World Conference on Science and Soccer – My Presentation on Possession with Purpose

Roughly 10 days before the Kickoff to the first ever World Conference on Science and Soccer held in the United States I got a phone call from the Conference President and Coordinator Terry Favero asking me if I was interested in making a presentation on Possession with Purpose.

To say the least I was pleasantly surprised, elated and nervous all at the same time; me – just a wee blogger locked up here in the great northwest; a hot bed for soccer being asked to offer my work on Possession with Purpose.

In short; after a some discussion and clarification I said yes; and four days later had submitted this presentation for discussion.

Before showing the diagrams, my first order of business is to thank Terry Favero, and then also add my thanks to some great folks at Prozone Sports, New England Revolution, Portland Timbers and Arsenal FC for making the presentation and discusssion truly superb!  Wow – what a great experience.

Without further ado; let the diagrams begin…

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Wrapping up the hour long presentation/discussion with a few takeaways that come to mind…

Most agreed that the critical penetration numbers to focus on were passes “within” the Final Third and not just passes that “penetrate” the Final Third.

Most agreed that crosses ‘were’ passes – though there also remains value in considering crosses separately – but they should be included in the overall analysis of passing accuracy within the Final Third.

New Soccer Statistics?

  • Additional discussion centered on the potential need for a couple of new statistics – “failed assists” was one – …there is value in knowing what players offer up what volume of potential goal scoring opportuinities even if they fail – especially those that fail as a result of a defensive clearance.
  • In that example the defender gets credit for stopping a cross but the player who offers the cross that is good enough to require a clearance gets no statistical credit for it… that may change in the near future.
  • Another additional new statistic considered was the ‘penetrating pass’ statistic – where individual players who generate penetrating passes into the Final Third are recognized…  it’s hard to measure vision but many agreed this may be a statistic that could help measure ‘vision’…

The slide highlighting the changes in MLS Coaches from 2013 to 2014 also peaked some interest – indeed – like last year – the cycle has begun again this year with the sacking of John Hackworth.

I’ve done two separate articles on that and won’t go into any more detail other than to say – my team performance indicators lean towards that move being one of senior leadership panic (with the lack of wins) more than anything else.

Granted wins matter – but the last slide really drives home how an organization, loyal to their Head Coach, can turn things around with minimal changes in personnel and faith in the system being used.

Best, Chris



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