Turf and Injuries: The Data Hurts by DMP

One of the most peculiar matches of the 2018 regular season occurred on August 18th. The LA Galaxy were already stretched thin from injuries to both dos Santos-es and Romain Alessandrini (their three DPs) and defender Michael Ciani for Sigi Schmid’s return to Seattle. But when they showed up in town, there was a huge name - perhaps the biggest name in MLS - missing from the lineup. That name was Zlatan, and by all indication his absence was voluntary.

By the end of the afternoon, the Galaxy really could have used one of the greatest players ever to kick a soccer ball. They ended up suffering their worst loss of the season and Seattle notched their best (5-0). Oh yeah, and the Galaxy missed the playoffs by less than three points.

We all know why he missed that game. It’s because the Sounders play on FieldTurf. There’s a perception out there that playing on artificial grass increases the risk of injury, and Zlatan had hurt his knee not long before (not on turf).

The superstar is not alone in his perception. I remember being disappointed not to see Thierry Henry play at CenturyLink Field in 2013. In fact, a group of Canadian researchers surveyed 99 MLS players back in 2011 and found that the vast majority (93%) said they believe third-generation artificial turf (FieldTurf) increases the risk of injury.

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Shots Not Taken: Exploring the propensity of teams to shoot from good positions by DMP

Do you ever find yourself yelling “JUST SHOOT THE BALL!” at the TV screen? Of course you do, you watch soccer! Sometimes it can be maddening to see your star striker make his/her way into the box, only to futz around with a pass or dribble. At times it doesn’t even matter whether that pass or dribble was successful. Does it seem like your team does it particularly bad? You’re probably not alone.

Psychologists will be quick to point out a thing called negativity bias. Basically, we probably all think our team dilly-dallies in the box more than others because we remember it better. The existence of this bias, by the way, is supported by a convincing amount of experimental evidence. But it begs the question, who is empirically more likely to shoot when they can?

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