USL power ratings: June 3, 2019

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Table Power

This rating method combines points per game with the quality of opposition played (also measured in points per game). It’s blind to home/away splits as well as scoring margin. The goal is to project a final table based on the games already played.

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USL East power rankings:

  1. Tampa Bay – 73.48 projected points
  2. Saint Louis – 68.37 points
  3. Indy – 67.28 points
  4. NYRB2 (+2) – 62.39 points
  5. Ottawa (-1) – 61.43 points
  6. Nashville (-1) – 60.18 points
  7. Louisville City (+2) – 51.86 points
  8. North Carolina (-1) – 50.44 points
  9. Charleston Battery (-1) – 47.50 points
  10. Pittsburgh – 41.31 points
  11. Birmingham – 38.11 points
  12. Atlanta 2 – 35.92 points
  13. Bethlehem – 32.06 points
  14. Loudoun – 31.98 points
  15. Memphis – 27.20 points
  16. Swope Park (+1) – 23.43 points
  17. Charlotte (-1) – 22.66 points
  18. Hartford – 16.45 points

Not a ton of movement in the East. The biggest shifts were two whole spots, with Red Bull 2 leapfrogging Nashville and Ottawa (even though a win over Bethlehem is not the most impressive in a vacuum), and Louisville City using a win over Pittsburgh to pass North Carolina and Charleston – aided by North Carolina’s draw against Hartford. Red Bulls are still within a few spots of where they have been, and while Louisville is in uncharted territory for 2019, it’s really just getting them back to where we expected preseason.

Pittsburgh’s loss to Indy (even if they became the visiting first club to score in Lucas oil Field) drops them into something of a danger zone: Birmingham is within range of overtaking them for the final playoff position in the conference.

The lack of major movement was partially because some of the teams’ bye weeks (Nashville and Loudon, while the Saint Louis/Memphis game was postponed due to weather), and partially because it was largely a week full of matchups between top and bottom teams, and chalk mostly held.

The situation remains the same as it has been, with the minor changes detailed above: Tampa is in a tier by itself, positions 2-6 are a tier that could ultimately finish in any order pending who finds a run of form, 7-9 are pretty solidly in the playoffs, while No. 10 is suddenly a battle between Pittsburgh and Birmingham (perhaps with Bethlehem and Loudoun competing for that last spot, as well). Major changes in form can affect the outlook – we’re barely over a third of the way through the season, after all – but assuming teams basically are who we’ve seen to date, that’s where we stand.

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USL West power rankings

    1. New Mexico (+1) – 64.25 projected points
    2. El Paso (+2) – 59.19 points
    3. Portland Timbers 2 – 58.85 points
    4. Reno 1868 (+2) – 56.97 points
    5. Fresno FC (-4) – 56.57 projected points
    6. Phoenix Rising (-1) – 54.56 points
    7. Austin Bold (+3) – 50.39 points
    8. OKC Energy (+1) – 48.01 points
    9. Orange County (+2) – 47.95 points
    10. Sacramento Republic (+2) – 47.03 points
    11. Tulsa Roughnecks (-3) – 44.13 points
    12. Rio Grande Valley (-5) – 43.16 points
    13. LA Galaxy II – 38.29 points
    14. Real Monarchs – 37.21 points
    15. Las Vegas Lights – 36.56 points
    16. Colorado Springs (+1) – 31.08 points
    17. San Antonio (-1) – 29.52 points
    18. Tacoma Defiance – 21.27 points

There was a massive move here, with comfortable league-leaders Fresno FC becoming… not that… by losing to one of the worst teams in the West in Colorado Springs Switchbacks. That dumped Fresno down the table pretty significantly, while giving the Switchbacks a major bump in the numbers (but given their previous standing, not enough to move them past more than one team). That’s just another indication that results that are well outside of form can make a major week-to-week impact.

Similarly, Austin made a big climb by beating Tula Roughnecks, who caught the other end of that big swing. As noted in the East, there’s still enough season that surprising results (or longer-term shifts in form) can really change the landscape.

That said, the top six teams (those who don’t have to go for a play-in game in the playoffs) look to be set apart from the rest. 7-12 are still pretty tight for those remaining four spots – of course, that’s six teams vying for them – with LAG2, Real Monarchs, and Vegas looking like they’re falling off the pace just a bit. Based on a longer view, Austin, OKC, and Tulsa seem to be in the best shape to comfortably make the playoff, even if they aren’t the top three right now.

Pure Power

This ratings method uses goals for/against in each individual game (compared to the opponent’s averages) to determine teams’ overall quality. It’s blind to result but not location or score, making it essentially the opposite metric of the Table Power.

There are still a few teams who have no variation in one area (Saint Louis has allowed exactly zero goals in every road game, Hartford has scored exactly one in every home game), so I’ve given opponents exactly average marks in those games for now.

Zero is average for offense, defense, and total. A team with a 2.0 overall rating would be two standard deviations better than average (by some combination of offensive and defensive quality), 1.0 is a single standard deviation better, etc.

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Tampa remains the top team despite not having much chance to impress (even a two-goal win over Birmingham Legion was barely above their season average road win in terms of quality).

Indy makes a big climb by finally beating(!) a decent team at home, instead of continuing the draw-fest that had been the Lucas Oil Slate. Reno’s 4-0 win over Vegas was a big enough margin to bump them up the table as well, even if the Lights are mediocre generally and terrible away from home. Colorado Springs’ upset of Fresno is an obvious move-upward moment.

The one major upward move that’s a little odd to me is Oklahoma City Energy, who were actually below-average in a scoreless draw against LA Galaxy II at home. That was better than their previous average home performance, but it was more likely the out-of-town scoreboard and a little simple luck that saw them gain so much ground.

Most of the other big drops are obvious, with Charlotte’s the only I have yet to mention in the Pure Power or Table Power segments: they lost 4-1 to Ottawa Fury after two red cards (and it could/should have been worse with the Canadians missing a pair of penalties). It was a bit of an odd game Sunday afternoon, and they’re without one of their best players in Gold Cup camp-attending Andrew Gutman, but other teams have odd games, other teams miss key players, and few get stomped in this fashion, regardless.

Nashville and Phoenix are each conference’s “better game-to-game performances than aggregate win-loss” team, which means either the scoring margins will come back down to earth a bit, or the results will pick up to match the overall quality the teams have shown. Keep an eye on each of them.

Games to watch

Here are the games that should have interesting impacts on some of the numbers.

  • NMUvOKC (7:00 p.m. MDT Wednesday). Either New Mexico establishes itself as the clear Western conference favorite in its expansion year(!) and gives OKC reason to doubt the postseason, or the Energy is able to put itself in solid playoff position while keeping the battle at the top of the West close.
  • PHXvTUL (7:30 p.m. MST Friday). As noted above, Phoenix’s results are just now starting to catch up with what they’ve shown in terms of overall quality. This is a similar game to Wednesday’s key contest: Rising can stake a claim near the top of the West while making Tulsa sweat about the playoffs, or Tulsa can keep on easy pace for the postseason while Phoenix shows it still has work to do if it wants to reach its recent standards.
  • HRTvSTL (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). These are the last two teams whose results are breaking the data. At least one of those will be resolved, with Hartford failing to score exactly once, or Saint Louis failing to get the road shutout. TBH I’d think the former is more likely.
  • BSTvNSH (6:00 p.m. EDT Sunday). A Nashville team that’s been better on the road than at home meets a Bethlehem team for whom the opposite has been true. A win could go a long way for Nashville when it comes to re-joining the race at the top of the East (or at least the race for the No. 2 seed behind Tampa Bay).

3 thoughts on “USL power ratings: June 3, 2019

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