Numerology: Enter the brave new world of soccer analytics

Diving into the data in search of the future of soccer analytics
Brave New World


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Gabriel de los Rios /

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.

Central Winger: Saves, tackles and organizational concerns

How saves and tackles indicate more than just individual talent
Before The Threat
Soccer Analytics

Beltran tackle - Central Winger

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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."

OPTA Spotlight: Life without Gonzalez proves tough for LA

Can the Galaxy recover after dismal start without their defensive linchpin?
Life without Gonzalez proves tough for LA
LA without Omar

LA issues, Omar Gonzalez, Opta Spotlight

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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).

Castrol Weekly Top 20: Saborio tops again for RSL

Saborío puts in classic performance to top Weekly Index
Throwback Performance
Castrol Index Wk. 12

Saborio - Castrol Week 12

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“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.

Gordon and Meram's gaudy goals/90 mins stats

Gordon and Meram jumping up the rankings for goals per 90 minutes
Duo scoring goals for fun

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

Central Winger: Piecing together Klinsmann's revolution

OPTA data shows new-look US have experimented early & often
Piecing It Together
JK's US revolution

Klinsmann - Central Winger

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While it took a handful of games for Jurgen Klinsmann to claim his first victory as the new head coach of the US national team, it didn't take him quite as long to get acclimated. From the beginning, Klinsmann introduced very different styles of play in comparison to his predecessor, Bob Bradley. After all, it’s what he was hired to do.

22 May 12:29 pm

Après avoir regardé les problèmes défensifs du LA Galaxy cette saison, voyons ce qui ne fonctionne pas dans son jeu offensif, où plusieurs secteurs sont en panne.

22 May 12:27 pm

Nous sommes au tiers de la compétition et le LA Galaxy, impérial l’an dernier, pointe en fond de classement. Mais que se passe-t-il chez le champion en titre ?

OPTA Spotlight: Has Pareja met expectations in Colorado?

Rapids manager promised possession in Colorado. Has he delivered?
OPTA Spotlight: Has Pareja lived up to billing?
OPTA Spotlight

Oscar Pareja, Opta Spotlight

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The refrain was admirable, if not entirely predictable.

Upon introducing Oscar Pareja as Gary Smith’s replacement in January, the Colorado Rapids declared the hire a transition away from the Englishman’s pragmatic approach to a flowing, possession-oriented style of play, one with some attacking panache that would be built upon a 4-3-3 foundation.   

Pareja preaches possession in Colorado

Central Winger: Passing graphs reveal Seattle weakness

Graphs illustrate Seattle's attacking struggles early in 2012
Central Winger: Sounders' passing fancy?
Soccer Analytics

Alonso - Central Winger

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As the revolution in soccer statistics has spread across the globe, we have gained access to not just a larger volume of data – but also more granular data.

Perhaps one of the most useful contextual insights MLS has gained from this surge is the specific on-field locations of every attempted pass, which are elegantly graphed through OPTA's chalkboards.

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