Nashville SC

USL power ratings: July 15, 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 – 70.15 projected points
  2. Indy Eleven – 74.38 points
  3. New York Red Bulls II – 63.92 points
  4. Ottawa Fury (+1) – 57.67 points
  5. Nashville SC (+1) – 55.10 points
  6. North Carolina FC (-2) – 54.97 points
  7. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (+1) – 53.12 points
  8. Louisville City (-1) – 53.04 points
  9. Charleston Battery – 47.02 points
  10. Saint Louis FC – 41.65 points
  11. Charlotte Independence (+1) – 39.93 points
  12. Loudoun United (-1) – 37.38 points
  13. Bethlehem Steel – 34.87 points
  14. Birmingham Legion (+2) – 31.54 points
  15. Memphis 901 – 28.37 points
  16. Atlanta United 2 (-2) – 27.12 points
  17. Swope Park Rangers – 25.30 points
  18. Hartford Athletic – 24.23 points

There was some pretty healthy carnage at the top of the East (outside of NYRBII, and the idle Nashville SC), but given that most everyone who played had some sort of struggle, they all move down a bit in lock-step. Tampa merely drawing Pittsburgh – really not that bad a result in the macro – allowed them to maintain their healthy margin on Indy after the Eleven’s loss to league-worst Hartford. I’ve had faith in Hartford for a few weeks now (ever since they had their home opener), and have been a little disappointed they haven’t vindicated it as much. Maybe this is the one that helps them really turn the corner.

NCFC falling to Birmingham had a major effect on both teams’ fortunes, with Carolina dropping down below Nashville and Ottawa, and Birmingham moving into a solid fourth in that chasing group outside of the playoffs.

Speaking of which… Saint Louis’s continued struggles may taper off now that they’ve been eliminated from the US Open Cup, but Saturday’s loss to Charlotte was eminently predictable. The big problem is that it was something of a six-pointer, and now the Independence is hot on their heels for the No. 10 position in the projected table. The margin is now under two points, whereas just two weeks ago, Saint Louis was nearly nine clear of the No. 11 spot. Three weeks ago they were eighth in the projected table and 15 points clear of being projected out of the playoffs. It would behoove them to (checks notes) knock off the top team in the Eastern Conference on the road this weekend. Good luck, fellas.

Alas, I suspect that the groups of “in” and “out” that looked so locked-in since May 6(!) will no longer apply. Will any of the other teams challenge Charlotte to be the darling of jumping back into that mix? Loudoun and Bethlehem have opportunities (which is the same thing as saying “tough asks with big potential payoff”) this week: Loudoun has a double-game week in which they travel to Carolina and Indy, while Bethlehem heads to Louisville Saturday.

We did cross the halfway point of the season Wednesday evening, though the games played are the farthest thing from evenly distributed: Charlotte (20) on the high end has less opportunity to make up for poor early-season results, while Loudoun (14) has barely played 40% of its season. Still a long way to go, but getting to be much less so.

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USL West power rankings

    1. Phoenix Rising – 71.07 projected points
    2. Fresno FC – 65.62 points
    3. Reno 1868 – 61.24 points
    4. Sacramento Republic (+3) – 56.10 points
    5. El Paso Locomotive (-1) – 53.50 points
    6. Real Monarchs – 53.24 points
    7. Austin Bold (+2) – 52.14 points
    8. Portland Timbers 2 (-3) – 50.08 points
    9. New Mexico United (-1) – 48.54 points
    10. OKC Energy – 47.34 points
    11. Las Vegas Lights – 42.47 points
    12. Orange County – 39.63 points
    13. San Antonio FC (+1) – 37.96 points
    14. LA Galaxy II (-1) – 37.79 points
    15. Rio Grande Valley – 35.45 points
    16. Tulsa Roughnecks – 32.00 points
    17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 29.60 points
    18. Tacoma Defiance – 19.42 points

There wasn’t a ton of overall intrigue in the week, at least in terms of teams gaining or losing a bunch of positions in the final table. The lone exception was the Sacramento Republic win over Portland Timbers 2, which saw two teams who were very close to each other – and a few other teams – in the projections get a bit of separation. Sacramento becomes a clear fourth for the time being, while the Timbers drop back to the bottom of that tight 4-8 pack. Each week can see major changes (see: this paragraph), so that’s not all set in stone, but for the time being, we’re starting to see a gap open up.

Austin makes a minor climb by taking care of Orange County, with the latter team… starting to view playoffs as a bit of a pipe dream, IMO. The gap between them and the last playoff position is still just eight points, but has OCSC done anything to make it look like they have the juice to close that gap? Not yet – they’d need teams ahead of them to provide some help by falling down to make this a chance.

On that note, there’s a little bit of a gap opening up between that last playoff position at No. 10 and the teams outside the hunt at 11. There’s almost a five-point margin between OKC and Vegas, and while that is just one big weekend of results from closing in a hurry, it’s still the most obvious gap at that particular (and important) cutoff point that we’ve seen all year.

Colorado Springs won a bottom-table six-pointer against Tulsa, preventing me from dropping the Switchbacks off the bottom of the graphic, while Fresno made a steep climb by beating New Mexico (itself at least as important as Sacramento’s win, but less noticeable because it doesn’t see them gain any positions in the table: their projected points rose by 2.5 with the win), getting close enough to Phoenix that I don’t want to have Rising off the table at the top. That squeezes the middle of the table a bit graphically.

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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Not a ton going on here with even the notable exceptions (huge margins in favor of New York Red Bulls II and Real Monarchs) moving the needle only a bit. The respective opponents in those two games, Atlanta and Tacoma, were already among the worst teams in the entire Championship, so the margins were only so far from expectation.

North Carolina moves down somewhat significantly for a mere 1-0 loss – which probably says more about Birmingham’s season to date than it does about Carolina. The Legion may turn a corner a bit, but losing to them anywhere is poor (and they’re actually a little worse compared to the league average at home than away).

Hartford moves up for beating Indy 2-1, and although the Eleven didn’t lose any spots in the rankings, their rating dropped precipitously from “not particularly close to Phoenix, but close enough” to “barely ahead of the chasing pack.” In all honesty, the loss sort of strikes me as one of the weird things that happen in soccer – a high-variance game given how rare goals are – especially when you consider Hartford’s been playing a lot better since having a few home games, and this was the opener of Dillon Stadium.

Sort of a ho-hum week on this side of things, with even the upsets that shook up the East only having so much impact, at least in the rankings (rather than the raw numbers).

Games to watch

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

  • #NCvLDN (7:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday). This one may not look like much on paper: especially in Cary, North Carolina is a healthy favorite. However, the implications on the year-end table could be important. Saint Louis FC’s precipitous drop has opened the opportunity for bottom-table teams to make a playoff push, and Loudoun (which has played 2-6 fewer games than the other teams in the East) has the most runway with which to take advantage. Getting a result here would set the table.
    Numbers say: North Carolina 1.51, Loudoun 0.74
  • #OKCvRNO (8:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday). Reno is holding onto the No. 10 spot in the West, and as mentioned above, opening up a bit of a gap on the have-nots outside of the playoff hunt. Getting the upset here (or even the draw result against a top-three team) could solidify that standing. Unfortunately for the Energy, they tend to be better on the road than at home – and Reno does as well – so home-field advantage isn’t a huge help.
    Numbers say: Oklahoma City 0.91, Reno 1.66
  • #PHXvAUS (7:30 p.m. MST Friday). Phoenix is getting dangerously close to their form saying that they’ll challenge FC Cincinnati’s points record. Meanwhile, Austin is probably safely in the playoffs, but that’s largely built upon their home-field advantage – which is to say, road disadvantage. Phoenix’s explosive offense may want a bounceback after only one goal on the weekend, too. Look for fireworks. (Hey, they’re not all games to watch because I think they’ll be close).
    Numbers say: Phoenix 2.34, Austin 0.38
  • #PGHvNC (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). The Riverhounds are great at home, NCFC is about the same team home or road. Does that tip things significantly in the Hounds’ favor at Highmark? Pittsburgh is actually well ahead in the Pure Power metric, while Carolina is slightly ahead in the projected table. this one could go a long way toward resolving that incongruity.
    Numbers say: Pittsburgh 1.33, North Carolina 0.89
  • #ELPvSLC (7:30 p.m. MDT Saturday). El Paso has (by far) the worst offense in the top half of the Pure Power ratings, while Real Monarchs have (by far) the worst defense. Of course, each team is very good on the other side of the ball, which is what has them competing with each other on that 5/6 line at this point. It’s a six-pointer in Sun City.
    Numbers say: El Paso 1.69, Salt Lake City 1.34
  • #FRSvPOR (7:30 p.m. PDT Saturday). Fresno has established itself as the West’s clear No. 2 team. Portland has fallen from third to eighth in the projected table over the past three weeks(!). Can Timbers 2 change the narrative? They seem to relish going on the road, while Fresno is only OK at home (in comparison to their away form, at least). I have a hard time seeing how PTFC2 will keep Fresno off the scoreboard, though.
  • Numbers say: Fresno 1.89, Portland 1.76

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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