USL Power ratings: Oct. 1, 2018

Mostly a chalk-ish week, but some interesting swings in the USL. 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 – 79 points
  2. Louisville – 64 points
  3. Pittsburgh – 61 points
  4. Charleston – 56 points
  5. Indianapolis – 53 points
  6. Nashville – 50 points
  7. Bethlehem – 48 points
  8. North Carolina – 47 points
  9. NYRB 1.89 – 46 points*
  10. Ottawa 1.82 – 45 points
  11. Tampa Bay – 44 points*
  12. Charlotte (-1) – 42 points
  13. Penn – 38 points
  14. Atlanta – 27 points
  15. Richmond – 24 points
  16. Toronto – 19 points

*I’ve now baked in the non-conference results for NYRBII (draw against LA Galaxy II) and Tampa Bay (win over Real Monarchs) into the projected point totals, so the rankings and numbers may end up sliiightly off. It basically docks Red Bulls half a projected point and gives Tampa 1.8 projected points.

There were zero (0) changes in the projected standings after the weekend’s games, which makes sense when we’re over 90% done with the regular season. While there can still be swings with wildly unexpected results, this is basically how the final table should shake out.

Cincinnati actually gained a point in the final projection, but sadly they probably won’t get to a point where they’re projected to finish with more points than is technically possible (as I thought might be the case for a little while). Toronto inches closer to Richmond on the bottom, but again, probably not enough games left to make the pass (TFC would have to go at least 2-0-1 in their final three, with Richmond losing both its final pair).

Not a lot to talk about, honestly, with the 6-10 spots all pretty much up for grabs right now.

Cincinnati and the bottom three teams are left off here to give a bit more clarity to the parts of the table that still have the potential for some relevant shakeups.

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USL West power rankings

  1. Orange County – 67 points
  2. Phoenix Rising – 67 points
  3. Sacramento Republic (+1) – 60 points
  4. Real Monarchs (-1) – 57 points*
  5. Reno 1868 (+2) – 54 points
  6. Portland Timbers (-1) – 53 points
  7. Swope Park (+1) – 53 points
  8. St. Louis (-2) – 52 points
  9. San Antonio – 49 points
  10. OKC Energy – 43 points
  11. Colorado Springs (+2) – 41 points
  12. LA Galaxy II – 40 points*
  13. Fresno FC – 39 points
  14. Rio Grande Valley – 37 points
  15. Las Vegas Lights – 31 points
  16. Tulsa Roughnecks – 24 points
  17. Seattle Sounders – 24 points

*As above, Real Monarchs’ projected points and LAGII’s include their non-conference results. That means the point totals won’t necessarily follow with the ratings themselves. 

A little more intrigue here in terms of shakeup, though the playoff field remains basically the same with San Antonio removing itself from any control of its own destiny in last week’s ratings. I think the top eight as things stand will remain the top eight come the end of the regular season.

Real Monarchs continue to hit the tank, and based on their trajectory (look at that impressive downward line in the chart!), it wouldn’t even surprise me if they end up without a home playoff game, just a few weeks after they looked like they were going to run away with the West Cincinnati-style.

Among the non-playoff teams (I’ve excised the Roughnecks and Sounders II from the chart to give a bit more clarity to the relevant portions), there was some shakeup, primarily from Colorado Springs’ knocking off the Monarchs. Still not a lot to watch here, at least among things that remain interesting on a larger scale.

Pure Power

This rating method uses 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 2018-10-01 at 11.13.12 AM.png

Hello, Reno! Two results in a week sees a major climb. While the 2-0 line over Tulsa wasn’t all that impressive, blasting Rio Grande Valley 4-0 certainly is. Reno’s remaining games are against Portland, Phoenix, and Orange County, so they can either keep up this really nice run of form and totally change the vibe of the final table, or it can be snuffed out when actually facing really good opponents. Either way, they’re one of the more interesting teams to watch in this stretch run.

Real Monarchs’ slide has been covered a bit, and is basically expected at this point. Fortunately, they close with OKC and Fresno, so it would take upsets for them to not go home with several more points. Of course “Real gets upset” has been a theme of the past six weeks or so, so don’t dismiss is out-of-hand.

North Carolina FC drops down in this one with a two-game week, a loss to Charleston Battery and a closer-than-anyone-should-have game against Richmond Kickers (he said, six days before the team he writes about loses to the Kickers).

Colorado Springs a mentioned above, and their climb is co-causal with Real’s slide (like RGV’s is related to Reno’s climb). Penn suffered only a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh, and while that’s not good, their slide is more related to smaller climbs around them.

Playoffs?

A minor point of clarification on these – they don’t take into account tiebreakers, so the “best” assumes being the top team in any multi-way tie, whereas “worst” assumes being the bottom team in any multi-way tie. Portland, for example, can finish as low as a tie for eighth… but on tiebreakers, they’ve already clinched playoff position.

Charleston is latest to clinch in the East, despite a loss to TFCII on the weekend. Penn is still technically alive for the final spot, but let’s be a little realistic about that, yeah? (They probably aren’t actually even technically alive, given that they’d need there to be multiple games with neither team getting a single point – something you’ll note is impossible – to pass enough teams. Didn’t go that deep).

The situation in the West remains the same, as well. San Antonio is hoping and praying that teams ahead of them drop points while they win their final two games (albeit against RGV and Las Vegas – not a bad stretch run if you’re hoping to sneak into the postseason). It still seems unlikely, with St. Louis boasting a game against Tulsa among its final two.

What it means for Nashville SC

Despite taking only four points from the week (we’d have been ecstatic to see that happen the previous week, of course), things are starting to remain safe as long as NSC takes care of business. They have the worst two teams in the East in their final three games (of course, the best team in the East is there, as well), and winning those would lock down a bid.

Of course, it’s not that easy, and we’ve seen NSC drop points in situations like this before. Toronto is also on a very good run of form with wins over Louisville and now Charleston in the past several weeks. Taking care of Richmond this Saturday is absolutely necessary, and would come very close to getting that spot clinched (though it wouldn’t be a lock with only that result).

The “one game at a time” mantra is the epitome of mindless coachspeak, but in this situation, it applies: Nashville needn’t worry about those final two games, with a must-win contest against by far the USL’s worst team. Focus on this one, and the rest should take care of itself.

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