Experiments in plotting player performance

How do you evaluate soccer players? Is there a way to examine a given player, in the context of his or her team, regardless of their position on the field?

This is an issue that I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with this season, and the question has led me to put together a plot style that attempts to answer those sorts of questions. Continue reading Experiments in plotting player performance

About player combinations

The question of player combinations has fascinated me for some time. The topic is predicated on the belief that a team is, more than anything else, the aggregation of its players. Coaches have an impact, but it is the players on the field. More than individual players, even, I have been looking for ways to understand the results of player combinations.

This post explains a few outputs that address this question, and gives some notes on their application. Continue reading About player combinations

Ashtone Morgan, and Columbus players with 100 appearances

Toronto FC made a bit of history earlier this month when defender Ashtone Morgan reached 100 appearances for the Canadian club. This is noteworthy for several reasons, both good and bad. Continue reading Ashtone Morgan, and Columbus players with 100 appearances

Lineup Continuity and Points Per Game

Lineup Continuity compared with Points Per Game in Major League Soccer, through games of May 10, 2015


Several years ago, I wrote about the importance of continuity in a team’s lineup over the course of the season. The piece has since been taken down (it will soon be republished on this site), but the thrust of the argument was that the most successful teams in Major League Soccer were able to identify a core group of players who played a significant amount of a given season together. Teams that couldn’t, or didn’t, coalesce around such a core were less likely to be successful.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been re-visiting that thesis using some alternate strategies to see if they continue to hold true.

Continue reading Lineup Continuity and Points Per Game

Plotting individual playing time against goal difference

I started¬†working with a new type of impact plot tonight, looking specifically at playing time compared against team goal difference. Dots representing each player are plotted along two axes: the horizontal axis records how much of the season the player has seen, while the vertical axis indicates the team’s goal difference during the player’s time on the field. Continue reading Plotting individual playing time against goal difference

Attendance for home openers since MAPFRE Stadium opened

This chart presents the attendance figures for Columbus Crew SC home openers since 1999, when MAPFRE Stadium opened. In the 16 year history of the stadium, crowd sizes have ranged between 10 and 25 thousand. The low point was 2011, while the high was unsurprisingly set in the stadium’s first year.

Attendance shows some correlation with game day temperature, as depicted above. This is not surprising, although the math – an R2 value of 0.3264 – indicates that temperature alone does not explain the variation. It appears that attendance varies by about 163 people for every degree of temperature gained or lost.

Other possible factors that could influence attendance include precipitation, opponent, competitive prospects, and the sales efforts by the front office. This last factor is particularly important, as shown by the attendance growth since 2011 after the team restructured their sales team.

To explore additional information about Crew SC attendance, check out the attendance visualization on this site.

The bounds of creativity


Sometimes, creativity needs to be bounded. This is a lesson I’ve been learning (or perhaps re-learning) lately, and can be seen specfically in the display of players on this site.

When MRData launched, and through even today, the list of all time players has been rendered using a platform based on Isotope – which renders items in a grid:Player roster as grid

This is very clever, but as time wore on, it became clear that “players as elements, rosters as a periodic table” isn’t a very useful metaphor. One of my goals for this year is to improve on this design, and the changes so far are looking awfully familiar:
Player roster as tableSometimes, it isn’t necessary to completely rethink a display. Sometimes, the traditional method of displaying a set of information (in this case, a table) is generally okay, and only simple tweaks are needed (in this case, depicting a player’s career using a visual timeline).

Revisiting player use in World Cup qualifying cycles



Just before the start of the World Cup, I posted an exploration of the United States’ roster through its last five qualifying cycles. Now that the tournament has finished, here is an updated version that includes the four games played by Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.


Continue reading Revisiting player use in World Cup qualifying cycles

Examining players used in World Cup qualifying cycles

The American roster for the World Cup has been named, and the intense discussion over Donovan’s exclusion (and that of Eddie Johnson before him) has begun to subside. This seems an opportune time to look back over how this World Cup cycle compares to the last few.
Players used in each World Cup and qualifying cycle, since MLS began Continue reading Examining players used in World Cup qualifying cycles