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Messages - Ryan Harmanis

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Men's soccer / Re: 2018 Great Lakes Region
« on: October 26, 2018, 09:54:03 am »
Recruiting. I remain convinced that programs generally need at least two good recruiting classes out of four to be decent. Three out of four to be really good. My guess, having not researched or looked at rosters, is that Oberlin nailed a couple good classes and those guys have now graduated. Wittenberg had a similar stretch when I played - they were pretty good in 2006-07, really good (Pool C) in 2008, then fell off the map once the key players  graduated.

OWU is another good example. In 2016 and 2017 multiple classes were smaller, with fewer contributions from upper classmen. Results showed that, as did the playing style and quality of play. This year, only two seniors see meaningful minutes, but OWU is getting good contributions from all three other classes. And results and quality of play show that. (Off topic, but results also show a team that hasn’t fully matured yet. The loss to JCU and draw against DePauw came from flat performances, and now the team has no margin for error to make the tournament.)

Most programs struggle to get over the hump and consistently recruit strong classes. There’s a danger zone where you need better players even than the ones you have, or at least players that are the same level. But you aren’t quite good enough to recruit off success (conference champs, consistent NCAAs), and you’re too good to recruit on a good chance at early playing time. Most programs go backward at that point. In the NCAC, only OWU and, more recently, Kenyon have managed to recruit at a high enough level to sustain success. Even DePauw has noticeably dropped off the last couple seasons.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Season - National Perspective
« on: December 09, 2017, 10:39:55 am »
Figured I'd briefly chime in on the NPU-Chicago rankings debate.

I put NPU second, Chicago third. I think Chicago is better - the semifinal was more than just one team having an off-day, Chicago was clearly better. If that had been their only game I'd have put Chicago second. If NPU had been 12-5-4 and were a Cinderella maybe I'd have put Chicago second. But, to me, at some point results overtake who I think is better when it comes to rankings. NPU went 1-0-1 against Chicago and never conceded a goal, and they went 20-2-2 overall. And the first game between Chicago and NPU was, at a minimum, even. So, with little to choose between the teams on resume, and two full games between the two, I went with NPU.

I think either position is defensible. I can relate to being the better team and losing. 3/4 of my NCAA trips ended in games where we were easily the better team. But that's part of the sport. I would guess we'd have won a rematch handily each time, but if you get a second shot and still can't do it, hard to have too many complaints about being ranked behind that team. Put concretely, if Team X is clearly better than Team Y, then they should win at least one out of two games against them. We've all picked a sport where you don't have the luxury of a seven-game series.

Interesting debate, though, and reflects that everyone can view rankings differently. I try to balance which teams I think are better/best with which teams deserve higher rankings based on their body of work. Given that we work with limited information, that's not always possible.

The only national champion since I've been involved that I would not have voted No. 1 overall was Middlebury 2007. I would have put Trinity No. 1.

Men's soccer / Re: The Big Dance
« on: December 01, 2017, 10:55:46 pm »
Bummer for Chicago and Brandeis. Congrats to NPU and Messiah. Hate to see referees miss a game-deciding call. Also hate penalties. I like the idea of pulling off one player every five minutes until someone scores.

NPU will have to be better tomorrow. Can’t let two great teams pepper you for 180 220 minutes and not concede...unless you were  Middlebury in 2007 (I think).

Men's soccer / Re: The Big Dance
« on: November 30, 2017, 06:30:01 pm »
Honestly, having seen them all play I’m not sure there’s a true favorite this year. Messiah is very good, obviously, but they have not been as dominant as past Falcons teams against their toughest competition. Without taking anything away from them (again, they’re awesome) I also think Messiah had the easiest road to the Final Four.

This year, in particular, the Final Four is loaded. Had Tufts made it you’d arguably have had the top four seeds. Instead, you have 3/4 plus a Brandeis team that has the only Final Four experience in the field. No real Cinderella, and no real favorite in my view.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: November 11, 2017, 08:54:00 pm »
Tough one for JCU. I rewound, the Calvin player was a few yards onside, JCU guy on the right (closer to the screen) kept everyone on.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: November 11, 2017, 08:02:15 pm »
Play fairly even but Calvin had the two best chances by far. Should be at least 1-0.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: November 11, 2017, 04:25:53 pm »
JCU was value for the win. Similar to the first game, they were the better side for long stretches. OWU showed flashes, but JCU really dominated the second half until the third goal. They let their foot off the gas a bit after that, and if OWU had a little more composure could have pulled one back. But JCU really turned it on, and their attack should cause problems for anyone, including Calvin. 3-1 was probably reflective of the overall game.

Still, hard to ignore key referee decisions in the first half. The first goal looked clearly offside, although I did not have a great angle for it. It's of course possible that, right as the JCU attacker shot, the goalscorer reacted and ended up several yards behind the defense. But it looked like he strayed well offside and happened to be there when the ball came through. The second goal, as others have said, was just a bad call.  Add in that the linesman on the near side could not run fast enough to keep up with the game (although it had no impact), and you shake your head and wonder how you end up with those referees in an NCAA game. To be fair, I've seen national titles decided on worse calls--see Messiah v. Lynchburg, 2010. But the game is much different if it's 1-1 or 1-0 OWU at half instead of 2-1 JCU. OWU needed to play well and have a little luck to advance, and instead they were clearly outplayed and suffered some bad breaks.

Even assuming the refs missed both calls, though, the first two goals were preventable. For the first, OWU let a guy dribble from deep right into the box, straight through the heart of the team. Great attacking play, yes, but someone needed to make a tackle, force a pass, or take a foul.

For the second, OWU had JCU pinned deep, JCU cleared the ball, and despite having three defenders marking one JCU forward, nobody made a play on the ball. That gave the forward enough time to bring the ball down with a nice touch and lay it off. OWU defense needed to be aggressive there. Best case, you win the ball and keep JCU pinned deep. Otherwise, you commit a foul and can reset with your defense behind the ball. With three defenders back, worst case you miss the ball and still have two guys behind to defend.

Then, after the layoff, the entire defense converged on the ball, leaving a player open streaking down the right side. That one looked just onside, to me, and a good through ball to him. But a bit of communication and OWU would have had one player stay wide to pick him up. So yes, poor refereeing, but OWU could have avoided those situations. And JCU is so good going forward that they punished them.

Up-and-down season. After losing 5 of their top 15 players to season-ending injuries, the young guys picked up a ton of experience by playing several top-15 teams close and making the NCAA tournament. But disappointing to see a true "rebuilding" year, especially after a letdown 2016. That said, if OWU can pull another good recruiting class, I expect a top 20 team in 2018. OWU loses only one senior (a right back) and two juniors, and will return both goalkeepers and every goalscorer.

Good luck to the remaining GL teams tonight and the rest of the way.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: November 07, 2017, 10:34:13 pm »
If I were setting lines for these matches:

JCU (-0.5) vs. OWU - O/U 2.5 Goals - I have to give JCU the slight advantage due to hosting, but it is a close as you can get to a pick 'em.
Calvin (-2) vs. Thomas More - O/U 3.5 Goals - Could easily see this game as a blowout favoring Calvin
Chicago (-2) vs. Lake Forest - O/U 3 Goals - Similar to Calvin, should be no problem for Chicago
Dominican (even) (IL) vs. Capital - O/U 3.5 Goals - Similar Records, bot teams seem to give up goals. Maybe a slight edge to Cap?
Otterbein (-1) vs. Medille - O/U 2 Goals - Could easily see this going 1-0 or 2-0 to Otterbein off crosses and long throws.
Kenyon (-1.5) vs. Transylvania - O/U - 3 Goals - Kenyon coming off a loss should be ready to play Otterbein the next day.

For fun: I'll take Chicago/over, Dominican/under, Otterbein/over, and Transy/under (but Kenyon wins).  Not picking a winner in OWU-JCU but I'll take the over.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: November 07, 2017, 10:17:35 pm »
Quick thoughts (edit - on review, not so quick):

(1) Lowry was very good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't like he was holding down the fort while Kenyon was under siege.  I thought Carmona had a much bigger impact - Kenyon controlled the ball because of him.  Kenyon plays too direct in the final third, in my opinion, but they build well from the back, recycle the ball after clearances, and go again, all because of him.  I think if you took him off the team, Kenyon would be forced to completely change their style of play, and they'd have to play much more direct the full length of the field, which is quite easy to defend.  Put it this way - I would still favor Kenyon over OWU even if you replaced Lowry with an average CB.  I'd favor OWU if you replaced Carmona with an average CM.  Good chance this postseason, however, that a team will put Kenyon under sustained pressure for a half or a full game, and in that type of game Lowry could be the more valuable player.

(2) The first half play looked clean from my view, but even then you sometimes see those called due to the sheer force of the collision.  50-50 call - very much the type of tackle where you think it's clean when your guy makes it and not when the other guy does.  We were under the impression that it was a shoulder injury.

(3) I thought the NCAC final was pretty even through regulation.  Kenyon had more possession, especially in the second half, but chances were even.  Not much in the first.  Kenyon had one where someone got loose from 10 yards but had it blocked, and Myers had a header that the OWU keeper made look more difficult than it was.  OWU had some half-chances and one really good look that the right mid blazed over when unmarked from 12 yards out.  Second half saw even fewer chances.  I can't remember if the one play where a Kenyon forward cut inside and shot and the keeper made a great save was in regulation or OT, but that was the main one.  OWU had a chance similar to the one in the first half, as the ball fell to an outside mid who blazed over from 12 yards.  Overall, 0-0 was fair for 90 minutes.  Overtime was a different story, as Kenyon went gangbusters in the first OT and should have won the game.  Dominated field position, forced a ton of corners, and had multiple clear-cut, you-have-to-finish-that chances.  OWU's keeper made a couple of big saves, including a great breakaway save after an OWU player completely whiffed a clearance.  Second OT Kenyon controlled field position but couldn't generate much.  OWU did next to nothing in OT, but they fought hard.  As for PKs, it's a crapshoot to begin with.  Credit to OWU's other keeper for the first save, which was legitimately great, and then for guessing right on a few others even with his team behind.  I would think Carmona will take a PK next time, if only because you want to have a say in the outcome when you're such an instrumental part of the team.

From the OWU view, they went bigger in the back, which allowed them to defend crosses much better than the first match-up.  But the biggest difference, to be honest, was that nobody played scared.  I'd say only 3 guys had the required level of intensity for the first match-up, while almost everyone brought it Saturday.  I hope, between Saturday's game and the comeback against Wabash, that the team has turned a corner mentally and will be ready to go from the start on Friday.  They'll have to create more going forward, but few teams pressure you through the midfield like Kenyon.  And OWU has the firepower to create goals, especially on turf.

For Kenyon, I wouldn't stress over that game.  But it did highlight Kenyon's struggles to break down a determined defense if crosses/set pieces aren't working.  Perhaps, as PN suggests, moving Lowry up could let Carmona play further forward and play the final ball more often.  We'll see.  Kenyon has the goods to make the Final Four - very similar to Tufts last year.  I think scoring first is the key for Kenyon.  Their style makes it difficult for opposing teams to overcome a deficit, but also makes it hard for Kenyon to come from behind.

(4) I don't think OWU particularly cares who they play right now.  Not in the sense that they're the favorite, because they aren't, or that they are overconfident, because they still haven't beaten a tournament-level team.  But OWU knows they can play with the other three teams in that pod - they played Calvin even, had JCU on the ropes, and played Thomas More tough despite sleepwalking through a full half.  And all of those games were on the road.  The team should be loose, as they're playing with house money.  Much different than the way OWU limped into the tournament last year.  We'll see how they do, but I love seeing this team get the postseason experience when they only play 1 senior and 2 juniors.  Sets the program up well for the future.

(5) Also thrilled for my little brother to get his first NCAC tournament title.  It's been a rough season for him - he suffered a concussion the second weekend of the season and is still recovering.  Missing your senior season is tough enough, even more so when the team was struggling and the defense was leaking goals (he's a CB).  Regardless of what happens in the tournament, that was a good way for him to go out.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: November 06, 2017, 09:32:45 pm »
Congrats, friends, on the Pool C bids.  I thought Cap was out until I dug into the numbers - then I thought they should be in.  Tough for CMU, but you have to get some good wins.  Cap did that, so I think the committee got it right for them at least.  CMU can thank (curse?) a last second goal against JCU and bad geography for being left out in favor of Texas-Tyler.

New job started at full speed, plus the at-large predictions, plus some personal stuff, so I haven't had time to pull together overall thoughts.  Hope to be able to discuss the upcoming match-ups and last weekend's games later on this week.

PN - I have to strongly disagree on one point from the NCAC final up front.  The OWU alum section unanimously thought Carmona was head-and-shoulders above everyone else on the field.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: October 19, 2017, 07:41:44 am »
I think last night’s first half should have ended 4-0.  RH thinks 2-2.  Notice ‘should’ versus ‘could.’  I can concede the half could have ended 2-2 but I’d never agree that should have happened. 

To clarify, I think 2-1 was a fair score on the balance of play for the first half. Kenyon dominated the first 30, OWU dominated the last 15. My comment on "should have been 2-2" pointed to the stretch where it was 2-1 and OWU missed a 1v1 with the keeper and had a free header saved off the goal line. Setting aside what had come before that, OWU should have made it 2-2 in that stretch, even if that would have flattered the team based on how terrible they were in the first 30.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: October 18, 2017, 07:50:12 am »
Does OWU have injuries? This OWU side seems to be lacking a bit in the talent they usually have. they also look to be lacking some fight. They are having a tough time creating dangerous scoring chances. Kenyon seems to be in control with about 25 minutes left and you would never know this was a one goal game

Correct on both fronts.  OWU down four starters for the season, including two of the three seniors on defense out with concussions since the start of the season.  Last year's NCAC freshman of the year has been hurt for much of the season but was back last night.  May have lost another starter towards the end of last night's game.  Also out at least one contributing sub for the season.  So yes, injuries have been a huge problem.

OWU's other problem is youth.  Not that being young is an excuse, but only three upper classmen (two juniors, one senior) play substantial minutes.  And the younger guys have not stepped up when physical teams have put OWU under pressure.  This game was one example, but St. Thomas did what Kenyon did and then some.  Too many OWU players looked scared to be in that game last night.

The frustrating part is that OWU shows flashes.  John Carroll controlled most of that game, but OWU turned it on for 30 minutes and went from 3-1 down to 4-3 up and were flying.  Kenyon dominated the first 30 minutes, then OWU woke up for 15 and should have been at least 2-2.  But then they slow back down, and good teams exploit it.

OWU is probably a year away from being able to consistently beat top teams.  They've competed with them this year, but haven't gotten over the hump.  I'd give them a puncher's chance in a rematch with Kenyon, just because they gave up a wonder goal and a stupid goal in the first half and you can avoid both of those.   But some guys will need to elevate their play.

As for Kenyon, they know what they do and they do it very well.  Carmona and Myers were the best two players on the field.  As PN said, they're not the Kenyon of the last couple years.  They're lacking some invention/a gamebreaker in the final third, and you can cause serious problems in the back (see, Heidelberg). But they don't necessarily have to be as good to do serious damage.  2016 Tufts was not even close to 2014 Tufts, and they won the title.

Brown's best teams suffocate you in the midfield.  This version is capable of doing that to good teams.  And that gives Kenyon a chance against anyone, because they'll be able to hang in any game.  If the defense tightens up some they could go pretty deep.  Less margin for error than in year's past, but you need a little luck to make the Final Four anyway.

Also, if Kenyon can win out to the NCAC final, I think they'll have a shot at a Pool C.  We'll know better when the first set of rankings come out today.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Season - National Perspective
« on: October 02, 2017, 09:32:48 pm »
OWU is likely in that top 5 even for the last ten years.  From '07-'16, NCAAs every year, two Final Fours ('11/'14), including one title, an Elite Eight ('10), and two other years ('09/'13) with a good chunk of the year #1 in the polls (only to lose in the second round).

If we're going 20, I don't know enough about other programs, but OWU has five Final 4s and two titles.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: September 30, 2017, 10:34:35 am »
For Pool C, looks like 6 teams with a chance.  JCU, barring a collapse, is a Pool C lock.  Same with Carnegie.  For the rest - ONU, Heidelberg, Capital, OWU, and Kenyon - a dominant conference season is probably required. 

In the OAC, Heidelberg's SOS isn't very good so they need a few more ranked wins and have a smaller margin for error.  Cap's SOS is pretty good and they have two likely ranked wins (St. Thomas & OWU).  But they already have 3 losses, two by blowout (although not sure how the committee views that).  ONU likely has zero ranked wins at the moment, so they need to beat the other top teams.

In the NCAC, Kenyon and OWU each only has one ranked win right now and might only have two more chances: each other and Wabash (if they keep it up).  That lowers the margin for error.  Kenyon will hope Heidelberg struggles to negate the head-to-head edge.  OWU will do the same for Cap, but has the edge over ONU.  Both teams should have good SOS numbers, and OWU's will be very high.  But the rest of the league struggling out of conference will hurt that too.

Men's soccer / Re: 2017 Great Lakes Region
« on: September 30, 2017, 10:11:28 am »
Domino - FYI, the home/away multiplier is no longer in effect.

As for who I'd favor, I have a short answer, a slightly longer answer, and novel that I won't write. Short answer: I've watched everyone play and, right now, I'd favor Kenyon and OWU over any non-JCU team from the OAC.  Doesn't mean they'd win, obviously - see OWU-Capital.

Slightly longer answer: I think some of us differ in the weight we give a few results.  For example, I give no weight to Kenyon-Marietta.  The only thing I took from it is that Kenyon sometimes struggles for goals - which I already knew.

Team-by-team, I'm setting Otterbein aside for now because Kenyon smoked them and they don't have a quality win just yet.

OWU beat ONU and looked better, on the road.  OWU lost to Cap, but were the better side even on an off-day.  OWU-Heidelberg is hypothetical, but Heidelberg's played one team besides Kenyon with a winning record...Anderson, who just lost 8-0 to ONU.  OWU has proven they can hang with top 10 teams.  Heidelberg can get there, but haven't done it for me yet.  As I said at the time, I was impressed with Heidelberg against Kenyon.  But very few teams go from 7-10 to world-beaters the next season.  I'm withholding judgment until I see more results against good teams.

As for Kenyon, I think it boils down to whether you think the "real" Kenyon is the one that beat Carnegie and played JCU pretty even or the one that lost to Heidelberg and tied Thomas More and Marietta.  I think Kenyon is much closer to the former than the latter.  They should have put Heidelberg to bed and they dominated TM and Marietta.  That, to me, looks more like a temporary funk than anything else.

You can't ignore results, but if I'm picking a favorite in a given game I'm not going off a random 20 minutes of soccer.  Look at it this way - John Carroll outplayed OWU for 75 minutes out of 110.  Yet OWU should have won that game (you should win any game you lead with under 10 to play).  If OWU had held on for that last two minutes, who would you pick in a rematch?  Right now, I'd still favor JCU.

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