Dribbling

Tiny Differences: How Changing Small Things Can Have Big Consequences by Cheuk Hei Ho

Short passes dominate every soccer game. They are the most abundant on-the-ball action. But the variation in short pass accuracy is small; the difference in short pass success rates between the best and the worst team in MLS is 13%. For a typical game with about 400 short passes, the difference represents 52 more successful attempts, or one extra pass every two minutes. How much impact can these extra passes have?

Atlanta United is especially dependent on short passes that lead to shots. What would a few more short passes mean for their offense? Yankee Stadium is a tough place for any visiting team. Critics say that it is too small, and only New York City FC play well there. How exactly do they take advantage of the home turf?

The best way to approach these questions other than watching thousands of clips is to make a model with data and use it to examine or even predict what a team excels or suffers. There isn’t one... yet. Can we make one?

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“Skilsinho?” Redefining what a successful dribble is. by Kevin Shank

Skill moves are one of the many great things about soccer. Watching the players twist and turn with the ball seemingly attached to their feet not only makes for fun highlight reels, but losing a defender also gives an advantage to the attacking team. As exciting as it is to see a player nutmeg another, it is equally disappointing to see him take one too many touches or misplace the following pass, squandering the effort put into the successful dribble.

As a Philadelphia Union fan, I have seen many times where Ilsinho uses his Brazilian footwork to dance around defenders, gaining the nickname “Skilsinho” from fans. Early in the 2016 season Jim Curtin lauded Ilsinho’s skills saying, “He catches the eye. He is a great 1v1 player, beat guys off the dribble which is a great skill to have.” And Curtin is not necessarily wrong since Ilsinho’s dribble success rate of 44.19% is just above the league average (43.37%) and better than the likes of players like David Villa (42.55%). So does this mean that Ilsinho is a more effective dribbler than David Villa? Well, not quite since Ilsinho often falls into that category of players I described above who will dazzle then disappoint with his footwork.

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