Some teams have the luxury of trotting out a consistent starting lineup week after week. Some do not – usually either as a result of excessive injury concerns or consecutive poor showings.
Here's an encouraging statistic no matter how you dissect it: Scoring is up 12 percent in Major League Soccer through the first four months of 2012.
Thus far into the season, teams are scoring at a clip of 2.64 per game through 146 regular-season contests. That's a figure that's up from 2.36 per game over the same period in 2011. But if goals keep finding the nets at this rate, the overall improvement over last season will only be 3 percent.
I'm not going to say that building out of the back is a bad thing. Some of the most memorable goals in league – and world – history have come from long sequences that started with a simple pass from the central defense.
But it may not be the most efficient thing. The vast majority – 71 percent – of goalscoring possessions have originated in the offensive half of the field this season. Only 13 percent have originated in the defensive third.
In honor of Numerology, we have broken down the OPTA stats of all MLS players this season to form a statistical Best XI for the 2012 All-Star Game.
We have chosen to line up in a 3-5-2 formation and, while which qualities best define a certain position are certainly debatable, the raw data speak for themselves.
Andy Gruenebaum waited six years for his shot. He didn’t waste a second once opportunity finally struck.
As a rookie, Gruenebaum watched Bill Gaudette, Noah Palmer and Jon Busch split time between the pipes in Columbus into thirds. Then Will Hesmer arrived from Kansas City, forcing the University of Kentucky product to subsist on US Open Cup and Reserve League table scraps until the occasional injury gave him an opening on the big stage.
If you've come this far, then you know what the big question is: What does the future hold? That's the point of predictive analysis in the first place, right?
Our four MLS performance analysts delve into that question here in Part 4 - the final installment - of our Q&A. Click here for Part 3.
Devin Pleuler: What is the future of soccer analytics?
In soccer, being in possession of the ball is considered by many as being synonymous with being on the offensive.
This makes intuitive sense: if a team has the ball, they have the opportunity to score. Conversely, the team without the ball will never have an opportunity to score. Therefore, soccer will always revolve around possession and who has it. It's a valuable commodity.
One of the more memorable scenes in the 2011 film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ seminal Moneyball is when a table full of Oakland Athletics scouts are discussing their options in the Major League Baseball draft. Their criteria seems so quaint and outdated, it’s played for laughs.
They prefer one player in particular because of his “classy swing, a real clean stroke,” one scout offers. But he can’t hit the curveball, another scout points out.
Welcome to Part 3 of our Numerology Q&A with four MLS performance analysts. Today we'll be getting their thoughts on possession, formations and strikers.
Click here for Part 2.
Devin Pleuler: What do you think about possession statistics? What statistical measurements do you believe are useful?