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:


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.


What’s the Latest on Possession with Purpose?

Sorry it’s been awhile since offering up results on Possession with Purpose analysis – I’ll try to put together something here in the near future.

Between now and then here’s a link to my latest efforts in doing podcasts and appearing (monthly) on the TV Show Soccer City PDX:

Yellowcarded Pod (Stephen Brandt and I regularly talk footy with guests ranging across teh entire spectrum of football in the US;  featured guests have included Chris Canetti (President Houston Dynamo), Bill Peterson (NASL Commissioner), Preki, along with a large number of Head Coaches and staff across MLS, NASL, USL, PDL, NPSL, and College Soccer).

Rose City Soccer Show – A panel discussion about the Portland Timbers, panelists include myself, Kip Kesgard, Will Conwell, and our moderator Dan Adams.  We dig deep, tactically and strategically, into the Timbers while also looking to offer a blend of humor to go along with our combined passion about football and the Portland Timbers.

Soccer City PDX – New this year for me is appearing as a TV pundit, along with Kip Kesgard and Will Conwell, on the Comcast Sports Northwest.  Like our Rose City Soccer Show the three of us offer up our thoughts on the latest topics in Soccer City (Portland).  The show, superbly hosted by Dan Sheldon, airs monthly on cable TV, parts of that show can be watched by clicking on the link provided – air time on TV is the first Wednesday of each month throughout the summer.

Statistics Update:


Using PWP as a Youth Coaching Tool

Since the inception of Possession with Purpose one of my goals was to try and develop a strategic set of indicators that can be used to assess team performance in both attacking and defending.  

The idea that it would garner the global interest that it has is unexpected – since publication the approach has been presented at the 2014 World Conference on Science and Soccer and the accompanying academic paper is scheduled for publication later this year through Routledge.  Needless to say I’m pretty ‘chuffed’ with those results.

But here’s the thing – I didn’t create my analytical approach for publication, I created it to be used by those who teach/coach the game of soccer to our youth.

Bottom line for me is an approach like this is intended to reinforce two things – 1) soccer is more than a sport it’s a passion, and 2) there really is more to this team sport than simply scoring goals.  And our youth will never – ever – get better if all they think about is being the one player who scores the goal!

So where am I going with this?

Over the course of the last three years I’ve been approached by three different youth organizations, or coaches who coach youth soccer.  In those discussions the coaches wanted to take my approach and apply it to their team.  Needless to say I was interested in how those efforts took place and offered that I would publish an article, at their behest, to document their observations (un-edited) on the approach and how they gained value from the approach.

So that said, Mr. Carr has provided me this feedback for your consideration.  What follows below is a direct quote from his document he sent me today:

I’d been keeping rudimentary statistics for my son’s club teams since his last season of U9 Academy. At first it was something I did because of my interest in sports statistics, and it kept me occupied during games instead of getting too engrossed in the game like some parents get.

But the stats I was collecting weren’t telling me anything other than what was obvious: goals, shots, etc. Then I read Chris’ Possession With Purpose, specifically in his blog post, “Getting Better as a Youth Soccer Coach”. In my son’s second U10 season I began to track events in the game as stated in that article and was able to not only track more events during games, but was able to identify trends in our own team as well as the opponent for future reference.

​I track each game live (no video review) so I may miss an event here or there, but it doesn’t really affect the overall trends. I share each game’s stats with the coach after each weekend, and also when I identify any trends that he might find useful in what he instructs. He loves the information and builds elements of it into his training plans.

For example, when I first started tracking I noticed we were letting too many pass completions in our defending third and he worked more on defensive positioning, anticipating passes and closing down defenders to some good results. He can also see how the stats correspond to what he observes during the game.

We don’t share the information with players because they’re too young to really grasp it yet, and he feels it interferes with them focusing on the important items of individual player development (touches, foot skills, patterns of play, etc.) For older youth players it may have more value to the players themselves. We mainly use it to identify points to work on and to establish a general style of the opponents we play for future reference.

It hasn’t been shared outside of our team yet because I wanted to get enough data first to see how it worked with our team.​ I do share with a couple of parents on our team who are stat junkies like me and they like what it shows. Sometimes it tells a story that contradicts what they saw at the game themselves. The great thing about PWP is that it’s team based — even though I track individual stats they aren’t the focus; it’s the team stats and trends that reveal the most about each game and season.

What I’ve been able to determine from our team over roughly 30 games is that total possession and passing accuracy don’t mean as much as you’d think in terms of determining a win versus a loss. For our team it’s final third penetration (pass attempts and completions in that third) as well as limiting too much possession in your own third. If your final third penetration (number of pass completions in final third divided by total pass completions) is 20% or above, you have a really good chance of getting a result in the game.

The former stats are important, as in you’d rather possess than not, but it’s not the tell-all stat that most think of when they watch halftime stats on TV. My son’s team has moved from a season of 6v6 at U10 to 8v8 at U11, but the overall trends are basically the same, even with the addition of two players on the field and larger field dimensions.

In closing:

I’m hopeful that others will take the thoughts offered, and analytical approach used through Possession with Purpose, and build from it.

And while some may think the outputs stemming from Possession with Purpose can’t be used, at the very highest level of domestic soccer in the United States, be advised – it’s not true.

Best, Chris

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

I also co-host the YellowcardedPod as well as the Rose City Soccer Show, and appear, monthly, on Soccer City PDX, the local Comcast Sports Northwest TV show covering the Portland Timbers.



Soccer Parents – Are You Getting What You Pay For?

Are you wondering whether or not the money you are investing, to help your child learn HOW to play soccer, is giving your child the best return?

If you are (perhaps?) these questions may add value in your decision making.

  • Does the head coach have a training plan (curriculum) set up for the next year and do they make it available to you?
  • Does the head coach have a performance plan set up to measure how well the child progresses as part of their individual training plan?
  • Does the head coach keep game statistics like passes attempted/completed both across the entire pitch as well as within and into the attacking final third?
  • Does the head coach constantly ‘direct’ (tell/yell at) players on where and when they need to be in certain places on the pitch?
  • Does the club, the head coach works for, have a training plan (curriculum) set up for each years’ expected development of the player and do they make it available to you?
  • Does the club Coaching Director have a history of dropping by training sessions to assess their head coaches?
  • Has the Coaching Director/Club published their coaching philosophy?
  • What is more important to you (as a parent) having your child on a “winning team” first, or first ensuring them the best opportunity to develop all their skills, regardless of result?

Now, the less obvious questions.

  • Does the head coach offer verbal guidance to players (on a regular basis) during training sessions?
  • Does the head coach watch and offer singular words or phrases during a game, to remind players about fundamental thinking they should be performing while playing the game?
    • These catchwords or phrases should not be ‘directions’ but key words that have meaning and help support their in-game thinking.

The most frequently used skill by a youth soccer player is not first touch, passing, shooting, running, or dribbling; it’s thinking and making decisions; what I call “mentality”.


In an 80+ minute game your child will probably make as many as 5,000 decisions with about 98% of them occurring while playing ‘without the ball’.

In other words they need to know where to be, when to be, and why to be where they need to be.

Don’t believe that?

Look at it this way.

  • In an 80 minute game most youth players average 50 or so touches (time where they possess to control the ball).
  • That’s roughly three or four total minutes of possessing the ball – in real time – per player for both teams per 80+minute game.
  • Said differently – for roughly 77 minutes during an 80 minute game players are playing soccer without the ball.  Every time a teammate or opponent touches that ball during the 77 minutes the child is making a decision on where to be, when to be, and why to be relative to ball location, their teammates and opponents.
  • And since 21 other players have an opportunity to touch that ball during those 77 minutes that equals (3 decisions – where, when, and why) times 77 minutes times 21 other players who could be possessing the ball.
  • Roughly 4,851 decisions without the ball.
  • That doesn’t take into account the decisions the child has to make while in possession of the ball.

A few other thoughts for your consideration.

Fact:  When I attended a training session run by the Coaching Director of a local soccer club, associated with the Portland Timbers, he told me that when his team loses (in a Developmental Soccer Academy league) the next weeks’ training is nothing but running.

I watched that training session and he was right – they spent ages running.

  • After 45 minutes or so of just running the lads split into 5 or 6 aside teams where two teams played and the third team ran.
  • The losing team of the small sided game than ran and that rotation lasted for the rest of the training session.
  • At no time did the coach provide any verbal guidance on any aspect of play.

My takeaway was winning is more important to this coaching director than child development.

I would not want my child anywhere near this coach.  And yet, he’s the coaching director?

How long do you think a coach in Major League Soccer would last if all their team did was run the following week after losing on the weekend?



Gifted Players.

To many times I see one or two dominant (athletically gifted) youth players who ‘control’ the ball (and game) through extensive dribbling against other players not as gifted.

What this really means is the other eight or nine field players on the team are simply ‘watching’ that player win them games.

If you happen to be the parent of a player who is athletically gifted, great, but help influence the coach to help them learn team play by playing in other areas of the pitch.

Good scouts will always spot athletically gifted players no matter where they play on the pitch.

The more they learn positions other than the dominant striker position the more prepared they will be to play at the next highest level.

If you happen to be the parent of a player who is not athletically gifted – neither you or your child should give up.

Encourage them to master the mentality part of the game quicker – there is always room for mentally strong players – the greatest example I can offer to local soccer supporters is Jack Jewsbury.

Never blessed with great speed, Jack just seemed to know where to be, when to be and why to be where he needed to be.

Many will disagree – but I’d offer it’s better to have a star player on a team where they don’t always get the ball in the attacking final third and score goals.

The more often a coach relies on one player to win the game the more the coach enables selfish soccer; selfish soccer doesn’t create great team players.


In closing:

If you’re a parent who pays to have their child trained in soccer, and the coach gets paid for providing that service then you have every right to ask they provide you their training plans and published philosophy.

It would be rude to your child if you didn’t.


Thanks in advance for your patience – this may have been more than you wanted to know?

Best, Chris

If interested, here’s my approach on Coaching Youth Soccer Part I and Coaching Youth Soccer Part II

If you have questions or need assistance let me know. @ChrisWGluck

Gluck: Fourth Year Anniversary Edition

My thanks to everyone who has supported my web site the last four years!

It’s been a learning experience for me and, I hope, for you too.

As the new year starts I’ve got at least five new articles planned; here’s a quick synopsis on what to expect:

  • Following up on Coaching Youth Soccer Part I and Coaching Youth Soccer Part II, I’ll be offering Coaching Youth Soccer Part III – digging into which team statistics to use, why, when, and how to use them.  For those who don’t know me these three articles highlight my coaching philosophy into one three word catchphrase “muscle memory mentality“.
  • Two new individual soccer statistics:   This (may?) be controversial – My intent is to submit two new, professional level, individual, soccer statistics that could transform the player market value system.

Said differently; are private statistics companies, like Prozone Sports, OPTA, and InStat (along with player agents) manipulating the player market value system by ignoring what might be the most logical, intuitive, individual soccer statistics ever?

  • Expected Points – An updated version of my previously created Expected Wins series of articles.  A follow on to what was offered at the World Conference on Science & Soccer 2017, Rennes, France.
  • Expected Goals – A new way to calculate this over-hyped soccer statistic that brings it a bit closer to reality.
  • World Cup 2018 Total Soccer Index; to include predicting the winners after round one is complete.

For now, in case you missed one or two, here’s my rundown on the top five articles in each of the last four years.

In Closing:

  • I called for Jurgen Klinsmann to be sacked after WC 2014 because his tactics and in-game adjustments weren’t up to snuff.  Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Klinsmann was sacked.
  • I called for Sunil Gulati to be ‘ousted’ after WC 2014 because his leadership in helping youth development and head coach selection weren’t up to snuff. Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Gulati is out.
  • In hindsight – I wonder where we’d be in youth soccer development if we’d have made those decisions three years ago?
  • No, I do not favor Caleb Porter as the next US Men’s National Team head coach.  I like Caleb, he’s a stand-up guy and always took time to share and listen.  That said, in my opinion, he’s not (consistently) good enough at reading in game situations and making tactical adjustments that lead to better performances; the exact same issue I had with Jurgen Klinsmann.  .
  • I’m hopeful either Eric Wynalda or Steve Gans are elected as the next United States Soccer Federation President; electing Kathy Carter is a NO-GO in my view as there’s perceived ‘collusion’ between MLS and SUM.  As a retired Air-Force veteran perception is reality until proven otherwise – some may disagree?

I wish you all the best for the new year.




Will 2015/2016 MLS Champs be Chumps by the End of this Season?

The Portland Timbers have opened their season no different than the four previous seasons under Caleb Porter – on their back foot.  But is there something different about this years’ team that may cause one to wonder how this season ends?


Here’s why – and yes it’s down to statistics.  At no time in the previous history of the Timbers have they started so low when it comes to statistical team performance.  Evidence for your consideration is provided below:


Note this is big picture – what I feel and think the senior leaders should be viewing to get a feel for how the Timbers are working, as a team, versus the quality and quantity behind those numbers.  Have no fear I’ll get there too..  Let’s not kid ourselves – the Timbers have access to this information and much more – so this shouldn’t be new news to the Timbers front office; it should be an early warning sign of a potential earthquake that could shake the foundation of this team.

For now let’s take a look at what this data offers…

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So with those big picture stats offered – here’s some deeper grist for grinding the teeth if you’re a Timbers supporter:


Passing volume in total:

Passes outside the attacking final third:

Passes within and into the attacking final third:

Shots taken:

Shots on goal:

Goals scored:



Possession percentage:

Passing accuracy:

Percentage of passes within and into the attacking final third:

Percentage of shots taken per completed pass within and into the attacking final third:

Percentage of shots on goal per shots taken:

Percentage of goals scored per shots on goal:



I don’t dig into this part of possession with purpose too much as it’s more relative to betting than anything else.  But I do think it’s worthy to show others what the Timbers predictability index offers.

As a reminder the PWP Predictability Index is the PWP Index (minus) all activities relative to a goal scored – a real prediction model does not use the projected end-state data to predict the future end-state – it uses the data leading up to the end-state to predict the future end-state.  So all those who track Expected Goals – it’s not a prediction model at all…


Now the tough questions:

Or………  Is Caleb Porter really just tinkering as he prepares the Timbers for CCL and the stretch run through the hot part of the season?

Or………  Is Caleb Porter human, like the rest of us, and he’s scratching his head as much as we are about what isn’t working this year that worked previously?

As a previous youth head coach and general manager I think it’s a little of both – there are times, early in the season, at any level, where it’s worthy to try out different things.  An offshoot on doing that is the team gets to gel and work out kinks that are likely to help them take more points as the season progresses – or in the case of the Timbers – not only help them make the top six in the Western Conference but also help them in CCL.

That said I do think it’s worthy to bring up one point about this year versus last year – Jorge Villafana is missing.

I don’t say this to personally dig anyone this year – instead two diagrams for your consideration – on how I think last year is different from this year:

Left fullback area in red for last year – a no go spot for most teams in attack – i.e. where Portland was inordinately strong in defending.  Ther ewere games last year where Jorge Villafana had virtually no defensive touches in a game – this year the left fullback position cannot say the same.

So with the opponent now having a complete width of the pitch to use the Timbers defense is stretched – not unnaturally compared to any other team – but unnaturally compared to last years’ team…

And that’s why I think their is considerable cause for  concern this year – the Timbers simply don’t have the shut down capability on either wing to decrease the size of the attacking space the opponent has available.  And with that normal size of space the opponents are now getting better shots on goal.

Path forward – with Jorge Villafana out I am stead


COPA America 2016 – Who wins it?

I don’t have the answer to that question but here’s what my early tea-leaves look like when viewing Possession with Purpose.  

COPA America 2016

Unlike Major League Soccer – parity isn’t present when it comes to this competition.

If you’re a betting person it’s likely one of those top three teams (Brazil, Mexico, or Argentina) are going to win this tournament… provided higher levels of possession and penetration result in more goals scored.

On the other hand – if you’re thinking a team who cedes possession has a chance – then teams like Peru, Colombia, or the United States might finish up top.

The other two odd ones are Venezuela and Chile…

In looking at the overall statistics note that Composite TSR has a lower correlation to points earned than PWP – the point here is that shots, alone, do not tell the story… 

Like the European Champions League, Men’s World Cup 2014, Women’s Cup 2015, English Premier League, Bundesliga, and La Liga, total shots do not tell the appropriate story.

The same cannot be said for Major League Soccer – at least not this year…

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark




Soccer – Remade in America? Editorial

I’m not sure that’s the right title for this article but it probably doesn’t matter.

The intent of what I’m about to offer is more about the potential demise of Football, as most American’s know it, and the huge upside/potential in the continued growth of Football, as the rest of the World knows it.

What prompted this editorial is this article – a worthy read if your a young athlete in America who is interested in making a living playing a sport:  I won’t attempt to spoil it for you other than to simply offer that over the next 10-15 years it’s probable (some may argue highly likely) Football, as American’s know it, may be toast.

What’s that mean for the hundreds of thousands, if not low millions (is that exagerating too much), of student athletes across America who dream of playing Football?

I’m not sure but I do have a recommendation – instead of learning the individual player nuance of Football the youth of today should learn the individual/team nuance of Soccer.

There is no other sport, world-wide, that endeavours to take the best of the individual as a way to highlight the best of a team, that in-turn, highlights the best of the individual.  Does that make sense?  I don’t know but I like the sound of it because it’s my attempt to really stress the upside of soccer being the world’s greatest individualized-team sport.

It’s 90+ minutes of non-stop, in your face, action where the interaction of team players can literally shut out the sole action of the individual.