USL Power ratings: Aug. 27, 2018

You will note that today is not Sept. 3. However, in the interest of keeping up with weekly rankings, these include only games through Sunday. The handful of games since will be reflected in next week’s rankings. 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 3.07 – 76 projected points
  2. Louisville 2.48 – 62 projected points
  3. Pittsburgh 2.33 – 58 projected points
  4. Charleston 2.31 – 58 projected points
  5. Indianapolis 2.12 – 53 projected points
  6. Nashville 2.07 – 52 projected points
  7. NYRB 2.01 (+1) – 50 projected points
  8. Bethlehem 1.97 (-1) – 49 projected points
  9. North Carolina 1.77 – 44 projected points
  10. Ottawa 1.73 – 43 projected points
  11. Penn 1.67 – 41 projected points
  12. Charlotte 1.61 – 40 projected points
  13. Tampa Bay 1.57 – 39 projected points
  14. Atlanta 1.12 (+1) – 28 projected points
  15. Richmond 1.12 (-1) – 28 projected points
  16. Toronto 0.64 – 16 projected points

Even though it was a volatile week in the East, there weren’t many switches in the rankings: that’s largely because a group of teams in the top tier all gave up results at the same time, and the teams in the lower tiers all earned some at the same time: the gap was mostly large enough that they didn’t converge much, and the teams from the respective tiers moved together. Bethlehem sliding behind NYRBII and Atlanta inching past Richmond are the only flips.

That said, even with some points given up by 2-6 in the table, none of them looks to be in particular risk of missing the playoffs, because there’s a decent-sized gap between No. 8 Bethlehem and No. 9 North Carolina. The Red Bulls and Steel could maybe drop below NCFC… it would take a precipitous fall for Indy or Nashville to do the same.

Since this set of rankings doesn’t take venue into account, keep an eye on Penn over the remainder of the season. They’ve played their final away game and have nine straight at home to close out the year.

You’ll notice that I’m now including projected points here: that’s a simple calculation of assuming everyone’s schedule strength will converge to about the same point (while three-plays make it so it’s not a pure “everybody plays everybody” situation). Cincy is projected to get 16 points in its final seven games, while Toronto is projected for four in its next nine outings.

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USL West power rankings

  1. Real Monarchs 2.81 – 69 projected points
  2. Phoenix Rising 2.60 – 64 projected points
  3. Orange County 2.51 – 62 projected poins
  4. Sacramento Republic 2.38 – 59 projected points
  5. Reno 1868 2.27 – 56 projected points
  6. Portland Timbers 2.21 – 55 projected points
  7. Swope Park 2.14 – 53 projected points
  8. San Antonio 1.98 (+1) – 49 projected points
  9. St. Louis 1.92 (-1) – 47 projected points
  10. Fresno FC 1.74 – 43 projected points
  11. Colorado Springs 1.59 (+1) – 39 projected points
  12. OKC Energy 1.58 (-1) – 39 projected points
  13. LA Galaxy II 1.55 – 38 projected points
  14. Las Vegas Lights 1.41 – 35 projected points
  15. Rio Grande Valley 1.29 – 32 projected points
  16. Seattle Sounders 1.11 – 27 projected points
  17. Tulsa Roughnecks 0.95 – 24 projected points

There wasn’t a ton of change in the West either, which was kinda sad given that it’s known for being quite a bit zanier on a week-to-week basis. Monarchs once again get dragged back to the pack a bit (loss to Colorado Springs), but the teams shortly behind them don’t seem intent on making up that ground (aside from Phoenix, who didn’t play last week). Buncha Nashvilles, that group.

With Swope’s expected climb as the schedule has gotten a bit easier, they are pretty close to being safely in the playoffs at this point, and they’d really have to tank their final six games to not do so – they have Tulsa and L.A., but also the San Antonio and St. Louis teams that they’re trying to keep out of the top eight spots. Should be a great competition for those final playoff positions to the end.

The bottom remains worse than the non-Toronto bottom of the East, but it’s close enough that they’re likely reasonably competitive.

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 its frustrating loss to Charlotte, Nashville moves up two spots on account of finally running up the score once this year in their 4-0 win over Richmond. That also serves to solidify Richmond as far and away the worst team in the league (even though they’ll likely finish ahead of Toronto in the table).

Bethlehem drops a couple spots for getting blasted at home by Penn FC, which also facilitated a nice climb for the City Islanders. Fresno also climbed three spots, but that was more a matter of circumstance than their home draw against Reno being all that good a result.

Biggest rise of the week was four spots for that Reno team (which also beat Vegas 2-1, and presumably got some help from the out-of-town scoreboard), and the biggest fall North Carolina, who lost 3-0 to the second-worst road team among non-terrible sides in Tampa Bay. The Rowdies’ margin of victory actually improved their standing in that regard, but I wouldn’t bet on them to do it consistently.

What it means for Nashville SC

The Boys in Gold have a frustrating tendency to follow the trend and drop points when the teams around them in the table are also doing so, preventing them from making up and ground.

With basically the easiest schedule possible to close out the year in terms of opposition (the worst three teams in the East once apiece, and while they do play FC Cincinnati, that can only lose them three total points, of course), finding a run of form could help them overachieve the current projections. They could also do things like “lose to Toronto.” Anywhere between fifth and seventh seems reasonable.

A trip to North Carolina this weekend is followed by a long gap – no game the following week at all before a midweek – which could help get healthy, find form, etc. Hitting a six-pointer against Charleston (at home) could help them potentially make a case for fourth in the conference.

Playoffs?

Cincinnati is officially in the Eastern Conference playoffs, sitting on 60 points and only seven other teams capable of reaching that mark. Others are still a long way away from clinching playoff berths, which speaks to the gap FCC has opened up at the top of the league.

Toronto will be officially eliminated with their next non-win, or with Nashville earning two points, Ottawa earning five, or North Carolina getting six. The first of those three could happen as soon as tomorrow, with TCFII taking on Ottawa. The team with the second-lowest upside in the East is Richmond, but at this point they’re capable of getting to 43 points if they win out – still a ways off from official elimination (probably two weeks).

The West is less top-heavy, with Real Monarchs still technically capable of finishing as low as 11th (which is saying something, given the gap that had on the field earlier in the season). They’re probably one win and a couple favorable results elsewhere away from clinching, however.

Tulsa and S2 are also still alive in the most technical sense, but like with Real Monarchs in the opposite direction, could each be a couple results away from official playoff elimination. A draw in their game against each other tonight would bring it to

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