USL power ratings: Aug. 12, 2019

Welcome to the USL power ratings! Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the content on USL, US Soccer, and Nashville SC.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 8.33.16 AM

USL East power rankings:

  1. Tampa Bay Rowdies – 68.67 projected points
  2. Indy Eleven (+1) – 66.83 points
  3. New York Red Bulls II (-1) – 66.16 points
  4. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (+1) – 59.10 points
  5. Nashville SC (-1) – 58.94 points
  6. North Carolina FC – 55.61 points
  7. Ottawa Fury – 54.29 points
  8. Louisville City (+1) – 50.46 points
  9. Charleston Battery (-1) – 48.11 points
  10. Birmingham Legion (+1) – 41.75 points
  11. Saint Louis FC (-1) – 40.93 points
  12. Charlotte Independence – 35.52 points
  13. Bethlehem Steel (+1) – 35.01 points
  14. Loudoun United (-1) – 34.99 points
  15. Memphis 901 – 30.45 points
  16. Atlanta United 2 – 26.91 points
  17. Swope Park Rangers – 25.63 points
  18. Hartford Athletic – 22.93 points

Folks, it finally happened: Saint Louis’s long slide has seen a drop out of the projected playoff positions. Of course, that move was just as much abut Birmingham (who earned a win in Tampa, also dropping the Rowdies to within striking distance for Indy and NYRBII) as it was about Saint Louis continuing to do what it’s largely done since May: lose ground in the projected table.

The draw between Loudoun and Charlotte prevented either of those teams from gaining ground and continuing to be in a position to potentially poach that final playoff position, as well. There’s still plenty of season to be played, and now that we have finally broken the “top ten, bottom eight” locked-in groups that had existed since the May 6 edition of these rankings(!), those clubs – along with Bethlehem – still have to see the opportunity to squeak into the playoffs.

Everything else around the table was just a one-position movement here or there: Red Bulls II did the expected against Hartford, but that win can’t help in the projected table (it’s effectively understood to be a win before it ever happens), and the out-of-town scoreboard was a little friendlier to the idle Indy Eleven than it was to the Baby Bulls. Pittsburgh’s long run of good form saw them pass a Nashville team that dropped points against Bethlehem at home in a scoreless draw. Louisville and Charleston had a razor-thin margin between them last week, and one earned the win while the other picked up a draw, diverging their paths a little bit.

The title race remains in striking distance for three teams, with both Pittsburgh and Nashville capable of re-inserting themselves into that mix with a run of good form – NSC had been on one, but the Bethlehem result prevented them from climbing (more maintaining, as they’ve gone from one of the toughest schedules played to one of the easiest in the past two weeks) up to that top tier.

No time to include a third set of data this week, but it’s worth noting that neither Red Bulls nor Tampa – even if they lost every game the rest of the year – can finish behind Hartford Athletic, making their final position 17th at worst (and obviously much higher than that by any reasonable expectation), and Hartford can finish third at best.

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 8.48.20 AM.png

USL West power rankings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 74.70 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 67.07 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 60.18 points
  4. Real Monarchs (+2) – 52.09 points
  5. Austin Bold (-1) – 51.01 points
  6. New Mexico United (-1) – 50.69 points
  7. Sacramento Republic – 49.66 points
  8. Portland Timbers 2 (+1) – 47.07 points
  9. El Paso Locomotive (-1) – 46.73 points
  10. San Antonio FC (+2) – 45.44 points
  11. LA Galaxy II (+2) – 43.87 points
  12. OKC Energy (-1) – 41.89 points
  13. Las Vegas Lights (+1) – 40.45 points
  14. Orange County (-4) – 40.35 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 35.82 points
  16. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 30.78 points
  17. Tulsa Roughnecks – 28.73 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 25.61 points

The big mover here was Orange County SC, which dropped only about three projected points, but four spots in the rankings with a loss to Tacoma Defiance. That also had the annoying effect of bringing Tacoma close enough to Tulsa that I felt compelled to re-scale the chart to include them, compressing the middle of the table to be a little tougher to read.

San Antonio FC had a positive week with similarly large effects on its own standing, moving into the final playoff position in the West (admittedly a much more muddled situation than on the other side of the Mississippi). They’ve been on a fairly good run of form lately, and could continue to climb, with less than seven projected points separating them from No. 4(!).

The other side of that game was a big drop for Reno, which has a comfortable enough gap on that No. 4 position (still more than eight projected points ahead of Real Monarchs) to say it’s unlikely they drop down to it. It does make for a very difficult time seeing them pass Fresno for the No. 2 spot in the table though, so the top three positions are already getting pretty close to settled with 10-13 games still left for everyone in the West.

Phoenix’s quest for the regular-season points record continues unabated. Their next win would see them guaranteed to finish outside the bottom two even in a worst-case scenario, and depending on results elsewhere, they’re only a few weeks from being the first team to lock down a playoff spot.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 8.59.36 AM.png

Rising stays well ahead of the pack, Tacoma well behind it (despite earning their fourth win of the year at the same time second-bottom Atlanta United lost a game by four goals – that’s how bad Tacoma has been for most of this year).

Nashville climbs despite the disappointing result against Bethlehem (which wasn’t that bad to the numbers, since Bethlehem has been much better on the road than at home) thanks to its 4-0 blasting of Hartford Athletic in the mid-week. Red Bulls’ double-red-card-aided 5-1 win over Hartford bumps the Baby Bulls up the table, as well. That’s a serious flat-track bully move, though: they were losing 1-0 deep into the second half before Hartford got two (deserved, even though their fanbase thinks they weren’t for some insane reason) red cards on one play.

Orange County and Reno move down for the reasons discussed above – worth noting that OC’s loss actually wasn’t considered that bad, because Tacoma hasn’t been too far from competent at home, they’re just brutal on the road – while Pittsburgh dropped thanks to only beating Swope Park 3-2 at home. Austin also got smacked at home (remember when they were awesome there, and terrible elsewhere? Really stabilized over the course of the season) by LA Galaxy II.

I was a little surprised to see Loudoun move down three spots just for drawing Charlotte Independence, but the fact that it was just Charlotte’s second multi-goal performance on the road (and first time hitting three goals) really punished DC2.

Games to watch

  • #NYvPGH (7:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday). One team has been among the best in the East basically all year, while the other started a little rough and has probably been the very best in the past two months or so. New York is great at home though, while Pittsburgh is good-not-great on the road. Any of the three possible results here has major implications.
    Numbers say: New York Red Bulls II 2.51, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.28
  • #FRSvSLC (7:30 p.m. PDT Friday). This is No. 2 versus No. 4 on the projected table, but the gulf between those two positions is 15 projected points(!!). If the Monarchs can get a result here, they’re upwardly mobile, even if climbing to No. 3 seems a tough ask. If Fresno takes care of business (the sides are much closer in terms of game-to-game quality than in simply getting results, to be fair – but SLC is bad on the road), the 4-15 logjam in the West remains tight.
    Numbers say: Fresno FC 1.94, Real Monarchs SLC 0.96
  • #NCvPGH (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). I try to avoid including the same team twice in one edition of this post, but Pittsburgh’s current standing in the table (and the teams they happen to be playing this week) can have a major impact on how this all plays out. A win and a draw this week would probably be enough to make them a title contender, but anything less than three points and they should slip.
    Numbers say: North Carolina FC 1.87, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.24
  • #INDvSTL (6:00 p.m. EDT Sunday). Indy hasn’t played in a hot minute (since Aug. 3), while Saint Louis has been pretty consistently moving down the table. However, The Eleven have been prone to a shock result here and there – even if it’s happened more on the road than at Lucas Oil – and anything for Saint Louis would be a necessary boost to their shot to remain in the playoff hunt.
    Numbers say: Indy Eleven 0.82, Saint Louis FC -0.05 (yes, a negative goal projection. Definitely the first time I’ve seen that).

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s