Redefining and Modernizing Total Shots Ratio

For many years Total Shots Ratio has plodded along as a good indicator of team shooting performance, not overall team performance, but shooting performance.

It’s a good enough indicator that its found its way into generic match reports for professional soccer teams and has good visibility on Opta – a well recognized soccer statistics company now owned by Perform Group.

But with all that publicity and ‘useability’ that doesn’t make it ‘right’!

Why do I say that?

Within a game of football there are always two teams playing against each other – so team performance statistics should not only take into account what the attacking team is doing – they should also take into account what the opponent is doing to the attacking team.

So what do I mean about modernizing TSR.  Most define TSR has simply the volume of shots one team takes versus the volume of shots another team takes.  That’s okay but the end state is excluded – the result – a goal scored.

So my new vision of TSR centers around the end state as well as the volume – in other words the equation for Attacking TSR (ATSR) now becomes Goals Scored/Shots Taken and then Defending TSR (DTSR) becomes the percentage of your opponent’s Goals Scored/Shots Taken.

Finally, in looking at how well Composite Possession with Purpose correlates to Points Earned in the League Table I would create Composite TSR (CTSR).

Before getting to the numbers – some history first:

I built Possession with Purpose using this philosophy and if you’ve been following my efforts for the last two years you know that my correlations to points earned in the league table are extremely high…  To date:

  • MLS 2014 = .86
  • Bundesliga = .92
  • English Premier League =.92
  • La Liga =.91
  • UEFA Champions League =.87

So let’s peel back the regular way TSR correlates to Points earned in last year’s MLS – when viewing the old way (Total Shots only as a percentage for both teams) the Correlation Coefficient “r” for the entire league was .32.

My new way of calculating CTSR with the End State of Goals scored has a correlation coefficient “r” of .75

Far higher…  now for some data.

Here’s the correlation of the my new TSR Family of Indices shows with respect to Points Earned in the League Table – the same analyses used with respect to CPWP above:

  • MLS 2014 ATSR .74) DTSR (-.54) CTSR (.75)
  • Bundesliga ATSR (.53) DTSR (-.41) CTSR (.68)
  • EPL ATSR (.86) DTSR (-.35) CTSR (.76)
  • La Liga ATSR (.88) DTSR (-.77) CTSR (.92)
  • UEFA ATSR (.64) DTSR (-.40) CTSR (.65)

Like CPWP the correlations vary – in four of five competitions the CTSR has a better correlation to points earned in the league table – while in one case (the EPL) ATSR has the best correlation.

So how do the numbers stack up for some individual teams when evaluating ATSR, DTSR, CTSR, and CPWP compared to those teams points earned throughout the season?

In other words what do the correlations look like (game to game) through the course of a season for sample teams within each of those Leagues?

Samples ATSR DTSR CTSR CPWP

In almost every sample TSR (now ATSR) has a lower, overall correlation to a teams’ points earned in the League Table than CTSR (Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona being the exception) – this pattern follows the same pattern seen with CPWP almost always having a higher correlation than APWP and Goal Differential almost always having a higher correlation than Goals Scored.

I’ve also taken the liberty of highlighting which Composite Index has the best correlation to points earned between all four categories – in every instance either CTSR or CPWP is higher than TSR.  But, as can be seen, sometimes CTSR is higher than CPWP…

What this proves is that there simply isn’t one Index that is far better or far worse than the other – it shows that different teams show different styles that yield better relationships to points earned in different ways —> meaning there is not only room for improvement in current TSR statistics but room for the inclusion of PWP principles within the Industry standard.

I would offer – however – that even when you create CTSR the backbone of that data can’t offer up supporting analyses on how a team attacks or defends.  It’s still only relevant to the volume of shots taken and goals scored.

And while the volume of shots on goal and goals scored appears to be a constant across most competitive leagues (average greater than 5 and 2 respectively for teams winning on a regular basis) the average of shots taken for winning teams is not as constant… (Expected Wins 4)  —> why I favor PWP over TSR – nothing personal – just my view…

In Closing:

I’m not sure I did a good job of comparing what I view as the old way to calculate TSR (the way that ignores the End State of Scoring a goal) and how an update to it can help tell a better story that actually correlates better to the complexities of soccer.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

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Expected Wins Five – Europe

In my previous series on Expected Wins Four – probably more appropriately entitled “Expected Points” – I’d taken a look at how the general tendencies of four primary Leagues in Europe (England, Germany, Spain, as the UEFA Champions League) compare to Major League Soccer – Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer?

This time I’m focusing strictly on Europe and offering up how things stand in PWP with the season coming to a close soon.  But before digging some things to share about PWP to date:

A reminder – PWP is about two things:

  1. The End State in that the final Index comes as close as possible to the League Table without using points earned in any of the calculations, and
  2. Recognizing that soccer is a game that is played in a free flowing environment – picture two amoeba fighting against each other in a confined space…. There is attempted control by the Head Coach that includes tons of preparation to set the stage for ‘an approach’ to earn three points – and then there is the game itself where there is but one time out (halftime) – no namby pamby huddles or official stoppages of play between possessions.  Meaning these guys play a full-on, in your face (sometimes literally), non-stop, constantly thinking and reacting to the game that can literally see the ball go in any direction at any time… not purely random but close.

Given that, PWP attempts to tone down all that volatility and parse out general tendencies that fall within the bell curve of activities – it’s not perfect – but it’s bloody good… and yes – I have made a few mistakes along the way (if you don’t work you don’t make mistakes).  The latest has been a technical mistake – the relationship of CPWP to the League Table is not an R Squared number (Coefficient of Determination) it is an R number (Correlation Coefficient).

For the stats followers that may be an issue… but even with the Modernized TSR (read here) the CTSR “R” is still generally lower (team to team) and certainly lower (table to table) than CPWP – meaning there still remains room for both statistical analytical approaches in a gmae that is played across the world…

Also, my thanks to some great research by Rob Lowe, a mate with the same passion for footy, who has asked to collaborate with me in the future.  He has done some additional regression analysis on the data points of PWP with respect to goals scored and points earned.  I should point out that his results show that not all six of the data points in the PWP equation independently-directly relate to goals scored or points earned.  For me that is okay – and actually great news for a few reasons…

  1. Both of my two new statistics (Passes Completed in the Final Third per Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch – Step 3 of PWP) and (Shots Taken per Completed Pass within and into the Final Third – Step 5 of PWP) did statistically relate to Goals Scored and Points Earned (independently).  Meaning those new statistics are relevant – both within the context of PWP and outside the context of PWP.  It’s this statistical regression type information that should solidify these two new statistics in the world of soccer.
  2. For both Possession (Step 6 of PWP) and Passing Accuracy (Step 5 of PWP) – as you will see a bit later – those two derived data points were never supposed to directly (independently) relate to goals scored or points earned as a matter of course I have advocated for quite some time that they shouldn’t.  PWP was built with the intention that the six derived data points only needed to relate to each other in a stair step relationship recognizing that in every game a team needs to possess the ball, move the ball, penetrate the opponent’s final third, take shots based upon that penetration, put them on goal, and score goals – all while preventing the opponent from doing the same thing.
  3. Another view on the outcome that Rob has noted – it’s unreasonable to analyze a game of soccer without taking those activities into account.  Rob’s positive feedback was that both possession and passing accuracy act as a “smoothing agent” within the Index – I agree but with beginning to learn the nuance of writing an Academic Paper I would put it this way.
  4. Possession and Passing Accuracy stats have limitations when vewing overall regression analysis relative to goals scored and points earned – but those limitations actually give the overall analyst of soccer a much better understanding about the context of activities that occur when a team is performing better than another team.
  5. In addition, Passing Accuracy statistics provide a coach a great measurement tool for how well some players may develop and progress into higher levels of competition – to exclude data of this import really ignores some of the most fundamental training aspects a team needs to do in order to improve.
  6. Also, there is excessive volatility in the percentages associated with Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken and Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal – if I only look at those two things then evaluating a game is all about (pass-fail) – granted winning and losing is pass-fail.  But to develop a “winning culture” a grading system perhaps more appropriate is A-B-C-D-F – in other words there are levels of success above and beyond pass-fail – especially when you are a team that isn’t at the very top of the league.
  7. By having Possession and Passing Accuracy in the equation you get a much larger (explanatory) picture on the culture of success – and as things appear to take shape, the Index itself, gives better clarity to that level of success for teams that are mid-table as opposed to bottom dwellers or top performers…

Now for the grist in Europe – first up – England: 

Note that the first two diagrams (in each four diagram grouping) highlight where the highest quantity and highest quality occurs within each competition – after some growing pains (earlier Expected Wins measurements) all four competitions now see the teams that win having the highest averages, in all categories, for both quantity and quality… proving (for the most part) that more is better and more results in more…

Barcleys Premier League PWP Data PointsBarcleys Premier League PWP Derived Data PointsEnglish Premier League CPWP IndexEnglish Premier League CPWP Predictability Index

All told the correlation, at this time, remains very strong – note that the “R” has replaced the “R2” in my third and fourth diagrams.

If I remove Possession and Passing Accuracy from the CPWP Index – the R value drops to .78 – statistically reinforcing that the Index, itself, better represents the standings in the League Table by including Possession and Passing Accuracy data.  Proving yet, another way, that goals scored and shots taken simply do not provide adequate depth on what activities occur on a pitch relative to earning points in the League Table!  And if you’ve read Moderning TSR this doesn’t mean ATSR/DTSR or CTSR doesn’t have value – it does…

As things stand today Chelsea take the League and since Man City, Man United, and Arsenal round out the top four (different orders) in both CPWP and CPWP-PI I’d offer it’s those four that advance to the UEFA Champions League next year.  The bridesmaid looks to be a two horse race (Spurs supporters may argue that) between Liverpool and Southampton.

Note that Southampton edges Liverpool in CPWP but that Liverpool edges Southampton in CPWP-PI – meaning when excluding Goals Scored – Liverpool has better quality than Southampton – so for Liverpool it’s more about converting Shots on Goal to Goals Scored – while for Southampton it’s more about getting clean sheets and scoring at least one goal; at least in my view – others may see that differently?

In retracing the earlier discussion on the data within the six steps of PWP – as you can see in both the first and second Diagrams (for all competitions) the Exponential Curve (Diagram 1) and well as Power Curve (Diagram 2) the stair step relationship between the data – point to point – are incredibly high…  Even more intriguing is how close those “R2” numbers are for both winning, drawing, and losing… really driving home the point, in my view, just how small the margin of error is between winning, drawing, and losing.

For goals scored (for or against) we really are talking about 5 or 6 standard deviations to the right of the bell curve…

Germany:

 Bundesliga PWP Data PointsBundesliga PWP Derived Data PointsGerman Premier League CPWP IndexGerman Premier League CPWP Predictability IndexPerhaps the most intriguing issue this year isn’t the FC Bayern story – it’s the lack of goal scoring in Borussia Dortmund – when viewing the CPWP Predictability Index clearly Dortmund is offering up all the necessary culture the team needs in order to succeed – with one exception – goal scoring…. wow!

Another surprise may be Wolfsburg I’d pick them, and Bayer Leverkusen to finish two-three in their League Table – both show pedigree in team performance both with and without considering goals scored…

Spain:

La Liga Premier League PWP Data PointsLa Liga Premier League PWP Derived Data PointsSpanish Premier League CPWP IndexSpanish Premier League CPWP Predictability Index

Barcelona and Real Madrid are locked in for the top team battle – my edge goes to Barcelona.  I’d offer more here but I’m simply not up on the La Liga as much as I’d like to be…

UEFA Champions League:

UEFA Champions League PWP Data PointsUEFA Champions League PWP Derived Data PointsUEFA Champions League CPWP IndexUEFA Champions League CPWP Predictability Index

The top eight teams that advanced are identified above – given the general success of CPWP relative to the top eight I’d expect FC Bayern Munich, BArcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus to advance to the semi-finals.

In Closing:

My first of at least 4-5 Academic Papers is soon to be published – my thanks to Terry Favero for helping me work through this new experience – his support, patience, and knowledge in navigating all the nuance associated with writing an Academic Paper has been superb!

All four European competitions show more gets you more – this was not the case for Major League Soccer last year:

Major League Soccer Expected Wins FourWinners Expected Wins PWP Data Relationships Four

When more gets you more in MLS then I sense MLS has reached the BIG TIME – until then I think it’s a great breeding ground for Head Coaches that simply can’t get a job with a soccer club that has huge pockets of money.

Put another way – and many may disagree… I think a Head Coach who really wants to challenge their intellectual grit against another Head Coach can have greater opportunity to do that in MLS than they can by Head Coaching most clubs in Europe.

Why?  For at least one reason – a Head Coach in MLS really has to do more with less…

Errata – the first MLS slide indicates 654 events – the correct number is 646 events…

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT – All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

What’s next for US Soccer?

Who cares?

I suppose there’s a fan base out there that does – but as in years’ past the quality of soccer in our country remains mediocre at best.  The most obvious example being the large quantity of MLS players playing for our national team – which got hammered recently (beaten across every inch of the pitch) by Canada; another mediocre soccer nation.

Five years ago I lambasted US Soccer for keeping Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach after the paltry performance in WC 2014.

Nevermind the HUGE tactical error he made in taking Graham Zusi off the pitch and replacing him with Omar Gonzalez – the defensive area of the pitch Graham Zusi was responsible for was the exact area Cristian Ronaldo delivered his game tying cross after Michael Bradley (probably the worst controlled possession-based midfielder the United States has ever fielded) lost the ball in the midfield.

Three years ago I performed an analysis on which American should head coach our squad – my selection was Jesse Marsch – Gregg Berhalter didn’t even finish in the top four.  Marsch since moved on to coaching in Europe while Arena, and then Berhalter, took the helm for our country.

Arena, and our national team were humiliated as they failed to qualify for WC 2018 and Berhalter has been most recently humiliated in his loss to Canada.

Five years ago I offered this tactical observation – the United States will NEVER be a great counterattacking team until AFTER they can first learn to dominate a game through possession.

You simply can’t be any good at threatening a counterattack without first mastering passing and controlling the game in the middle of the pitch.  This isn’t rocket science here.

  • It is basic.
  • It is fundamental.

EVERY World Cup winner has always shown the capacity and capability to play controlled possession-based soccer.  EVERYONE of them.

Tactically, NOTHING has changed for the US Men’s National Team.

 

English Premier League – The Best of the Best and All the Rest

A comprehensive championship for Chelsea and while the Blues were singing this year plenty of teams weren’t.

Here’s my statistical tale of the tape in Possession with Purpose – leading off with the most important question – is the Index relevant, and if so, how and with resepct to what?

EPL COMPOSITE PWP INDEX

The Index speaks for itself – there is simply no greater publicly generated Index that more accurately represents the English Premier League Table (without including points earned) than this Index… a .94 Correlation Coefficient is simply stunning and while I won’t offer the Indices (here) from the Bundesliga or La Liga, both of those Indices ended up showing an “r” of .94 and .93 respectively.

 

Need to fix the typo………..  should be “r’ instead of “r2″….

Soccer in the United States is Getting Better

Some may disagree with this but I sense it’s true – not just from what I’ve seen but statistically as well.

At no point in the history of Major League Soccer have we seen more teams win with more controlled possession; a trend occurring in Europe (in the strongest domestic leagues) a swell as internationally during the World Cup.

For me

As each year passes better coaching, better analyses, better scouting, and better money is finding its way into Major League Soccer; nevermind that some of the better coaches are finding there way out too… Martinez, Berhalter, and Marsch to name a few.

I’d also offer the base of the training pyramid is starting to get better.  Having recently attend USSF coaches training I can offer the ‘play – practice – play’ approach is working; at least from my first person view.

No longer do we see pedantic ‘drills’ set up in a non-soccer playing environment.  It helps no-one to teach a player how to turn the ball if they don’t get why, when and where that turn is best suited.

Improving Possession with Purpose

Throughout this three year effort I have always wanted to take time to make time to review the process and look for ways to improve the output while retaining the integrity of the End State (create an Index that matches, as close as possible, the League Table without using points earned).

A critical part of this has always been to ensure that the data points used within the Index had relevance (made sense) to how the game is played.

For three years my data points within Possession with Purpose have been:

  1. Passes Attempted across the Entire Pitch
  2. Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passes Attempted within and into the Final Third
  4. Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
  5. Shots Taken
  6. Shots on Goal, and
  7. Goals Scored

My new and improved PWP Family of Indices will continue to leverage these relevant data points but I am making a modification with respect to the measurement of quality given those data points.  The new modifications end up seeing the overall measurement of PWP being:

  1. Possession Percentage
  2. Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passing Accuracy within and into the Final Third
  4. Percentage of Passes Completed across the Entire Pitch versus Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
  5. Shots Taken per Passes Completed within and into the Final Third
  6. Shots on Goal per Shots Taken, and
  7. Goal Scored per Shots on Goal (times 2)

The two categories making up the new Index composition are highlighted in boldface font…

Why?

Well for me – in how PWP has developed – I don’t think I quite captured the mroe significant intent of a team to penetrate (given any style of attack – direct, counter, or short pass type of engagement given conditions on the pitch) nor do I think I really captured the considerable value of a goal scored – in any fashion (be it in run-of-play or via set-piece).

I don’t think this violates the integrity of the general tendency of teams and their behavior – I think it actually better represents the importance (weight) of a goal scored as well as the considerable advantage some teams show in being mroe accurate (in passing) as space on the pitch diminishes.

Finally, in making this adjustment I don’t violate the integrity of the original data points collected – I just am finding a better way to translate that quantity of information into a different output relative to quality.

So how do these changes manifest themselves in the data outputs?  I’ll let the diagrams and Correlation of Coefficient (R) speak for themselves.

Major League Soccer 2014:  (Before and After)

 

English Premier League: (Before and After)

 

Bundesliga: (Before and After)

 

La Liga: (Before and After)

 

 

Major League Soccer 2015: (Before and After)

 

 

US Soccer – The State of College Soccer in our United States

Editorial.

I’ll open by first acknowledging that there are many superb things going on with soccer in this country – it’s grown – not by inches in the last few years – but by leaps and bounds.

And a huge amount of that growth is down to the owners, of not just MLS teams, but those looking to bring the sport to cities through NASL, USL, and other Club level Leagues…

That said, it’s takes Two to Tango and the collective ‘we’ representing the other ‘one’ are the supporters of soccer/football in this country.  It’d be rude not to recognize how much the collective ‘we’ bring to this country in following, with their hearts, the best individualized-team sport in the World!

But, alas, with strength comes weakness – and with all that growth I would offer there is some irrational thinking occurring within umbrella of College Soccer in United States.  To begin…….

College Soccer – NCAA Rules and Regulations versus that of US Soccer and the rest of the World:

First off, being going all negative, it’s still a good thing that the NCAA provides an organized style of soccer – that’s not the issue – the issue is the inane rules and regulations governing the sport and how that not only affects plaeyrs, but coaches and, yes, referees.

I’ve heard there may be as many as 1,100 organized teams in the NCAA; that’s huge for the sport in general but what about the environment in which they play?

With roughly 1,100 organized teams that’s about 25,000 soccer players/students who are learning to play a tactically flawed game given current substitution rules.

This is not supposition, through interviews with a number of Head Coaches, to include those in MLS, NPSL, PDL, and College Soccer, they indicate the style of soccer played in College simply does not match that of the professionals.

Why?

The high volume of substitutions and the ability of a player to actually come off the pitch, get a rest, and then go back on!

And that higher frequency of player rotation results in at least three separate issues.

First and foremost is the common style of play that occurs when teams have substitution capacities that exceed what is required for the rest of the World.

Games played are frenetic, fast paced, high pressure events (across almost the entire length of the pitch) that end up resembling direct-ball festivals where long passes are the norm and results of those long passes mean a constant barrage of deflections, rebounds, 2nd chance balls.

In other words there’s minimal tactical nuance (time and space) for players to really master critical skills they’ll need when trying to transfer to the professional ranks.

In addition, it also means that College Soccer Coaches are always forced to try and run the same tactical approach/system – leaving them no room to grow and experiment with different tactics and strategies.ends up driving the tactics of the game towards frenetic play – with no concerted possession-based attacking.  Put another way – the style most often seen in College Soccer is direct play, (long passes) that result in deflections, rebounds, 2nd chance balls and disrupting tackles that often turn into rough tackles resulting in injury or suspension.

If you want to visualize a game like try to get your hands on the Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers US Open Cup game last night – great result for the Timbers but a blindingly poor result in trying to sell the beauty of soccer in this country.

Even College Coaches interviewed have expressed concern with trying to tactically manage teams (that need to win) in styles that go against other previous training outside of the College environment.

So why would it be good for the development of US Soccer or the NCAA (a learning environment) to have upwards of 1,100 clubs with as many as 28,000 soccer players, 44,000 coaches (both Head Coaches and Assistant Coaches) plus (perhaps?) 20,000 Referees operate in a constrained environment that completely ignores how the rest of the World plays soccer?

I’m not sure – but a few more thoughts from another angle.

As USL, NASL, and other Professional Leagues and Clubs begin to develop more players, outside the structure of the NCAA College Soccer, the ability of students (players) playing College Soccer, and then transferring to the professional ranks, will get smaller and smaller.

Meaning a potential hot-bed for talent will see fewer and fewer highly qualified coaches resulting in a lower educating environment that will drive the creation of more players with lower quality skills – with an end state that will enhance an even worse tactical style of play.

Consequently there will be less value from those 1,100 teams, 28,000 players, 4,400 coaches and 20,000 Referees… basically translating to an idea that if NCAA College Soccer continues to ignore US Soccer and FIFA rules and regulations they will become extinct.

Here’s a different question…

If the NCAA is really about educating and helping students better prepare themselves for the professional ranks of their chosen field then I think it’s about time the NCAA reorganize and educate/help their students prepare for professional soccer; if that’s a chosen professional intent.

And, if US Soccer is really about promoting the growth of soccer in America then they should begin asking tougher questions of the NCAA and how (they) intend to plot a future business plan that not only fits into qualifying as an Official Amateur League(s) but ones that can then join the likes of everyone else as they compete for the US Open Cup.

College is, after all, a learning environment – and what better way to educate the players/students about professional soccer than to have them play by those rules?

USL – Competition versus Development:

I get it – the development of USL is a good thing – and so is a more competitive environment for MLs teams to develop players in an effort to make them “MLS ready”

But after conducting a number of interviews with teams in the USL, these past few months, I’ve reached the conclusion that there are two types of teams in this league.

Teams, whether well-intentioned or not, are either 1) set up to compete with the intent to make a profit and eventually get promoted (if you will) to MLS versus teams or 2) set up to develop players for either a) the MLS first team, or b) to loan and/or sell-on as a way to try and turn a profit in a sport where profits are really hard to come by.

For example, when one team was interviewed a few weeks ago they offered that when playing “MLS team #2 type team” the player personnel fluxuated considerably – in other words sometimes you’d get players who are really trying to ‘develop’ versus players who are not regulars on the first team but do fit into the ‘first 18’.

Meaning that some USL ‘competitive teams’ are not playing the same level of quality players in “MLS team #2 teams” as other ‘competitive teams.

So while USL shows all the trademakrs of being a highly competitive league that has equal status as a US Soccer “League Division 2”; it’s really not what’s it’s advertised to be.

I don’t offer this as a negative to MLS franchises – they are merely trying to set the right conditions to get younger players the best competitive environment as possible – the problem is – not all MLS teams treat their ‘team #2 teams’ the same way.

US Soccer – US Open Cup:

US Soccer uns the US Open Cup that is not “open” —> it’s geographically controlled where zones have been created to filter and drive specific match-ups.

The US Open Cup permits (in essence) non-competitive (more development like) MLS team #2 teams to participate, and part of that participation means (outside of the final US Open Cup) a ‘team #2’ cannot compete with a ‘team #1’.  What’s open about that?

In essence what US Soccer is allowing for is Arsenal the opportunity to play the Arsenal Reserves in the English FA Cup Final at Wembley stadium… WOW!

That’s like ignoring the fact that Formula 1 teams don’t try to ensure their #2 driver doesn’t get more points than their #1 drive if a win in that race secures a Championship for the #1 driver… go figure?!?

It also means that if the two organizations get both their teams in teh US Open Cup semifinals the ‘team #1’ has to play the ‘team #2’ of the opponent in the Semi-final…. again not an ‘Open Cup’ kinda competition.

The US Open Cup is one of the oldest competitions in the United States – and it beggards belief that today, with all the professional soccer on TV we have yet to see US Soccer secure either 1) a significant sponsor, and 2) a TV contract.

What could be better for soccer in the United States than a televised fourth round match (on national TV) between a team like the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and DC United?  Or for that matter, what could be better for US Soccer than to see a 4th round match between Seattle and Portland ( a potential Final match) that occurs in the 4th round?

Seems like a very good and very reasonable way to really promote the growth and development of Soccer in US Soccer!

US Soccer – Foreign Nationals:

What is the point of foreign player limitations in this country if this country is built on the fact that competition, free enterprise competition, is the foundation for capitalism?

It’s like the US Government telling Ford Motor Company, or Boeing, Nike, or Intel that they can only employ “x” amount of foreign employees in the United States and that anything greater than “x” must be filled by Americans… how long do you think that would last?

It simply isn’t reasonable that teams in any professional league in this country are hamstrung to employ a minimum number of ‘americans’ – especially when the only real American source for soccer players gets its foundation from Colleges – where the NCAA doesn’t even play by the same rules as the rest of the Soccer World.

I don’t propose to have all the answers but in my view, I would suggest US Soccer and the NCAA take a REAL HARD LOOK at how they govern the world’s greatest individualized-team sport in this Country.

If the INTENT is to develop players to create a “learning” market of soccer that fourishes, not only professionally, but for pride at World Cup type events, in the United States then US Soccer and NCAA have some pretty tough questions to answer when asking themselves how they can get better in order for soccer to get better in this country.

If you’ll notice I excluded mainstream media from this effort – why?

Pretty much because much of mainstream media, for this sport, is behind the ‘educational’ power curve on all the nuance of this sport; (perhaps???) it takes others,  who have a passion and blog about this sport, to really plant the seed for other, more known journalists – like Grant Wahl – to call-out what looks pear-shaped.

Nevermind that some of the major news media outlets still consider Soccer as an “other sport” on their websites —> yet, now, there are more youth playing soccer than any other sport in this country… and no – Ann Coulter is not the answer either; she already proved her ignorance of the sport during last years’ World Cup!

What are your thoughts? 

Best, Chris

Gluck: Coaching Youth Soccer Part III

I’ve waited a few months to put pen to paper on Part III, Coaching Youth Soccer because I wanted some more practical experience in our current environment – especially with the US Men’s National Team not making the World Cup.

For me this gets down to the nitty-gritty on teaching tacticsMore and more we see individual player performance evaluated through the use of individual statistics; so much so that the practice has found its way into youth development.   

I see this as a two edged sword:

  1. Good Side:  There is value in preparing players for professional development and the rigors they will face if they reach the highest levels of the game – video analysis is now part of the game as much as teams measuring player heart rate and kilometers traveled.
  2. Bad Side: There is some value in preparing players for professional development when counting event-based statistics.

Why the bad side?

Decisions made in soccer are constant and only some decisions result in an event-based statistic.

  • Sometimes the tackle not made adds far greater value than the tackle made.
  • Sometimes the shot not taken adds greater value than the shot taken.
  • Sometimes the backward or lateral pass adds greater value than an unsuccessful forward pass.
  • Sometimes the substitution not made is better than the substitution made.

All told, the best types of individual statistics are those that measure decisions made and whether or not they are successful or unsuccessful in preventing the opponent an advantage that leads to a goal.

 

  • Event-based statistics are an outcome based upon a decision relative to the linear play of soccer where it’s assumed that progress is either measured by:
  1. Forward ball movement
  2. and regress is measured by negative ball movement

As such, I figure my next in the series of Coaching Youth Soccer is discussing statistics.

  • Which and why to use,
  • When, and
  • How to apply them.

In case you missed it here’s my first two articles in this series:

Background:

I’m good with some individual statistics, like heart rate, kilometers traveled, finishing (Quality = goals scored per shots on goal) and goals scored (Quantity = number of goals scored).

As for ALL the other individual (event-based) statistics?

After five years of research, NO INDIVIDUAL (EVENT-BASED) SOCCER STATISTIC, outside of goals scored, has EVER had a strong correlation (an “r” > than .4 or < -.4) to points earned in the league table!

Soccer is a game where decision making at the highest levels drives results.

Event-based statistics don’t measure decision making – they measure an event AFTER a decision is made.

Sometimes the lack of an event-based statistic tells more about a player.

Most professional soccer games are made up of 13,500 to 18,000 decisions, per player, per game.

With 22 players on the pitch that’s roughly 300,000 to 400,000 decisions made (by both teams)  not counting the referee, linesmen, or coaching staff.

Opta usually measures about 80 possessions per player, per game.

With 22 players on the pitch that’s roughly 1,760 events occurred (by both teams) not counting the referee, linesmen, or coaching staff.

1,760 events occurred divided by 300,000 decisions made means (potentially) only .59% of the game is truly measured.

Are we measuring the tail of the dog, instead of the dog, when we rely solely on measuring event-based statistics in soccer?

So which statistics should we measure to try and capture what isn’t measured on the soccer pitch?

  • Team wise – these:
    • Possession
    • Accuracy
    • Penetration
    • Creation
    • Precision, and
    • Finishing

These team statistics measure event-based activities that can be used to intuit good or bad decision making in three areas of the pitch, the defending third, the middle third, and the attacking third.

These team statistics measure quality, in other words they intuit success equals a good decision.

These same statistics also provide quantity – the greater the quantity the more likely a team will make a mistake, yes?

The answer, for the most part, is no…  teams that show greater quantity also show greater quality and better results over time.  Why?

Those teams can afford to pay for players who are not only technically gifted but also mentally trained to minimize making mistakes by (consistently) showing greater control of the ball.

When you cede possession you cede control – when you cede control you increase your opportunities of making defensive mistakes that will cost you the game.

When do these team statistics get measured?

Every game – both your team and your opponent.  Possession with Purpose is built on the foundation that both teams play the game – therefore it’s just as important to know the success of your opponent, against you, as your own success against them.

In every instance, in every year and league measured, the difference between the two teams performance measurements has a greater correlation to points earned than either your attacking statistics or your opponent’s attacking statistics.

 

 

 

@USSoccer Continues to Fail in Following the Concept that Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law

While many offer the US Men’s National Team needs to be better in attacking, or defending, or showing more “courage” the real issue remains, and always has, one of possession.

If you can’t (mentally and physically) control the game by showing you have solid control of the ball you’ll simply never ever be good enough to win at the very highest levels.

Yes, they are teams who win on the counter-attack – we’ve seen Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, France, Croatia, and others play winning soccer through counter-attacking football.

But each of those teams, when needed, will control the game through controlled possession – coaches and organizations who play that style recognize/understand these basic concepts:

  • The precision and control you need with your first touch in counter-attacking is harder to execute than playing possession-based soccer.
  • The precision and control you need to complete accelerated/difficult passing angles in counter-attacking are harder to create and execute than playing possession-based soccer.
  • If you can’t accomplish those two simple aspects of the game (the most frequently used aspects of the game) in slow motion you’ll simply never-ever be able to accomplish those two simple aspects playing quickly.

In other words it’s HARDER to play creative and effective counter-attacking soccer than it is to play controlled, possession-based soccer.

You can’t be good at “B” until you are good at “A”.

This isn’t rocket science, you don’t need a bunch of statistics to tell you this – all you need to do is watch player movement with and without the ball to see if the current national team squad has the talent, nous, mentality, to play patient, controlled, possession-based soccer.

If they don’t, stop selecting them or retrain them – go back to square one and learn to play the frigging game appropriately.  Even now, as a member of the Portland Timbers Youth Coaching System we are advocating controlled, possession-based soccer by playing from the back.  Professional teams recognize this – why the hell doesn’t US Soccer?

Let me put it another way – the word ‘entitled’ surfaces a lot in our country when it comes to youth soccer – the pay to play program has parents convinced their child is entitled to start/play because the parent pays good money.

The same principle applies to the US Men’s National Team only with a twist…

US Soccer feels and thinks they are ‘entitled’ to play the most dynamic and most difficult style of soccer because they’ve spent an appropriate amount of money on athletes

 

good enough to go directly to playing counter-attacking soccer because they have spent the appropriate amount of money in their program to warrant playing that style; i.e. the knuckleheads running the program think they are ‘entitled’ to play the most dynamic and difficult style of soccer because they’ve paid good money

– players have ‘gone through the system’ and paid good money to get to the level they are – but the overwhelming majority of those players are NOT GOOD ENOUGH to play in Europe.