Crew cat

Let’s talk Columbus Crew numbers, the good and bad


You have to feel a little bit for the Columbus Crew today. In a lot of way, luck just wasn’t with the men in the yellow hard hats.

Columbus cannot count itself among the playoff teams this morning, despite finishing with 52 points. Approach most teams at the beginning of the season and ask if they would take it – most would give it serious consideration, at very least. Some would grab for it.

That’s a total that would have gotten Columbus into the playoffs on any other year; No team has accumulated as many points and then sat home for the “second season.”

Now, some of that is because this year’s 34-game schedule was longer than most years. But, before you scream “A-ha!” … consider this:

The Crew’s 15-12-7 record is playoff-worthy, too, by historic MLS standards. No team has put together a season yet with three more wins than losses and failed to reach the post-season. Heck, Real Salt Lake won the whole bowl of fruit in 2009, and  they marched into the playoffs with one more loss than win (an 11-12-7 record).

Does that make Columbus a good team? No. Robert Warzycha’s club is flawed, just like a lot of them. The point is, the numbers don’t lie, and the Crew just assembled a season that is measurably better than plenty of teams that have made the playoffs in years past. (Yes, Major League Soccer’s long-standing leniency on playoff entry deserves its place in this conversation, but that makes it a much longer conversation. Let’s stay on point for now.)

(MORE: Questions to be answered around Crew Stadium)

Columbus’ dead-even goal difference in 2012 (44 goals scored, 44 goals against) is every bit as exciting as tap water. Then again, owing to those traditionally low playoff entry standards, teams have regularly qualified for MLS post-season with a negative goal-difference. (The last team to do so was, ahem, Columbus last year.)

On the other hand … a Columbus Dispatch columnist did himself some digging, and he came up with what we in the sports biz like to call “statistical gold.” Michael Arace says the Crew’s major downfall is its inability to finish. Not around goal, that is, but in a season.

Yet, the positives are overshadowed by a larger trend: Not since Sigi Schmid coached the team to an MLS Cup title and left town in 2008 has the Crew managed to close well.

Schmid’s successor, Robert Warzycha, has four seasons on the bench. Warzycha is 44-24-28 (.604) in games played in March through August. His record is 11-16-5 (.421) in September and October games. He is 1-4 (.200) in the playoffs.


Warzycha’s job status is hot-topic stuff around Columbus soccer supporters circles. But don’t forget, Hunt Sports Group re-signed the former Polish international to a multi-year deal after last season – and HSG is a group that knows how to squeeze the green off a dollar, if you know what I mean.

That puts the odds in Warzycha’s favor.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.