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From Auckland to the MLS with Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards- Head of Analysis at Houston Dynamo

Carl Edwards, Head of Video Analysis at Houston Dynamo has been kind enough to take time out of his end of season break to explain what life in the MLS and at Houston is really like.

Our starting point was Carl’s entrance into analysis, having switched countries and facing Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup, it all began in a similar way to most aspiring analysts, “My background was initially in coaching and when I was in university I undertook an unpaid placement with New Zealand Football in 2012 and this is where I first started to learn about analysis”. Like most aspiring analysts, Carl was lucky enough to get that break into sport that he needed “I started working with the national Futsal team to set up their analysis along with some work with other NZ Age Group Teams. From there I moved to a semi pro team called Auckland City FC where I spent 4 seasons before moving to the only professional team in New Zealand (Wellington Phoenix FC) for 18 months before moving to Houston”.

As you will read on the Performance Analysis UK website, there are many different set ups in a club and often the analysis philosophy of a club is set out by a Director of Football, other times it is left to the current Head of Analysis to form. Carl explained “There is no set philosophy as our analysis work is specific to the coaches, however I have been working with our Academy to implement video analysis to get players involved in their own analysis by reviewing their own performances and making their own clips”, he goes on to explain his own philosophy and the main aim of his working day “it’s about being able to provide the correct and accurate information required to the coaching staff to be able to perform and win games along with implementing effective workflows and processes club wide”. It is vital for any analysts to carry that philosophy through with them into every day, in order to achieve their underlying philosophy but what really does come into the Head of an MLS department’s working week? The New Zealand born analyst splits his week into four segments “I look at my role in 4 parts; Training- filming and analyzing training sessions and databasing our exercises; Opposition Analysis- Preparation of information related to our upcoming opponents and working with the coaching staff to prepare a presentation to the players; In Game Analysis- Live coding and analysis of the game with clips provided to the coaching staff at half time; Post Game Analysis-Analyzing our own performance and providing clips to coaching staff to prepare post game presentation”.

There is much debate in the world of analysis in clubs around video and data and the influence of both. In Carl’s experience “Here in MLS there is an emphasis on data and also video, We are lucky here in Houston that we have a Data Analyst who works with this, for me it is important to have a balance between the video and data to be able to put the numbers into context”. With data playing a big role in football’s modern game, it was interesting to hear the forms in which it is used at Houston Dynamo “We use data here in our opposition analysis and post game reviews, the data which is quite common is the xG (expected goals) model but also percentage data around pass completion, areas of attack, pressure just to name a few. We are lucky that we get Opta data here for the league but a lot of statistical data is available through scouting platforms such as Instat and Wyscout. Something of interest to me and we are starting to investigate is packing data (bypassing defenders)”, something that may be familiar to some in the analysis world, as perhaps the next big trend in use after the use of xG in recent years.

The world of analysis in sport and football is forever growing as clubs try to gain the extra percent advantage on other teams in their leagues. Carl considered how this change is starting to take affect “I think that analysis departments are starting to grow in clubs where there are multiple analysts. The other thing which is currently evolving is in game live tracking but also the technology being allowed on the bench now- this is only going to grow and who knows- it may end up with coaches up in the stands or more technology such as iPads on the bench”

With these technologies continually advancing, it was interesting to hear that the most used at Houston Dynamo are similar to that of analysts at most levels “For me to be able to do my job quickly and efficiently it would be Hudl and Sportscode products, I remember when I was doing some video working with a team and had to use quicktime and sometimes iMovie”.

Carl recognises his biggest moment in analysis as “Winning the Bronze Medal at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2014 with Auckland City FC in which we were the only amateur team in the tournament competing with teams such as Real Madrid, San Lorenzo, Cruz Azul”. The obvious pathway of what is in the past is what the future looks like for Carl. When looking to the future, Carl has set his sights on one day working in the Premier League or Champions League club in Europe, after getting a taste for working with this caliber of player previously “I have been lucky enough to work with some very good players however I was lucky enough to work with DaMarcus Beasley here in Houston and also Steven Taylor (former Newcastle United player) at Wellington Phoenix”.

At the end of this fantastic insight, here at Performance Analysis UK, we always ask one big question.. What advice would you give an aspiring analyst?

“I got into my first role by being able to show what I could do, There are a lot of opportunities for unpaid analysis and I think to get into the industry you have to spend a lot of time being able to show what you can do. Along with this there are plenty of opportunities to showcase your work through social media and websites now, you have to have a point of difference!”

We at Performance Analysis UK would like to say a huge thank you to Carl for taking the time out and speak to us. If you would like to follow or connect with Carl, that can be done on his Twitter or LinkedIn.

If you are interested in becoming an analyst or know more about what the life of an analyst involves, take a look at our Introduction to Analysis Course here!

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