Even before analytics departments were really a thing on soccer teams, the Seattle Sounders were looking for ways to use data to improve their practices. First it was Dave Tenney mostly using it on the fitness side in an effort to prevent injuries and improve performance. He eventually hired Ravi Ramineni to help organize all of that. When Garth Lagerwey was hired, Ramineni’s job evolved into one that helped identify players for acquisition and even influenced tactics.
All three of those figures have now left the Sounders, but their influence lives on and has even grown. The Sounders now employ a team of people who use film, statistical analysis and fitness data to give coaches and players the best information possible and are incorporated fully into the technical side of the club.
That’s a big reason why fellow MLS analytics departments picked the Sounders as the team that is both most “analytically advanced” and most “analytically influenced,” according to American Soccer Analysis’ annual survey.
It’s telling that Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer still considers himself “old school” in that he values things like “heart” and “mentality” but has still accepted the notes and suggestions he gets from his analytics team as seriously as anything his assistant coaches might bring to his attention.
“You’d be foolish not to use all the resources,” Schmetzer said.
As you might imagine, there’s still some filtering.
Here’s an example of how that might work: Tyler Cox, the Sounders Director of Analytics, will bring some finding to the coaches; the coaches will go through the film to confirm, add their own notes and figure out the practical implication; if that all checks out, they’ll implement it into the game plan.
This year, it’s added up to the Sounders scoring near the top for a host of advanced statistical categories including G+, Expected Goal-Difference and Expected Points, while also sitting just one point off the Supporters’ Shield lead.
“When you layer different components on top of old school stuff that we use about mentality, it adds up to an impressive package,” he said.