Conversations

FUEL Soccer Conversations for September 21

It’s Friday! Do you have a game this weekend? Here’s what we’re talking about today.

1. Watch Mississippi State soccer beat No. 13 South Carolina on this goal (Fan Sided)

First up a little something to get you motivated for game time this weekend. Check out this incredible finishing move from Zakirah Makillivary:

It’s easy to miss, especially once you see the gloriously perfect angle of the shot itself, but the opening four seconds of that clip tell a fascinating story.

Zakirah is separated from her pack and completely swarmed by opponents. She isn’t panicked, she isn’t looking for backup. She’s in control. A few quick steps to get a position and it’s over. The other team might as well have not even shown up for all that they mattered to Zakirah’s play.

Granted, the freshman wouldn’t have made that shot without enormous talent, but the discipline to stay focused and set up the shot in the middle of a brutal encirclement – that comes from somewhere. As Fan Sided writes, “the Mississippi State Bulldogs ended a horrible streak of losses against ranked opponents, earned a solid win over a great team, and likely gained plenty of momentum heading into Sunday’s matchup with No. 19 ranked Tennessee in Knoxville.”

“The Mississippi State soccer program appears to be ready to earn some national recognition. The Bulldogs will have plenty of tough challenges in the SEC. However, that will also give MSU some opportunities to gain more respect.”

The entire team is adding up wins and changing people’s perceptions, and that doesn’t happen just by adding talented players. They’re putting in the work and training to stay focused, stay disciplined. It’s one of those things that come up a lot in conversations with coaches, players, and parents. But it’s another thing entirely to see it in action.

Personal Training: How do you stay focused in the heat of game play? Does your team or organization do anything specific to train this mentality and preparation? 

2. A New Soccer Statistic Tries to Place a Value on the Invaluable (New York Times)

We live in a post-Moneyball, post-538 world, so it’s easy to forget that Big Data in sports isn’t really so big. It’s still growing and evolving to accurately and genuinely reflect the sports that it’s applied to. A prime example is our game of soccer. Here the NYT highlights a newly proposed statistic specifically for defensive midfielders.

Victor Mather writes:

“The rudimentary statistics in soccer, like goals and assists, cast favorable light primarily on strikers and attacking midfielders, the players who do most of the scoring and assisting. The grunts of the sport, defensive-minded midfielders like Reinartz and Hegeler, often get offensive moves started, but they are seldom recognized statistically.”

The statistic itself is fairly straightforward.

“Essentially, players earn a point for any move — a cross, a dribble, a long pass — that causes the ball to move past opposition players. If a move begins with five opponents between the ball and the goal, and ends with two, that’s three points. The receiver of the pass is awarded points as well.”

It’s a fascinating read, especially when you see some of the insights they found when they applied the statistic to pro players.

Numbers Game: What statistics are generally used to measure the performance of your position? Do you think they accurately represent your play on the field?

3. Rockford immigrants come together through soccer (23 WIFR)

Of course, there’s more to soccer than just training and statistics. There’s also feel great human stories like this one from WIFR Sports Director Mike Buda:

Is there anything that soccer can’t do? We submit no.

Soccer Life: How has the game helped build your character or changed the way you look at the world? How do you help new people get involved in the sport?