U S of A: The World Cup Thread

BoSoxFink

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So if the US were to beat Portugal they would automatically be moving on correct? Obviously I'm taking into account that Ghana is going to lose to Germany as a certainty.
 

Snakebauer007

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SydneySox said:
What is the relative VORP of a player like Altidore though? I mean he may be a central part to the team but he's not exactly a superstar. Pepe is a far better player. You can get closer to replacing the output of an Altidore than you can a Pepe.
He has a unique style/size/skill set for out team that cannot be replaced. He is our outlet to relieve pressure and hold the ball up when we win the ball in defense. He may not be our best player, but he is quite unique in terms of having no similar replacement.
 

Madmartigan

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BoSoxFink said:
So if the US were to beat Portugal they would automatically be moving on correct? Obviously I'm taking into account that Ghana is going to lose to Germany as a certainty.
Correct. If the US beats Portugal and Germany wins or draws against Ghana, the US would advance.
 

Titans Bastard

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SydneySox said:
What is the relative VORP of a player like Altidore though? I mean he may be a central part to the team but he's not exactly a superstar. Pepe is a far better player. You can get closer to replacing the output of an Altidore than you can a Pepe.
 
It's hard to think about it in baseball terms.  Soccer is a true team sport, whereas baseball is almost more of a mosaic of individual 1v1 events.  If your right fielder suffers an injury, you put in your 4th outfielder, but it doesn't affect the structure or shape of the team.
 
What's great about Altidore for this US team is that he's big and physical and even if he can go down a little easier than you'd like, he is still a handful for defenders.  He usually occupies both central defenders, he provides an outlet upfield for our midfield and keeps the defense honest.  It all adds up to a player whose presence creates space for other US attackers and a player who prevents the opposing defense from compressing the field too much.
 
It's why the US looked amazing with the short-lived pairing of Jozy and Charlie Davies.  Jozy was a physical presence, Davies' speed and ability to get in behind the defense scared the shit out of other teams.  It all added up to lots of breathing room in the middle of the field for Dempsey and Donovan.  (It worked so well that Bob Bradley attempted to recreate the advantages of that pairing with a very poor man's Charlie Davies -- Robbie Findley.  Sadly, it didn't work.)
 
The concern is that AJ and Wondo aren't at all suited to the tasks that Jozy does effectively even when he's not scoring.  And when Jozy isn't scoring it's unfortunate, but he's usually doing other things that help his teammates score.  I don't think AJ or Wondo are going to do much to help their teammates score if they are thrust into the Jozy role and their teammates won't be able to help them score, either, because the attacking shape of the team will collapse.
 
I think some sort of tactical shift is necessary here.  AJ/Wondo in the Jozy role will be ugly.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Titans Bastard said:
 
 
 
I think some sort of tactical shift is necessary here.  AJ/Wondo in the Jozy role will be ugly.
 
 I agree, but could you expound further, either here or in the other thread? I can play the game, but don't haven't watched enough to break stuff like this down thoroughly.
 

Titans Bastard

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Dummy Hoy said:
 
 I agree, but could you expound further, either here or in the other thread? I can play the game, but don't haven't watched enough to break stuff like this down thoroughly.
 
While I wouldn't call Jozy the quintessential target man, he's way more able to hold up the ball, occupy defenders, and take fouls and abuse than AJ or Wondo.
 
Wondo is a pure poacher who isn't good at holding the ball or even being part of the buildup of the attack.  What he's great at is floating in the box and being in the right place at the right time to finish chances served up by teammates and to clean up scraps and rebounds.  He's a good finisher (though he hasn't been as clinical for the USMNT as he has for San Jose) but even at the club level in MLS he's dependent on burly target forwards like Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart to hold the ball and create space for him.  If you played him as a lone striker, he'd be useless.  He wouldn't be able to provide an outlet for the midfield, he'd lose the ball quickly and ultimately the defense would be able to play a higher line and compress the midfield, giving guys like Bradley less room to operate.
 
AJ's game is a little more complex than Wondo, but he still doesn't have the strength or the instincts to be a target forward.  He did a poor job of holding the ball against Ghana, frequently making poor decisions that cost us the ball.  He needs a strike partner or at least two true wingers like what you'd see in a Dutch 4-3-3.  Zusi and Bedoya aren't that.
 

DJnVa

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MentalDisabldLst said:
 
All granted, and I like their underdog chances on Sunday, but the US has injuries too - including to someone arguably as hard-to-replace for the US as Pepe is to Portugal.
 
Sure, but add in 2 more injuries for Portugal and I think we win that, on net.
 
And how big of an underdog are we now? 538 has us at 35% to win and 36% to lose, nearly even--and that's without the corresponding roster issues.
 

DJnVa

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BoSoxFink said:
So if the US were to beat Portugal they would automatically be moving on correct? Obviously I'm taking into account that Ghana is going to lose to Germany as a certainty
 
And a draw means that, with a loss to Germany next week, it will come down to GD for the US and Portugal (assuming Portugal beats Ghana).
 

cromulence

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I hate to be the party pooper but is there any reason to put stock in a 538 projection for sports? I know how great it is for politics but I feel like we're starting to talk about those numbers a lot and I'm not sure they mean anything. 
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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cromulence said:
I hate to be the party pooper but is there any reason to put stock in a 538 projection for sports? I know how great it is for politics but I feel like we're starting to talk about those numbers a lot and I'm not sure they mean anything. 
Honestly, this 538 model is awful. The biggest issue is that they make a massive adjustment for East-West travel, which gives us a huge advantage over European teams. That's why it thinks we're even odds against Portugal or against Belgium if we make the knockout rounds.
 

DJnVa

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cromulence said:
I hate to be the party pooper but is there any reason to put stock in a 538 projection for sports? I know how great it is for politics but I feel like we're starting to talk about those numbers a lot and I'm not sure they mean anything. 
 
I don't know--are they really much different from the Playoff Odds that BP creates? Just another way to look at things.
 

Merkle's Boner

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Any thought of going with Dempsey as a lone striker and using both Beckerman and Jones as defensive midfielders and starting both Zusi and Bedoya along with Bradley?  When a tie will go a long way in advancing you, I don't think that's such a bad lineup. And I thought Johansson was shite.
I'm going to throw this out there again.  Surely JK approaches this game different knowing that a draw greatly increases our chances of advancing.  Going with a 4-2-3-1 seems to be a way to placed your best 11 on the pitch and provide Fabian and Beasley with a little more help in dealing with Ronaldo.  Am I completely off here?
 
M

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cromulence said:
I hate to be the party pooper but is there any reason to put stock in a 538 projection for sports? I know how great it is for politics but I feel like we're starting to talk about those numbers a lot and I'm not sure they mean anything. 
 
Nobody has a better model, from what I can tell.  I mean, maybe professional gamblers do, betting syndicates and the like.
 

Infield Infidel

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cromulence said:
I hate to be the party pooper but is there any reason to put stock in a 538 projection for sports? I know how great it is for politics but I feel like we're starting to talk about those numbers a lot and I'm not sure they mean anything. 
 
One thing I like about it is it gives a small bonus for teams that have players on the same club team. So Spain gets a few bumps because so many guys are on Real Madrid and Barca. 
 

soxfan121

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Infield Infidel said:
 
One thing I like about it is it gives a small bonus for teams that have players on the same club team. So Spain gets a few bumps because so many guys are on Real Madrid and Barca. 
 
Does it also subtract a little bit because the Madrid and Barca guys hate each other?
 

DJnVa

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
Honestly, this 538 model is awful. The biggest issue is that they make a massive adjustment for East-West travel, which gives us a huge advantage over European teams. That's why it thinks we're even odds against Portugal or against Belgium if we make the knockout rounds.
 
No they don't.
 
 We had a lot of debate about whether to include a “strong” adjustment for east-west distance traveled (one calibrated based on data from 1952 onward), a “weak” adjustment (one based on the much weaker signal from 2006 onward) or not to include it at all, and wound up going with the weak adjustment. The weak adjustment makes little difference — it might reduce the advancement odds for a team like Japan by a couple of percentage points, for instance, but not more than that. 
 
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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DrewDawg said:
 
No they don't.
 
 
Hmnn...I guess they have some other ridiculous reason for thinking the US is a coin toss against the likes of Belgium or Portugal.
 
I mean those US head-to-head odds are basically a facial indictment of the model.  Either the entire world of soccer fandom, commentary, and bookmaking is wrong or the 538 model is wrong.  Take your pick.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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JayMags71 said:
How much does that really help us? I wouldn't consider Nani, Moutinho, and Raul Mireles tomato cans, relative to the US.
 
How much does one of the very best players in the world not playing for the other team help us?  A lot.
 
Portugal has a lot of good players and will still be better than us but they are really reliant on Ronaldo for goals and that's a huge absence for them on the front line.  Nani has been a bench-riding bum for the last two years at club level (at least) and their CF options are relatively pedestrian.
 
Edit: To emphasize, though, I'm not at all convinced that all these rumors are true.  Its clear that he has a knock (photos of his knee being iced and worked on in practice today) but the stuff about his doctor being afraid of a career threatening injury could easily be bullshit.
 

DJnVa

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
 
Hmnn...I guess they have some other ridiculous reason for thinking the US is a coin toss against the likes of Belgium or Portugal.
 
I mean those US head-to-head odds are basically a facial indictment of the model.  Either the entire world of soccer fandom, commentary, and bookmaking is wrong or the 538 model is wrong.  Take your pick.
 
Well, I know I quoted them, but I'm not trying to defend them like they are infallible.
 
That said, how much of an underdog do you see the US as Sunday?
 

DJnVa

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JayMags71 said:
How much does that really help us? I wouldn't consider Nani, Moutinho, and Raul Mireles tomato cans, relative to the US.
 
Their team revolves around CR7 though. You have to mark him with 2 men. With all the talk about how the US will conduct their offense without Jozy, it's that x5 with CR7.
 
 
And whether or not the "he may not play" rumors are true, he's clearly got some issues with that leg/knee. If he plays and can you imagine the wincing in Real Madrid's offices if Jermaine Jones is bearing down on him for a tackle?
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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DrewDawg said:
 
Well, I know I quoted them, but I'm not trying to defend them like they are infallible.
 
That said, how much of an underdog do you see the US as Sunday?
 
If Ronaldo plays, maybe like 20% win, 50% lose, 30% tie or something like that?  538 has 36% win, 35% lose which I just find baffling.
 

JayMags71

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
How much does one of the very best players in the world not playing for the other team help us?  A lot.
 
Portugal has a lot of good players and will still be better than us but they are really reliant on Ronaldo for goals and that's a huge absence for them on the front line.  Nani has been a bench-riding bum for the last two years at club level (at least) and their CF options are relatively pedestrian.
So, bottom line: I'm full of shit.

I can live with that.
 

Zomp

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I don't care what 538 says.  We're the underdogs vs Portugal.  To expect a victory is silly.  We should be hoping to squeak one out or walk away with a draw.  Thats whether Ronaldo plays or not (though I wouldn't mind him sitting it out)
 

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Zomp said:
I don't care what 538 says.  We're the underdogs vs Portugal.  To expect a victory is silly.  We should be hoping to squeak one out or walk away with a draw.  Thats whether Ronaldo plays or not (though I wouldn't mind him sitting it out)
If Ronaldo plays we are underdogs, if he doesn't I think we should be favored.
Portugal without Ronaldo, Pepe and Coentrao is not a good team. They absolutely wouldn't have made the world cup without Ronaldo, add in losing their second best player and their starting left back?
 

teddykgb

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Cellar-Door said:
If Ronaldo plays we are underdogs, if he doesn't I think we should be favored.
Portugal without Ronaldo, Pepe and Coentrao is not a good team. They absolutely wouldn't have made the world cup without Ronaldo, add in losing their second best player and their starting left back?
But that's because they qualify in Europe, where the US probably wouldn't qualify from time to time as well. I'm really surprised how many people think these teams are closely matched.
 

Zomp

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Right exactly.  If the US had to go through Portugal's qualifying there is a good chance they wouldn't have made it.
 
 
and that is completely fine.  I just don't want people's expectations to be out of whack.  Without Ronaldo, Pepe, and Coentrao they still have the best 3 or 4 players on the pitch against the US.  We're not the favorites, but if we win it would be monumental.  I think/hope we can scrap out a draw and take our chances on the last match day.
 

Cellar-Door

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teddykgb said:
But that's because they qualify in Europe, where the US probably wouldn't qualify from time to time as well. I'm really surprised how many people think these teams are closely matched.
Oh true, if Healthy they are a much better team. However with one of the best players in the world (and by far the biggest scoring threat) out, and two of their 4 best defenders out I think it becomes close.
 
Portugal without Ronaldo really struggles to score. Mexico they managed 1 late goal on a corner, Greece they barely even threatened. Add in having the aging pairing of Alves and Costa at CB, playing with a new RB they have barely played with, I think that is a vulnerable team and the US should be slight favorites, say 55-45.
 

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teddykgb said:
But that's because they qualify in Europe, where the US probably wouldn't qualify from time to time as well. I'm really surprised how many people think these teams are closely matched.
Bookmakers still have Portugal as a significant favorite. Even a draw would be an upset. The bottom line is that Portugal's route to going through has always been most likely to beat the USA and Ghana. Not having Ronaldo would damage those chances, but they are the better team even without him and it's not like the USA are healthy. The group is still largely where it was before it started, with two main events -- the USA won the game to decide which would be better positioned in the event Portugal falters, and Portugal's lopsided loss opens a door to the possibility of the US going through with 4 points and theoretically even 3.
 

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cromulence said:
I hate to be the party pooper but is there any reason to put stock in a 538 projection for sports? I know how great it is for politics but I feel like we're starting to talk about those numbers a lot and I'm not sure they mean anything. 
I quoted the projection originally and I don't put much stock in it. It's slightly more sophisticated than a parlor game. But it's descriptive. If the USA goes from 2% to 4%, that reflects what's happened. When you see that relatively few countries have higher projections that reflects whats happened throughout the tournament.

I'm not sure why I even have to explain this.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Portugal qualified for the WC in a group that included Russia, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, Israel, and Luxembourg. I'm not sure that's much more difficult that the Hex. They did have to beat a quality Sweden side in the playoffs of course. 
 
Also- I'm not sure that having the best couple of players makes a huge difference, unless you're talking about true world class players like Chistiano Ronaldo. I think Portugal's speed will prove dangerous, but they certainly feel out of sync (Germany can do that to you I guess) and may be missing that all-world player. 
 
I'm not suggesting the USA should be favorites to win, but given the circumstances, it's not as far fetched as some are making it out to be. Of course the US isn't going to control possession and bombard the goal with shots, but they are more physical than Portugal and this game could be a battle of attrition in Manaus. 
 

DJnVa

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Speaking of 538, this seems weird to me:
 


Colombia versus Ivory Coast should be a slightly better match than England versus Uruguay, according to the method we’ve been using to identify each day’s best match (calculating the harmonic mean of each team’s Soccer Power Index rating). But they’re also much more mismatched: Colombia ranks fifth in SPI among the 32 World Cup teams, while Ivory Coast ranks 17th. England and Uruguay rank ninth and 11th, respectively, so while there will be a bit less quality on the pitch according to SPI, it should be a closer contest.
 
FiveThirtyEight’s SPI-based model gives England a 37.3 percent chance of winning, compared to 33.9 percent for Uruguay. Colombia, meanwhile, has a 54.2 percent chance of beating Ivory Coast, and just a 25.7 percent chance of losing. We touted England’s opener, against Italy, as likely to be one the group stage’s most competitive matches; England-Uruguay could be just as close.
 
If your model shows that 2 teams are closer in SPI and both teams have an almost equal chance to win, why is the other game being touted as a better match?
 

Homa

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Guess it depends on how you define match quality. They use the harmonic mean of the teams' SPI. For whatever that is worth.
 

coremiller

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538's soccer content has started driving me up the wall.  Everything they write is based off of SPI, which pretty obviously has lots of flaws -- for example, the team dataset is plagued by small sample sizes, the player-rating dataset is horribly incomplete (it only includes players from the English, Spanish, German, Italian, and French leagues), etc.  And the faux-precision is nauseating.  If only someone had recently written a widely popular book about misuse of statistical models.
 

Infield Infidel

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yeah, SPI has its flaws, but there are so few international matches that the dataset for any rating system would be plagued by small sample size. It's a problem with ELO and FIFA rankings as well. Teams sometimes make massive moves of 10 or 20 spots or more after one or two matches.
 
And if you extend the dataset further into the past, you end up including players that are no longer playing, or weren't at their peak yet, or are now passed their peak. So those results that are more meaningless to today. Which is why FIFA went from 8 year rolling ratings to 4 year ratings.
 
SPI really should be more inclusive of teams in non top leagues. Does anyone know if/how much their model has changed since they wrote their ethos 5 years ago? ESPN FC changed their format and it crapped all their links from pre-world cup. It's always had problems with 404 errors but now it's on an epic scale
 

coremiller

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Infield Infidel said:
yeah, SPI has its flaws, but there are so few international matches that the dataset for any rating system would be plagued by small sample size. It's a problem with ELO and FIFA rankings as well. Teams sometimes make massive moves of 10 or 20 spots or more after one or two matches.
 
And if you extend the dataset further into the past, you end up including players that are no longer playing, or weren't at their peak yet, or are now passed their peak. So those results that are more meaningless to today. Which is why FIFA went from 8 year rolling ratings to 4 year ratings.
 
SPI really should be more inclusive of teams in non top leagues. Does anyone know if/how much their model has changed since they wrote their ethos 5 years ago? ESPN FC changed their format and it crapped all their links from pre-world cup. It's always had problems with 404 errors but now it's on an epic scale
 
Right, but this is an argument against rating systems in general rather than a reason to use SPI.  "SPI is no worse than FIFA rankings" is true, but FIFA rankings have been a running joke for as long as I can remember.  Occasionally you have to use some sort of ranking (like for seeding), but the rest of the time soccer rankings should be pretty much ignored.   538 is treating SPI like it has actually meaningful insight, which it clearly does not.  I'd rather stick with FIFA rankings, which everyone knows are meaningless, than some marginally better but equally meaningless system that people will pretend is useful because Nate Silver is involved.  
 

Infield Infidel

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Oh yeah, absolutely. You gotta take these rankings with a grain of salt. Saying #14 is so much better than #28 is silly because any two teams within 20-30 places can usually have a competitive match. 
 
My big thing with FIFA rankings is it undervalues host countries, and also places that have fewer qualifiers. UEFA teams play 8-10 qualifiers, Conmebol plays 18, so South American teams get an advantage 
 

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From a demographic perspective, it makes perfect sense that the U.S.’s military influence in Germany would extend to the soccer field. When Jones was born in 1981, more than 248,000 American troops were stationed in Germany (compared to 40,304 at the start of 2014). One can only imagine the soccer heights the U.S. might scale if it had a similar military presence in Brazil, but alas, there were only 222 U.S. troops there in 1981.
 
 
“I am a guy who can’t lose,” Jones says. “So if I have to play hard, if I have to play nasty sometimes, then I do it. Maybe it comes from when I was young and had to protect my family.”
 
On June 26 in Recife, the U.S. will meet Germany in their final game of the World Cup group stage. Klinsmann, who never got U.S. citizenship but has lived in the States for 16 years, says he’ll sing both national anthems. As for Jones, he says there won’t be any conflict in his mind once the opening whistle blows: “I will always have the half-side of Germany in my heart, but all of us half players—and the coach, too—we will try to win this game for America. We want to get to the next round.”
 
M

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Yeah, no comment necessary on the bolded.
 
Those who are getting 404 links on ESPN FC trying to learn more about SPI... I found this article from 2009 where Nate Silver explains the whole thing (I assume this is his "ethos" article that Infield Infidel mentioned), and this article from 2010 which has a further FAQ.
 
So, for example, the criticism of only including the 4 major European leagues would probably be answered by Silver in two ways: (1) he'd like to include other leagues as well, as soon as he has time to crunch the data, but for now (2) lack of players who have played in those leagues doesn't hurt your rating, it just increases the error bars for what he thinks he knows about them.  As he says:
 

Do the teams with a high number of players in the English Premier League, the Spanish Primera Division, the Italian Serie A and the German Bundesliga have an advantage in this ratings system?
No. A player won't necessarily help his team's ratings merely because he plays in one of the big four leagues. Instead, he has to achieve some success in club play. The ratings are very carefully calibrated. In fact, such a player is equally likely to help or hurt his national team's overall rating as a result of his club play. If the player is playing well and/or is playing for a successful club team, he will most likely help his national team's rating. But if a player is performing poorly and/or competes for a mediocre club team, he may easily harm it.
 
Likewise, Brazil's hosting of the tournament lends them plenty of value:
 

How does the impact of the game's site affect a ranking?
The result of each game is adjusted for home-field advantage, which is equivalent to about 0.57 goals in international soccer. Home field is very important in international soccer, as compared with virtually any other sport. In addition, the algorithm distinguishes games played at neutral sites and splits the away team bonus evenly between the two clubs.
 
In reading through his initial description, I like the adjusted GS / GA numbers, although I'd like to see the correlations he calculated (between predicted future results and actual future results) in order to understand how he arrived at his constants.
 
My other criticism is that the ratings for player-based events are kinda hand-wavey...
Allocating credit/blame to individual players is a multi-stage process, but the basic components are as follows:
 
Primary (direct) credit for goals scored. If a player scores, then we're going to give him some credit for that. Specifically, we assign him half (50 percent) of the credit for his goal. Less credit (only 20 percent of the total) is assigned if a player scores on a penalty. If there are any own goals, we also pin the blame on the guilty players at this point.
 
Secondary (indirect) credit for goals scored (and allowed). The other 50 percent of the credit for scoring is assigned to the teammates that were on the field with a player at the time of his goal -- this is equivalent to a plus-minus rating in a sport like hockey. Forwards and midfielders are assigned proportionately more credit for assisting with scoring than defensive players. Conversely, when a team allows a goal, the players who are on the field at the time the goal is conceded receive a hit to their defensive ratings. The goalkeeper, of course, receives the most substantial penalty, followed by the defenders, the midfield and the strikers.
 
Why 50%?  I guess it "sounds right" to Silver.  Lastly, I have a bit of a problem with the assumption of linearity in his OFF and DEF ratings, as expressed in this bit:
 

One feature of the OFF and DEF ratings as we've designed them is that they can be combined to estimate the win probabilities for any given game between any two given teams. These probability estimates were derived using something known as a multinomial logit model -- essentially, we've gone back into time and examined what happened when two teams of a given strength rating faced off against one another. For example, based on their current OFF and DEF ratings, this formula estimates that Spain would defeat the United States 61 percent of the time on a neutral field, draw 27 percent of the time and lose the remaining 12 percent of the time. Another example: Germany would defeat Switzerland 54 percent of the time, draw 29 percent of the time and lose 17 percent of the time.
 
Unless he's grouping teams with wide ranges of OFF and DEF ratings, there's no way he has enough data from international matches to accurately make such estimates (and if he is, it throws a lot of the precision here into doubt).  I'd wager if we could see the data used for this step, it would display a lot of oddities (e.g. isolated cases where a team with better ratings has slightly lower odds than a team with worse ratings when playing a certain range of opposing ratings).
 
Basically, I think there's plenty of things to criticize in his methodology, but "failure to take into account all the useful data that he could" is probably not one of them.
 

DJnVa

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In other Sunday assignments, FIFA picked Nestor Pitana of Argentina to referee United States vs. Portugal in Manaus.
 
Pitana previously handled a 1-1 draw between Russia and South Korea in Group H.
 
 

theapportioner

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With Altidore out, I wonder what kind of attacking formation we will play. AJ didn't look great in his place.  Something like this?
 
AJ -------- Dempsey
         Bradley
Jones ----- Bedoya
     Beckerman
 
Then four defenders and Howard. Maybe sub in Diskerud for Bedoya and Wondo for AJ late in the game, depending on circumstances. Thoughts?