By Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
Listening to the weekly podcast circuit something that was a bit of a theme among all of them was how underrated Columbus is going into the last week of the season. Obviously this coming off a pretty significant win against Toronto FC and it's easy to praise a team when they do well and then wait to kick them when they're down.
I'm going to go against both my personal feelings and the current narrative being pushed by… well, the entire MLS community concerning the men in yellow. They're a good team, maybe, an average team at worst. But they're not a great team.
Let's be honest, sometime's they're incredibly disjointed, Federico Higuian has very scarily gone missing at times or under-performed at huge junctions and it seems that Kei Kamara is bailing them out in ways that I've yet to really distinguish. Columbus is good. So are half the clubs in MLS.
The other side of the coin is Sporting Kansas City and their two-nil loss to Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night. While people are talking about how they were “shocked” and “didn't/couldn't get it done”, this is the definition of a very good team and one that isn't getting it due.
Krisztián Németh is one of the most underrated players coming from the 2014 winter transfer period who thrown up 10 goals and added six assists. It's possible had he played more than 2,000 minutes that he'd recieve some deserved recognition. But much like Chris Carrabba, Németh goes unnoticed.
However Benny Feilhaber has gotten plenty of praise, and deserved it all. Well, most. Coupled with Dom Dwyer, the three combine for SKC as the only team to sport a trio of double-digit goal scoring figures in MLS.
Most stats we use give general outcomes. But according to the most of these vague numbers Sporting Kansas City deserve what they get in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe they get a home game maybe not. The reality is they're possibly one of the best team in MLS (see, no definitive statement!) and despite that most people are overlooking them because... Graham Zusi is overrated or they lost a game they shouldn't have.
This reminds me of the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs where LA Galaxy dispatched a very good San Jose Earthquakes just after winning the Supporters' Shield. It's not that San Jose wasn't a good club. Both were very good, well matched clubs but the difference and distinction between the two was so much more similar than most were lead to believe. That everyone was shocked LA managed to take a two-legged series from the Quakes.
MLS Cup playoffs are maybe as chaotic and random event as there is in soccer. Heck, the Rapids won the 2010 MLS Cup, the Houston Dynamo beat multiple superior teams to reach the MLS Cup… twice. And seven of the last 10 clubs to reach the MLS Cup final in the last five seasons have been different.
So… maybe, Columbus has a chance? I don't know, all I know is this: Sporting is good, probably better than we recognize and Crew SC is good but that's probably it. And while the best team doesn't always win don't confuse that concept with a team being better than what we had thought beating a team we probably overrated.
- CCLQuarter-final Match-ups: MLS v. Liga MX
The next stage of the CONCACAF Champions League has been announced and it's an uncanny match-up of Liga MX and MLS. An us versus them delivering a brand new kind of hyperbole. Which is exciting if you love to watch people freak out and embellish on opinions of things that they can't really know or haven't even attempted to do the home work to learn.
My problem, which I've seen limited people mention, is the poor manner in which teams achieve their placement within the quarter-finals. Goal Differential from the group stage makes a sort of sense but comparing the competition Club America had in the group stage (CD Motagua and Walter Ferretti) to that of UANL Tigres (who faced Herediano and Metapan) there exists a lack of considered symmetry.
Goal differential as tie breaker is fine, I suppose, but there is a better way to match teams in this case; I suggest a random draw . I'm sure there are more efficient or tactically better methods than this but without really breaking a mental sweat let's focus on the merits.
Leagues and Confederations are simply different eco systems so proposing something on the basis that it works elsewhere is a false argument. But how UEFA has executed the random draw at each stage has worked well and it sets up some interesting match-ups that aren't predicated by how a team performed in a very limited sample size that spanned multiple months.
If we were talking about a few more games, maybe even double the amount in the group stage, like eight, that might give us a better or strong idea of these teams. We know that it takes 17 games to establish expected goals as some sort of an accurate predictive measure. It's possible that in a smaller group playing in a round robin fashion that an accurate and effective model could be established.
The problem is to establish an effective manner of weighting each club is all intense work that isn't necearily going to even do it accurate. Randomizing it removes the worry about number one or number eight seeds and pits good teams against other good teams.
Merely a thought.
- The weekend ahead
I got some flak last week for saying the Red Bulls have been the best team in MLS this season. But the point remains the same as Sporting KC and LA Galaxy would still rank top amongst the pack and with the Red Bulls likely skimming off a conference that had two expansion teams (scoring 12 out of a possible 15 points against the new comers).
This isn't taking anything away from a team having a very successful season and will finish top of a but those points plus winning series against Philadelphia, stealing some easy points from Chicago and an early season Montreal that struggled early.
They took advantage of the teams they played and ended up with a great season. That said they're likely not as dominating of a club as they as they at least appear by way of the goal differential statistic. That said their upbeat tactics and high press combined with the depth of their squad obviously makes them a very tough team.
- #DecisionDay Match-ups
5 PM, EST
Toronto FC @ Montreal Impact
New England @ New York City FC
DC United @ Columbus Crew SC
Orlando City SC @ Philadelphia Union
7 PM, EST
New York Red Bulls @ Chicago Fire
Houston Dynamo @ Vancouver Whitecaps
Real Salt Lake @ Seattle Sounders FC
San Jose Earthquakes @ FC Dallas
Colorado Rapids @ Portland Timbers
LA Galaxy @ Sporting KC