This is a longer post so apologies upfront (and congrats to those who make it through). I just saw this excellent article in the Athletic, ranking the MLS Academies - https://theathletic.com/516093/2018/09/11/parchman-ranking-all-23-mls-academies/ Got me thinking. Lots of $, time and energy from families go into academy soccer, but the question “is it all worth it?” nags at most parents. Is my boy getting better? Is it going to mean anything after high school? Ideally, there should be a simple, objective way to measure if a team or a player is improving, staying the same or getting worse. Came up with something that I think makes sense as a first step, measuring team progress. Would to love to hear comments, good or bad. (Please keep it constructive.) At the end of this post, I’ll walk thru 05 LAFC’s 2017-18 season as a prototype/example of how these metrics apply to a real team. (btw, not picking on LAFC, it’s just that as the #1 team in the country and recent Concacaf champs, they are a best practice example to look at.) If there’s interest in a look at other teams, send me a note direct or post to this thread, I can follow-up with additional posts. Here’s the two metrics I came up with: 1) Goal Scoring % (GSP) This would be calculated as: Goals scored by a team in a particular game as a % of average goals allowed by that opponent. Each game result would then be charted over time, and an upwards trend line would be indicative of team goal scoring improvement/development. For example, if the opponent allows, on average, two goals, and your team scores three goals, then your goals scored as % of average goals allowed would be 150%. Then, later in the season, your team plays an opponent that has only allowed, on average, one goal per game, and your team scores two goals. Then your goals scored as % of average goals allowed for that game would be 200%. And this progress – going from 150% earlier to 200% later - would, represent an improvement/positive development over time in your team’s goal scoring ability. Charting this over 25-30 games then would provide enough data to indicate team improvement or decline over the course of the season, which would imply development or lack of development relative to their peer group. However, if the team roster changes in a significant way at some point in the season. For example, then you have to also look at the before/after impact of the roster change. For example, recruiting in a star goal scoring player mid-season (it happens), and then seeing an improvement in team goal scoring %, reasonably would not be attributed to development. So pretty straight forward, I think. 2) Goals Allowed % (GAP) This is very similar to GSP and would be calculated as: Goals allowed by a team in a particular game as a % of average goals scored by that opponent. Each instance would be charted over time, and a downwards trend line would be indicative of defensive improvement. For example, if the opponent scores, on average, four goals each game, and your team only allows them to score three goals, then your goals allowed as % of average goals scored would be -25%. If your team, later in the season, played an opponent that only scores, on average, two goals per game, and your team allows one goal, then your goals allowed as % of average goals scored would be -50%. And this would, because it happened later in the season, represent an improvement/positive development over time in your team’s defending ability. Again, this assumes the team roster remains constant over the course of the season. So, again, pretty straight forward, I think. So, how did LAFC do in 2017-18? Here is LAFC Goals Scored as % of Opponent’s Average Goals Allowed charted over their 23 game group play season: (LAFC was schedule to play a final 24th game against FC Golden State but the game was cancelled). LAFC Goal Scoring % started strong with six goals scored against LAUFA in their 1st game but declined over the next several games and bottomed out in their 10th game where LAFC only scored three goals against the Pateadores. (see the first dashed red trend line) After that point, LAFC turned their goal scoring around but also added a very good, new forward - starting in Game 11. (see the dashed green trend line) This forward ended up leading the SoCal group in goals scored per 70 minutes by the end of the 2017-18 season. LAFC Goal Scoring % peaked in Game 18 where they scored 11 goals against LA Galaxy San Diego. Then, again, declined thru the end of the season. (see the second dashed red trend line) One note on this is that LAFC closed out games 19 thru 23 with five clean sheets in a row, and the decline in Goal Scoring % may have been related to a shift in training emphasis to defending. Overall, from the beginning of the season to the end, even with the ups and downs, LAFC had a high, constant level of relative Goal Scoring %, scoring more than double the average number of goals allowed by any team they played, but did not show improvement over the course of the season. Here is LAFC Goals Allowed as % of Opponent’s Average Goals Scored: For most of the season, on average, LAFC had an impressive defense, allowing an average of just .61 goals per game, managing 14 shut outs across 23 group play games and holding opponents through the first half of the season to an average of about 20% of the goals opponents would have typically scored. After game 10, there seemed to be the start of a conscious effort to maintain clean sheet, but that focus hit a bump in the road during a tough late season stretch when LAFC had consecutive games against LAUFA, LA Galaxy and San Diego Surf. After that, LAFC closed out the season with five clean sheets in a row. Overall, from the beginning of the season to the end, despite three late season hiccups, LAFC improved significantly on the defensive side. (see the green dashed trend line). I used this method to look at my son’s team last year, and it helped bring more sense to some confusing outcomes and trends. For example, my son’s team won a game late in the season but allowed the other team to score well above their season average. Using this method, it was clear that the result was just part of a decline in defensive effectiveness over the course of the season. The club wasn’t too interested in the insights but understanding what was happening, and starting to look at why it was happening, was helpful for our son.