Over the course of a season, professional soccer clubs make several important decisions on player recruitment, match strategy, and more. Though by-and-large soccer is still in the early stages of doing so, clubs that are beginning to integrate data analysis into their decision-making processes are becoming smarter and more efficient.
Austin FC is one such club, and Hayden Van Brewer – the team’s Data and Analytics Manager – aims to glean insights that will give Austin FC advantages over its competition.
“Soccer is a difficult game to capture. The goal of data analytics is to try to simplify the game and track things,” said Van Brewer. “First, we track things that are easy and then we track things that are useful, and in soccer a lot of the things that are easy to track are not useful in terms of recruitment, strategy, evaluating players, and preparing for matches.”
“It’s also a game that doesn’t have a long history of people using data or being as familiar with it and understanding the ways it can help them speed up their processes and make things easier for them.”
Unlike baseball, basketball, and American football, which have long used a variety of statistics to measure performance, individual and team performances in soccer are tough to measure with surface-level numbers. The sport requires more complex analysis to benefit from the ever-increasing among of data available to those who work with it.
“I think the advantage for teams right now is how they integrate data and analytics and research into their processes,” said Van Brewer. “Anyone can buy data now and anyone can hire someone to work with that data for any department, but the idea is that teams that know how and where how to integrate those things into their decision-making to become more efficient and smarter are going to have an advantage.”
On a personal level, Van Brewer benefits from the constant exchange of knowledge his job requires.
“For me, I really enjoy that I get to constantly learn on my job. It’s a role with a lot of opportunity to find out new things and ask questions, try to answer questions, be in this hybrid role where I’m always learning yet always helping others learn as well.”