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.

MONEY
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, Skreened.com.

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
Manchester
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.
MONEY
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.
MOTIVATION Draw:
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.
INJURIES Draw:
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.

EPL Handicapping: Liverpool at Sunderland


By El Chupacabra

This is an outstanding value match. But there is a rather large "if" attached to it. Here's the deal: Liverpool is beat up. Gerrard is out and Torres is a maybe as are Kuyt and Dossena. If Torres can't go, or is only good for 45 min or so, and especially if most of the other doubtful players will be held out or given limited playing time as well, take Sunderland to win at home at +325. Sunderland is a solid club, but the numbers are in Liverpool's favor, whether its shots on goal, goals against, or goals per game. Sunderland leads in one category and that is Quality Shots per Game. They don't rack up shots on goal, but when they do they score more often than does the average team. Plus, although they do give up shots, they don't give up a lot of Shots on Goal Against. Finally, and once again, Liverpool is hurt and are not deep. Sunderland is at home and this is a serious test of whether they are simply above average, which they are, or belong in the top seven.
OUR PREDICTION: Sunderland to win in an upset
MONEY LINE
Sunderland+325 Liverpool -115
LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage Liverpool: Liverpool
is .68 of a Standard Deviation over Sunderland. Given their injuries, this puts the teams well within the .5 Stand Dev we use as a measure of competitive equality. Given that Sunderland is at home AND Liverpool is beat up, we think this will be a tough, hard fought match for Liverpool.
RECENT TRAVEL Sunderland:
Sunderland is at home and have had fewer players away for international week. Liverpool will be traveling 168 miles for the match and had more players away for World Cup qualifiers.
HOME –v- AWAY FORM – Sunderland.
Sunderland are 3 and 1 at home this year. Liverpool are 2 and 2 on the road.
INSPIRATION Sunderland:
Sunderland is a solid club looking to earn a European tour this season. They can score and will, and every team is inspired when one of the big four come to town.
RECENT FORM Advantage
Liverpool: Sund - WLWD, Liver – WWWL
INDIVIDUAL PLAY Draw -
With the injuries to Liverpool and the signing of Dutch international Zenden, as well as the fact the Cats are fully fit for this game, we think Liverpool's star power will be less of a factor than usual.
INJURIES Advantage Sunderland:
As we've been saying, Sunderland is fully fit, the Scousers are hurt: Go here for the details. But note that the Sunderland web site is reporting that McCartney and Cattermole will both be fit for the match.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MLS Handicapping and Pick of the Week: At +250, the Crew to Win Over DC is Crazy Bargain

By El Luchador
Jimmy the Greek once told El Luchador’s papa, “Don’t ever bet on your home team. It’s too close to the heart.” And most soccer wagering systems start with the premise that you should never bet the away win. Historically in the EPL, the home team wins 47 percent of the time, with some important qualifiers which we'll explain in a post later this week. Regardless, El Luchador’s MLS pick of the week violates both of these axioms; but read on fellow punters. If you want to make a bunch of dough this week: Bet on the Columbus Crew at +250 to win v DC United at RFK Stadium. Do it.
OUR PREDICTION: Crew to Win.

MONEY LINE:
CREW +250 TIE +250 DC -117
LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage CREW.
The patented Luchametric Power Ranking statistical system, updated just this week, gives the Crew the single highest
production value of any squad at 3.81. DC are ninth in the league at .80 which amounts to one whole standard deviation of difference. That's significant, especially in this league. Given the odds, this is clearly the best deal of the week in the ML, offering a high return on what we think is an above average probability of an away win.

RECENT TRAVEL Advantage DC: United have been home for 3 weeks. The Crew flew last week to Foxboro for their gritty 1-0 win over New England and are now back east for this match, traveling a total of about 1,500 miles in 3 legs over one week.
HOME –v- AWAY FORM – Advantage CREW.
At 6-3-5, United’s home record is in the bottom half of the MLS. When 50 percent of all MLS games end in a home win, DC have managed to win just 42 percent of their home games. The Crew have a respectable 4-4-6 away record over the whole season but have lost only 1 of their last 5 on the road and are 3-1-2 on the road since the All-Star Break.
MOTIVATION Advantage CREW:
This is where we think the bookies have it all wrong. It would seem they think DC are more motivated because they sit two points out of eighth place overall and have the final wild card spot within reach with two games to play. A win for DC would place them very much in contention. But the Crew have other motivators that trump DC’s pathetic playoff hopes. First, the Crew are serious about winning back-to-back Supporters Shields. Several players have told El Luchador that in the locker room, they understand what the suits in the International House of Soccer (AKA MLS) Board Room do not: In all the rest of the World, the most prestigious domestic honour is the season total points winner. If the Crew win Saturday and Chivas lose or tie, the Crew become only the second team ever to have the best record two years in a row. Second, the Crew have a chance of doing to the Bastards in Black what they did to the Crew in three of their first four years – destroy their season. Don’t forget, in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the Crew’s season came to an end in tragic playoff losses to DC United. Robert Warzycha was there. Don’t think he has forgotten. El Luchador’s sources tell him that this history is very much present in the locker room.
HISTORY Advantage DC:
ALL-TIME (46 meetings): United 21 wins, Crew 17 wins, Ties 8. Advice: That was then, this is now.
RECENT FORM Advantage
CREW: DC – LLLWTW (7), CREW – WLWTWL (10). DC have lost 3 straight.
INJURIES Advantage CREW:
The Black and Gold are mostly healthy and have demonstrated that they have the depth on the bench to makeup for any injuries. CREW OUT: GK Andy Gruenebaum (R hip impingement); DF Chad Marshall (L knee MCL sprain). DC OUT: FW Santino Quaranta (ruptured plantar plate); DF Bryan Namoff (concussion); GK
Josh Wicks (dislocated shoulder/MCL sprain); DF Greg Janicki (back spasms); MF Brandon Barklage (anterior cruciate ligament surgery); FW Ange N'Silu (hamstring strain).

My Brothers and Sisters, do the math, remember the history, and lay your money on the Crew to Win this one. And to quote the great Diego Maradona: anyone who disagrees with El Luchador’s analysis can “suck it and keep on sucking it.”

Soccer Statistics: Corner Kicks, Goals and the Fear Factor

By El Chupacabra

It is already the stuff of legend: Last night's miraculous 95th-minute goal by Jonathan Bornstein on a beautiful corner kick by the Crew's Robbie Rogers to tie Costa Rica sent the Ticos into the last-chance playoff against Uraguay for the final World Cup spot in the Western Hemisphere and gave the U.S. yet another CONCACAF Champtionship.

It seemed highly unlikely. And in fact it was.

As a review of an intriguing statistical study from the UK as well as recent EPL and MLS stats show, the chances that a team will score directly off a corner kick are slim-to-none:

“It has been suggested that over 40% of goals in soccer are scored from set-pieces (Hughes, 1999) and that goals from this source are important at all levels of the game (Bate, 1988). Jinshan et al. (1993), for example, found that setpieces accounted for between 27 percent and 32 percent of goals in the 1986 and 1990 Soccer World Cups respectively, while Grant et al. (1999) reported a figure of 24.65 at the 1998 tournament. Among set pieces, free kicks and corner kicks have been shown to be the greatest source of goals, producing 46 percent and 132 percent of goals respectively at the 1994 World Cup (Sousa and Graganta, 2001) and 50 percent and 47.6 percent at the 1998 Competition (Grant et al.,1999).”

So, set-pieces are important. However, the same article reports that in one study, only 31 percent of corners resulted in a shot on goal. Of those SOGs, only 8 percent were then successfully converted into goals. This means that in one study at least, only 2.4 percent of corner kicks resulted directly in goals. Interestingly, however, a full 10 percent of all goals scored in the matches studied came from corners. This tells us just how important working on set pieces, especially corners, is to a team’s overall success. If you don’t take such opportunities seriously, your overall production of goals for the season is going to suffer. And in leagues where only a few pts separate teams, resulting in relegation, promotion, a shot at the playoffs (which are stupid) or a European tour in either the UEFA Champions league or Europa, 10 percent is significant.

What’s the tactical key to success? Ask Robbie Rogers and Jonathan Borenstein. The same study found that if you hit an in-swinger that accurately targets a specific zone in front of the goal, right about the PK spot running from edge to edge of the goal box, then your chance of turning a CK into a Shot on Goal goes up to 40 percent. And given that about 27 percent of all SOGs end up as actual Goals, you’ve now turned a CK into a rather dangerous weapon. Last night's dramatic goal was scored on an inswinging corner kick that landed smack dab in the middle of the zone described in the study. That the ultimate percentage of CKs to Gs is still only around 3 percent means that being able to hit that inswinger, and put it on the top of the goal box time after time is rather difficult for even the pros in the EPL and the MLS let alone your kid on Saturday morning. Plus, notice that on average, around 25 percent of SOGs become goals, but only around 8 percent of SOGs created by a corner kick become goals. This tells you how much harder it is to score a goal on an SOG created by a corner kick rather than all the other ways SOGs get created.

In short, individual corners are relatively innocent affairs. But the more corners you earn, the greater the chance that you’ll put the ball into the back of the net, right? Yes, but only if your team is good at set pieces. Read on.

A review of EPL and MLS data by El Chupa has revealed that the relationship between the sheer number of corners you earn and goals scored is not linear. The very best teams earn a lot of corners and score more goals than the very worst teams. But for average teams, the more corners you take doesn't necessarily result in more goals. That's because some teams are better at set pieces than others. When looking at corner kicks as a measure of an average team’s production, then, one also has to take into consideration the RATE at which a particular team turns CKs into SOGs and ultimately into Goals. Such data, alas, is virtually impossible to come by. The teams obviously keep track of it, but El Chupa is yet to find it on the intrawebs—probably because teams don’t want other teams to know their strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly, the correlation between Corners and Goals Scored is stronger in the EPL than in the MLS. We're still trying to figure that one out. We'll let you know if we learn anything.

Does this mean that CKs and CKAs aren’t a useful statistic? No, clearly, if your team is earning corners at a higher rate than the opposition, then you’re putting more pressure on their goal than they are on yours. Over time, this is an indication of how good you are at creating scoring chances, and how good you are at preventing the other team from creating scoring chances against you. The Luchametric doesn’t weight CKs and CKAs as much as goals obviously, but we do include them in the metric.

But when we’re on the couch, a powerful IPA or porter in hand, and our beloved Black and Gold are preparing to defend a CK by the beer foam from the Great-White-Trash-North, we breath easy. . . and crack another brew. Do it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

EPL Power Rankings: Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U

By El Chupacabra
Our EPL Power Rankings are fully updated and ready for this weekend's renewal of EPL play following International Week. Chelsea is on top followed closely by Arsenal and Man U. Arsenal's ability to score boo coo goals has put them ahead of Man U. Man U is also giving up goals and dropping points to lesser opponents. We have Liverpool and Man City ahead of Spurs. Spurs is erratic, give up goals, and the tie with Bolton has hurt them in the rankings. Burnley has moved out of the relegation zone in our rankings but they need to start earning points away from home and soon. And remember, the comprehensive EPL team statistics are now available here.

MLS Power Rankings Updated: Crew Keeps Distance from Rest of the Pack

By El Chupa
The MLS Power Rankings have been fully updated through the weekend's games. There is movement in the ordinal rankings. But you have to look closely at the Z Score to realize just how close are CVS, HOU, CHI, COL, SEA and LA. Even DAL are less than .5 of a Stand Dev behind CVS. In other words, like Lance Armstrong leading the peloton, the Crew are the only team in the league to achieve any real separation. NE continues to lag far behind the rest of the pack. Revolution fans can suck it, you're team stinks. And if it weren't for the suits at the International House of Soccer, you'd be making your off season plans at this point. Given you face the Crew, on the road, in the final game of the season, that fork in your ass must be rather noticeable at this point. Columbus 'till I die.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Real Salt Lake to Win at -200

By El Luchador
Real Salt Lake v New York Red Bulls
, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 10 p.m. (EDT)
TV ESPN2

There is no team in MLS more pathetic than the New York Red Bulls. With 18 points in 28 games, the Red Bulls' record is nearly twice as bad as the next most shitty team, San Jose who have a comparatively respectable 29 points in 28 games. At -23, NY's goal differential is by far the worst. Again San Jose are next at -12. And here's the kicker: New York have not won on the road since George W. Bush was still sitting in the White House reading the bible and waiting for the Rapture. Meanwhile, the fervent prayers of God's chosen people and the other empirical things going for Real Salt Lake, make a bet on the Mormons a sure thing.
OUR PREDICTION: RSL to Win. Big Time.
MONEY LINE
: RSL -200 TIE +265 NY +475
LUHAMETRIC:
RECENT TRAVEL Advantage RSL: This is another big difference between these two squads. RSL come into this match with a club-record 18-day break from league action, and they have been resting comfortably and preparing for this match at home for nearly 3 weeks. By contrast, NY are in the 4th week of a 3-game winless western road swing where they have traveled more than 3,000 miles.
HOME –v- AWAY FORM – Advantage RSL. RSL have not lost at home since a 2-0 loss May 16 to Kansas City. That was their only home loss of the season. Meanwhile, NY have not won on the road since July 8, 2007 when they eked out a 1-0 victory over Colorado. Think about it: It has been more than two years since New York have won a game away from home.
INSPIRATION Advantage RSL:
Eliminated from playoff contention, the Red Bulls are trying to avoid becoming the third team in MLS history to go winless on the road for the entire season. (One of the two other teams to do so was the 2008 Red Bulls squad). Real Salt Lake still have a chance at the playoffs. If they win this, and other things go their way, the Polygimists still can make the International House of Soccer's "every-child-is-an-honor-student" style playoff system. They are just four points out of the final wild card spot with three games still to play. In short, NY have only their honour to play for, which is to say NY have nothing to play for. RSL have the possibility of winning an MLS Cup berth in their home finale.
HISTORY Advantage NY. This is the weird part. RSL have never beaten NY. You heard that right, in 10 games in all competition, RSL are 0-4-6 vs. NY. Don't let this fool you. Remember, NY suck. Really, really suck. RSL are due for a win against these guys.
RECENT FORM Advantage EVEN: RSL – TLLTWW (8), NY – LTTLWW (8)
INJURIES Advantage
RSL: QUESTIONABLE: MF Ned Grabavoy (L foot contusion); PROBABLE: FW Fabian EspĂ­ndola (R hamstring tightness); MF Javier Morales (R ankle sprain); GK Nick Rimando (illness); DF Robbie Russell (illness) NY: OUT: DF Kevin Goldthwaite (adductor surgery); FW John Wolyniec (L ankle surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF Jorge Rojas (L knee hyperextension); FW Juan Pablo Angel (R ankle sprain).

The Masked one doesn't do this very often, but here goes: The Luchametric guarantees this outcome. RSL will win. Bet the rent money. Do it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

MLS Power Rankings Updated

By El Chupacabra
The MLS Power Rankings have been updated since Wednesday's game between Dallas and San Jose. No major changes to report. Dallas and DC are within two PTS of making the playoffs and are ranked higher than New England. Here's hoping the Crew win on Saturday to keep DC and Dallas in the hunt. It's going to be a sad day for the reputation of the International House of Soccer (MLS) if a team as crappy as New England gets rewarded with a shot at the MLS Cup.
I guess we could also point out that even though Houston is second in the league with 44 PTS, the Luchametric is unimpressed, as we have even SEA and COL ahead of them in the rankings. Tough noogies Dynamo fans. You can suck it.
Of course, to be REALLY fair, the differences among CHI, LA, SEA, COL, HOU and CVS are negligible. Only our Crew have some daylight between themselves and the rest of the pack. 'till I die. . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Toronto to Win at Home over San Jose

By El Luchador
San Jose
Earthquakes at Toronto FC 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10
As a Crew fan, it is hard for El Luchador to lay his money down on the Red soccer team from the Great White North. These are the hosers who bring busloads of mouth-breathing drunken Rush fans across the border each year to Crew Stadium to cheer a draw like it’s an FA Cup win and try to have their way with our women. But alas, the Masked One’s MLS pick of the week is Toronto at home to win over San Jose.
OUR PREDICTION: TOR to Win
MONEY LINE
Toronto -153 TIE +250 San Jose +350
LUCHAMETRIC: Advantage TOR:
TOR -0.15, SJ -0.85. Very little separates these two teams statistically, but the patented Luchametric system measuring total production over the season gives a slight edge to TOR.
RECENT TRAVEL Advantage TOR:
SJ will travel 2,250 miles after dropping their home closer 2-1 to Dallas Wednesday night, and this will be their 3rd game in 7 days. TOR have been resting comfortably at home since returning Sunday from a 2-2 tie to Chicago last Saturday, which kept their playoff hopes alive.
HOME –v- AWAY FORM – Advantage TOR.
BMO Field has been a virtual fortress for TOR in MLS play. They have not lost at home since a 2-0 June 6 loss to LA. And they have only 3 home losses in league play all year. TOR have never lost their home closer.
INSPIRATION Advantage TOR:
With their disappointing loss to DAL Wednesday, SJ have nothing to play for but their pride, such as it is. TOR are still very much alive in the playoff hunt, and this game is a must win.
HISTORY Advantage TOR:
TOR beat SJ this year in the away leg July 11. In 2008 TOR lost one and tied one. (2007 was TOR’s first year in the league, and SJ had not yet returned from their hiatus).
RECENT FORM Advantage
SJ: TOR– TLWLTL (5), SJ – LWWTTL (8)
INDIVIDUAL PLAY Advantage TOR:
SJ Goalkeeper Joe Cannon has given up more goals (44) than anyone in the league. Neither team has an offensive superstar with league-leading stats in any category.
INJURIES Advantage TOR:
While the Reds list DF Marvell Wynne as questionable, El Luchador’s sources say, he likely will play. SJ sorely miss the services of English attacking MF Darren Huckerby. SJ OUT: MF Darren Huckerby (R hip surgery); MF Andre Luiz (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Cornell Glen (R knee sprain); DF Jason Hernandez (L hamstring strain). TOR OUT: MF Carl Robinson (facial bone fracture); QUESTIONABLE: DF Marvell Wynne (quad); PROBABLE: DF Adrian Serioux (neck); FW Pablo Vitti (quad)

It does pain us to make this pick, my brothers and sister in Black and Gold, but the facts speak for themselves: At -153 at home, to stay in the hunt for their first ever playoff bid, Toronto FC are a good bet to win this one.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

US at Honduras on TV: Money Talks; Fans Sulk

By El Chupacabra
Looking forward to watching the US Men's National Team play Honduras in their important World Cup Qualifying game on Saturday? Well, you're screwed.

As the NY Times has reported, you can only watch the match on closed-circuit television at roughly 200 outlets across the country. And guess what? The morons in suits at MLS are partially responsible.

"Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer that also owns the rights to United States home games, sold the rights to Honduras before the qualifier in Chicago in June. At that time, S.U.M. attempted to purchase the rights to the return match from the Honduran federation, but they had already been sold to Mediapro, according to Dan Courtemanche, an M.L.S. executive," wrote Goal's Jack Bell.

"Under the current system, the home federation (in this case, Honduras) owns the TV rights to its qualifiers in the Concacaf region. And while the Brazilian company Traffic has negotiated rights deals with most countries in Central America and the Caribbean, the Hondurans reached a deal with a Spanish company, Mediapro, for the game against the United States. After unsuccessfully trying to sell the rights to ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel, Mediapro made a deal with Integrated Sports Media to do the game on closed circuit."

In Columbus, the only locations will be Claddagh Irish Pub in the Brewery District and Fado's Irish Pub at Easton.

Is anyone at MLS Inc. (otherwise known as the International House of Soccer) an actual fan of the game? Or are they all a bunch of Red State, cheeze-dick, Community College of East Toledo Business School DIP SHITS hoping to eventually jump over to the NBA, MLB or NFL?

Email or call your local MLS "franchise" (we would use the word "team" but it doesn't seem appropriate anymore) and let them know just how pissed you are. El Chupa was scrambling to find the game and was even willing to fork over his hard-earned, paltry wages as a professional dog walker to watch it on Pay-Per-View. Instead, he will probably just drink himself to sleep watching Tivoed reruns of Saved by the Bell.

MLS Handicapping: Dallas at San Jose

By El Luchador and El Chupacabra
Here's the Masked One’s look at the MLS midweek fixture featuring Dallas at San Jose. These two teams are extremely closely matched, and this one is probably only for our most compulsive brothers and sisters. SJ is in second-to-last place in the league table. But with some recent decent form they have crawled their way up to 28 PTS overall, a mere 5 pts behind DAL. The patented LUCHAMETRIC system places these two bottom feeders only .62 of a Standard Deviation apart, which is largely due to Dallas' considerable advantage in Total Goals Scored, 45 to SJ's 32. The numbers tell us that DAL create more shots but only slightly more Shots on Goal. However, in our measure of Quality Scoring Chances, Dallas have an advantage. Still, this one is very close. Both have a good recent form at +2 (Wins minus Losses last four games). El Luchador and El Chupa both recommend sitting this one out, but if you have to bet to earn back some of the kids' milk money that you lost last week betting on Colorado yet again, try taking the Earthquakes or better yet the tie.

MONEY LINE
DAL
-120 Draw +210 SJO +120

LUCHAMETRIC Advantage DAL: -.08 to -.70

RECENT TRAVEL Advantage SJO - DAL have not played since last Wednesday at home, but will travel nearly 1,500 miles for this match.

INSPIRATION Advantage DAL - SJO are playing for pride, DAL have three games with which to produce as many PTS as possible and thus overtake New England for the last playoff spot. With COL and SEA looming, this is a must win, and 3 points on the road at SJO coupled with a New England loss to the Crew (yeah baby!) would put DAL within three PTS of NE. Plus, SJ will be playing on three days rest after their 1-0 home victory over the Red Bulls.

HISTORY Draw - Since San Jose returned to the league last year, they have met Dallas three times, and every time the result was the same: Draw.

ENVIRONMENT Draw - Both teams play virtually at sea level in similar climes. Game time temp is expected to be a perfect 60 degrees. If there is a slight advantage it is for SJ, who have enjoyed decent, supportive home crowds and a 4 percent boost in attendance this year.


RECENT FORM Draw - Both teams are +2 (wins minus losses last four games)

MLS Power Rankings: Playoff Picture Clearly a Joke

By El Chupacabra
The playoff picture has gotten a bit clearer but also a bit more dramatic as both Chivas USA (dirty hacks--only RSL and SEA have more Reds and Yellows) and New England are making a serious run for the final two spots.

Our rankings, however, are not as impressed with New England as the suits at MLS who came up with this ridiculous playoff system. As we've said before, mediocre teams get into the playoffs in order to generate revenue not because of the logic of sport, certainly not the logic of football. Chivas can at least make a case for belonging in the top tier, as they have a Z score in the LM nearly .5 above the league average. New England? How about -.16 Standard Deviations BELOW the league average. Yeah, a team whose total production for the season and per game is LESS THAN AVERAGE has a shot at the post-season. Nice job MLS. You've created a sport product that has taken the sport out of the product. Freaking corporate scum.

Monday, October 5, 2009

McCullers vs Nordecke: It's Columbus Stupid

By El Chupacabra

Here's the thing. Far be it for El Chupa to take the side of the Man, but the current strife surrounding our beloved Nordecke has less to do with Mark McCullers and Crew management than it does with C-Bus itself. Columbus is the problem, people. What we have here is not a failure to communicate, so much as an ongoing battle between provincial, middlebrow, middle class, white-bread Columbus on the one hand, and the Doo-Dah, Gay Pride, Comm Fest, urban hipster Columbus on the other. The problem, however, is that when you cast pearls before swine, no amount of convincing will turn the swine from their usual slop to the genuine pearls you offer them. The key is some sort of accommodation, and McCullers is faced with marketing a product to two demographics who basically have contempt for each other. Good luck, Mark, you'll need it.

Remember Ameriflora? No? Then you're too young. But El Chupa does. Since the 1980s if not earlier, there has been a tension in Columbus. On the one side is the dominant culture represented best by the Dispatch editorial and sports pages (Ray Stein has contempt for soccer), 610 WTVN (Air Watch Traffic on the Tens, Bob Conners), the old Jai Lai, the corporatized nightmare that is the City of Dublin, the Memorial Golf Tournament, Scioto Country Club, Wendy's, the Cheff-O-Nette, and virtually every local news outfit other than the alternative papers. On the other side of Columbus are the denizens of Olde Town East, Victorian Village, German village, the Short North and Clintonville. They have the Gallery Hop, the Surly Girl, the Clintonville Farmer's Market, Calumet Market, and the Crew.

These two groups not only do not live near each other, they live in two entirely different intellectual spaces as well. Oh, they don't LIKE each other very much either.

El Chupa's late father was stationed in Cincinnati in the late 1960s (Why Cincy? I have no idea, I was only two at the time). He dreaded coming to Columbus on assignment because it was, in his words "A Freaking Cow Town." Remember there was no Gay Pride, no Comm Fest, no Doo Dah Parade, no Short North -- in short, none of the things that today serve so many of our brothers and sisters so well that we don't feel compelled to march downtown and just start fucking shit up because we're so bored. There are things in Columbus that actual thinking men and women can do to keep us from realizing just how land-locked and isolated we are from the other major centers of the civilized world. Woe to the hipster in Dayton -- he/she is screwed.

The best example of Columbus' provincial, midwestern, middle brow soul at Crew Stadium is, without a doubt, the Crewzers. High School and 6 years of grad school in Columbus taught El Chupa that whenever Columbus gets something even remotely cool, the local dominant culture will try to fuck it up by marketing it to the least common denominator: Joe and Jane Buckeye. Thus the Crew allow strippers to perform at an event where such cheese-dick, American-style-capitalism marketing schemes have absolutely no place. And don't think we don't know that Europe is slowly succumbing to such artifices. We know better. But at least in European stadiums they have 100+ years of real football culture to offset the marketing ploys of the dicks in suits upstairs. We ain't got that.

And let's be clear, there is some really cool shit in C-Bus. I know that the local hipsters get a bit jaded, but Columbus does offer a quality of life that rivals cities that have a hipper reputation, such as Portland and Seattle. The problem is that the local big money always, always, always, ALWAYS suffers from the same freaking idiocy and provincialism of the white bread hordes in the burbs who screw up virtually everything from Holloween (I know, let's be sure NOT to trick or treat on the actual day the rest of the country does! We have to protect the children!) to the Columbus Convention Center (hideously ugly does not make something architecturally avant garde) to our beloved Crew.

McCullers isn't the issue, per se. He has no choice but to kow tow to the big money. We get that. The issue is C-Bus itself. My advice to the soccer mom's? This is our house, GTFO.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sigi’s Prodigal Return Brings Justice and With It Heartache

By El Luchador

The same man who started the longest home unbeaten streak in MLS history, has now ended it.

Former Crew Skipper Sigi Schmid triumphantly returned to Columbus on Saturday night to beat his former assistant Robert Warzycha in a dramatic and erratic 1-0 jamboree before a large and boisterous crowd at Crew Stadium.


On June 7, 2008, the Columbus Crew lost 2-0 at home to the San Jose Earthquakes. No one knew at the time that it would be nearly 16 months and 22 home games before the Crew would lose again in C-Bus. How uncanny that this defeat would come at the hands of the who man started the whole streak to begin with on that warm summer evening last June, the man who brought Columbus her first ever professional championship just last year, the man who was dissed by Crew General Manager Mark McCullers, the man who is the most Massive coach in the MLS?


This match was a cautionary morality tale on two levels. First, if you fuck people as hard as McCullers fucked Sigi, there will be consequences. What comes around goes around. This is why El Luchador did not bet on this game. It was writ large in the heavens that sooner or later McCullers would have to look down from his luxury box to see the Fat Man laughing.

But second and more importantly, you can only take the pro wrestling, South American style of football so far before the cosmic balance of justice and karma comes back to restore equilibrium in the universe.


Even as a devoted fan, El Luchador could see clearly that Alejandro Moreno and Guillermo Barros Schelotto both tried to dive their way to glory in this game, as they have so many times before. Ryan Kozlowski wrote at Crewture recently about how in the last few weeks, the Black and Gold relied on a penalty kick to give them a 2-1 win over Houston at home, a penalty kick to give them a 2-2 away tie against Chicago, and nearly used a penalty kick to take them to the CONCACAF Champions League knockout round this week.


Finally it caught up with us on Saturday as the gods reached down and pushed the wizard Schelotto’s 83rd minute PK wide left.


This wasn’t a simple loss that we witnessed my brothers and sisters. This was Manifest Destiny.


This loss was as hard on El Luchador as it was on any living, breathing fan of the Yellow Soccer Team. But two things make it easier to swallow: 1) We saw that this was an inevitable consequence resulting of our own wicked behaviour. And 2) We didn’t lay any money on this one.


Columbus till I die.

EPL Handicapping: Liverpool at Chelsea - Thunder of the Gods

By El Chupacabra
Here's our take on the the premier fixture in the Premier League this weekend.

Liverpool at Chelsea
The Luchametric’s hard numbers tell us that these two teams are virtually the same. A mere .04 of a Standard Deviation separates them, which is like saying that the difference is within the margin of error--well within it. The other numbers tell us that Benitez is a dickhead. It's hard to be objective on this one after what the Scouser fans did to our beloved World Soccer Daily.

The hard numbers tell us that Liverpool scores more goals but also gives up more. Chelsea scores fewer goals but gives up fewer goals, fewer shots, basically fewer everything when it comes to opportunities created against. These teams don't like each other, and when they meet it has all the markings of a classic "derby," and Benitez is a dickhead. Wait, I mean to say that both teams are highly motivated. They have a long history of beating each other in key games and key competitions, and both will be up for the match. Chelsea was beaten last year at home by the Scousers, and they lost last week at Wigan. Liverpool lost on Tuesday at Fiorentina and looked like hell on defense. Plus, every game between top teams is huge as dropping three points to your closest competitors means you have to make them up at some point, and you've just dropped points to a team whose rate of earning PTS/GM is the same as yours making it difficult to overtake them, especially as the season progresses because you have fewer games left by which to acquire points.

Finally, Chelsea's schedule has not been very tough, and they haven't been winning by large margins. This will be the first time they've played a world class offensive side that is clearly hitting it on all cylinders. It comes down to whether Chelsea can stifle Liverpool's attack AND take advantage of the opportunities Liverpool will give up. We think Liverpool's committment to attack explains why they've given up more goals than the Blues, but we also think that their defense is suspect. But that doesn't mean that Chelsea will have many scoring chances, as they certainly haven't lit it up against much lesser teams.

Our prediction: Draw 1-1

MONEY
LINE Liverpool +215 TIE +210 Chelsea Even

LUCHAMETRIC Draw. Diff is .04 Standard Deviations

RECENT TRAVEL Chelsea: Both teams traveled to Europe midweek for UEFA matches. But Liverpool are traveling down to London. Slight nod to Chelsea here.

INSPIRATION Draw. Chelsea are looking to avenge last year's loss at home to the Scousers. Plus, they lost last week to Wigan and need to reassert their early season form in the EPL. Benitez is a dickhead. Both teams dislike each other, and the Scousers would like nothing better than to stick it to one of their biggest rivals on their home turf. Finally, the Scousers were humiliated on Tuesday, Benitez ripped them a new one, and they'll be looking to convince him and their fans that they're better than they looked on Tuesday.

INJURIES Advantage Liverpool: Chelsea is without Cech, and Ballack is doubtful. But, the Chelsea website is reporting he will be back. Liverpool will be without only Dosenna and Aquilani.

HISTORY Advantage Liverpool: All time results in all competitions: Liverpool 69 Draw 33 Chelsea 54.

RECENT FORM
Advantage Liverpool: Scousers WLWWWW Chelsea WWWWWL