Nashville SC women's soccer

Pitch Points continues distancing socially

Ian Ayre in the before times, the “no beard” times. Courtesy Nashville SC.

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I run through the latest links of interest in Nashville SC, US Soccer, whatever strikes my fancy, etc. etc. If you come across a story that you think would be interesting, never hesitate to drop me a line on the social channels (Twitter/Facebook/Instagram) or in the comments here.

Please stay inside. #weneedsportsback

Ian Ayre, face of the franchise

Certainly you don’t want the club’s CEO to be the most-visible member of the entire organization (idea: player(s)!), but in this time of quarantine, there aren’t a ton of options available. No games, not a whole lot to talk about.

Alas, here’s Ian Ayre in FourFourTwo on coronavirus, etc.

“The positivity, momentum, support and all the energy that we created on the 29th February with just about 60,000 people – and then three days later have a tornado devastate the city and then 10 days later have coronavirus strike and stop soccer and stop everything ultimately.

“That was pretty devastating, if I’m honest. There’s still a huge clear-up operation in and around Nashville in those areas that were most hit.”

He also sat down with Sports Business Radio, but I haven’t had the chance to listen yet (your boy is way behind on listening to podcasts with no time spent in the car), so no discussion of the content from my end at this point.

Local media will be speaking with Ayre tomorrow, at which point there should be some items of interest to share (fingers crossed).

Stat stuff

Paul Carr‘s presentation at the 2020 Sloan Analytics Conference (remember going places to do things? As recently as early March?) is really, really good stuff. It’s about effectively communicating analytics principles to the layperson:

I would say that concept is also the thesis statement of his Tru Media podcast, Expected Value (a must-listen if you’re interested in analytics, and even more so if you’re not somebody who’s too deep into the weeds).

It’s a part of the analysis process that some in the analytics community forget all-too often. I’m guilty of the same – while not exactly being a brain genius on the analytics front to begin with – and since the xV podcast started, have tried to be more conscientious about not just spitting out numbers, but making them digestible, as well.

Also in the stats/analytics world, speaking of easy-to-digest information, Nashville SC data analysis intern Pranav Nagarajan has a simple yet informative piece about teams’ entries into the attacking third, using StatsBomb’s free data. If you’re a budding data analyst, he has a Shiny App for R to pump out the graphs, as well.

Lastly, if you’re interested in getting in to the analytics world, here’s a handy guidebook to some of the ways to do so. (I’ve been thinking about putting together something similar and organized a little differently, so who knows if I’ll get that done during the quarantine times. Probably not!).

Corruption, to me, is “bad”

The United States of America (hey, they’s you and me! Except for our international readers, shout out to y’all) indicted some more peeps in the ongoing FIFA Corruption case(s).

Over a period of more than 20 years, the defendants and their coconspirators corrupted the enterprise through, among other things, the solicitation, payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sale of media and marketing rights to various soccer tournaments and events.

Media rights are certainly important, though less interesting than the bribery schemes involved ion the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. It hasn’t exactly been a well-kept secret that Russia and Qatar cheated their way to those victorious bids (nor that then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and current FIFA President Gianni Infantino were at-best complicit in the schemes). But salacious details and naming names, ho:

…The process was repeated until one bid received an outright majority of the votes. Russia received a majority of votes in the second round of voting for the 2018 World Cup. Qatar received a majority of votes in the fourth round of voting for the 2022 World Cup.

Several executive committee members were offered or received bribes in connection with their votes. For example, the defendant RICARDO TEIXEIRA, Nicolas Leoz and Co-Conspirator# 1 were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. In addition, the defendant JACK WARNER was promised and received bribe payments totaling $5 million and Rafael Salguero was promised a $1 million bribe in exchange for their votes in favor of Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.

Some of the unnamed co-conspirators are blindingly obvious – #2 is Qatari Mohammad Bin Hammam of the Asian Football Confederation – but others not quite, at least without a level of research that’s unnecessary right now (No. 1 is an Argentine Football Association exec, for what it’s worth).

The big picture? Corrupt though the USSF may seem to the QAnon-esque portions of the American soccer internet ecosystem, it doesn’t hold a candle to the world of international soccer. Any cleaning up of FIFA, Concacaf (Warner, a Trinbagonian politician, famously bribed his way to the top – and to stay at the top – for decades), and the like is a positive for the US. Of course, we’ve also seen some blowback and retaliation from folks upset that they can’t line their pockets with bribes anymore, so there are short-term downsides for the betterment of the game globally – and the Americans’ place within it – in the long-term.

Who’s gonna break it?

Soccer coaching in the US – even more than other sports here, or soccer across the pond – has a gender barrier($):

Still, the fact that [former USWNT head coach Jill] Ellis has not even received formal interest from an MLS team, not even as an assistant coach, should be considered somewhat surprising. As she notes, she has performed at the highest level, under pressure far exceeding that which coaches typically encounter in Major League Soccer.

Ellis only made $291K as the USWNT head coach, so it’s insane that an MLS team wouldn’t take a flier on her for a modest raise (I can’t find definitive data on MLS coach compensation, but $300k would be on the lower end of the range) to moneyball their way into a proven elite manager.

Her quotes in the story (not gonna give it all away here – you should subscribe to The Athletic already and if you don’t feel free to use my referral code for 30 days free) indicate that coaching men isn’t a priority for Ellis, but certainly something she’d be open to. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone eventually takes the risk.

Etc. Ayy Jalil hit me with a fresh cut. Tulsa FC’s front office and roster are loaded with former NSC folks. This Cuba story from friend-of-the-blog Austin Gwin is great. The evolution of counter-attacking. NSC’s Jack Maher is home in suburban St. Louis waiting out the coronavirus… situation. The Armchair Analyst remembers what MLS was like back in ’96. Project 40 was cool.

As always, thanks for visiting For Club and Country. Feel free to share with a friend.

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