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.
USL East power rankings:
- Tampa Bay Rowdies – 71.74 projected points
- Indy Eleven – 64.98 points
- New York Red Bulls II – 61.89 points
- Ottawa Fury – 58.69 points
- Pittsburgh Riverhounds (+2) – 57.55 points
- Nashville SC (-1) – 56.56 points
- North Carolina FC (-1) – 54.59 points
- Charleston Battery (+1) – 50.61 points
- Louisville City (-1) – 50.23 points
- Saint Louis FC – 41.23 points
- Charlotte Independence – 39.89 points
- Bethlehem Steel (+1) – 38.53 points
- Birmingham Legion (+1) – 34.64 points
- Loudoun United (-2) – 34.32 points
- Memphis 901 – 28.20 points
- Swope Park Rangers (+1) – 27.57 points
- Atlanta United 2 (-1) – 24.99 points
- Hartford Athletic – 21.32 points
The top of the conference was fairly steady, aside from New York Red Bulls II making up for last week (when they were the only top-seven team that played and didn’t have a disappointing result) with a road draw to Memphis in which they gave up a 2-0 lead in the second half – with their 2016 star, Brandon Allen, providing both Memphis goals. North Carolina softened the blow of its loss to Pittsburgh (which moved the Hounds up, the numbers finally vindicating a great run of form they’ve been on) by beating Swope Park in the midweek.
Bethlehem’s win over Louisville, combined with Saint Louis’s failure to get a result against Tampa Bay (not a surprise in the least, but certainly it’d have been welcome for STLFC fans) maintains the three-team race for the No. 10 spot, with the Steel replacing Loudoun United as the second chaser.
Birmingham actually managed to pass Loudoun with its second win in as many weeks. Taking down Atlanta United 2 may not be the most impressive task to complete, but given the depths that Birmingham has at times occupied this year, looking down at any win is unlikely, and certainly not a second in a row.
Atlanta, meanwhile, continues a downward spiral after this year looked early like it might be a different story from last year’s talented-but-incompetent tale. It’s just the same, with brief blips of that talent bursting through the surface a little more than it ever did last year.
USL West power rankings
- Phoenix Rising – 73.16 projected points
- Fresno FC – 67.19 points
- Reno 1868 – 64.05 points
- Sacramento Republic – 52.31 points
- Real Monarchs (+1) – 53.24 points
- Austin Bold (+1) – 52.25 points
- El Paso Locomotive (-2) – 49.47 points
- New Mexico United (+1) – 48.38 points
- Portland Timbers 2 (-1) – 48.35 points
- OKC Energy – 42.73 points
- Las Vegas Lights – 41.84 points
- San Antonio FC (+1) – 40.92 points
- Orange County (-1) – 39.21 points
- Rio Grande Valley (+1) – 38.37 points
- LA Galaxy II (-1) – 37.02 points
- Colorado Springs Switchbacks (+1) – 32.87 points
- Tulsa Roughnecks – 31.92 points
- Tacoma Defiance – 19.38 points
Fresno and Reno have officially turned the runaway from one team into a three-team group. Neither of them is catching Phoenix (barring a huge downturn for Rising FC), but with everyone from Nos. 4-11 losing a bit rating-wise, and big gains for the top three, it’s starting to look equally unlikely that anyone can catch that third spot, either.
That makes the battle for No. 4 in the West – and the last Round Two home playoff game – the matter of most intrigue. Nos. 4-9 are within four projected point of each other, and that’s within one very good weekend of results to swing for anyone in the cohort. New Mexico, Austin, and Portland have the easiest slate against which to take advantage (that is to say, they’ve played the toughest schedules to date), but none is in particularly good form right now.
The other nail-biting battle is for the final playoff spot, with OKC failing the “just whatever you do, don’t lose to Colorado Springs” test of the weekend, thrusting them back into a five- or six-way battle for No. 10, rather than solidifying their grip upon it.
With each passing week, an individual game can swing the results slightly less (it represents 1/20th or whatever of games played, rather than 1/10th for a given team), and we’re at 57.2% of the season complete in the West (it’s less in the East, 55.6%). We’re probably two weeks away from some of this stuff getting into “hey, I think this is how it’s actually going to end” territory.
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.
Nobody’s gonna catch Phoenix unless something happens: they’ve opened their gap on No. 2 in USL to an entire standard deviation worth of difference (in the average game). The closest team to them is an interesting one, though: Pittsburgh Riverhounds! Though they’re just fifth the East in Table Power (Lilleyball still sees them draw more often than win), they have some impressive results, but more importantly very few poor results. Combining a lack of bad games with a few impressive outings here and there is a path to Pure Power glory.
Indy Eleven moves down two spots, but that’s more related to moves up by Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay (which beat Saint Louis FC 4-1) than any embarrassment in only beating Loudoun United 2-0. So too with Nashville’s slight move down: that’s about Ottawa and Carolina moving up and NSC’s limited opportunity to truly impress the computerz because you really have to bomb away on overmatched opposition to get positive movement after playing them.
Speaking of that concept… I’m not ready to call it a fact yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ottawa Fury is a bit of a flat-track bully in that regard. They’re decent enough on a game-to-game basis, but don’t have a “let off the gas” instinct against lesser teams. That’s good for them and obviously much more fun for the viewer, but may inflate them just a bit here.
San Antonio FC’s big rise is more about the teams around them dropping and the out-of-town scoreboard doing them some favors: drawing OCSC on the road is fine, but not something that blew the computers away The win over El Paso mid-week was far more impactful. Same with Charleston’s win over Hartford (fortunately for the Battery, the formula doesn’t know that they needed to come from behind in the 79th minute to win).
Atlanta United 2 didn’t move down after getting blasted by Birmingham Legion (the third-worst game result in USL all season… behind only Atlanta’s 5-0 home loss to Pittsburgh in June and basically even with Tacoma’s 3-0 loss at Colorado Springs) only because Tacoma was so, so far behind the field. That battle got a little tighter, though.
Games to watch
- #SACvNMU (8:00 p.m. PDT Wednesday). Neither of these teams is on a great run of form, with Sacramento’s more acutely steep, but New Mexico’s more chronic over nearly two months (they’ve dropped projected points each week since the beginning of June). A win would be a major statement for either of these sides, and help set the stage for the stretch run.
Numbers say: Sacramento 1.66, New Mexico 1.19
- #NYvTBR (7:00 p.m. EDT Friday). Two of the top three teams in the East go head-to-head. A win for Tampa could be enough to make the hill too steep a climb for anyone to catch them. A win for New York suddenly makes the top of the conference a super-intriguing battle. Such is the nature of six-pointers (though a draw is way less interesting, it’s closer to the latter than the former).
Numbers say: New York 1.06, Tampa Bay 1.26
- #NSHvIND (7:00 p.m. CDT Saturday). These teams drew in an NFL stadium a couple months back, and somebody will try to find a winner here (peripheral factors: not promising, with both NSC games in Nissan ending scoreless last year, and Indy a bunker-happy side particularly on the road). Nashville is a mediocre home team to date, but a completely different venue is an unknown.
Numbers say: Nashville 1.45, Indy 1.83
- #STLvBST (7:30 p.m. CDT Saturday). Suddenly, these are two among a group of about five teams battling for the last playoff spot in the East, thanks to Saint Louis’s precipitous fall over the course of the Summer. The winner is right in the mix, the loser will have to make up ground (and a draw – at least temporarily – takes both teams out of the mix depending on other results around the conference). The numbers would likely be in Bethlehem’s favor with a recent form bias: Saint Louis’s best five results were their first five games of the year, and it’s been sharply downhill since.
Numbers say: Saint Louis 2.05, Bethlehem 1.83
- #PORvLAG (6:00 p.m. PDT Sunday). This isn’t the most compelling game of the week, but I was light on Western Conference games (not an intriguing schedule on that side of the Mississippi, unless we see a week with wild upsets) and like to get something from each matchday of the week if there’s reason to. Portland’s been on a slide, can they reverse it with a game against one of the more struggle-tastic teams in the Conference? Both teams are actually better on the road than at home, so there’s a little boost to the Galaxy, as well.
Numbers say: Portland 1.71, Los Angeles 1.33
As every week, thanks for reading. Feel free to share the power ratings to spread the good word of statistical analysis in USL.