USL power ratings: July 1, 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 Rowdies (+1) – 72.21 projected points
  2. Indy Eleven (-1) – 70.84 points
  3. New York Red Bulls II – 63.17 points
  4. North Carolina (+1) – 61.37 points
  5. Nashville SC (-1) – 58.40 points
  6. Ottawa Fury – 57.97 points
  7. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 54.51 points
  8. Louisville City (+2) – 49.55 points
  9. Charleston Battery – 47.47 points
  10. Saint Louis FC – 46.70 points
  11. Bethlehem Steel – 37.89 points
  12. Loudoun United – 37.18 points
  13. Charlotte Independence (+2) – 32.19 points
  14. Atlanta United 2 (-1) – 28.41 points
  15. Birmingham Legion (-1) – 26.81 points
  16. Swope Park Rangers (+2) – 26.28 points
  17. Memphis 901 (-1) – 24.62 points
  18. Hartford Athletic (-1) – 21.00 points

This wasn’t a week of huge swings in the East, though there were a couple notable flips: Tampa (with a win over Ottawa) moves back past Indy Eleven (draw against Louisville City) for the top spot, while North Carolina moves into the final second-round home game spot over Nashville SC after a head-to-head victory.

Saint Louis’s one-week rebound from negative form ended with a thud as they scored a second-half equalizer against Swope Park… only to give up the winer. That drops them into the final playoff spot in the East (and actually bumps Swope out of the East basement). I still maintain that they can rebound even if they focus on the Open Cup match against Atlanta United for the next couple weeks – and with Loudoun and Charlotte coming up, they might still come away with four points even if they put their effort toward Atlanta. They do have a back-loaded schedule thanks to persistent weather issues early in the year, so it’d be risky to assume they can make it up on the backend.

Louisville’s result in Indianapolis stabilizes them (and with help from Charleston and Saint Louis, they’re out of that No. 10 spot), but the renaissance we’ve all been waiting for where they flip the switch and become East Champs… is still not here. Plenty of season left (they’re only at exactly the halfway point in games played, and are this weekend’s Nashville contest short of a full round-robin), but they aren’t making up the ground compared to expectations fast enough.

Bethlehem and Loudoun knocked off fellow bottom-eight teams to make big climbs, and you can see a mechanism through which somebody down there closes the gap on No. 10, though I’d still say that’s unlikely (unless one of the MLS2 sides sends down some pretty good players over the second half of their season).

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USL West power rankings

    1. Phoenix Rising – 69.84 projected points
    2. Fresno FC (+3) – 60.20 projected points
    3. Reno 1868 (+4) – 59.00 points
    4. Sacramento Republic – 54.28 points
    5. Portland Timbers 2 (-2) – 54.28 points
    6. El Paso Locomotive (-4) – 54.28 points
    7. New Mexico United (-1) – 52.56 points
    8. Austin Bold – 52.12 points
    9. Real Monarchs – 49.14 points
    10. OKC Energy (+1) – 47.43 points
    11. Las Vegas Lights (-1) – 43.29 points
    12. Rio Grande Valley (+1) – 39.08 points
    13. Orange County (-1) – 38.95 points
    14. LA Galaxy II (+1) – 38.11 points
    15. Tulsa Roughnecks (-1) – 34.08 points
    16. San Antonio FC – 33.67 points
    17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 27.83 points
    18. Tacoma Defiance – 19.83 points

Phoenix’s inexorable rise (no pun intended, I guess) continues, this time at the expense of Portland Timbers 2. El Paso and New Mexico continue their recent slides hard down the table.

Here’s something crazy, though: the fourth spot – an important one, as it comes with the final second-round home game – is a tie down to the hundredths spot in projected points (and Portland and El Paso are actually tied exactly, with Sacramento just a couple thousandths ahead of them). This should be an interesting part of the standings table to watch for a few weeks here – and maybe through the remainder of the regular season.

Fresno and Reno make major gains, Reno with two extremely impressive wins (Portland and Sacramento), Fresno by taking care of business against SAFC while carnage happens around them.

Are we close enough to getting some separation for the final playoff spot that we can name who the contenders are? While 8-11 (Austin, SLC, Oklahoma City, Vegas) are sort of in that battle, I don’t think there’s enough distance from either the group above them or the ones chasing to say anyone from fourth to about 14th is definitely in or out. Check back later.

We are two games away from the West having play exactly half its schedule for the season, so we’ll eclipse that threshold Wednesday (three games, then there are six more over the remainder of the week). We’re getting closer to having clarity in simple number of games remaining, but as you can see, the week-to-week volatility is still great enough that we won’t get final answers – other than “Phoenix in first, Tacoma in last” – for a while.

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 remains the top team in the land, expanding its gap on Indy as the best overall side with a comfortable win over a top team as Indy earned only a home draw against a mediocre side. The bottom four teams are unchanged, as well.

The margins of Pittsburgh’s recent wins see them rise to the No. 3 team in all USL (perhaps surprisingly given Table Power, but that means they’re positioned well to improve in Table Power – I’m inspired for another graph in a different post, so stay tuned). Nashville slides behind them thanks to a loss at North Carolina FC.

This was honestly a week more about big drops (and incremental gains by the teams moving past those droppers). Portland – a home loss to Reno, a two-goal loss to Phoenix – El Paso (the much-discussed major slide they’ve continued), and Tulsa (two-goal home loss to Real Monarchs) are your most notable fallers. I think it’s mostly coincidence – and the fact the Phoenix is so far ahead of the field, making the rest of them more tightly-bunched – that all are Western Conference teams.

A 3-0 win for Bethlehem at a Hartford side that had actually been pretty good at Rentschler is impressive. It’s certainly the Steel’s best result of the year, and one of the best in all USL. That’s behind their major gain (though it’ll probably be diminished if Hartford drops off at home).

Games to watch

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

  • #SACvFRS (8:00 p.m. PDT Wednesday). A couple top-four teams (and rivals? I’m gonna assume they’re rivals) meet up with major implications on the table in the cards. A Fresno win goes a long way to ensuring that the Foxes finish top-four, and would solidify their No. 2 spot in the West for the time being.
    Numbers say: Sacramento 1.35, Fresno 1.47
  • #PGHvBST (7:00 p.m. EDT Thursday). Pittsburgh has been a major producer of fireworks in recent weeks, and the Riverhounds have the chance to do it on Independence Day. If Bethlehem can pull the upset in Highmark, they establish themselves as a potential playoff interloper in the East. Otherwise, the long trend of a top 10 and bottom eight gets even more solid.
    Numbers say: Pittsburgh 2.56, Bethlehem 1.51
  • #NYvOTT (7:00 p.m. EDT Friday). Both these teams have gone in fits and starts of being elite versus merely very good, and whomever is the victor in this one makes a major salvo in the race for the No. 3 spot in the East (Tampa and Indy are looking comfortable near the top right now). New York is elite at home, so they will feel like they must take care of business.
    Numbers say: New York 2.04, Ottawa 1.25
  • #LOUvNSH (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). Louisville has shown signs – but never consistent-enough ones – of being an elite team this season. Nashville, meanwhile, is doing the same (albeit with lows that don’t drop quite as low). The team that wins this one will feel pretty good about where they stand, and a draw is disappointing but not damning for either.
    Numbers say: Louisville 1.09, Nashville 2.21

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

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