Nashville SC

USL power ratings: Aug. 26, 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 ratings:

  1. Indy Eleven (+1) – 67.80 projected points
  2. New York Red Bulls II (+1) – 66.81 points
  3. Tampa Bay Rowdies (-2) – 66.40 points
  4. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 61.27 points
  5. Nashville SC – 60.26 points
  6. North Carolina FC – 59.49 points
  7. Ottawa Fury – 57.22 points
  8. Louisville City – 54.79 points
  9. Charleston Battery – 46.63 points
  10. Birmingham Legion – 45.39 points
  11. Saint Louis FC – 37.93 points
  12. Charlotte Independence (+1) – 33.77 points
  13. Bethlehem Steel (-1) – 33.45 points
  14. Loudoun United – 31.05 points
  15. Memphis 901 (+1) – 28.37 points
  16. Atlanta United 2 (-1) – 27.47 points
  17. Hartford Athletic (+1)- 25.59 points
  18. Swope Park Rangers (-1) – 23.91 points

There was a bit of turmoil at the top of the East, with Tampa Bay Rowdies not only dropping out of first, but dropping two positions into third. A 1-1-0 weeks wasn’t enough to keep them up when New York Red Bulls II went 2-0-0 on the week against about equal competition on aggregate, and Indy Eleven came away with just a win against bottom-feeding Charlotte Independence… but that’s better than taking a loss.

The quintet chasing that all-important No. 4 spot (and a second-round home playoff game) moved in lockstep, with Pittsburgh and Ottawa taking down weak opposition, Nashville and North Carolina splitting games against one good opponent and one mediocre opponent, and Louisville earning the win over North Carolina to try and close some of that gap.

Below that group, something interesting may be a-brewin’. Not only is Birmingham now projected as safely in the playoffs, they’re making strong moves toward that No. 9 seed, with a chance to pass Charleston Battery. Birmingham is actually slightly ahead on points per game right now, but the Battery has played the toughest schedule of anyone in contention in the East (Memphis’s is three thousandths of a point per game tougher to date, but 901 FC ain’t sniffin’ the playoffs), so they have an easier stretch run. In fact, they play seven of the nine teams below them in the projected table – including a six-pointer against Birmingham – and have only four games against teams ahead of them in the projected table.

Saint Louis… I think we’re maybe a game or two from unofficially writing them out of the playoffs. They have an easier schedule than average to date (which means a tough close to the season), and continue to drop like a rock. For a team that’s dealt with injury and depth issues this season, the compressed schedule of weather and US Open Cup reschedulings is going to be even tougher.

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USL West power ratings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 78.49 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 66.16 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 60.10 points
  4. Austin Bold (+1) – 50.38 points
  5. Sacramento Republic (+1) – 50.01 points
  6. Real Monarchs (-2) – 49.71 points
  7. New Mexico United – 47.53 points
  8. San Antonio FC (+2) – 46.82 points
  9. OKC Energy (+2) – 46.11 points
  10. El Paso Locomotive (-2) – 45.93 points
  11. Orange County (+2) – 45.30 points
  12. LA Galaxy II – 43.45 points
  13. Portland Timbers 2 (-4) – 42.88 points
  14. Las Vegas Lights – 41.31 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 38.22 points
  16. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 28.96 points
  17. Tulsa Roughnecks – 27.44 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 24.77 points

The Saturday evening shift was wild, y’all. If you’re an Eastern Conference fan who doesn’t usually give it a try, I’d recommend checking it out. We’ve had chalky weeks for a while now, but they were worth it for one like this weekend: five of the six games were upsets, and even the game that turned out as expect (2-1 Fresno over Colorado Springs) featured a second-half comeback.

Meanwhile, things got much, much tighter in that big chunk between fourth and 14th (and you could squint and look at it funny and decide Rio Grande Valley made it 4-15 now). The team currently hosting a second-round playoff games is less than three projected points from not having a first-round bye at all, and barely over five points away from missing the playoffs entirely.

The per-game margins get smaller as the schedule yet to be played (27.8% remains in the future), and less projection is necessary. But it’d be fair to say that nothing is set in stone except the top three. The big gainers of the week in terms of positions were more about how many teams they passed in that tight pack, rather than how much they shifted the model’s opinion of their strength.

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 continues to be by far the class of the USL – though it’s worth noting that the six least impressive games since the start of their long win streak have come within their past seven contests. They’re no longer performing way, way above expectation, just going out and taking care of business (a 2-1 win over Sacramento Republic is hardly something to be ashamed of, but maybe a month ago that would would have been more like a 4-1 game based on how they were playing). It wouldn’t surprise me to see the streak end based on that decline, but they’re still way ahead of the pack.

New York Red Bulls had a big week with a road win over Nashville (uh, questionable assistance from the center official aside), and then their typical flat-track bully routine in a 5-1 laugher over Swope Park Rangers on the weekend. A tight win over a really good opponent and then treating a really bad opponent like they deserve to be treated is always good for business.

New Mexico is a big faller with a 5-0 blasting at the hands of San Antonio (who I’m surprised to see not move up in the standings, though their raw numbers definitely saw them way behind No. 13 before, and now they’re a lot closer).

I wouldn’t pay much mind to Charlotte’s big rise: keeping it close to Indy Eleven (particularly on the road) was definitely an improvement on their typical results, but three positions worth of climb is more about the teams around them dropping off slightly, too.

Positions locked

We’re starting to see a little bit more of settling in both conferences:

Ranked by current PPG, sorted by maximum points possible.

The worst Phoenix can finish is now 14th (movin’ on up!) in the worst-case scenario. Their current magic number to make the playoffs is down to just five points, so there’s a pretty decent chance we have our first official playoff berth by this time next week (there’s next to zero chance it doesn’t happen, even if their win streak is broken).

Fresno is also a lock to finish ahead of Colorado Springs, but given the wide gap at the top of the West (and the fact that the bad teams are worse on-field than they look in the table), that’s all that’s settled so far.

In the East, six teams are guaranteed finishes ahead of Hartford, while three are guaranteed to finish ahead of Swope Park Rangers, two ahead of both Charlotte and Memphis. Red Bulls are guaranteed a finish in the top 12; they should clinch a playoff berth by the end of the week, as well.

As for chasing the points record of 77: Indy and Phoenix are the only teams still in play to surpass it (and the latter almost certainly will), while Red Bulls II and Fresno FC could tie it if they win out.

Games to watch

  • #TACvPHX (7:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday). LOL. I guess Tacoma is much better at home than on the road? This should still be a laugher.
    Numbers say: Tacoma Defiance 0.73, Phoenix Rising 2.49
  • #LDNvBHM (7:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday). The midweek slot is not super-enticing, but this is the best and/or most relevant of the bunch. Can Birmingham play as a favorite, now that the Legion has gone on a nice little under-the-radar run as an underdog and will have a target on its back? Loudoun is actually pretty bad at home, and has been particularly bad in its new venue, but favored by the math nonetheless.
    Numbers say: Loudoun United 2.40, Birmingham Legion 2.13
  • #LOUvIND (7:00 p.m. EDT Friday). Louisville has been accomplishing its expected late-season rise in the standings, while Indy has been very good – but with visible cracks – all year. Louisville is a particularly good home team, too, and this could impact the top eight of the standings in a big way.
    Numbers say: Louisville City 1.26, Indy Eleven 1.41
  • #OTTvPGH (7:00 p.m. EDT Friday). This is another matchup between top Eastern Conference teams, with the one ahead in the table (though not in Pure Power, which has soured on Pittsburgh in the past couple weeks) the visitor. A draw or Ottawa win shakes up the East and makes the 4-8 spots even tighter.
    Numbers say: Ottawa Fury 1.92, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.13
  • #SLCvOKC (8:00 p.m. MDT Friday). OKC Energy has made major strides in recent weeks, finding itself in the playoff positions this week for the first time since the data were robust enough to mean anything. Real Monarchs have been near that coveted No. 4 spot for a while, but haven’t been able to find separation anywhere.
    Numbers say: Real Monarchs 2.37, OKC Energy 1.68
  • #TBRvNSH (7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday). A top-five matchup in the East with a Tampa Bay Rowdies team that’s been struggling in the past month hosting a Nashville SC that has been on a reasonable hot streak. The Rowdies have been relatively poor at home, while Nashville plays some of its best ball on the road, making this a little closer than you might otherwise expect.
    Numbers say: Tampa Bay Rowdies 1.08, Nashville SC 1.15
  • RNOvPOR (7:00 p.m. PDT Saturday). Reno is fairly locked-in to its No. 3 slot right now, with six projected points ahead, and 10 behind to get to the closet team in either direction. Portland has been on a poor run of form for the better part of two months now, and needs a big result to get back into the playoff positions.
    Numbers say: Reno 1868 2.34, Portland Timbers 2 2.15
  • #NMUvOC (4:00 p.m. MDT Sunday). New Mexico had appeared to halt its free-fall after elimination from the US Open Cup, but a bad four weeks led up to a 5-0 thrashing at the hands os previously-struggling San Antonio FC, and now there are no answers. A bounceback game against an OC team with the opportunity to pull into a projected playoff position with a result is recommended.
    Numbers say: New Mexico United 2.09, Orange County 1.25

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

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