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

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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.

Blek!

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.