Since this week is dedicated to numbers here at MLSsoccer.com, I figured I would pass on some of the raw data and illustrations collected over the past few weeks in the hunt for fresh Opta Spotlight* ideas.
*On Friday, I'll examine the magnificent season Columbus' Andy Gruenebaum has put together with Will Hesmer sidelined.
Welcome to Part 2 of our interview with four MLS performance analysts. Today we'll be looking at how they face the unique challenges of MLS, what they look for in a player and how they think the game should be played.
Click here for Part 1.
Devin Pleuler: What challenges does MLS’ single-entity structure and salary cap pose for you, your job and performance analysis in general? Are other things easier?
Becoming familiar with the ins and outs of the MLSsoccer.com MatchCenter Chalkboard, a feature offered after each and every MLS game, may seem like a tedious task to some. Honestly, it’s not difficult, and it can reveal intricate insights about the match and the players. Here's a primer.
First, go to the MatchCenter for any game you’d like to review and select the Chalkboard tab. I’ve selected the Montreal vs. Seattle game from June 16 (shown below):
Welcome to the rabbit hole. No one is really sure just how deep the soccer analytics field goes, but more than a few people are spending a lot of time trying to find out.
"Americans love statistics." It's an old canard, and probably a true one.
It's an obsession that criss-crosses everyday life: social media, online traffic, box office numbers, presidential approval ratings. Statistical analysis is becoming more influential in all aspects of life.
When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.
-- William Thomson, 1st Baron of Kelvin
I doubt Lord Kelvin was much of a soccer fan. The beautiful game has always been resistant to numerical representation, at least beyond the almighty scoreboard.
Growing up as a goalkeeper provided me a distinct perspective on the game, one that has made its way into my coaching sessions. My favorite phrase – almost exclusively directed toward my team's goalkeepers – is, "The best save you will ever make is the save that you didn't have to make."
What’s going on in LA?
At some point this season, we’ve all thought it. And, well, Bruce Arena has almost surely spent the last three months trying to find the right remedy to cure what ails the Galaxy.
Through three months of MLS play, LA find themselves in the Western Conference basement with a leaky backline, third to last in the league in points per game (.86) and tied for second in goals allowed (21). And it only gets worse from there (see chart).
“The future of the game is universality.”
That paraphrase of Jonathan Wilson’s seminal work on tactics, Inverting the Pyramid, is the best encapsulation of how our game has evolved over the past 10 years.
Alan Gordon and Justin Meram are on a roll.
Both strikers weren’t touted as goal scoring machines heading into 2012, but they've proved their worth recently -- to San Jose and Columbus respectively – with goals flying in from all angles.
GOAL: Meram curls in beauty