USL power ratings: June 17, 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. Indy Eleven (+1) – 71.57 projected points
  2. New York Red Bulls II (+1) – 68.61 points
  3. Tampa Bay Rowdies (-2) – 68.24 points
  4. Nashville SC (+1) – 60.80 points
  5. North Carolina (+1) – 59.07 points
  6. Ottawa Fury (-2) – 57.61 points
  7. Charleston Battery (+2) – 52.53 points
  8. Saint Louis (-1) – 51.33 points
  9. Louisville City (-1) – 50.84 points
  10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 46.50 points
  11. Bethlehem Steel (+3) – 36.49 points
  12. Loudoun United (+1) – 33.01 points
  13. Atlanta United 2 (-1) – 31.82 points
  14. Birmingham Legion (-3) – 30.45 points
  15. Charlotte Independence (+2) – 27.86 points
  16. Memphis 901 (-1) – 27.47 points
  17. Hartford Athletic (-1) – 22.65 points
  18. Swope Park Rangers (-2) – 19.83 points

Tampa’s second-straight week of dropping points at home – this time a draw against Charleston – takes the Rowdies out of the top spot for the first time since they ascended to that position in the May 20 edition of the rankings (honestly, feels like they’d been on top longer). Indy’s climb to the top has been a slow burn, sort of like a lot of their games, but they’re a deserving No. 1.

The other big change near the top was a drop from Ottawa after only managing a draw against Memphis – and at home, though this rating method doesn’t take that into account (and the other didn’t consider it a particularly poor result).

Saint Louis saw a big drop – just one position, but more than six projected points – after a loss to Bethlehem. That also saw the Steel climb to the top of the also-ran pile, which still has a pretty significant gap between the group and the top 10 in the table (playoff teams) with a gap of over 10 projected points between the two Pennsylvania sides right along the Mendoza line.

It’s certainly still possible, with more than half a season to play, that major form changes occur. But the top ten and bottom eight have been constant since May 6. Switching of positions within those groups, certainly, but no moving into or our of the playoff positions from anyone. I would expect it stays that way for at least a little longer, and possibly the entire season (though certainly some sides will make a run or find a poor stretch of form).

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USL West power rankings

    1. El Paso Locomotive – 64.57 points
    2. Phoenix Rising – 61.45 points
    3. Portland Timbers 2 (+1) – 56.81 points
    4. New Mexico United (-1) – 54.59 projected points
    5. Sacramento Republic (+1) – 54.22 points
    6. Fresno FC (-1) – 54.22 projected points
    7. Reno 1868 – 54.02 points
    8. OKC Energy (+1) – 50.36 points
    9. Austin Bold (-1) – 46.98 points
    10. Orange County – 44.09 points
    11. Real Monarchs – 42.94 points
    12. Rio Grande Valley (+1) – 41.77 points
    13. Las Vegas Lights (+1) – 41.70 points
    14. Tulsa Roughnecks (-2) – 38.89 points
    15. LA Galaxy II – 35.19 points
    16. San Antonio – 32.80 points
    17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks (-1) – 31.99 points
    18. Tacoma Defiance – 20.03 points

The West was a little more calm this week, the major notable item a continuation of the past couple weeks’ slide from New Mexico United. Certainly it’s possible this is only temporary, but we saw last year with a few teams (Nashville SC one obvious example) of teams with long Open Cup runs getting fatigued. That doesn’t mean they want to lose to FC Dallas by any stretch, but targets within league play are probably more meaningful at a certain point.

They’ve converged with three teams below them to a spread of barely over half a projected point. This is just a snapshot (the spread between those same four teams was nearly 7.5 just a week ago), but it does speak to the competitiveness for that second-round hosting slot and the first-round bye – the fourth and sixth positions in the table, respectively – on this side of the Mississippi.

The competition for the final playoff spots is also far more competitive here, with ninth and 14th separated by barely more than five projected points. That’s basically one upset for the 14th team (Tulsa this week) to get back into projected position, and a couple bad weeks in a row could put a team that appears to be in safe position from being far from the projected playoff field.

Vegas made a big climb by playing at home, since the Lights are outstanding at Cashman and one of the worst teams in USL as a visitor (only Tacoma is worse). Speaking of Tacoma, if the gap between them and second-bottom is as big or bigger next week, they’re going to drop off the bottom of the chart to provide more clarity to higher portions of it. They will finish last in the league, there’s not much mystery there.

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 what Table Power measures.

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’s continued drop with a couple poor weeks sees a single-position rise from Nashville and Ottawa, and Portland moves up two with New Mexico’s similar former-leader struggles going on. I’m surprised the numbers didn’t hate a home draw against Memphis from Ottawa, but it was actually a (barely) above-average performance, and didn’t ding the Fury that much.

Pittsburgh rises after putting a five-spot on Atlanta. ATL UTD 2 is probably a team against whom the top-table sides can name their score, but credit to the Riverhounds for actually being the ones to choose to do it. Pittsburgh is still a bizarre team compared to historical expectations for a Bob Lilley team: elite offense, mediocre defense.

Tulsa and Austin both take reasonable tumbles for a loss to El Paso (certainly understandable) and a draw at home against Tacoma (less so for a team that had been very good at home until a couple weeks ago). The Defiance remain by far the worst team in USL despite that result… and they don’t play again until July 6(!). Some Tacoma Sounders games during MLS’s Gold Cup break could have helped them look far more reasonable a side.

Games to watch

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

  • #RNOvPHX (7:30 p.m. PDT Tuesday). Reno has been working toward the top of the table for much of the season, while Phoenix has been one of the hottest teams in the league over the past month or so. Either Phoenix cements itself as the best team (if not necessarily most likely to finish atop the table), or the top grouping becomes even more tight.
    Numbers say: Reno 2.09, Phoenix 1.96
  • #FRSvSA (7:30 p.m. PDT Friday). San Antonio’s late-season collapse was heartbreaking in 2018, but they aren’t even bothering to set fans up for disappointment so far in this Summer. Still, they’re just 12 projected points (approximately) out of playoff positions, and getting a big upset would help in that regard. A win probably doesn’t do a ton for Fresno in terms of movement: it’d be holding serve for them, nothing more.
    Numbers say: Fresno 1.59, San Antonio 0.63
  • #PGHvNY (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). Can Pittsburgh continue as a high-scoring, weak-defense outfit, or will there eventually be some reversion to the expectations for Lilleyball? Meanwhile, NYRBII is having a very fine season, but the Baby Bulls are not the same team on the road, and Highmark is known as a tough place for visitors.
    Numbers say: Pittsburgh 1.34, New York 1.12
  • #NSHvOTT (7:00 p.m. CDT Saturday). Nashville has mostly taken care of business during a long stretch away from home. Can they recapture the magic of their 2018 home form? They already smacked Ottawa 3-0 in Canada, so there’s also a revenge factor at play. Oh and by the way, these teams are 3-4 in Pure Power and 4-6 in Eastern Conference Table Power, so there are strong implications at play for the numbers, too.
    Numbers say: Nashville 0.93, Ottawa 0.96
  • #SACvTUL (8:00 p.m. PDT Saturday). These teams have been going in opposite directions in recent weeks. Can Sacramento keep its rise going at home, or can Tulsa inject itself seriously back into the playoff hunt with a single upset? Sacramento has been a vulnerable home team, so the latter isn’t out of the question.
    Numbers say: Sacramento 2.11, Tulsa 1.38

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