Atlanta United Head coach Gonzalo Pineda
Soccer is a simple sport.
The team that scores the most goals in 90 minutes wins. For the most part.
At the surface, it seems to be 22 players chasing a ball across a green rectangular field but there’s plenty more to it.
Countless tactical battles, hardly visible to a spectator’s eye, take place inside an intricate network of lines, patterns and structures orchestrated by two coaches and their staff.
Chattanooga FC ahead of its preseason match against Atlanta United FC on Jan. 28, offered a United Soccer Coaches Special Topics diploma in Game Analysis for coaches and passionate soccer fans from the area.
The seminar, led by Felipe Cardenas, soccer tactics reporter for The Athletic, alongside Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda and CFC assistant coach Chris Nugent sought to break down the effective components of game analysis.
In a soccer world torn between those praising eye-appealing soccer, defense-focused or winning above all, Pineda is a coach that likes his tactics.
“I look at the whole picture rather than the smaller actions that happen closer to goal,” he said. “It is about occupying different parts of the field.”
While Pineda seeks to play a modern style of soccer – focusing on the fundamentals of the game – the key to his and other coaches’ philosophies lies in “tactical flexibility.”
This is the ability of separating tactics from one’s style and making continuous tactical changes to the situation in order to preserve the style and identity of a team.
“Every coach has their own beliefs,” said Pineda. “I never sacrifice my style.”
Whether Atlanta plays with a traditional 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1 or more offensive 2-3-4-1, it will strive to maintain possession with a solid and established backline. Additionally, Pineda stresses the importance of shifting, following the runners and for wingers to press the opposing midfielders.
Felipe Cardenas, The Athletic
Cardenas, recently in Qatar covering the World Cup, analyzed the importance of preserving a playing style through Argentina’s successful World Cup run.
The Argentine triumph in Qatar fell in Lionel Scaloni’s ability to take risks while maintaining his soccer credo and his team’s identity throughout the span of Argentina’s World Cup run, he said.
“Stick to your philosophy,” Cardenas said. “Stick to what you know your team can do well.”
Chattanooga FC assistant coach and performance analyst Chris Nugent shared CFC’s tactical perspective after the game, which resulted in a 3-3 draw.
Whether it’s Atlanta United or Barcelona, CFC will try to dominate as much as possible and build without changing the way the team plays, said Nugent.
Pineda shares a similar point of view.
“I try to impose our style even when we face a tough opponent like Philadelphia Union,” he said. “I still want to play off the back.”
In today’s soccer world, the implementation of new technologies allows the gathering and analysis of unprecedented soccer data analytics.
Coaches, players and journalists can revolutionize the way they scout opponents and analyze individual and team performances through tools and analytics platforms.
“Hopefully, the coaches here can realize that there are everything from professional journalists that are trying to help them, and write about the game in a way they can take things away,” Cardenas said.
“And that they understand that there are tools out there for them and they don’t have to do it on their own.”
“That’s something that we do as The Athletic,” he added. “We are tasked as journalists, watching games analytically, watching tactical trends and then writing about it.”
Pineda and his staff are big on scouting.
Of late, the club brought in experienced video analyst José Daniel Martinez. He previously worked in LaLiga, at Malmö FF and most recently with the Ghanian soccer association.
“When the season starts, we begin opposition analysis,” Pineda said. “We scout everything.”
Atlanta United’s video team scouts movements, coordination, connections in the spaces and every opponent whether they are fast or slow.
Meanwhile, showing specific clips to its players about individual and team duties during sessions will allow the team to review what they did well and what they can do better.
Chattanooga FC assistant coach Chris Nugent
Chattanooga FC takes match and opponent analysis with the same seriousness.
“We use match video and data as part of our preparation,” said Nugent. CFC will use video from previous games, go over the principles, specifically how the team wants to play and press, he said.
Then it will move to the opponent, where the threats are and how
they usually attack or defend.
Attendees at the seminar ranged from a variety of collegiate, youth and amateur pro-coaches from the WPSL and UPSL looking to delve deeper into the complex world of soccer tactics and analytics.
Chattanooga FC organized the event for community partners alongside United Soccer Coaches.