Tech Thursday: The World's Best Soccer Player

I'm a day late, and I'm OK with that. I'm in the most confused-emotional state of my life after this morning's US-Slovenia game (what kind of shit call was that Mr. Coulibaly? Why spot the 2 goals US? Thank goodness we got the draw!), so what better way to honor of the above with a Tech Thursday about soccer? I came across this article on Forbes this morning about the work Luís Amaral is doing at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. I'm anxious to read about the results of Mr. Amaral's work, and hope he's produced some solid work, as there's a multitude of data out there on soccer players - it's just the quantifying part that's hard.

Image via Peter Velter.


  1. The soccer gods believe in karma! The 0-0 England/Algeria result puts US advancement back into our own hands...just win baby!

  2. A very interesting article. I love that someone is trying to quantify things like this. It does, however, seem like his methodology (connections between players via passing) skews way more towards a passing midfielder like Xavi than it would towards a striker whose role is finishing, like Torres or someone.

    Also does this account for quality of those connections somehow? I feel like there is a big difference between a perfect on-point pass and a pass that merely makes it to its intended recipient, but not in the optimal spot for the recipient to do something.

  3. Both good questions that I have no answers for...the only thing I can think of to answer both would be that the model does indeed incorporate quantitative values for the 'pin-point-iness', as well as the 'goal-importance-ness' of a pass.

  4. I love the idea of being able to quantify and individual's contribution to a team activity. Unfortunately this is probably much more practical to soccer where every single action is viewed and recorded, unlike a business setting where it is a little harder to observe an individual's actions.

  5. If I had to quantify a soccer game, for every minute I would give every player a -2,-1,0,+1,+2. Where 0 is an indifferent pass or no involvement. 1 is a good play (could be a pass, goal or defensive play) and 2 is an exceptional athletic feat. Dempsey's goal against England would be a +1 for Dempsey and a -2 for Green, whereas all the saves he made are +1 each. Landon's goal this morning would be a +2, the pass to set him up would be a +1, the other three goals in the game would be +1 and the ref would get a -4.

  6. Got to give Landon extra points for seeing the two strikers weren't available and making the decision to do it himself. That's a game-day player right there. It goes beyond putting the ball in the back of the net (and, in this case, the top) and speaks to his on-field awareness.

    Lots of work for the soccer gods this tournament - getting Irish vengeance against France, destroying Coulibaly's career, and - yes - the atrocious 0-0 draw between England and Algeria.

  7. Haha Aaron I love how you just throw in the -4 for Mr. Coulibaly at the end. Well done.

    Aaron I like your idea there, although that would be an astounding amount of plays to try to keep track of during an ongoing game. Just from a practicality standpoint, the difficulty of tracking that would be immense.

    Then again, I'm sure most of the top-flight clubs have really robust scouting departments. They must have several scouts watching each game, so it's not too much of a stretch to have them rate players on an ongoing basis?

    Bottom line: anything that is going to help us give the French team a collective -86 rating is a good thing

  8. Royce, I think your -86 is way too low. A minus 86 means that each of the 11 French players on the pitch is only averaging around -8.

    Anyone who's watched France play at all would give them each at least a -25.

    -25 X 11 = negative 275. Alllleezzzzzzz.

  9. Spoken like a true Frenchman.

    France should get bonus negative points for their "performance" today. And for their off-pitch squabbles. And for the resignations of their director and their trainer.

    Is it possible France has achieved quadruple negative digits? This is like a headbutt to your national pride.

  10. All will be well once the coach is fired. Which - hey, look at that! - happened today.

    What did we learn, kids? If you're manager eats it during qualifying, fire him then. Don't make him a lame duck for the actual World Cup matches.

    Zidane Lives.