USL Power ratings: July 9, 2018

A down week at the top in the Eastern Conference, while the West’s dominant side dips slightly… but not particularly close to the pack. Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the content on USL, US Soccer, and Nashville SC.

Table Power

This rating method counts only opposition played and points attained in a given game – it is best used as a proxy for how the table is likely to play out at the end of the year.

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USL East power rankings:

  1. Cincinnati 2.67
  2. Nashville 2.64
  3. Louisville 2.61
  4. Pittsburgh 2.61
  5. Indianapolis 2.30
  6. Charleston 2.05 (+1)
  7. Bethlehem 2.01 (-1)
  8. Penn 1.92
  9. NYRB 1.75
  10. Ottawa 1.71 (+1)
  11. Charlotte 1.56 (-1)
  12. North Carolina 1.51
  13. Tampa Bay 1.48
  14. Richmond 1.26
  15. Atlanta 0.97
  16. Toronto 0.24

There was minimal major movement here: the only changes were Charleston (drew North Carolina) moving past Bethlehem (lost to Penn FC), and Ottawa (beat Indy and lost to Pittsburgh) sliding by Charlotte (lost to Indy). Other than that, a lot of static positions.

HOWEVA, even though teams aren’t changing positions, there was plenty of intrigue as to the distances between them. Nashville and Cincinnati’s draw (combined with other results around the country) moved them closer to each other, while Louisville’s finally winning after a four-game drought in USL play was a bounceback.

The story for me is Pittsburgh making a huge leap. The reason? They’ve had great results all season, but have done it against an extremely easy schedule. Now that the schedules are starting to even out a bit, that’s no longer a bit of an anchor. If they can get the same “1-0 or 0-0” against good teams now that they did against poor ones earlier in the year, they should outperform this formula – which assumes teams perform better against bad teams than they do against good ones (for obvious reasons).

I’m comfortable calling it a top four – while reserving a bit of skepticism about Louisville until we know a bit more about how they’ll play in an unconventional coaching situation – with Charleston and Bethlehem easily in that next group. Penn is making a strong push to be that No. 7 team in the playoffs, while New York and Ottawa are pushing for that last spot at this time (though mostly going in opposite directions, with Ottawa’s recent rise).

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USL West power rankings

  1. Real Monarchs 3.19
  2. Phoenix Rising 2.67
  3. Swope Park 2.56
  4. Reno 1868 2.38 (+2)
  5. Sacramento Republic 2.26
  6. Orange County 2.21 (-2)
  7. San Antonio 1.86 (+1)
  8. Portland Timbers 1.81 (-1)
  9. Las Vegas Lights 1.78 (+2)
  10. Fresno FC 1.73 (+2)
  11. Colorado Springs 1.69 (-2)
  12. St. Louis 1.64 (-2)
  13. LA Galaxy II 1.33 (+1)
  14. OKC Energy 1.31 (-1)
  15. Rio Grande Valley 1.05
  16. Seattle Sounders 0.95
  17. Tulsa Roughnecks 0.93

Real Monarchs’ 2-2-1 record in their last five game is dragging them down in a hurry, but they did build enough of a lead on the field that No. 2 Phoenix is closer to No. 6 Orange County than they are to the Monarchs. RSL Jr. should be able to easily win the West. Down the table, there was a heck of a lot more going on than there was across the Mississippi: Reno 1868 continues its impressive climb up the board, Sacramento and Portland didn’t stem their recent slides.

Phoenix and Swope Park (in some order) seem to be establishing a bit of space as the second- and third-best teams in the conference come regular-season end, while Reno, presuming it keeps up this run of form, is established in that next mini-tier with Sacramento and Orange County.

That’s six teams, and Nos. 7-12 are separated by just 0.22 in the formula (significantly less than the gap to get up into that top six). The races for spots seven and eight should be wild near the end, though as you can see from weeks past that nothing is ever really set in stone in terms of the projections: those tiers can change.

LA Galaxy has shown it’s capable of playing a 3-0 (or 7-3, or whatever) game in either direction, regardless of opposition – about which more in a moment. I personally am cheering for them for the rest of the year because they’re fun as heck to watch, and of course loaded with US Youth internationals (or in some cases, Mexico dual-nationals).

Pure Power

This rating method uses almost an opposite philosophy: focusing only on goals scored for/against in each game, without attention to individual results. It looks at the quality of offensive and defensive performance against each given opponent, with a home/road component attached. It’s more effective for predictive purposes in single games, rather than necessarily projecting the end-of-year table.

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Despite drawing FC Cincinnati, Nashville returns to the top spot, mostly because the two Western Conference teams that had passed them last week lost by three goals (Orange County SC to a pretty poor LA Galaxy team, albeit one that’s capable of winning or losing any given game by like a 7-3 scoreline). Pittsburgh and Phoenix climbed more than Cincinnati dropped at all (though they saw a slight dip, mostly thanks to the out-of-town scoreboard).

Reno made a huge jump by being on the winning end of that 3-0 game against Real Monarchs, while Sacramento went the same direction as the two teams they were chasing, albeit from a lower position in the table, even though their only result on the week was a perfectly average home draw to those Monarchs.

There was minimal shakeup on the bottom end of the league, though Richmond dropped behind Sounders 2.

What it means for Nashville SC

 

Look at the bottom of the Pure Power table, mentally filter for only Eastern Conference teams, and count how against many of those teams Nashville has two games still to play:

  • No. 33 Toronto
  • No. 32 Richmond
  • No. 29 Atlanta
  • No. 26 Ottawa
  • No. 24 Charlotte (starting this Wednesday)

They also have one remaining against the sixth- and seventh-worst teams in the Eastern Conference, Tampa and North Carolina.

The benefit of playing by far the toughest schedule in the USL through the first half of the season (despite not having played Cincinnati until Saturday) is that the back half is going to be a heck of a lot lighter.

NSC has exhausted its games against the second- (four points) and fourth-best (zero points) teams in the East, and while there are still two remaining against Cincy and one each against Charleston and Louisville, the alternative – not having many of those games out of the way yet while having racked up a lot of points against the dregs of the league – would be worse.

2 thoughts on “USL Power ratings: July 9, 2018

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