The Houston Dynamo are joining the increasing trend in MLS – and professional sports leagues across the country – by embracing sports science and data analytics.
Specifically, the club is looking to revamp the way they approach the game, in part, by introducing new metrics for fitness and performance into their decision-making formula.
“You use data and analytics to help you on your decision making; it doesn’t make the decision for you,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s not trying to quantify soccer; it’s using as much information that you have available to make good decisions.
“It’s definitely the wave of the future.”
New general manager Matt Jordan has been tasked with riding that new wave for the Dynamo. How will they do that? On the field, it will entail assessing stats such as strikes per 90 minutes for a striker or balls recovered for a holding midfielder.
In short, the club will be using data that show a player’s ability to perform in highlighted situations, numbers not likely to show up on a typical stat sheet.
“I think that the game’s changing in North America, and the sports-science aspect of the game is changing,” Jordan told MLSsoccer.com. “The use of statistics and analytics is growing, and I think the use of certain data helps you confirm decisions.”
Another aspect will be tracking player fitness and performance. Introducing sports medicine and tracking could in keeping the team fit and sharp from week-to-week.
“We’re going to use it in many different ways,” Canetti said. “From the sports science side, we’re going to use heart monitors and GPS systems to monitor our players in training and matches. We’ll use that data to plan and prepare training sessions and make sure that players are not being overworked or underworked.”
To run the fitness side, Canetti confirmed the club will hire a strength and conditioning coach.
This is a new path for Houston, one Canetti and Jordan believe is the next step for soccer in the US. It’s important to understand, however, that the club is not abandoning the system they know.
They’ll use the analytical tools as only one part of their formula. That’s especially true with Jordan, who was hired not only for his experience with data but also for his scouting network, which took him to Spain last week.
While it will not dominate their approach, the move toward sports science is a step into modern soccer for the Dynamo and one they’re hoping will yield big returns.
“Sports science is something I believe very much in, and it helps you to evaluate how a player is doing and how he can improve,” Jordan said. “I think that aspect of the game’s growing so fast, and it’s an area we’re looking to add as well.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.