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

Oct 29, 2012, 1:10 PM EDT

Crew cat

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.

  1. mkbryant3 - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Aren’t the Crew up for sale as well? Ugh.

    • Steve Davis - Oct 29, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      Uh … that’s a good question. There was some confusion over that last week. Hunt Sports Group says that’s not exactly accurate.

  2. wesbadia - Oct 29, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    I remember a few years back when Kinnear made the generalized comment that “40 points was the threshold for making the playoffs”. Now it seems like 50 is that threshold. Granted, two to four more games are being played now than when Kinnear made that comment, but it goes to show how the sport has changed in MLS.

  3. tylerbetts - Oct 29, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    It’s probably worth mentioning that the Crew WOULD have made the MLS Cup Tournament this year if we were using the qualification method used last year.

    It’s probably also worth pointing out that Steve had to post this article on a Monday, show the horrible Warzycha stats at the end of the year, and make me click on this a few times at work and then again at home before I was able to post a comment that would be permissible in a Disney movie.

    But, hey, I’ve posted before about Warzycha’s end-of-year meltdowns. I’ve pointed out how last year the Crew should have been the third seed in the East, awaiting a home-and-home, rather than traveling to see me in Denver. So, I know about this. But, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to look at the results map and see September 5th kick off a “3 points in four matches” stretch. Or know that we controlled our destiny that day to a high seed, only to get 7 points in 7 matches before being mathematically eliminated.

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