USL power ratings: June 24, 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 – 71.96 projected points
  2. Tampa Bay Rowdies (+1) – 69.13 points
  3. New York Red Bulls II (-1) – 64.03 points
  4. Nashville SC – 60.53 points
  5. North Carolina – 57.90 points
  6. Ottawa Fury – 57.13 points
  7. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (+3) – 52.70 points
  8. Saint Louis – 51.99 points
  9. Charleston Battery (-2) – 49.42 points
  10. Louisville City (-1) – 48.24 points
  11. Bethlehem Steel – 35.23 points
  12. Loudoun United – 32.98 points
  13. Atlanta United 2 – 30.58 points
  14. Birmingham Legion – 29.17 points
  15. Charlotte Independence – 28.55 points
  16. Memphis 901 – 27.21 points
  17. Hartford Athletic – 22.90 points
  18. Swope Park Rangers – 20.96 points

The gulf between the haves and have-nots continues, and while the last team currently projected playoff field has changed for the first time in a few weeks, the gap between Nos. 10 and 11 only gets bigger – it’s up to 13 full projected points. Certainly with over half the season to play, a grand proclamation would be unwise, but we’re probably only a couple weeks away from saying it’s extremely unlikely that anyone moves from the good group into the bad one, unless there’s a fairly significant shift in form out of somebody.

Unfortunately for the teams on the wrong side of the ledger, Pittsburgh is one of the teams that’s had a recent change in form, but that change has been for the positive. The Riverhounds rose for the third straight week after a pretty troubling stretch before that. With bottom-group teams over their next three games, getting three wins would not only keep them from falling down to the No. 10 spot, but also knock those opponents’ chances of climbing up into it.

The other side of the Riverhounds’ win Saturday came in the form of a big decline from New York Red Bulls II. They’re without some personnel as their senior team pulls up Gold Cup replacements (they also suffered a red card against the Hounds), but need to tread water over these next couple weeks or a home playoff game could begin to slip out of their projected range.

A draw between two of the top six in Nashville kept the situation steady with those teams (a Nashville win would have seen them inch ahead of New York, and Ottawa get dangerously close to falling out of a first-round bye). There are some impactful games coming up in that regard in the next several days, too – about which more later.

Saint Louis stabilized after a few rough weeks. With a continued US Open Cup run – they knocked off FC Cincinnati in the midweek – we shall see how they manage their next three regular-season games, which fortunately all come against bottom-group teams. Getting the expected wins there (especially with a tall task against Atlanta United in the USOC quarters perhaps going down as a lost cause) would get them back on track.

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USL West power rankings

    1. Phoenix Rising (+1) – 67.29 projected points
    2. El Paso Locomotive (-1) – 59.53 points
    3. Portland Timbers 2 – 59.14 points
    4. Sacramento Republic (+1) – 57.54 points
    5. Fresno FC (+1) – 56.29 projected points
    6. New Mexico United (-2) – 52.79 points
    7. Reno 1868 – 51.79 points
    8. Austin Bold (+1) – 50.38 points
    9. Real Monarchs (+2) – 46.33 points
    10. Las Vegas Lights (+3) – 46.21 points
    11. OKC Energy (-3) – 43.54 points
    12. Orange County (-2) – 41.81 points
    13. Rio Grande Valley (-1) – 39.16 points
    14. Tulsa Roughnecks – 36.47 points
    15. LA Galaxy II – 35.08 points
    16. San Antonio – 33.50 points
    17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 29.53 points
    18. Tacoma Defiance – 19.89 points

Phoenix’s long-overdue ascent to the top of the West has arrived, and on their current form, I don’t see anyone sniffing them the rest of the way (of course, form can change, etc. etc.). They’re not only undefeated since a loss to Orange County May 4, every single game since then – seven straight – has been a win (and although this rating method is blind to it, they’ve all been multi-goal wins).

A major decline in form from New Mexico United is perhaps similar to Saint Louis FC on the other side of the league: a split focus on league play and the US Open Cup has probably played a role in four straight disappointing results. Unlike Saint Louis, though, they have a vulnerable Minnesota United in the next round, and it probably makes more sense for them to continue focusing on the Open Cup with a realistic possibility of getting into the semifinal. We shall see how it plays out on the field with top-half teams in their next three regular-season games.

Overall in the West, the gap between sixth and 13th (that is, a first-round playoff bye and being the third team out of the playoffs) is barely bigger than the gap between 10 and 11 in the East. There’s much more intriguing mid-table soccer to be played in the Western Conference. Even second-bottom Colorado Springs is just three or four surprising results away from being back in contention for that 10-spot.

Bottom-bottom Tacoma Defiance is off the chart for the time being so we can get a little bit more clarity everywhere else (and if Phoenix keeps up its run of form, maybe I’ll have to lop the top off as well). They didn’t play over the weekend and won’t in the upcoming weekend, so there’s not even a chance for them to get closer to the pack outside of very small shifts to their schedule strength.

Pure Power

This ratings method uses scoring 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 Table Power. Zero is average for offense, defense, and total. A team with a 2.0 overall rating would be two standard deviations better than average, 1.0 is a single standard deviation better, etc.

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Phoenix has opened up a pretty good-sized gap on Indy at the top of the league – and as I’ve said above, I think they’re going to maintain that, not just in comparison to the Western Conference. It’s a similar story at the very bottom, with Tacoma maintaining its equally-sizable “lead” on ending as the worst.

Pittsburgh makes a major climb by not only beating New York Red Bulls II, but smashing the Baby Bulls 3-0, rivaling – and surpassing – their result the previous weekend (5-0 on the road over Atlanta United 2) as the best of the year for the Hounds. New York takes the corresponding fall on the other end.

The other big riser of the week was Sacramento Republic, whose 6-0 thrashing of Tulsa was a boost to their defensive and offensive numbers on the year. That Tulsa only sunk a couple positions as a result of that game probably says sad things about the Roughnecks.

Games to watch

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

  • #NSHvNY (7:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday). Nashville gave up the late equalizer against Ottawa Fury, or it would have snuck ahead of New York in Table Power this week, and opened up a pretty good gap on Ottawa itself in Pure Power. If the Boys in Gold get it done Wednesday, they’ll look headed for a home game in the second round of the playoffs.
    Numbers say: Nashville 2.07, New York 1.00
  • #PORvRNO (7:00 p.m. PDT Wednesday). Portland has been haaaaaanging around in the three or four spot in the West for several weeks now, but hasn’t been able to make that leap (or dropped out, to their credit). Can Reno make a move past them in a battle where both teams are better on the road than at home – which should play into 1868’s favor?
    Numbers say: Portland 1.57, Reno 1.43
  • #HFDvBST (7:00 p.m. EDT Friday). If anybody’s going to jump out of the basement group in the Eastern Conference, it will probably be one of these teams. Bethlehem leads that pack right now, while Hartford is on a very good run of form after finally playing some home games. A draw here would probably be devastating to both, while a winner miiiiiiight have a shot to push for 10th position (especially Hartford, given that two of their next three would also be Memphis and Swope Park).
    Numbers say: Hartford 2.18, Bethlehem 2.07
  • #TBRvOTT (8:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). Tampa’s recent trend is not inspiring, and Ottawa is actually well ahead of the Rowdies in table power. Given that Tampa’s actually been pretty poor at home (in comparison to their road form, which is bananas given the history of this club), the Fury could really make a push here.
    Numbers say: Tampa 1.03, Ottawa 1.11
  • #FRSvELP (7:30 p.m. PDT Saturday). This duo was battling it out near the top in both ratings methods a couple weeks ago, and while we’ve gotten to the point that it’ll be tough for Phoenix to be caught, a result for one of these teams over the other could set the stage for the stretch run of the season in the West nonetheless.
    Numbers say: Fresno 0.30, El Paso 1.11

As every week, thanks for reading. Feel free to share the power ratings to spread the good work of statistical analysis in USL.

2 thoughts on “USL power ratings: June 24, 2019

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