Of course after I finally get a couple of predictions from this damn simulator that seemingly hold water, United goes out and beats Portland and draws with Vancouver. As a Loons fan, four points makes me very happy and we are treading water with the summer transfer window coming up. As the guy who writes these and places bets based on the results of the simulation, I’m destitute and the water is up to my eyeballs. But my duty as a soccer scientist compels me to run more simulations for this team, and the police will have to drag me out of this abandoned K-Mart before I fail science.
This week Minnesota plays Columbus on the 4th of July, a game that no doubt will produce fireworks. I mean, not like actual fireworks. Apparently there aren’t any fireworks after the game. Regardless, I fired up the simulator and squared these two teams up in an alternate reality where rosters aren’t always completely accurate. I start as many current Loons as possible to make sure I’m getting an accurate result. Here are the starting XI for each team, including Sammy N’Djock starting in goal for the Crew. That’s right, ol’ Jelly Hands himself.
The game started out well enough with the Loons registering a few shots on net. But Columbus eventually loosened up their road legs and starting going forward with menace. The Crew took shot after shot, forcing Alex Ferrell into several diving saves as the Loons were unable to clear the ball from their defensive third. On the rare occasions they could turn the other way and launch an attack of their own, the passing would break down as soon as the team crossed the midfield line. On one such occasion in the 30th minute, Columbus took the ball down the right flank and swung it into the box. United cleared, but not far enough. Justin Meram took a chance from outside the box, and as punishment for the Minnesota right back’s attempt at a mustache, the shot deflected off Kevin Venegas’ leg and into the back of the net.
The unlucky goal didn’t faze the Loons at all and they improved as the game went on, holding the ball for long amounts of time and buzzing around the net looking for the equalizer. The halftime whistle blew just after Columbus cleared a United corner that looked to be the best chance of the game for the Loons.
At halftime I encouraged the boys to keep fighting and I switched up the tactics a bit to push for more shots. It paid off almost immediately, but the higher defensive line allowed for even more Columbus opportunities in on goal. Five minutes into the first half, there was a Collen to Collin connection to level the score. Collen Warner played a spectacular ball to Collin Martin, who was running through a large gap in the Crew back line. The pass was perfect and Martin rifled it right past N’Djock.
Could I have adjusted things so that the team took on a more defensive attitude after tying the game 1-1? Probably. Should I have voluntarily used a sub at some point in the second half? Not if I wanted it to feel like real life. Kevin Molino gashed his head open in the 69th minute and had to be taken off, making him the only substitution of the night. The Loons nearly closed out the game and got the draw, but a game-generated player named Tyler Smith apparently lost his family to a raft of loons and was out for revenge. In the 79th minute he gathered the ball after a nice through pass and chipped an oncoming Ferrell to give Columbus the lead.
He wasn’t done there. Running past an exhausted back line (because using more than one sub is for pansies), Smith took the ball to the left side of the six yard box and finished under Ferrell’s outstretched arms for the final goal of the night.
This marks the first time in this simulation experiment that a regen player has had such a profound impact on the game. Does it put the results of the test into question? Will a man named Tyler Smith be signed by Columbus just before Tuesday? Or do we just assume a grown man with the name Dilly Duka will inflict the same kind of damage on the Loons? He may be too focused on finding Oompa Loompas to work his new chocolate factory. I may not place a bet this weekend and just enjoy the holiday trying to siphon power to my new K-Mart home. It beats living in Columbus.