Nashville’s (slight) drop continues, the East converging toward a top six, and the situation in the West remains hectic as always. Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the content on USL, US Soccer, and Nashville SC.
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.
USL East power rankings:
- Cincinnati 2.73
- Pittsburgh (+2) 2.61
- Louisville 2.44
- Nashville (-2) 2.42
- Charleston 2.31 (+1)
- Indianapolis 2.23 (-1)
- NYRB 1.88 (+2)
- Ottawa 1.88 (+2)
- Bethlehem 1.82 (-2)
- Charlotte 1.76 (+1)
- Penn 1.68 (-3)
- North Carolina 1.51
- Tampa Bay 1.44
- Richmond 1.35
- Atlanta 1.16
- Toronto 0.24
Nashville’s slide continued (or, if you ask me, began in earnest) with a loss to Charlotte independence, while Pittsburgh’s refusal to lose helps them become a solid second in the East. There’s still a “top-four, next-two” orientation at this point, but Charleston and Indy are drawing closer to that group, aided by slides from Nashville and Louisville.
Red Bulls II were big gainers mostly due to the out-of-town scoreboard (beating Richmond isn’t going to move the needle much), while Penn fell off dramatically following losses to both Richmond and Ottawa. While the Fury have put themselves in likely playoff position at this point, a Penn team that looked poised to be comfortably in the playoffs (especially on recent form) can’t lose both of those.
Bethlehem also took a bit of a dive, with a draw against North Carolina FC and a loss to a brutal Atlanta United 2 side: that’s a bad week. Even with those results, there’s little risk of a shakeup at the bottom of the Eastern conference table, with the bottom five teams (including Toronto, who is well off the screen) basically static in their current positions for four weeks in a row.
USL West power rankings
- Real Monarchs 3.19
- Phoenix Rising 2.56
- Sacramento Republic 2.46 (+2)
- Reno 1868 2.45
- Orange County 2.33 (+1)
- Swope Park 2.29 (-3)
- Portland Timbers 2.00 (+1)
- Fresno FC 1.90 (+2)
- San Antonio 1.82 (-2)
- Colorado Springs 1.64 (+1)
- St. Louis 1.63 (+1)
- Las Vegas Lights 1.50 (-3)
- OKC Energy 1.44 (+1)
- LA Galaxy II 1.29 (-1)
- Rio Grande Valley 1.22
- Seattle Sounders 0.95
- Tulsa Roughnecks 0.94
Sacramento Republic (wins over Swope and Colorado Springs) was the big gainer this week, and it helped to not only get big wins, but dish out a los to one of the teams that they passed on their way up the table a bit. The big losers were that very Swope team – which also lost to T2 in a rough week – and Las Vegas Lights, which got smashed by RGV(!) and Reno.
Real Monarchs still have a stranglehold on the West, with that group of Phoenix, Orange County, Reno, Sacramento, and Swope Park separating themselves from the pack as comfortable playoff sides. There’s jockeying within that cohort – Swope’s bad week knocks them from second to fifth in the group – but they should be able to maintain a lead on the rest.
While Timbers 2 dropped out of that group a few weeks ago, I think they’re good enough to remain in it – though the parent club remaining in the US Open Cup (they travel to LAFC in that competition Wednesday) could alter that, with multiple competitions meaning more call-ups from the USL and a diminished roster for T2.
The bottom of this league is strong than the East only because of the lack of a Toronto FC II-bad team in it. The bottom two are a comfortable distance from third-bottom.
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.
Nashville’s loss drops them from the top spot, while Orange County SC – winners by a 3-0 scoreline – take over at the peak. Pittsburgh won’t really challenge for No. 1 because margin of victory is big, and they’re a 1-0 machine (actually the top four outside of OCSC are pretty similar: consistently get results, rarely by an impressive scoreline). They’ll still be right near the top. It’s worth noting that they have an extra home game (as does Charlotte, both of which got a freebie from TFCII), plus one of their “road” games is in Rochester, N.Y. and requires the “home” team to travel internationally (TFCII really doing Pittsburgh all sorts of favors), and they will probably finish even better in the East than it appears.
Sacramento made a big climb, as did Fresno which is on a great run of form – call it the #CJCochranEffect even though he’s back with Nashville (perhaps some of that form will return to First Tennessee Park in the coming weeks).
Vegas naturally takes a dive after giving up six goals to an OKC Energy team that is improving but still has no business scoring six goals on anyone. The West is nothing if not crazy.
Penn FC drops after the aforementioned poor results (though surprisingly Bethlehem doesn’t match that fate).
What it means for Nashville SC
It’s easy to look at NSC’s recent run of form – 2-2-1 in their last five games – from the perspective of a fan, and be a little depressed and think the sky is falling or that the team suddenly is a fringe playoff team. That’s not the case: while the lone victory for any team this season over Pittsburgh (not that long ago! relax people!) skews things just a little bit to the positive for NSC, their 17-game body of work is still second-best in the entire USL, and best in the East.
Indeed, while the Charlotte loss was bad (about 2/3 of a standard deviation below-average), the draw against Cincinnati was actually well above-average a result, even at home – where FCC beats the average team about 2-1. The lack of picking up full points recently means that NSC will have to be basically perfect against the bottom of the table to have a shot to win the conference, which I don’t expect. However, dropping points here and there is part of the ebb and flow of a soccer season. Doing it to Charlotte, Cincy, and Indy teams that are varying levels of comfortable in terms of playoff position (and going all the way back to a draw on the road at Tampa Bay – the Rowdies absolutely suck overall, but they’re above-average at home and not for nothin’ they’re by far the most expensive roster in USL) is just how it goes, man.
We’ve been looking forward to an easier slate, and while it should have started Wednesday against Charlotte, the upcoming stretch of Ottawa-Atlanta-TFCII should be at least seven points, and quite frankly slightly disappointing if it’s not nine. NSC has had the toughest schedule in the USL to date, and that will equalize over the back half (to an extent – they still have three-plays against Cincy and Louisville).