SPORTS

Toronto FC expands analytics department, looks to make the most of research

02/19/2015 07:12 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Toronto FC's hiring of a manager of analytics is part of a long-term project to see how such information can be best used at the MLS soccer club, says general manager Tim Bezbatchenko.

The team hired Villanova professor Bret Myers as a consultant last year but decided it needed a full-time staffer to help establish its analytics framework.

Devin Pleuler has been given that role, tasked with number-crunching everything from on-field movements to working with others on the budget and medical/sports science area.

"We just want to have more information," Bezbatchenko said in an interview.

Analytics have become part of soccer just like other sports. The Guardian reported last March that all 20 clubs in the English Premier League, and many lower division sides, employ data analysts to sift through information from GPS technology and sports data companies like Opta and Prozone.

Manchester City had 11 such analysts, the newspaper said,.

"There's more information available to coaches and GMs," said Bezbatchenko. "You need to collect it, organize it and then look at it and try to figure out patterns and new ways of looking at the game.

"I guess we're just trying to keep an open mind. And really you don't know what you don't know. So you've got to keep an open mind and try to think of doing things a little bit differently. And if there's more data out there, I don't understand why you wouldn't want to have it."

Pleuler, who graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston with a computer science degree, previously worked as a New York-based statistician for Opta and wrote the "Central Winger" column for mlssoccer.com.

After graduating from Wentworth, where he was a goalkeeper on the soccer team, Pleuler worked at a data analytics and quantitative marketing company named Autotegrity in Cambridge, Mass., as a data scientist. He also served as an assistant soccer coach with MIT.

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