TINY DIFFERENCES: HOW CHANGING SMALL THINGS CAN HAVE BIG CONSEQUENCES

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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