a team with a history of mostly disappointing results, with fans so fervent they go door to door to gain converts.

RSL have not started the 2009 season in style, losing their opener away 2-0 last week to Sigi Schmid’s expansion Seattle Sounders. RSL looked particularly weak in the midfield on transitions and on the back four.

Columbus leads the series 5-2-1 since RSL’s inception in 2005. The Crew split the results last year, losing 2-0 at Salt Lake on July 12, then winning 3-0 at home in dominating fashion on Aug. 23 on goals by Chad Marshall (header), Guillermo Barros Schelotto (header), and Brad Evans (header).

RSL’s best season since their founding was last year when they made it to the semi-finals of the playoffs before being eliminated by New York Red Bulls 1-0. This was the only year they made the play-offs.

This will be the Crew’s first visit to one of the nation’s newest soccer-specific stadiums, Rio Tinto, which opened on Oct. 9, 2008 when Real Salt Lake hosted Red Bull New York. Rio Tinto also will be the venue for the 2009 MLS All-Star Game.

RSL boast four former Crew players in their ranks, although currently none of them is a starter. Perhaps most notable is former Crew midfielder Ned Grabavoy (2006-2007, 4 goals in 27 appearances, let go in 2007 expansion draft and picked up by San Jose. Released and picked up by RSL this year). In addition there are: Canadian midfielder Andy Williams (1998-99, 41 appearances, 1 goal), defender Chris Wingert (2004-2005, 49 appearances), and Defender Ian Joy who also was on the Columbus roster briefly in 2003 but made no appearances. Altough he is no longer with the team, coincidentally, RSL’s all-time leading goal scorer is Jeff Cunningham (18) who also is tied with Brian McBride as the Crew’s all-time best ace at 62 career goals (from 1998-2004).

Thursday's match, which kicks off at 9 p.m. ET, will be televised live nationally on ESPN2, with Glenn Davis and Kyle Martino calling all the action. Watch it at Claddagh Irish Pub in the Brewery District, the official pub of the Columbus Crew.

RSL may have the advantage as they leverage their special relationship with the allmighty.

Utah is home to the Mormon Church, which is founded on the belief that a man named Joseph Smith found some tablets buried in upstate New York that said Jesus visited the Indians and men should have multiple wives and go door to door in ties and short-sleeved dress shirts.

Shirt Sponsor: XanGo. Founded in 2002, XanGo, LLC is a privately owned international marketing company based in Lehi, Utah. The company markets and distributes Xango juice, a blended juice product consisting of mangosteen and other juices, which is promoted as a dietary supplement.

Stadium: Rio Tinto. Opened in 2008, Rio Tinto Stadium is named after a multinational mining and resources group founded originally in 1873. It is the third-largest coal mining company in the world as of late 2008.

International Affiliation: Real Madrid C.F. The most successful club of the 20th century, Real Madrid C.F. have won a record thirty-one La Liga titles, 17 Spanish Cups, a record nine European Cups and two UEFA Cups.

Coach: Jason Kreis. A former MLS all-time regular season scoring leader, Kreis retired as a player on May 3, 2007, and took over coaching duties. Kreis was also RSL's first player signed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bourgeois Values Invade Crew Stadium Along With Hordes of Drunken Canadian Louts

El Luchador is sad this morning, sad for a disappointing tie, but even more so for a major loss.

The defending MLS Champions went to 0-0-2 by tying rivals Toronto FC yesterday on a heartbreaking, freak own goal by Gino Padula in the 84th minute. Before the final whistle was blown, casual fans may not have noticed that they had already lost something much more precious than a single soccer match. Signs were all around at the home opener that Crew fans are losing the battle to maintain a stadium atmosphere that is free from fascist, bourgeois commercialism and controlled by a cartel of fear-mongering security thugs.

Just a few examples:

  • Remember when you could go into Nordecke whether you had a ticket there or not? The wink-and-a-nudge “open seating” tradition has always been part of the collectivist, progressive spirit that defines America’s hardest working fan base. Anybody try to do that yesterday? Not only were they enforcing assigned seating with two security guards at every section entrance, they were doing it with the L.A.P.D. attitude that one expects in places like Chicago and Toronto but has always been absent at Crew Stadium. “Sir, SIR. I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you do not sit in your assigned seat.”

  • Remember when you could stroll along the terraces unrestricted? Anybody try to meander on down to the south section where the Canuck’s were camped out? Twice El Luchador was accosted by pushy, wannabe Officer Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherellos barking orders to evacuate the area immediately, blah, blah, blah. This is our house?

  • Remember when to get thrown out of the stadium you had to commit at least a misdemeanor? A peaceful El Luchador had his pacifist values challenged like Billy Jack by two Crew security goons who went to the Laurence Powell School of Social Graces. El Luchador suffered the humiliating indignation of being ejected from his home in front of jeering drunken Toronto fans by two Columbus Police Officers merely because the two security guards pictured above didn’t want their photo taken.

Shawn Mitchell reports in the Dispatch that multiple arrests were made yesterday, multiple Crew fans were ejected from the stadium and “at least twenty Columbus police cruisers and helicopter were still patrolling the lots 45 minutes after the game.” This is total overkill, and it is a classic example of where excessive security and police presence doesn’t keep the peace, but causes problems.

It was clear yesterday that the Crew management have decided to take a hard right turn in their approach to security in the stadium. This is a sad day for every foot soldier in the populist soccer revolution.

Columbus Till I Die.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hey Toronto FC fans, read this

You know you're from Canada when:

  1. You only know three spices: salt, pepper and ketchup.

  2. You root for a shitty soccer team from Toronto.

  3. No one can understand a word you are saying.

  4. Dressing up means wearing a Canadian Tuxedo: jeans jacket, stupid T-shirt and jeans.

  5. Your girlfriend looks like a hockey player and drinks beer like a longshoreman.

  6. You know what a trillium is.

  7. Your USL team out-performs your MLS team.

  8. You are a drunken lout.

  9. Your flag has a fucking leaf on it.

  10. Your prescription drugs are as cheap as your women.

An American, a Scot and a Canuk were in a terrible car accident. They were all brought to the same emergency room, but all three of them died before they arrived. Just as they were about to put the toe tag on the American, he stirred and opened his eyes. Astonished, the doctors and nurses present asked him what happened."Well," said the American, "I remember the crash, and then there was a beautiful light, and then the Canadian and the Scot and I were standing at the gates of heaven. St. Peter approached us and said that we were all too young to die, and that for a donation of $100, we could return to the earth."He continued, " So of course, I pulled out my wallet and gave him the $100, and the next thing I knew I was back here.""That's amazing!" said one of the doctors, "But what happened to the other two?""Last I saw them," replied the American, "the Scot was haggling over the price and the Canadian was waiting for the government to pay for his."

Columbus Till I Die!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Crew Go Down in Final Pre-Season Game

As predicted, the match with impressive USL-1 expansion side Austin Aztex FC proved one of the toughest of the pre-season, as the Crew went down 1-0 Saturday in Austin.

Here's the write up from Comrade Mitchell at the Dispatch.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Crew Capitalists Paying Workers Fairer Wages

The oligarchs who control the means of production at the Columbus Crew have dramatically increased the average salaries they pay their players in 2009 over 2008, according to a Nordecke Luchador analysis of numbers released last week by the MLS Players Union.

The Crew now ranks 7th out of the 15 MLS teams in 2009 in per player average annual salary compared to 2008 when the MLS Cup winners ranked dead last out of 14 (the 2009 numbers include expansion Seattle Sunders).

The average Columbus Crew player this year will be paid $133,430. This is an 85 percent increase over the 2008 Columbus average of $71,949.

The lion’s share of the overall payroll hike is attributable to only a handful of players. Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s salary more than doubled from $375,000 to $775,000. Also among the big winners were MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall (a 116 percent salary increase, from $148,000 to $320,000), Robbie Rogers (a 60 percent increase, from $57,500 to $92,500), and Adam Moffat (a whopping 171 percent increase, from the measly $17,700 he made in 2008 as a developmental roster player to a more respectable $48,000). Also accounting for the total increase were a large number of players moving from the developmental basement to the regular roster.

Some great players got the shaft: Frankie Hejduk and Pat Noonan are the only two players with no raise this year (both making $175,000). While this is probably due to the current status of their contracts, it’s a little hard to swallow, particularly with Frankie.

Three other players only got 5 percent: Andy Gruenebaum ($34,650), Duncan Oughton ($79,380) and Eddie Gaven ($173,250).

Source tell El Luchador that the franchise was able to eke out the cash to make the salary increases through a combination of the allocation money extracted from Seattle in the Sigi Schmid fiasco, along with expected revenue increases due to the MLS Cup win: more season ticket sales, CONCACAF revenue, merchandise and other revenue increases.

Los Angeles Galaxy still tops the list with an average per player annual salary of more than $404,000. Of course, most of this is because of David Beckham’s ludicrous salary, and while it remains to be seen how the Milan deal ultimately will effect the final numbers, the Galaxy will still be by far the highest paid team in MLS, and they probably won’t make the playoffs again.

The lowest spot is now occupied by Chivas USA at just over $86,000.

It is a very good sign that the Crew has moved out of the bottom of the league not just in performance on the field but also in paying the workers a living wage.

A note about the numbers:
Salary information was provided by the MLS Players Union and is current as of March 3, 2009. All player salaries are broken down into two numbers. The first is the player's current base salary. The second is characterized as annual average guaranteed compensation. El Luchador bases his analysis on the annual average guaranteed compensation. The annual average guaranteed compensation number includes a player's base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of the player's contract, including option years. For example, if a player has a base salary of $50,000, has a two-year contract with two one-year options and received a $10,000 bonus when he signed, his average annual guaranteed compensation would be $52,500 (base salary plus signing bonus ($10,000), with the signing bonus divided by the number of years covered by the contract (4)). The average annual guaranteed compensation number also includes any annual marketing bonus to be received in the current year and any agent's fees annualized over the term of the contract. The average annual guaranteed compensation figure does not include performance bonuses because there is no guarantee that the player will hit those bonuses. These figures include compensation from each player's contract with MLS. They do not include any compensation from any contracts with individual teams or their affiliates. The numbers in this 2009 analysis are slightly different that a 2008 analysis done by El Luchador. In that study the base salary and the guaranteed compensation were averaged together. However, all comparative numbers in the 2009 analysis are apples to apples.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Crew to Texas for USL Showdown

The Crew take on USL side Austin Aztex FC this Saturday at a time when the second division USL has been challenging the MLS on every front and making a strong case that a European-style relegation and promotion system could work in the U.S.

USL teams posted strong ticket sales in 2008, their non-single entity ownership system and lack of $40 million ransom for expansion are giving owners and teams the flexibility to be creative -- particularly in these tough economic times -- and most importantly, they are kicking ass on the field.

Take the CONCACAF Champions League tournament: Two out of the three non-Mexican North American sides in the quarterfinals were USL teams, Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders. Houston Dynamo, the only MLS team to make it out of group play were manhandled by Atlante of Mexico and promptly sent packing. Montreal made an exciting showing, beating Santos Laguna 2-0 before 65,000 at home in the first leg before blowing it on the away trip. And Puerto Rico Islanders remain the only non-Mexican side in the tournament, preparing to face off against Santos Laguna in the semi-finals under the steadfast leadership of former Crew keeper Bill Gaudette.

Not to mention the Islanders beat the reigning MLS champs 2-0 last month.

So the Crew, coming off a 4-game pre-season winning streak that saw them handily take care of Everton and Liverpool reserves, would do well to not overlook Aztex. This last game of the pre-season campaign will be the Crew’s most challenging.

The Aztex are an exciting new expansion team preparing for their first season in USL. They bring a combination of several interesting qualities.

First, Aztex start with a ready-made fan base in the considerable Texas Latino soccer community. The name alone is a clear marketing tool, aimed at firing up Mexican nationalist pride by conjuring the fabled Mexico City stadium that has been the graveyard of U.S. men’s national team dreams for going on three decades.

Aztecs also bring a distinctly English flavour to their game. They have a unique farm-team like affiliation with EPL side Stoke City, which includes player exchanges, talent scouting and the sharing of coaching knowledge. (They are owned by British-born, Austin businessman Phil Rawlins, who also owns a share of Stoke City).

Their English manager, Adrian Heath, had an impressive career in English football that spanned nearly 20 years. Himself a childhood Stoke supporter, he started his playing career at the club in 1979 making 95 appearances. He later joined Everton and became the club’s top scorer in his first full season, scoring 18 in all competitions in the 1983–84 season. Aztex also have an unusually high number of English players for a U.S. squad.

And while Aztex have no record to examine, much of their roster is filled with players from the U-23 team the club has fielded in the Premier Development League (PDL). The results there this past year were impressive: Mid-South Division Champions with a record of 10-5-1; Coach Wolfgang Suhnholz, Coach of the Year; Miguel Gallardo, Goalkeeper of the Year; Beto Papandrea, Defender of the Year.

In their only two pre-season matches Aztex have looked impressive while posting mixed results. March 1, they went down 2-0 at home to New England Revolution, but March 7 they led Houston Dynamo twice in the first half before running out of steam in the second, ending in a 2-2 draw.

Players to watch:

Eddie Johnson: No not that Eddie Johnson of Fulham and USMNT fame. This Eddie Johnson is a 24-year-old Englishman who just signed with Aztex after a career in England that started promising but never lived up to its billing. The 6-2, 180 lb forward is a serious scoring threat, particularly from the air.

Gifton Noel-Williams: A veteran English striker, Noel-Williams recorded several caps with the English national team at various stages early on in his career. At 16 years old he began his professional career playing at Watford. Two seasons later Noel-Williams led Watford in scoring as the team was promoted to the Premiership. He scored 33 goals for Watford before moving to Stoke City in 2003. While at Stoke, the 6’3” striker led The Potters in scoring two consecutive seasons (2003-05), where he found the net a total of 23 times. He continued his career at Burnley before moving to Spain to play for Real Murcia and most recently Elche.

Miguel Gallardo: The Mexican-born goal keeper was 2008 PDL Goalkeeper of the Year and Southern Conference All-Star. In 2008 for Aztex U-23, Gallardo conceded only eight goals and led the league with nine shutouts.

Beto Papandrea: At 32, Papandrea is the veteran of the defense. The University of Texas-Austin grad earned 2008 PDL Defender of the Year.

Zach Pope: An Austin native and Duke standout, Pope is a diminutive but very quick defender in the mold of a Frankie Hejduk. He was originally drafted by Chicago Fire in the 2008 Superdraft but later released.

The game is 7:30 p.m. Central Time (9:30 Eastern), Saturday, March 14, at Aztex Nelson Stadium in Austin.

El Luchador predicts a physical game, Crew 3-1 Aztex.

Columbus Till I Die.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Crew Now 5-2 in Pre-Season With 2-0 Win Over Scouser Reserves

The Crew advanced to 5-2 in pre-season play and continued a 4-game winning streak by beating the rotten stinking Liverpool scouser reserves 2-0 today at the Liverpool academy site in Knowsley, UK.

In the final match of their England preseason trip, Alejandro Moreno and Guillermo Barros Schelotto each scored and Will Hesmer was solid with another clean sheet in goal.

CREW LINEUP: William Hesmer, Frankie Hejduk, Danny O’Rourke, Chad Marshall, Gino Padula, Eddie Gaven, Brian Carroll, Emmanuel Ekpo (Duncan Oughton 77), Robbie Rogers, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Alejandro Moreno

LIVERPOOL RESERVES LINEUP: Dean Bouzanis, Martin Kelly (Ronald Huth 46), Mikel San Jose, Steven Irwin, Emmanuel Mendy (Andre Wisdom 75), Gerardo Bruna (Vincent Weijl 12), Damien Plessis (David Amoo 56), Jay Spearing, Victor Palsson, Dani Pacheco, Andras Simon (Vitor Flora 46)

The Crew return to Columbus Friday, take the weekend off before resuming training on Monday. They leave on Tuesday, March 10, for Austin, Texas, where they will train for several days in preparation for their final pre-season match v Austin Aztex FC, 8:30 p.m. ET., Saturday, March 14.