USL power ratings: Aug. 5, 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 – 71.99 projected points
  2. New York Red Bulls II – 66.77 points
  3. Indy Eleven – 66.53 points
  4. Nashville SC – 60.82 points
  5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 58.65 points
  6. North Carolina FC – 54.56 points
  7. Ottawa Fury – 53.68 points
  8. Charleston Battery – 49.09 points
  9. Louisville City – 48.99 points
  10. Saint Louis FC – 42.35 points
  11. Birmingham Legion (+1) – 37.56 points
  12. Charlotte Independence (+1) – 35.49 points
  13. Loudoun United (-2) – 35.45 points
  14. Bethlehem Steel – 34.24 points
  15. Memphis 901 – 31.35 points
  16. Atlanta United 2 (+1) – 27.82 points
  17. Swope Park Rangers (-1) – 26.57 points
  18. Hartford Athletic – 23.92 points

The top ten were completely unchanged in order this week, though Indy Eleven (win over North Carolina FC) made moves toward getting back into second position – with New York Red Bulls staving them off. Charleston and Louisville are very tight for that No. 8 spot (hosting, rather than traveling, for the opening-round playoff game), with tons of soccer left to be played, of course.

Saint Louis FC doesn’t seem to have a ton of interest in re-opening its gap on the teams outside the playoffs (a road game at NYRBII is a tough ask, to be fair), but fortunately for them, the group of teams that look like potential contenders is so heavy with churn and chokes that STLFC’s inability to return to its form from prior to the US Open Cup run hasn’t harmed them. This week, those 11-14 positions saw the expected (Charlotte losing to Louisville) and one positive-not-great (Birmingham moving to the front of that pack with a draw against Ottawa), but two seriously dire results (Bethlehem getting blasted at home by Hartford, Loudoun getting smacked by Atlanta United 2) to prevent the chaser from getting close to Saint Louis.

That tier remains where the most intrigue in the East is, but as long as they keep acting like crabs trying to escape a pot, Saint Louis may be able to render all that irrelevant just by treading water. Love to mix my metaphors, folks.

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USL West power rankings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 73.88 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 65.81 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 62.85 points
  4. Austin Bold – 53.35 points
  5. New Mexico United – 53.04 points
  6. Real Monarchs (+1) – 50.90 points
  7. Sacramento Republic (+1) – 50.59 points
  8. El Paso Locomotive (-2) – 47.44 points
  9. Portland Timbers 2 – 45.50 points
  10. Orange County (+2) – 43.04 points
  11. OKC Energy (-1) – 42.92 points
  12. San Antonio FC (-1) – 42.21 points
  13. LA Galaxy II – 41.27 points
  14. Las Vegas Lights – 40.35 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 36.24 points
  16. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 30.84 points
  17. Tulsa Roughnecks – 29.68 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 22.19 points

Like with the East, the top of the West was settled this week (the most intriguing battle is probably Phoenix v. Cincinnati more than anything else). Part of that is the typical separation between teams and number of games played sort of converging to mean there can’t be wild week-to-week swings. Part of it makes me think one of the next couple weeks is going to be a crazy upset-heavy one.

Either way, New Mexico United has solidified its post-USOC rebound in a way that the fellow quarterfinalist (Saint Louis) has yet to be able to do. I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that – especially after taking down El Paso, the fellow expansion team with whom they were jockeying for first place way back before Phoenix found this incredible run of form – they’re going to be in the playoffs, with a reasonable chance to keep that bounceback solid enough to ultimately secure the No. 4 spot. It seems up to the teams around them in the standings to try and prevent that, with NMU no longer providing its own assistance.

San Antonio seems to be doing the combo Saint Louis/teams chasing thing from the East: getting close to the No. 10 spot, but either having meh results to give it up, or to prevent themselves from overtaking it. Given the bunch near that final playoff spot in the West (positions 8-14 within about seven projected points), there’s still a mad dash to safety at this point.

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 our benevolent overlord, but big results for Tampa (5-0 win on the road over a Charleston team that’s comfortably in the playoffs) and Indy (2-1 road win against a good North Carolina team) bring them into the 2 and 3 spots.

Nashville actually moved down after a very comfortable win just because of what happened around them: it would have taken a 4-1 win – or better – over Swope to stay in second on the table. That… probably says more about SKC2 than it does about Nashville.

Most of the bigger moves throughout the Championship were more about a couple out-of-town results going the right way than anything a specific team did. For example, Austin drawing New Mexico United is not a bad thing (especially on the road)! However, it’s not typically going to result in climbing three spots on the Pure Power table: that’s more about El Paso and Charleston moving way down than anything Bold did themselves.

Looking forward, the Indy offense remains the only negative unit of a team in the top-11 spots in the USL (Sacramento at No. 12 sees its offense a similar potential anchor). The first below-average defense belongs to No. 13 Real Monarchs. Vegas remains the team with the greatest home-field advantage – much of it based around jut how bad they are on the road, though they are a legit good home team – while Galaxy is the opposite. That’s weird because they were one of the teams who were much better at home last year than on the road (says something about how important “only have Efrain Alvarez for home games” was for them).

Games to watch

  • #STLvMEM (7:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday). This is a makeup game after one of many weather postponements for each of these teams so far this year. I’ve gone into a bit of depth about Saint Louis’s frustration in this phase of the season, while Memphis has had spurts of good form and has consistently added good personnel over the course of the season. A Saint Louis win is necessary but not sufficient to lock STLFC into the playoffs, while Memphis has a chance to become a serious member of that chasing pack.
    Numbers say: Saint Louis FC 2.02, Memphis 901 0.92
  • #SACvLVL (8:00 p.m. PDT Wednesday). This one might not be particularly interesting if Vegas’s awful road form has anything to say about it, but an upset could shake up the projected table – while Sacramento holding serve keeps them pretty clear of the miss-the-playoffs danger zone.
    Numbers say: Sacramento Republic 2.75, Las Vegas Lights 0.54
  • #LDNvCLT (7:30 p.m. EDT Friday). A week ago at this time, both these teams looked poised to make a run for that No. 10 playoff spot in the East. Charlotte lost an understandable game to Louisville City FC, while Loudoun got blasted by a god-awful Atlanta United 2 team. If we get a clear winner in this one (especially pending the outcome of the above-mentioned Saint Louis-Memphis game), there just may be another push yet.
    Numbers say: Loudoun United 1.48, Charlotte Independence 0.88
  • #AUSvLA (7:30 p.m. CDT Saturday). I’ll admit Saturday isn’t a particularly compelling slate (unless we’re bound for a major upset day), but Austin hosting a Los Angeles Galaxy II team that’s much better on the road than it is at home could provide some intrigue: A win gives Austin a tiny bit of cushion for a home playoff game, while an upset would give Los Dos a legit shout for sneaking into the playoff positions.
    Numbers say: Austin Bold 1.94, Log Angeles Galaxy 1.31
  • #PORvNMU (6:00 p.m. PDT Sunday). Is New Mexico truly back-back after league struggles in the midst of their US Open Cup run? We shall see here. If Portland gets a result, meanwhile, they may just pull away from the 10-14 logjam on the table, making that race purely for the last playoff spot as No. 9 on the projected table starts to leave them in the rearview mirror just a bit.
    Numbers says: Portland Timbers 1.40, New Mexico United 1.70

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

2 thoughts on “USL power ratings: Aug. 5, 2019

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