Nashville SC

USL Power ratings: Aug. 6, 2018

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.

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 2.86
  2. Louisville 2.55
  3. Charleston 2.40
  4. Pittsburgh 2.35
  5. Indianapolis 2.18
  6. Nashville 2.12
  7. Ottawa 2.03
  8. NYRB 2.00
  9. Bethlehem 1.83
  10. North Carolina 1.75
  11. Charlotte 1.67
  12. Penn 1.61
  13. Tampa Bay 1.54
  14. Richmond 1.18
  15. Atlanta 1.04
  16. Toronto 0.43

See any deltas in teams’ rankings? You shouldn’t, because there aren’t any. This is the first time since I’ve been doing these posts (which dates back to week four or so, when every team had played at least two games) that there was a table without a single move. The raw numbers of some teams changed fairly significantly – mostly Penn and Tampa Bay dropping, while the Red Bulls and Ottawa sides that received respective wins over them climbed by similar margins.

Despite dropping home points to Nashville, Cincinnati remains the class of the league, and that shouldn’t change with the personnel additions they’ve made. The next tier is looking a little more nebulous than it had in a long time: the next four teams all saw slight drops, Nashville made a slight gain… and Ottawa and New York are hot on the trail in pursuit from behind. Do we have a clear top eight right now? I think so.

Of course, just a couple weeks ago I would have said Bethlehem was cementing its place in that top group (or at least close to it), so there’s still enough season left for plenty of volatility. It just didn’t happen this week.

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USL West power rankings

  1. Real Monarchs 3.12
  2. Sacramento Republic 2.48 (+1)
  3. Phoenix Rising 2.45 (-1)
  4. Orange County 2.45
  5. Reno 1868 2.34
  6. San Antonio 2.24
  7. Swope Park 2.03
  8. Portland Timbers 1.95
  9. St. Louis 1.86 (+1)
  10. Fresno FC 1.74 (-1)
  11. Colorado Springs 1.64
  12. Las Vegas Lights 1.60
  13. OKC Energy 1.33
  14. Rio Grande Valley 1.31
  15. LA Galaxy II 1.23
  16. Seattle Sounders 1.00
  17. Tulsa Roughnecks 0.91

There was only a tiny bit more volatility in the Western Conference: Sacramento and Phoenix switched spots, while St. Louis and Fresno did the same. It was mostly a chalky week in the USL, and that explains a lot of it.

How did Phoenix drop despite a 4-1 road win? Well, this method is blind to location and score – taking into account only result – so that’s easily explained. They played similar-quality teams, and the out-of-town scoreboard was just a little harsher to the Rising than to Sacramento. I wouldn’t read anything into it.

The Fresno loss drops them down, while St. Louis actually got a reasonable boost for beating an awful Sounders team. The math might be weird on that one (and again the out-of-town scoreboard comes into play), but improving their points per game by a pretty decent amount was more impactful than the harm by weakening their strength of schedule, I guess.

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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 10.18.31 AM

Things were similarly involatile over here, though with a bit more intrigue, because the margin of victory in some of the games (for example Phoenix’s aforementioned blasting) was a bit more intriguing than the outcome on the league table.

Louisville dropped a couple spots for a home draw against Indy, which actually moved Nashville back up past the Boys in Purple. The rubber match between the two in a couple weekends should be very intriguing.

Down the table, another big gainer was Ottawa, which is in very fine form lately. It takes a bit of the sting (though not enough) off the Nashville SC loss in Bytown. If Ottawa hadn’t started the year 0-4-2, they’d be considered one of the darlings of USL this year. A slow start will hopefully not be enough to keep them out of the playoffs, but it is going to hurt their seed in a big way.

Tampa Bay saw a continued drop – I always remain surprised that they’re as high in the power rankings as they are, because they just seem like a bad team, and a consistently bad team away from home, and have been all season. The early win over Real Monarchs and a 5-0 blasting of Ottawa early in the year are really propping up what has been one of the league’s worst teams since. Speaking of worst…

** TFCII NOT AT THE BOTTOM ANYMORE** Richmond’s been pretty close for a while, and TFCII coming off a big win over Nashville and a close loss to Pittsburgh is enough to bump them out of the cellar. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them return to it at some point, but really the bottom four teams are all equally bad to the point of being indistinguishable.

What it means for Nashville SC

A bounceback against the top team in the East may not portend a return to form for Nashville, but certainly it starts to provide a platform toward getting away from the stink of the previous four games worth of epic struggle… which underscores that it’s worth noting “the team was bad for four games in a row” is not the same as “the team is bad.”

The Pure Power table points out (and I illustrated with a graph last week) that Nashville has not been good, but that the depths of those struggles – even though they included a bad loss to Ottawa and a worse one to TFCII – have been overstated.

This team still needs to find a way to get goals. The offense is slightly better than Pittsburgh’s (obviously not doing it in quite as timely a fashion), but those are the only two teams in the top 14 with below-average offenses. A sign of life against Cincinnati is just that; Nashville has performed well against good teams all season, and recently has struggled against bad teams. No longer is “if they can do this against the best teams, they should destroy the bad ones!” a valid argument, because we’ve seen the latter not come to fruition, even if it follows logically, and should be the case.

They still have eight home games remaining and only five on the road: For the second-best home team in USL (and only 13th-best on the road), that’s a welcome slate. Time to collect these points.

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