During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, SportTechie and N3XT Sports are surveying key personnel at major soccer clubs around the world to understand the current state of soccer technology and innovation. (Previous: Martí Matabosch, FC Kairat)
Agustín Lleida is the former director of sport science and physical conditioning for CF Pachuca. Lleida has been immersed in soccer his entire life. At age six, he began playing for the local club team in his hometown of Monzón, Spain. After high school, he pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports science and physical conditioning in Spain. Then in 2011 he moved to the state of Hidalgo in Mexico to apply his knowledge and training at CF Pachuca.
Alongside Marco Garcés, Pachuca’s director of sport, Lleida revolutionized the club’s player development strategy. Pachuca’s performance, especially within its minor teams, improved significantly over recent years. Lleida became an influential name in the soccer training world—his Facebook page has over 200,000 followers and he launched his own website—and other Mexican clubs began to implement similar practices.
CF Pachuca currently plays in Mexico’s premier division, Liga MX, which awards two championships per season, one for an opening tournament (Apertura) and another for a closing one (Clausura). The club has won six league championships, most recently the 2016 Clausura. It also has five CONCACAF Champions’ Cup or Champions League titles, one North American SuperLiga, and one Copa Sudamericana.
Lleida is now moving to Costa Rican team Liga Deportiva Alajuelense to serve as its minor league soccer sporting director. Alajuelense, often just called La Liga, is a multi-sport club, but is best known for its soccer team that plays in Liga FPD, Costa Rica’s premier division.
Lleida noted two specific technologies that have played a significant role in the advancement of the sport over the past decade. “One is the isoinertial machines that allow us to overload the eccentric phase [during muscle motion], and the other the GPS that allows us to know our workloads in detail.” (Isoinertial exercise machines have the same resistance in both the concentric and eccentric phases of muscle contraction.)
He believes the main challenge for GPS technology is to “continue optimizing the interpretation of the data to allow us to further fine tune the load/recovery relationship.” With isoinertial machines, Lleida explained that “we must continue studying the musculoskeletal adaptations to these stimuli and how they affect the performance and prevention of injuries.”
According to Lleida, future advances will be made in using technology to completely personalize training for each player. “The revolution will occur when we have an exact control of the load/recovery components of the player individually,” he noted. “The player [will become] like a computer that we know exactly what is the load content that the player needs to receive, at what magnitude and how much time he needs to recover … Today we have many parameters that help us make these decisions, but [human] experience also continues to influence a lot.”