Investigators at Disney Research, Pittsburgh, are applying artificial intelligence to the analysis of professional soccer and, in one application of the automated technique, have discovered a strategic error often made by coaches of visiting teams.
The common wisdom that teams should “win at home and draw away” has encouraged coaches to play less aggressively when their teams are on the road, said Patrick Lucey, a Disney researcher who specializes in automatically measuring human behavior. Yet the computer analysis suggests that it is this defensive-oriented strategy, and not officiating, that reduces the likelihood of road wins.
The researchers from Disney Research were assisted by Dean Oliver, Director of production analytics at ESPN. The team presented its findings at the Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD 2013) in Chicago.
Though soccer was the focus of this study, the researchers say their techniques are applicable to other team sports that feature continuous play, including basketball, hockey and American football.
An analysis of all 380 games from a 20-team professional soccer league’s 2010-2011 season found that performance measures such as shooting and passing percentage were similar for home and visiting teams.
“My intern, Joe Roth, first noticed this while digging into the passing patterns of different teams. He found that they had approximately the same passing and shooting percentages at home and away. But where they had possession was very different,” Lucey said.
At home, the team had the ball in its opponents’ defensive third more often – and thus had more shots on goal – than when on the road and played a more defensive, counterattacking style. It was a pattern the researchers discovered held true for nearly every team.
Read more at: Phys.org