March 16, 2011

How to Avoid Penalty Shoot Outs: Hold them before you play extra time. Counter intuitive or good economics?

posted by owlhouse to soccer at 11:14 PM - 11 comments

Hmmm. I like it!

posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:27 PM on March 16, 2011

Brilliant! Apply it in hockey!

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:50 PM on March 16, 2011

It's an interesting idea, but it seems like it's still a coin flip anyway. It raises two problems that I can see:

  1. It makes one team play at a known handicap; they already know that they can't let the game end in a tie, and the other team therefore knows a strategy of keepaway in a tie game won't equal a tie at all; this seems like it would lead to more boring extra time periods where one side has no incentive to score.
  2. The possibility very much exists that the shooters you had in the shootout are not in the game at the end of extra time (due to penalties, etc) and thus would have been ineligible to be part of the shootout. Do you disregard their points? If you keep those points, isn't it unfair that a team might lose from a shot made by a player not even in the game any more?

It's an interesting idea, but it doesn't solve the real problem. Why do people not like the shootout? Is it that it's too quick, too arbitrary, too anti-climactic? Soccer itself is flawed in that respect because it's a non-scoring game; it seems if you want excitement and non-arbitrary finishes, you keep playing until it's not tied- and if the fear is the players get so exhausted they can't score, then that will lead to goals eventually, or you add/remove limitations (such as offsides) in the subsequent extra periods to encourage scoring.

posted by hincandenza at 12:34 AM on March 17, 2011

The more I think about this idea, the more I like it. With respect to @hincandenza, I don't think those arguments are valid.

1. Playing with a known handicap is not new - it would be like playing the second leg of a match where one team is leading after the first leg. You know you're going to lose the tie if the match is drawn, so you have to play to win. Equally, the team with the advantage knows that just playing defensively for 30 minutes is not necessarily the best strategy - one mistake and now you're losing. It creates the situation where teams can go from winning to losing with just one goal - a great part of two-legged matches like what you see in the Champions League

2. If you move the shootout to the end of the 90 minutes, players who are on the field at that time can take the kicks. It's just changing the order of a match's events, and what used to be so (penalties at the end of extra time) is no longer - it doesn't matter who might have been on the pitch at the end. I think this point is moot.

People don't like the shootout because it's a false way to end a match; it doesn't represent the nature of the sport. But other alternatives are equally problematic - you can't play indefinitely because it may not be the last match of a tournament, so fatigue would make the next match for the winning team unfair. Messing with the rules causes the same problem as penalties - a match is decided in a way that is not "true" football/soccer.

Providing real incentive by tipping the balance would generate the best possible way for the match to be ended through normal play, and I think that's the point of what these researchers are proposing

posted by geneparmesan at 06:55 AM on March 17, 2011

Think of it this way: this method really and truly removes the concept of a "tie game", even in progress.

Even if the score is 2-2 in the 1st period, the team that won the pre-shootout is winning the game. The other team has extra pressure put on them because they know that they have to put the puck in the net before regulation time is up.

One team is always ahead, and one team is always behind. This guarantees that one team is always playing from behind, and I think that would translate into a more entertaining game.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:14 AM on March 17, 2011

Entertaining games nearly always contain an early goal. This provides that with something less arbitrary than a coin toss, so why not? I like it. It's up there with installing water sprinklers at F1 races to make the last few laps interesting.

posted by JJ at 12:02 PM on March 17, 2011

Does soccer have a coin flip to determine who kicks off? (I casually follow big-time soccer. It did in my AYSO soccer league, but I can't recall any coin-flips at the World Cups.) If so, replace the coin flips with a shoot-out. Use the shoot-out for possession and to break a tie.

Using it only to break a tie that might not exist just seems somehow unacceptable to me.

posted by Aardhart at 03:00 PM on March 17, 2011

The proposal is to hold a shootout after regulation time but before extra time. Indeed it does not make sense to have a shootout for a match that may not end in a tie. Note that a coin flip is appropriate for kick-off since there is no real advantage to kicking off

posted by geneparmesan at 03:18 PM on March 17, 2011

Serves me right for skimmin'. Well, I still like my idea better.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 04:43 PM on March 17, 2011

"or you add/remove limitations (such as offsides) in the subsequent extra periods to encourage scoring."

I know it's counter-intuitive, but removing offside does not make scoring more likely in soccer. You see all those goals called back for offside, and you think doing away with offside would mean more goals. But that is not in fact what happens. Teams change their tactics, crowd the box, and make scoring just as difficult as before: it's boring to watch and it eliminates the tactical midfield battle which has been the essence of association football for the past 140+ years. Experiments have been tried:

"Throughout the 198788 season, the GM Vauxhall Conference was used to test an experimental rule change, whereby no attacker could be offside directly from a free-kick. This change was not deemed a success, as the attacking team could pack the penalty area for any free-kick (or even have several players stand in front of the opposition goalkeeper) and the rule change was not introduced at a higher level."

Soccer also experimented with a "golden goal" in overtime (first goal in overtime wins the game) but abandoned the idea because it simply encouraged more negative, defensive play, because both sides were afraid to give up the first goal. Playing the shootout first in ice hockey might have a similar effect: the team "leading" due to winning the shootout would have a greater incentive to play negatively and defensively, frustrate the "trailing" team, and hope to perpetual the tie until the end of OT and/or score off of a break against a frustrated "trailing" team trying to overcome the shootout handicap. You can't be sure what will happen though unless you try it.

Or here's a wild thought: why not just do away with tie-breakers during the regular season, and reserve OT and shootouts for the playoffs when you actually need to determine a winner. There's nothing wrong with a hard fought tie game where the teams "split the points" after a tie, as they do in soccer. If you're going to be experimenting, why not try that? The "tie games are like kissing your sister" complaint has always seemed a very silly complaint to me.

posted by dave2007 at 06:02 AM on March 19, 2011

I think this is a really interesting concept, and I hope it does get a real tryout to see how it plays out. Shootouts are an unfortunately necessary evil and make for a, though exciting, very unsatisfying finish. Moving it up, making it essentially worth half a goal, and allowing the game to end with real soccer sounds like it really could work.

posted by bender at 02:06 PM on March 19, 2011

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