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Visual Effect

West Hills Businessman Develops Computer Program to Analyze Every Touch During a Soccer Game

January 08, 1999|TRIS WYKES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Compared to basketball and baseball, soccer has relatively few statistics. But Zvi Friedman's work might change that.

Friedman, an aeronautical and industrial engineer, has developed a computer program to analyze every touch of the ball.

Friedman's West Hills company, Softsport, can be accessed on the Internet at www.softsport.com and has been used in international competition by national teams from the U.S., Brazil, Paraguay and Nigeria. Friedman said he is in contract negotiations with FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body, and has begun to connect with local high school programs as well.

"I'm very focused on helping the kids around the San Fernando Valley because this is my home, and why shouldn't I spread it around here?" Friedman said.

Friedman, 60, the Cal State Northridge men's soccer coach in 1978, has showcased his product at the Burroughs boys' tournament the last two years and was recently asked to analyze future games for teams from Westlake and Calabasas highs.

A breakdown of a recent boys' game between Reseda and Calabasas can be found at www.softsport.com/reseda/team/html.

Friedman's program uses operators, one watching the action with binoculars and another inputting the data on a laptop computer, to record the ball's path. Where and by whom a pass was initiated and received, as well as shots and goals, comprise the data.

Based on this information, coaches and players can, even at halftime or moments after a game, get visual feedback on team or individual performances and tendencies. Mike Kodama, the Burroughs' boys' coach, recently used the program to confirm his fears that the Indians were failing to retain possession on a vast majority of their throw-ins.

"You can tell where and in what situation you lose the ball, which is crucial," Kodama said. "The kids look at it and say, 'Maybe coach isn't completely nuts after all.' "

Friedman, who has a patent pending, said he got the idea for his program more than 10 years ago while analyzing flight data for military pilots. Today, his company is turning a small profit and is planning to train operators and sell franchises.

"Right now we're leasing [the program] to people, but we're changing directions," Friedman said. "We're hoping to simplify the input data and maybe people can more easily do their own thing with it."

Friedman's program should be popular, especially among younger players who have grown up using video and computer products.

"When you see something, you don't have to talk as much," Friedman said.

*

Jorge Ledesma, a midfielder on the Hart boys' team, is flirting with a very short senior season.

Ledesma, among the Indians' top players, has already received two red-card ejections. By Southern Section rules, he was suspended for a game after the first ejection and two games after his second. The second suspension meant Ledesma missed Hart's first two Foothill League games.

Southern Section players receiving three ejections in a season are suspended for the remainder of the season.

City Section players may accumulate an unlimited number of ejections, although players are suspended for each subsequent match following an ejection.

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