U.S. Open Cup update

The Dayton Dutch Lions, third-division vanquishers of the Columbus Crew, advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Despite being outshot 21-8, Dayton defeated the Michigan Bucks, 2-1, in overtime.

And the darlings of the tournament, amateur side Cal FC, suffered a 5-0 defeat in Seattle to the three-time defending champion Sounders. Cal FC played the Sounders to a scoreless first half, but the MLS team poured in five goals in a 25-minute span to blow the game open in the second half.

MLS teams won three of four interleague matchups this round, with only the New York Red Bulls falling. The third-division Harrisburg City Islanders, who hosted the match on City Island in the middle of the Susquehanna River, knocked off the big-money team from the Big Apple, 3-1, in overtime.

With tonight’s results, five MLS teams and a trio of third-division clubs remain alive in the quarterfinals.


U.S. Open Cup results from June 5, 2012:

(NASL = 2nd division / USL Pro = 3rd division / PDL = 4th division / USASA=amateur)

Chivas USA (MLS) 2, Carolina RailHawks (NASL) 1

Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2, D.C. United (MLS) 1  [OT]

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro) 3, New York Red Bulls (MLS) 1  [OT]

Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) 2, Michigan Bucks (PDL) 1  [OT]

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 2, Colorado Rapids (MLS) 0

Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) 2, San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) 1  [OT]

Seattle Sounders (MLS) 5, Cal FC (USASA) 0

San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) 1, Minnesota Stars (NASL) 0


2012 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals (June 26)

Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro) at Philadelphia Union (MLS), 7:30 p.m.

Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) at Sporting Kansas City (MLS), 8:30 p.m.

Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) at Chivas USA (MLS), 10:07 p.m.

Seattle Sounders (MLS) at San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), 10:30 p.m.


NHL Standings Inflation

A ridiculous concept has committed the following misdeeds in the 2011-12 NHL season:

* Transferred ownership of the President’s Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

* Reversed a division title and a #3 playoff seed.

* Flip-flopped home-ice advantage for a highly anticipated first round playoff series.

* Turned the NHL into a frozen-over Lake Wobegon where nearly every team is above average.

The ridiculous concept in question is the NHL’s current standings system, where points are awarded for losing hockey games and for winning skills competitions. It used to be that hockey was a straightforward affair. Teams played a game of hockey. The winning team earned two points, the losing team none. If the teams tied, they got a point apiece. The standings were an accurate reflection of a team’s performance. Not only that, the points in an NHL season were equivalent to wins in baseball. A 100-point team was like a 100-win ballclub. It was a mark of excellence.

Well, there were ten– TEN!– teams to eclipse the century mark this season. The concepts of “winning” hockey or “.500″ hockey are meaningless in this era. With the advent of overtime losses and shootout wins, teams can lose but tie, or tie but win. Since many games end with a winner and a non-loser, the result is a drastically skewed perception of success.

Consider the following distributions from the 2011-12 NHL season. The top row shows the number of teams with winning, .500, and losing records using the current standings. The second row shows the same distribution using the real game results.

Winning records .500 records Losing records
CURRENT 22 1 7
REAL 13 1 16

The Florida Panthers finished 38-26-18, good for 94 points, the Southeast Division title, and the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. That sounds like an unquestionably successful season. But the reality is that the Panthers went 32-33-17 in actual hockey games. They had a losing record and would have finished behind the Washington Capitals, who had a real hockey record of 38-36-8. But thanks to the bonus points from overtime losses and shootout wins, the Panthers prevailed. Instead of hosting the 6th-seeded New Jersey Devils in the first round, the Caps have to hit the road to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Vancouver Canucks finished 51-22-9 to win the President’s Trophy for the league’s best record, which also confers home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. But in real hockey terms, the Canucks had only the third-best record in the league. The St. Louis Blues had the best hockey record, followed by the New York Rangers. As it is, the Canucks would have home-ice against both of those teams should they meet in the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers finished 5 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, yet in real hockey terms, would have finished one point ahead. The phantom bonus points flipped home-ice advantage in their first round series.

Marketing departments must love standings inflation, though. In San Jose, for example, you can sell a 34-34-14 team as a 43-29-10 team. It has to be so much easier to sell a .500 team when you can sell it as being 14 games over .500!


Below are charts for each conference showing the points, games above or below .500, and the conference rank for each team using the current standings, and then the same categories using each team’s real hockey record. Conference placements highlighted in red indicate a deviation from the current standings. Also, a final column shows the skew in the number of points and in the win-loss record for each team. (These numbers are identical since shifting the results between standings columns has the same effect on both the win-loss record and the point total.)

Two things didn’t change:

1. Thankfully, the same 16 teams would have made the playoffs this year, even if some of the seedings, match-ups, and home-ice advantages would have changed.

2. It was an indisputably terrible year for the Columbus Blue Jackets, no matter HOW you look at it.



Team PTS +/- .500 Seed x PTS +/- .500 Seed x W-L / Pts Inflation
NYR 109 +27 1 103 +21 1 +6
BOS 102 +20 2 92 +10 2 +10
FLA 94 +12 3 81 -1 7 +13
PIT 108 +26 4 96 +14 5 +12
PHI 103 +21 5 97 +15 4 +6
NJ 102 +20 6 88 +6 6 +14
WSH 92 +10 7 84 +2 3 +8
OTT 92 +10 8 80 -2 8 +12
BUF 89 +7 9 78 -4 9 +11
TB 84 +2 10 76 -6 10 +8
WPG 84 +2 11 74 -8 11 +10
CAR 82 0 12 71 -11 12 +11
TOR 80 -2 13 71 -11 13 +9
NYI 79 -3 14 69 -13 14 +10
MTL 78 -4 15 65 -17 15 +13


Team PTS +/- .500 Seed x PTS +/- .500 Seed x W-L / Pts Inflation
VAN 111 +29 1 101 +19 2 +10
STL 109 +27 2 104 +22 1 +5
PHX 97 +15 3 88 +6 3 +9
NSH 104 +22 4 96 +14 4 +8
DET 102 +20 5 90 +8 5 +12
CHI 101 +19 6 90 +8 6 +11
SJ 96 +14 7 82 0 8 +14
LA 95 +13 8 83 +1 7 +12
CGY 90 +8 9 80 -2 10 +10
DAL 89 +7 10 81 -1 9 +8
COL 88 +6 11 75 -7 11 +13
MIN 81 -1 12 68 -14 13 +13
ANA 80 -2 13 72 -10 12 +8
EDM 74 -8 14 66 -16 14 +8
CBJ 65 -17 15 59 -23 15 +6



In-game interview results in Timbers coach calling ex-Zip’s goal

In football and basketball, it is customary for a sideline reporter to grab a coach as he exits the field at halftime in order to collect pearls of wisdom like “we need to do a better job” or “we need to keep doing what we’re doing.” In soccer, coaches have limited in-game coaching opportunities, as there are no timeouts, free-flowing substitutions, or other hallmarks of hands-on coaching. Since halftime is the coach’s big opportunity to address the team, these TV interviews are generally reserved for game play itself. The coach will don a headset on the bench and have a distracted 30-second conversation with the announcers in the booth.

Most of the time, these sideline chats are every bit as banal as the traditional halftime interview. But every now and then, something crazy happens. Saturday night, Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer joined the guys in the booth just moments before his second half substitute, former Akron Zips star Darlington Nagbe, scored the tying goal in Dallas.

The announcers barely had the chance to ask what Nagbe would bring to the game when Spencer had the perfect retort…



Nash and LeBron: A Chart

For the second time in less than two years, the face of an Ohio arena sports franchise wants out.  In the summer of 2010, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers capped years of coquettish flirtations and obstructionist non-committal by announcing that he was taking his talents to South Beach, where he could theoretically collect pre-counted championship rings from the safety of Dwyane Wade’s coattails. And  now in the winter of 2012, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash, after years of commitment, hard work, and carrying the flag for Ohio hockey, discreetly let it be known that he would like a chance to play for a handpicked list of contenders.

On the surface, the situations may seem similar– a star player wants out to chase championships elsewhere. But yet they aren’t alike at all.

According to his apologists, LeBron was right to abandon Cleveland since his teams were so horrible that he would never ever have a chance to truly contend for a title. He needed to ditch the North Coast for South Beach, where he could play surrounded by real talent that would allow him to win as he deserved. (Never mind that the 2009 and 2010 Cavaliers had the league’s best record and that the 2011 Heat won fewer games than either of his last two Cleveland teams.)

Meanwhile, Rick Nash has been the humble, hard-working face of a franchise that has struggled on the ice throughout his tenure. He has endured numerous coaching changes and rebuilds. When he had a chance to flee via free agency– and let’s not forget that the major markets felt almost as much entitlement toward Nash as they did LeBron– Nash shut down the circus by signing an 8-year contract extension with Columbus.

But every man has his limits. After a decade of losing, Nash has gone from an 18-year-old future star to a nearly 28-year-old  underutilized star whose biological clock ticks louder and louder with each April tee time. Careers are finite, and through no fault of his own, Nash has yet to have the opportunity to play for a team even resembling a contender. Apart from the Olympics, he has yet to test himself on the big stage. With another rebuild (or “reshape”) looming, Nash’s situation is the very situation that LeBron’s apologists contrived for King James in order to justify his narcissistic defection. But James skipped town because he didn’t want to shoulder the playoff load, whereas Nash wants to skip town because there is no playoff load for him to shoulder.

So looking at Nash’s career through the prism of LeBron’s fabricated plight, here’s a chart comparing how the Jackets and Cavaliers have done with Nash and James. These rankings are based solely upon points and wins, respectively, not the geographic vagaries of playoff seeding.


Season CBJ conference standing
(out of 15)
(out of 15)
(out of 30)
league standing
(out of 30)
2003 15 n/a 28 n/a
2004 14 9 27 22
2005 canceled 9 canceled 18
2006 13 3 25 6
2007 11 2 24 7
2008 13 4 25 13
2009 7 1 16 1
2010 14 1 27 1
2011 13 n/a 24 n/a
2012 15 n/a 30 n/a
AVG 13 4 25 10
Median 13 3 25 7


And here’s another telling chart:

CBJ with Nash
(9 seasons)
Cavs with James
(7 seasons)
Playoff series 1 13
Playoff series wins 0 8
Playoff game wins 0 42


In 2010, LeBron James torpedoed a franchise. In 2012, Rick Nash just wants to come up for air.