Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crew Houston Post-Game Quickie

Our Number 9
  • We're going to call RW's lineup a 4-4-2.  It didn't look like a diamond in the midfield to us, as the boys played rather flat in the middle.  Also, GBS dropped back pretty early on, so although the shape was sort-of a 4-4-2, the team didn't play like it for most of the game once Schelotto's instincts took over.
  • Speaking of which, why does RW insist on pushing GBS up top? He didn't contribute much tonight and looked frustrated.  He needs to play back and be given free reign to roam the middle of the field. Playing Renteria as the lone striker seems like a no-brainer to us.
  • Renteria is big and tough so why try to draw fouls? We love him up top though.  Neither NY nor HOU could really handle him and he draws a lot of attention creating space for other players. Let's hope he keeps his starting job when Lenhart gets back.
  • We like Ekpo on the left. He really held that side of the field down and was unselfish and creative during the attack phase. He plays smart and has skills.  We think both he and Renteria have shown they belong in the XI.
  • We think this might have been the best Crew lineup of the year; granted, we were playing an inferior opponent.  But if GBS could have been dropped back in the center from the start, we think we would have been tough and organized and dangerous.
  • Rogers looks out of position on the right.  Not to keep hammering him, but sometimes he looks like he doesn't have a clue what he's doing or supposed to be doing.  In fact, both he and GBS seemed out of position. Against teams like LA and RSL, the team can't afford not to be getting full production out of each and every player.
  • Houston is a mess.  They've got some dangerous players who can attack but they simply aren't as organized as the Crew nor are they as big physically, which we thought was causing them problems (three yellow cards, for example). It will take a miracle for them to make the playoffs, nor should they unless they show marked improvement.
  • I'm not sure we were running up the score, but the third goal certainly will be remembered by HOU and their fans.
  • Te Amo Columbus! Columbus Te Amo! 'Till I die!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Crew vs Houston Statistical Comparison: Dynamo Dangerous on Attack; Porous on Defense

As we indicated yesterday, the percentages favor the Crew heavily in today's match against the Dynamo.  A closer look at the numbers reveals some nuances worth mentioning.

First, the Dynamo are dangerous on attack.  Both they and the Crew score about 1.3 GF/GM.  But our measure of Quality Shots on Goal, which essentially measures how much better than the league average is a team's ratio of goals to SOGs shows that Houston is substantially ahead of the Crew.  Houston scores a goal 38% of the time when they manage to create a SOG.  The Crew's percentage is 30%; the league average is 27%.

Houston currently has five players who have scored 3 goals or more this year; and 4 players with double-digit shot totals.  And Brian Ching is tied with Brad Davis as the team's top scorer with 3 goals each.  Over the last four games, Ching has played with 3 different players up top--a mark of depth and/or of a team looking for answers given the absence of Davis (he injured his hip flexor but as far as we can determine, should start tonight).  If Davis resumes his duties as the attacking center-mid, the Crew will have to defend sharply to avoid falling behind, especially given the fact the Hejduk is out with a red card suspension and Carroll is out with an injury.  It will be interesting to see if Warzycha goes with Renteria and Ekpo rather than with his more traditional and conservative XI which includes Gaven, Rogers and Garey.  We'd love to at least see Renteria start if Rogers gets yet still another chance to show he can play consistently enough to start every match on the left wing. Regardless, with Davis back, the Dynamo's attack will be balanced and formidable.  They are, however, winless in their last six games.

The real problem for Houston is their defending.  They give up nearly 1.4 GA/GM.  What's interesting is that they don't give up more SHTA or SOGA than the Crew--they actually give up fewer.  But they've allowed far more goals.  One explanation is that teams are able to create more QUALITY chances against them than is typical in the league.  Another explanation is that their keeper, Pat Onstad, stinks.  His save percentage is around 62%.  Our man Hesmer is at 76%.  Hagado C-Bus! Te amo Crew! 'Til I die!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Luchametric MLS Handicapping: Crew and RSL to both Win at Home

We've modified our handicapping table to now include the actual win, loss and draw percentages of each team.  This allows you to compare the teams not only in terms of the LM power score, but also compare the probability of a home win, away win, or draw offered by the books, to the actual performance of each team thus far.

So, this weekend, the books have the Crew at -120 and Houston at +400.  This means that the books are giving the black and gold a 55% chance of a win, Houston a 20% chance of a win, and the draw a 27% chance probability.

As the chart indicates, however, the Crew this season have won 78% of their home games, Houston have lost 57% of their road games, and the Crew have NEVER drawn at home.

This means we think the draw is the least likely bet in this match.  More importantly, we think the Crew to win is a great value bet.  The books have lowered the chance of Crew win by over 20%.. We think they're on crack.  Take the Crew to win and head to the Nordecke. Hagalo Columbus! 'Til I Die!

We also very much like RSL at home.  We think the numbers again speak for themselves.

Luchametric MLS Power Rankings Updated: Dallas you say?

Current Luchametric MLS Power Rankings
Dallas sits atop our Power Rankings.  We've spent the last hour or so trying to figure out if there is a mistake somewhere.  There isn't.  Before you blow a gasket in disbelief, note that the LM is based on production per gameAnd if you compare Dallas' PTS/GM to the Crew, RSL and LA, the four teams are much closer than might appear just from looking at the single table.  Plus you have to factor in that Dallas has the best recent form, which we're perhaps weighing too heavily.  We need more time to look at that possibility.

The R-Squared when we regress the LM to point production in the league currently stands at .76.  This means that our metric explains 76% of the differences among the teams in terms of point production.  That's pretty good, but not as good as the R-squared for 08 and 09 combined, which is .83.  And our R-squared for point production in the EPL is around .90.  So, we're still examining why the MLS metric is not as sharp as the one we developed for the EPL (both are virtually the same).

Further, we'd point out that Dallas has only lost 13% of its games this year.  This puts them second in the league behind LA at 11%, and makes them over twice as good as RSL (26%) and well below the league average of 38%.n  They currently lead the league in draws.  In short, they are very, very, very tough to beat. They have drawn or won 87% of the games they have played thus far.  Our metric treats draws and performance in draws as significant evidence of a team's power--what we call "production."  The American proclivity to ignore draws as nothing more than "kissing your sister," we think ignores what draws tell us about a team. As such, Dallas gets more credit for how well it plays in wins, losses AND draws, which probably accounts for their place in the standings.  If they can maintain their rate of production, they should start getting some clean wins.  But it could also be that they've peaked at mid-season, and by the end of the year will drop back down in our rankings.  We'll see.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wanted: Nordecke Chant Recordings--Hagado Columbus! Do it!


We were excited to find the following site:

which is one of the best, if not THE best collections of football chants on the web.  But, alas, although the lyrics for Crew chants are well represented, there is only one recording of the Nordecke in full warble.  Consider this a request to any and all of the Crew faithful to record and submit Crew chants pronto.  Show the rest of MLS who rules.

In that spirit: here's a new one.  You know the Seattle Sounders chant? See-aaaaaaaaaaaaaa-tle, Sounnnnnnnnnnnn-ders?   Well here's one straight from the lab at the Luchametric institute: 

Te Amo, Columbus, Te amo!


Over and over and over and over again.  It's mesmerizing.  Roughly translated: "I love you, Columbus, Columbus, I love you"  Word!  Or, alternatively:


It's basically a variant of the chant sung by fans of Cruzeiro FC, which I listened to tonight while watching a replay of a Copa Libertadores match--a tourney, by the way, whose semi-finals are upcoming and should help ease the pain until the EPL starts up in mid-August.  The chant sung by the Cruzeiro hoard was beautiful and made me an instant fan of La Bestia Negra! Azuis Celeste!

Hagado Columbus!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crew Win with Luchametric Formation; Thierry Henry Gets What's Coming to Him

Jack Ruby style, like a thief in the night, El Luchador tonight confronted the cheating Thierry Henry at Crew Stadium after the Red Bulls' humiliating defeat at the hands of the Black and Gold.

Robert Warzycha took the advice of the Luchametric Institute and played the 4-2-3-1 formation in the attacking phase with Renteria up top, and the Crew won handily 2-0 on goals from Renteria and Brian Carroll. Although they "lined up" in the 4-4-1-1 to start both halves, GBS played back deeper than in previous matches and Renteria was the lone marauding striker up front.  And the starts by Expo and Renteria, as we had suggested, clearly gave the crew the attacking prowess they had been lacking.

But the highlight of the evening was when El Luchador spoke truth to power, made Mark McCullers' Security Forces and Columbus Police nervous, and scouted out The Cheater's location to charge in and achieve justice for the people of the Republic of Ireland.  El Luchador did what any sensible football fan would do and called  Henry out on his despicable handball that cost the Irish a place in the World Cup this year.

After France's disgraceful but predictable collapse in South Africa, Henry announced his signing with New York, and he flew to Columbus to witness his team lose to the Crew from a luxury box on the northwest corner of the stadium.

Thierry Henry: As a Frenchman, you know how to surrender. Go ahead and do so  now. Based on what we saw from the Red Bulls tonight, even your cheating ways will not save you or your newly chosen comrades.

Hagalo Columbus! DO IT!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Columbus Crew Tactics: It's Time for a Change


A quick glance at the Crew lineups for the current MLS campaign reveals that Warzycha is in a rut.  Let us tread carefully.  RW is a solid manager; more importantly, he's our manager.  And it's not that the Crew aren't doing well. It's just that they don't look like a championship club at this point.  And if the record at is to be believed, part of the problem, and certainly part of the blame for last night's loss to down-table Kansas City, must lie in the fact that the Crew have become woefully predictable.

The Crew have played a 4-4-1-1 each and every game this season, with relatively minor changes to the starters.  And the 4-4-1-1 has its merits, which we've outlined in an earlier post.  But we're starting to think that at this point in the season, fully half-way through the Crew's campaign, teams in the league have thoroughly scouted the Black and Gold and know too well how to defend against us.  And it's also clear that although the typical starting lineup gives us strength in the midfield and keeps teams at bay (before last night's match our GA/GM was at .86), it sacrifices attack for caution.  Fine. Warzycha is the coach and he gets paid to make the important decisions.  We sincerely respect that.

But we could not help but notice last night that once the attacking subs got in the game, the Crew's energy level went up (understandably), and all of sudden we were swarming all over the KC goal.  On some of the Crew discussion sites, notably Big Soccer, complaints about Schelotto's role in Warzycha's scheme have been around since the start of the season.  Our view is that he's much better used held back, more like a traditional #10.  And in Warzycha's 4-4-1-1, we think Schelotto is pushed up too far and is thus unable to function either as an effective forward/striker, OR as an effective attacking-mid ala World Champion Spain's Xavi.  Last night, late in the match, Ekpo and Renteria were able to create havoc on the Wizards' left, and both showed great flashes of skill both shooting and setting up others.  Plus, we love Renteria's size and his ability to serve as a target for the mids: a striker ala Drogba who can hold the ball, shoot, create. Forza Crew!

As such, here's our dream line-up, at least at home against inferior teams:

In our 4-2-3-1, Renteria moves up top and has license to roam laterally across the top of the Crew's shape.  Rogers starts on the left and is a traditional winger.  Ekpo starts on the right and can fly down the right side or move toward the center to create. Most importantly, Schelotto hangs back as a true center attacking-mid whose job is to create and destribute (ala Xavi), collecting and distributing the ball from his cruising ground in the middle of the field.  Hejduk and Padula will push up as usual depending upon which flank the Crew's attack is building.

This is not a complicated schema.  And it would do much to get the boys out of the rut they've fallen into, making them less predictable and more dangerous from the first minutes of the match rather than just the last 20 or so.  Hagalo C-Bus! 'till I die...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Crew vs Wizards Postgame Quickie

  • Lenhart's one tough mofo.
  • The officiating blew.
  • The Crew needs to quit trying to draw calls, it's stupid and puts too much of the outcome of the game in the hands of a bunch of tools posing as professional referees. 
  • When we put in our attacking subs late we lose our midfield.
  • There's no way we should lose to the likes of KC at home at this point in the season, Warzycha needs to get the boys' heads straight for bottom feeders like KC playing on the road after three straight losses.  
  • We looked tired in the second half. Do we need a new fitness coach? Too much partying during the World Cup break? US Open Cup games taking their toll?
  • Decent crowd for a mid-week game against the likes of KC. Buck a brat; dollar draft. 
  • Renteria and Ekpo deserve more playing time, they have more technical prowess up front than Gaven or Rogers. It would require a different tactical approach, but RW's current starting formation, although not negative football, is too conservative. Put Renteria up top and give Ekpo a start in attacking mid.  We'd lose Rogers' speed, but tonight he didn't do dookie. We might lose something in the midfield, but if you're not going to open things up and attack at home when are you? How about Ekpo for Gaven and Renteria for Garey to start? You'd then have Rogers' speed on the left wing and Expo and Renteria and GBS' technical and creative abilities up front.
  • Columbus 'till I die.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Manu Chao on Diego Maradona

Manu discusses the first time he met Maradona, why he is the greatest player ever, and the meaning behind the song "La Vida Tómbola" which was featured in the documentary film Maradona by Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica

"It is not easy being Diego Maradona."

Monday, July 5, 2010

World Cup Semifinals Handicapping: Party Like its 1974


We don't see Germany trouncing yet another strong world football power, as Spain will match up against Der Mannschaft much better than did the tactic-less, unorganized Argentinians, but we still think the Germans will overpower the Spanish over 90 minutes.  The Germans' ability to patiently and effectively defend and then burst forward en masse with precision makes them a very tough opponent for the Red Fury.  Spain will dominate possession but will find few cracks in the German Wall--of course, if they defend well, they only need one crack, as David Villa continues to demonstrate with aplomb.  But physically the Spanish will have a hard time.  Look for Spain to earn many set-piece goal-scoring opportunities as Iniesta and Villa get pushed and shoved to the ground--oh, and the Spanish will certainly flop too if not dive outright.  Regardless, Spain will need a clean sheet or close to it if they hope to get through to the final.

The disgraceful way Uruguay made it past Ghana has been much-written about, and so we won't add our two pesos.  But the soccer-gods are very angry; and the Orange are now an instrument of divine retribution (in addition to being a very, very good side).  Netherlands 3 Uruguay 1.