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Dr. Dynamo or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dom

HOUSTON - JULY 21:  Head coach Dominic Kinnear of the Houston Dynamo looks on during a game against the Montreal Impact at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 21, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 3-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - JULY 21: Head coach Dominic Kinnear of the Houston Dynamo looks on during a game against the Montreal Impact at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 21, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 3-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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After nearly seven seasons of soccer played by the Houston Dynamo, we've started to accumulate enough data to begin looking at statistical trends. I've never been a big statistics guy myself, unless we're discussing baseball, simply because applying statistics to a game like soccer is difficult. Sure it can provide some interesting information, fancy graphs and some data trends, but it's very difficult to make broader term assumptions about the game or teams because the sport is in such an ever changing state.

Opta have made a business out of bringing a more in-depth statistical analysis to the sport, but that doesn't mean that the information is always important or useful. Graham MacAree wrote a series of stories about analytics in soccer and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Statistics work really well in baseball, because despite the adjustments that have occurred over the past 143 or so seasons (bigger/smaller ballparks, height of the mound, the ball, PEDs, etc.) the game essentially remains the same. You can compare the numbers of Alex Rodriguez or Matt Kemp to Joe Jackson or Babe Ruth because the core game has remained the same.

More importantly, ridiculously in-depth statistics have been kept about baseball for 143+ seasons, so the data is there to look at. Even if there were detailed stats about soccer dating back to the earliest days of the professional game, comparing the modern version to the past version would still not provide you a good picture. Tactics, formations and technology have evolved the game to the point where while the idea is still to kick the ball in the goal, it's not really the same game.

It's for that reason that I tend not to dive too deeply in to statistics when it comes to covering the Dynamo. The one element of data I'm comfortable looking at though is the idea of points per game. Essentially it's a basic mathematical formula that gives you an idea of how well a team performed over a given stretch of time by dividing the number of points earned by the number of games played. PPG can be extremely handy in MLS since the schedule causes gaps in the number of games played between teams for most of the season.

It's hard to compare a team that has played 20 games, versus a team that has played 15 based purely on points alone. Using PPG you can at least get a picture of how productive a team has been in the games they've played. It's possible for teams that have played varying numbers of matches to be equal or very close on points, and by looking at the two teams PPG, you can at least get an idea of which team has been taking better advantage of their games.

Look at this year's standings for example. The Montreal Impact have played the most games in MLS (23) and have 24 points. That's a PPG of 1.04. New England is on 23 points, once spot behind the Impact in the standings. The Revs however have only played 20 matches and have a PPG of 1.15. What this allows you to infer is that over the course of the full season, New England should finish ahead of Montreal because they are getting more points out of each game. It's not an exact science, but it's one of the best uses of stats in soccer.

As the Dynamo are in the midst what feels like yet another summer surge back in to the playoff mix, I started to get curious about the past six season of Dynamo soccer and if there was any type over overlying trend about how and when Dominic Kinnear's team hits their peak, so to speak. I dug through all the Dynamo's schedules and compiled the PPG for Houston in each month over the past 6+ seasons.

March (1.00 PPG), April (1.39), May (1.05), June (1.75), July (1.48), August (1.28), September (1.63) and October (1.8).

  • The Dynamo suck in March. Granted they've only played a total of nine matches in that month, but they've consistently not been successful. They are 2-4-3 overall and they had never won a game in March until this season when they won two. You know what though? It's doesn't matter one bit.
  • The Dynamo are damn good in June, September and October. This is the core of why the Dynamo under Dominic Kinnear are successful. Kinnear knows that March, April and May are virtual throw away months in MLS. Sure every point counts, but you can overcome a weak first three months if you are able to pick up points over the summer and early fall.
  • The Dynamo have only had a losing record twice in the month of June (2010, 2011). 2010 was an anomaly season because the roster wasn't in the best shape and there wasn't the cap space to make the needed adjustments. In 2011 Houston went 1-2-1 in June, but after trades and signings they went on tear the rest of the season.
  • October is the Dynamo's best month in terms of PPG. October is the last month of the season, the playoffs start in October, and in a league with playoffs, the end of the season is where you want to be playing your best soccer. The Dynamo consistently kick ass in October and three appearances in the MLS Cup Final prove that's a good thing.
  • The PPG numbers in July and August are a bit lower but still not bad. It's usually hot as hell during those two months, especially in Houston so we can forgive that a little bit.
What's the point of all this? In Dom We Trust!

Dominic Kinnear is in my opinion the best coach in all of Major League Soccer. I may have orange tinted glasses, but between his consistent success and the clinical way that he handles his team and the schedule each season, I think I'm on firm ground in this assertion.

He knows it's not about hot starts or a ton of wins early in the season. Sure it's nice to pile up some points early, but it's not a priority. MLS is a slow build, it's all about learning your roster's strengths and weaknesses, making adjustments in the transfer window and having your team clicking in September and October.

Kinnear is one of the best at that, if not the best and the numbers prove it. The Dynamo are 19-8-15 in September and October and in those two months combined since 2006, they've only had a losing record once (September 2010). That's consistency and a clear understanding of how to be successful in MLS.

What another example? Boniek Garica made his debut for the Dynamo on June 30th, 2012 against the Philadelphia Union. In that game, Kinnear started his team in a 4-3-3 formation, leaving behind the 4-4-2 setup that he'd uses in virtually every match since the team moved to Houston. The Dynamo won that match 2-1 and haven't lost since. It took two scoreless draws to get the kinks out, but since the formation switch the Dynamo are 4-0-2 and have a +9 goal differential. Their PPG during this stretch is 2.00 (that's high by the way). To put it in perspective, in 22 games this season, the San Jose Earthquakes have a PPG of 1.95. The LA Galaxy finished last season with a 1.97 PPG by the way.

How many other managers can make a massive formation change mid-season and spur his team on to one of their best run of forms since May 2009?

That's why I've stopped worrying about results in March, April and May. Sure I still want to see the team win, but I've learned that it's more important to look for trends and that the team is coming together. That's why we say, In Dom We Trust. In this case, the numbers don't lie.