A ‘Massive’ Theory
Soccer is ‘the beautiful game’ played on a pitch with twenty-two players, a perfectly round ball and typically three people in matching brightly colored shirts that kind of know what is going on. It is a sport driven by athleticism, intelligence and fluidity. The thrill of a goal is partly what defines the game throughout the world. After a player scores an eventual game winner with a side-winding strike far post upper ninety in the 88′ minute he or she sprints towards the adoring fans in jubilation for a few moments of adoration. There are very few moments in other sports that are comparable to this kind of idolization. The reason is goals do not come easily in soccer and therefore when the onion bag shakes with a lively purpose, an eruption of celebratory chants, clapping and high fives all around to perfect strangers (how we all miss Balki) is the pulse-pounding protocol. The ‘soccer gods’ are often given their thanks for goals in the biggest of games.
Like other sports, soccer is proven on the field. As my Jamaican coach used to profess over and over again, “let the ball do the work.” He also threw in, “Jimmy, what is your malfunction!?” Just know the latter phrase was shouted at me in one of my very first games playing for this coach. It was a fascinating moment to say the least. To be clear though, upon reflection, I was ‘malfunctioning’ that game. Suffice it to say, the jest was just.
For most teams, what is left on the field when the final whistle blows, whether it’s a win or a loss, is generally accepted and the team then prepares for the next match. However, upon extensive research, it was discovered that the Columbus Crew is not like most teams in Major League Soccer. They should not just accept results and move on to the next opponent. There is an x-factor with this group that can be achieved if a specific threshold is met. Soccer is not a game of numbers, but in the Crew’s case, this season can very well be made or broken because of one precise number: 40.
The Columbus Crew has won championships before, as well as the horse race of earning the most points in all of MLS on a few occasions. Throughout the past decade, from 2002-2011, the Columbus Crew has revealed a fascinating formula for predicting their success. Stay with me, but the following is the mathematical argument for how the Columbus Crew sets itself up to win championships and/or Supporters’ Shields. Let’s begin.
Here is a table of numbers that highlights the year, total team goals scored and the end results of each season:
2002: 44 Goals (Open Cup Champions & MLS semi-finals)
2003: 44 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2004: 40 Goals (Supporters’ Shield Winners)
2005: 34 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2006: 30 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2007: 39 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2008: 50 Goals (MLS Cup Champions & Supporters’ Shield Winners)
2009: 41 Goals (Supporters’ Shield Winners & MLS quarter-finals)
2010: 40 Goals (MLS quarter-finals)
2011: 43 Goals (MLS Wild Card)
2012: 25 Goals with 11 games remaining (TBD)
The playoff and championship information is courtesy of the Columbus Crew’s 2011 Digital Media Guide
The goals per game information is courtesy of mlssoccer.com/standings
This information reveals that in each season from 2002-2011 that the Crew won a championship (MLS Cup or Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) and/or a Supporters’ Shield they scored at least 40 goals. Also note that every single year the Crew did not make the MLS playoffs throughout the past decade that those teams never scored 40 goals with only 2003 as the lone exception. This anomaly should be considered the margin of error. This is an evolving theory and the data has established a nearly exact formulaic expression. It cannot be ignored that this statistical benchmark proves rewarding for our men in black and gold when reaching the big 40.
Some may argue that of course a team has to score lots of goals to be successful. Sure. The only caveat is there seems to be a particular pattern developing with this team that directly correlates to end of the season achievements and opportunities.
Here is a formula that expresses the Columbus Crew’s mathematical obligation and its subsequent springboard towards achieving championships and titles of varying sorts. I call it The Road Paved in Black & Gold:
Columbus Crew Goals For > 40 = Playoffs and/or Winning Hardware
The Crew’s 2012 regular season is in its final third and currently the team has accumulated a meager 25 goals and sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Only the top five from each conference will qualify for the playoffs. Mathematically, at least fifteen goals need to scored in the next eleven games for them to earn a playoff spot (acknowledging 2003) and have a legitimate opportunity to hoist at least one of the remaining championship trophies. In the Crew’s case, the only title left to be had that is realistically within their grasp is the MLS Cup. I’m assuming most of the Crew Soccer Nation would accept this proposition.
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance…Yeah! I read ya.”
–Lloyd Christmas, “Dumb and Dumber”
Some may call this analysis dumb and that it has no significance, but basic arithmetic disagrees. With 90% certainty, any collaborative goal tally less than 40 goals equals more snowball fights, snow angels and sledding time come this winter for America’s Hardest Working Team. Better news is the seeding for the playoffs would be borderline insignificant because in both 2009 and 2010 (painful memories for Columbus) the last and second to last teams that qualified for the postseason those years ended their seasons by hoisting the MLS Cup Championship trophy. Is hope starting to grow?
As showcased in the 2-2 draw at Houston and the 2-1 win against Toronto, the addition of Designated Player Federico Higuain adds a dynamic element to the Crew’s offense they haven’t had since the days of Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Add Eddie Gaven and the second newest player in forward Jairo Arrieta plus random offensive bursts from the likes of Cole Grossman, Sebastian Miranda or Josh Williams on a set-piece or corner kick (it will happen this year) and the third lowest scoring team in MLS can all of a sudden generate a relative explosion of goals and make the final games much more interesting for fans and competitors alike.
Forget 9 or 10 because as of August 23rd the most important number on the field for Columbus is 1.36 (rounded off) goals per game to reach the minimum 40. However, if the Crew’s new offense can muster the same goals per game at Houston and at home against Toronto (2 per game), then they would finish the regular season with 47. This total would be just three shy of their storybook 2008 MLS Cup Championship season. Just something to ponder…
Columbus Crew: Show us you understand that you prepare with your mind and play from your heart. In return, we’ll honor you with the loudest and most passion-filled fans in all of Major League Soccer. The atmosphere will be electric and Massive.
How do I know? It’s math.