USL power ratings: Sept. 9, 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 – 67.81 projected points
  2. Tampa Bay Rowdies (+1) – 65.82 points
  3. New York Red Bulls II (-1) – 65.76 points
  4. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 62.33 points
  5. Nashville SC – 60.57 points
  6. North Carolina FC – 55.72 points
  7. Louisville City (+1) – 55.05 points
  8. Ottawa Fury (-1) – 50.84 points
  9. Charleston Battery – 48.57 points
  10. Birmingham Legion – 45.81 points
  11. Saint Louis FC – 45.22 points
  12. Bethlehem Steel – 36.01 points
  13. Charlotte Independence (+1) – 33.14 points
  14. Memphis 901 (+1) – 32.86 points
  15. Loudoun United (-2) – 32.27 points
  16. Atlanta United 2 – 27.81 points
  17. Hartford Athletic – 27.17 points
  18. Swope Park Rangers – 20.86 points

‘Twas a wile week in the East. Every team in the top seven outside of Tampa dropped points, most of them in major upsets. The exceptions? NYRBII lost to Indy Eleven, and while Pittsburgh and Louisville City drawing is below expectations for the Riverhounds (particularly in Highmark Stadium), “major” certainly isn’t a modifier that’s deserved there.

The major changes (aside from Tampa passing NYRBII for second in the conference, but they were already pretty close to each other) come from the seven spot on down.

Ottawa Fury took two losses this week, one of them to Atlanta United 2, so they did not have a real good time, most likely. That takes them out of that No. 7 seed and into the danger zone of not only being in a play-in game, but traveling for one… and another week like the last one would put them in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.

That’s largely because there’s (finally) been a surge from Saint Louis FC. They’re on a three-game win streak, with two of those results coming in the past week. That brings them right back to the cusp of the No. 10 spot, within a single projected point of Birmingham Legion. If they keep it up, the total lack of “who’s in and who’s out” drama (even when STLFC was the lock team and Birmingham was comfortably out, the flip between them happened relatively quickly and that gap opened back up).

The interesting battles, outside of that one, are the 4/5 one between Pittsburgh and Nashville – neither is making up ground quickly enough that they seem likely to move past that (and they should have a large enough margin to not drop below it). Of course, that’s a big position because the one who finishes higher will host the other in the second round of the playoffs. Then, we have Louisville continuing a slow, steady climb, and they’re pretty close to passing a struggling NCFC for the last first-round bye.

Still plenty of action yet to be decided in the East.

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For the second week in a row, a double chart in the West… and I don’t think we have a ton more clarity than we did last week. That middle group is tight.

USL West power ratings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 78.54 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 64.52 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 56.52 points
  4. Austin Bold – 50.92 points
  5. Orange County (+2) – 49.38 points
  6. Sacramento Republic – 48.89 points
  7. LA Galaxy II (+2) – 47.90 points
  8. New Mexico United (+3) – 47.83 points
  9. Real Monarchs (-4) – 46.75 points
  10. El Paso Locomotive – 46.57 points
  11. OKC Energy (-3) – 44.19 points
  12. Portland Timbers 2 – 44.01 points
  13. San Antonio FC – 43.84 points
  14. Las Vegas Lights – 39.14 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 35.04 points
  16. Tulsa Roughnecks – 33.54 points
  17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 28.94 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 26.65 points

The gap between No. 4 Austin Bold and No. 13 San Antonio FC is but a mere 7.08 projected points No. 5 to No. 13 is under six. Every time I expect a chalky week over here to create separation within that stratosphere, things remain tight with draws (three of them in the West this week), or minor upsets to keep things as close as can be over here. For the sake of my sanity, I wouldn’t mind seeing this get closer to resolution more quickly.

do think it’s pretty unlikely that there’s any change to the top three (especially now that Fresno cemented itself over Reno with the head-to-head win). Also seems like Vegas is close to out of the playoff picture (though given that they’re much better at home than on the road, and have four more home games, I’m not ready to completely say it’s over).

Some of these seemingly wild shifts should be taken in context, as well: Real Monarchs dropped four positions… but their projected point total got barely more than two points worse. In the middle of the East, that wouldn’t move a single position in most areas, much less four. Anyone can move in or out of that group, and the order within it has everything up for grabs. Just a couple weeks ago, Orange County didn’t look like it was going to sniff playoff contention. Suddenly OCSC is in a bye position in the Western Conference projection.

As in the East, a lot of soccer to be played here, and while there’s technically less of it – 64 games remaining, compared to 68 in the East – the characteristics of the table indicate each of those individual games is potentially more impactful.

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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Even with some pretty interesting results in each conference, the top of the overall table remains static: there were no shifts in the top nine positions – with Nos. 2-7 Eastern Conference teams flanked by Phoenix and then Fresno/Reno from the West.

Most changes throughout the table were minor ones: Real Monarchs took a major dive after a horrible week where they drew Vegas and then los to LA Galaxy II, New Mexico climbs after beating an OKC team that was closer to them on the chart than they’d probably have liked (for what it’s worth, New Mexico closes out with six-of-seven at home – there’s a good chance they make a run), and Birmingham moving up… for an easy win over Atlanta United 2. That’s some New York Red Bulls II-style “if we can win by five, let’s do it” (against a team that basically any solid team in the East could do that to).

Loudoun drops fairly precipitously, and it’s worth noting that Ottawa’s one-position fall happened because of a loss to that very same Atlanta team I just got done roasting (they also lost to Saint Louis, but the computer didn’t hate that result.

The biggest gap between consecutive teams on the table remains Phoenix and everyone else. It will likely remain that way until the end (unless Tacoma gets back to Tacoma-ing and Swope can find some form).

Positions locked

Not a ton of change in this set of charts, what with the East seeing the top teams fail to get separation, while the West is crowded enough that there isn’t that opportunity yet.

Rank order in PPG, sorted by max possible points

Phoenix is one point (or one dropped point from Reno) away from clinching homefield advantage until the Western Conference Championship game, and while Rising is certain to get there, it’ll take a few weeks with Fresno opening a comfortable gap on the rest of the West.

Nobody is particularly close to clinching a missed playoff spot in the West – basically nothing is settled except almost nobody can finish ahead of Phoenix, and the few teams at the bottom can’t pass Fresno (and in the case of Colorado Springs, Reno, as well).

In the East, there’s a wider range of teams that have something clinched, but not quite enough that there’s the first playoff spot settled yet. And it won’t happen this week, either: the closeness of Nos. 9-11 mean that there’s more work to be done for NYRBII/Tampa/Indy beyond this week to officially make the playoffs (spoiler alert: they’re all in).

Games to watch

  • #RNOvTAC (7:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday). This shouldn’t be a hyper-interesting game, especially since the international break means we won’t get the Tacoma Sounders (the parent club has 10 guys missing right now). A win for Reno is necessary to prevent a major shift in the way 1868 FC is seen. Also it’s the only Tuesday game, so…
    Numbers say: Reno 1868 FC 3.48, Tacoma Defiance 0.51
  • #AUSvSAC (7:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday). This one can go a long way toward determining the order at the not-quite-top of the West. A Sacramento win would give them a chance to snag that 4-seed spot away from Bold. An Austin win might come close to effectively sealing their second-round home game, barring a major change in form thereafter.
    Numbers say: Austin Bold 1.58, Sacramento Republic 0.91
  • #BHMvSTL (7:00 p.m. CDT Friday). This is a six-pointer between Nos. 10 and 11 on the projected table. They’re separated by just over half a projected point. A clear winner here gives one team a major advantage as the end of the season approaches with only one of them in the postseason (unless both get in at Charleston’s expense).
    Numbers say: Birmingham Legion 0.59, Saint Louis FC 0.55
  • #SLCvPOR (1:00 p.m. MDT Saturday). Real Salt Lake is second-last into the playoffs, while Portland Timbers 2 are the second team out of the projected table. This is another six-pointer, with the margins not quite as tight (there are many teams who could move down to allow both of these sides into the postseason). Monarchs are quite good at home, but T2 are elite on the road, too.
    Numbers say: Real Monarchs 2.44, Portland Timbers 2 2.21
  • #PGHvCHS (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). These two teams may be about 14 points apart on the projected table – and even more separates them on Pure Power – but this can be an important one to how the season’s end plays out. Pittsburgh earning the expected win at home would put the Battery at risk of missing the postseason, and of course an upset would provide a major shakeup.
    Numbers say: Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.72, Charleston Battery 0.65
  • #OCvELP (7:00 p.m. PDT Saturday). The tightness of the Western Conference makes this one important. Orange County is proof that it takes only a couple weeks to change one’s projection from not-particularly-close to first-round-bye in playoff stats. El Paso would rather not need to test that itself, and a loss here would probably put them (temporarily) projected out of the postseason field.
    Numbers say: Orange County SC 0.98, El Paso Locomotive 0.75

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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