USL East power ratings: April 23, 2018

A weekly look at the quality of the teams in the USL’s Eastern Conference. A bit on the methodology in last week’s post. Cliff’s Notes version: No goal differential, no home/away information included. It’s a simple strength of schedule (opponent points per game outside of the game(s) when they were playing you) multiplied by your ability to get results (points per game).

Conceptually, it’s a look at not just how you performed, but who you’ve done it against. Teams like Nashville with good-not-great results (but a very tough strength of schedule, tied with Cincinnati at the top) are going to be ranked ahead of the Charlottes Pittsburghs, that have good-not-great results to date and have done it against two of the three easiest schedules played by anyone yet this year – more on Pittsburgh in a moment.

The ratings also include only USL East games: there were two inter-conference matchups this weekend (Tampa over Real Monarchs, NYRBII drew Galaxy 2), and those aren’t going to factor in here at all. There just aren’t going to be enough data points over the course of the year to compare between conferences.

Without further ado, here are the ratings:

  1. Louisville City – 4.52
  2. FC Cincinnati – 3.03
  3. Atlanta United 2 – 3.00 (+1)
  4. Indy Eleven – 2.78 (-1)
  5. Nashville SC – 2.65
  6. Tampa Bay Rowdies – 2.52
  7. New York Red Bulls II – 2.33
  8. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 1.80 (+1)
  9. Richmond Kickers – 1.28 (+1)
  10. Bethlehem Steel – 1.25 (+1)
  11. Charleston Battery – 1.23 (-3)
  12. Charlotte Independence – 1.01 (+2)
  13. Penn FC – 0.95 (-1)
  14. North Carolina FC – 0.79 (-1)
  15. Toronto FC II – 0.31
  16. Ottawa Fury – 0.29

Here’s a handy chart tracking week-to-week changes since the data was robust enough to have no “divide by zero” errors (April 2):

 

USL East Power ratings April 2, 2018 Louisville City Nashville SC
Unless somebody jumps back above 6 (I’m not expecting it), I’ll scale out that Week 2 Louisville rating in future editions. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Analysis

Everybody has at least one result now! Toronto FC tied North Carolina FC Wednesday evening, while Ottawa Fury achieved the same result Saturday (both by 1-1 counts). That triumvirate is probably going to be very comfortably in a tier of its own at the bottom of the table once the schedules even out over the course of the Summer.

This was a draw-happy week, which makes each game worth only two points – one for each team – rather than the three that a victorious team receives. That has dropped the average rating on the table: from 2.34 April 2 to 2.11 April 9, to 1.93 last week, to 1.86 this week. I’m not sure where it’ll level off to over time.

Louisville took its first dropped points of the year Saturday, drawing Atlanta United 2 (and giving the Five Stripes Junior a strength of schedule bump to move past Indy Eleven). That dropped their power rating nearly a whole point, but they’re still way, way ahead of the pack. With Bethlehem Steel coming up this weekend, they may make another minor dip, but it’s going to be a while before anyone catches Louisville.

Pittsburgh has become an early darling among the punditry, and for decent reasons: they’re undefeated, and have two results away from home (both against pretty good sides in Nashville and Cincinnati). However, their other three games have come against the bottom of the barrel: drawing a home match against a Penn FC team that might bounce back a little bit, but currently looks pretty bad, and beating the two worst teams (by a country mile) in the East, also at home. Maybe the Riverhounds end up being pretty good; at this point, there’s nothing to indicate they’re any better than anyone rated 2-7 above.

What it means for Nashville SC

The strength-of-schedule rating for the Boys in Gold is certain to drop after Tuesday: Penn FC is one of the weakest sides in the league to date. However, given that the two weakest teams on the schedule to date (Bethlehem and Charlotte) are playing the two strongest (Louisville and Indy, respectively), the SOS won’t likely dip any further on the weekend.

If NSC takes cares of business in Harrisburg tomorrow evening, there’s a decent chance they make a slight climb in the rankings, because Cincinnati (Ottawa Fury) and Atlanta 2 (Charleston) both also play teams that aren’t going to boost their strengths of schedule. NSC should be able to beat Penn, and if the result is just a draw, I’d consider that a negative, though it likely wouldn’t drop their power rating enough to move them from fifth place in the league.

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