I've decided to get ahead of the curve and look past the Real Salt Lake match this weekend. It's not that the game won't be an important tune-up opportunity, or a possible throwaway for that matter. It's just that I have no idea how Martin Rennie will choose to approach the final regular season match. The possibilities are many. Rennie could decide to rest his starters and let the likes of Atiba Harris, Bryce Alderson, and Greg Klazura see pitch time. Or, he could use the fixture to try out yet another iteration of Martin Rennie's magical roster tour. Maybe we'll see a hybrid of the two, who knows?
So it's on to the first round of the 2012 playoffs, and the LA Galaxy hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps. What are the chances? Do the Galaxy have a weakness that the Caps can exploit? Is there a way to shut down the Galaxy attack?
Like any responsible journalist might do, I got started by trying to sift through the facts and numerical data in search of a trend, some commonality, a thread of logic that science - or in the absence of that, some form of prestidigitation that could tie together the Galaxy's past performance and the coming matchup. First half goals vs second half goals? Nada. Commonalities among opponents that managed to beat the Galaxy this season? None. Heat map analysis? Useless.
A lesser man would throw up his arms in Flapperesque style, but I'm decidedly
boneheaded, uhhhh stubborn, persistent. The answer, it seems, won't come from trying to break down real-world data. Instead, the most promising source of clarity appears to lie in the application of advanced computer modelling. And what better way to do that than fire up FIFA 13 and pit the Galaxy against the Caps, with the console running the show multiple times?
After match #1, I came to understand the value of collecting a large enough sample to render "outlier" results insignificant. For is there any other word but "outlier" to term a 2-0 Caps victory featuring a brace from none other than Kenny Miller?? Match #2 yielded an apocalyptic 5-0 drubbing, with the Galaxy on the winning end, and Dane Richards lost to a hyperextended knee. MoM in that one: midfielder Mike Magee. Games 3-10 are scheduled for later in the week, and we'll see what's in store for the Caps then.
EA and the Barclays Premier League have teamed up to have FIFA 13 making match predictions -- with a reasonable degree of success. And we all know how well the developer's hockey franchise has done at predicting hockey outcomes - when there isn't a labour dispute getting in the way. It'll be interesting to see how close the final "research" and FIFA 13's predictions come to the real thing.