Greg Berhalter

Machine Learning the Crew by Eliot McKinley

Machine learning is so hot right now and if Skynet is going to destroy all humans, it should at least know a little bit about Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. To wit, I created a machine learning model to classify which position in a Gregg Berhalter 4-2-3-1 formation a player most likely played in during a single game.

I chose the Crew for a couple reasons. First, they are my favorite team. Second, they had consistent coaching for a long period of time with a defined style of play. The latter is very important, as the model has to be trained well in order for the results to make sense. Since the Crew almost always played a 4-2-3-1 that relied on ball possession to disorganize the defense and create goal opportunities (get used to that phrase USMNT fans) it was a perfect test of whether this kind of thing could be done.

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Life After Kamara: The Crew and Higuain by Harrison Crow

In case you missed the drama last week and are wondering why Kei Kamara was out on the pitch this weekend for New England, Columbus traded their sometimes enigmatic and always entertaining forward to the Revolution for a ransom of MLS financials, a couple draft picks, and an international roster spot. 

Regardless of why, Kamara is now gone from Columbus. The question now shifts to what becomes of the Crew and their immediate future. Kamara in his last post game appearance made a few awkward and pointed remarks. “I haven’t really had to depend on Pipa at all,” Kamara said. “How long have I been here? How many goals have I scored? How many have come from his assists? One, maybe two. I don’t depend on him. I depend on Ethan, I depend on my outside backs to pass me balls.”

This is partially true in terms of actual goal production, but it´s not the entire story. While Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis all accrued their share of assists last year, Kamara's chances have come primarily through a cross-happy approach. Utilizing the Sierra Leone native's elite skills at winning aerial duels in the attacking box, Kamara led MLS with the most aerial duels won (155) with an insane 56% success rate.

Pipa has been credited with only four assists (one being a secondary assist which we don't count in our records) on goals scored by Kamara. But he hasn't exactly been dormant during the Kei era either.

More on the Pipa to Kamara connection after the jump.

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