USL power ratings: Sept. 16, 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.

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 8.41.27 PM.png

USL East power ratings:

  1. Indy Eleven – 69.73 projected points
  2. New York Red Bulls II (+1) – 66.41 points
  3. Tampa Bay Rowdies (-1) – 63.99 points
  4. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 63.55 points
  5. Nashville SC – 60.80 points
  6. Louisville City (+1) – 55.47 points
  7. North Carolina FC (-1) – 53.02 points
  8. Ottawa Fury – 49.96 points
  9. Saint Louis FC (+2) – 47.16 points
  10. Charleston Battery (-1) – 46.08 points
  11. Birmingham Legion (-1) – 44.08 points
  12. Bethlehem Steel – 35.43 points
  13. Memphis 901 (+1) – 34.92 points
  14. Charlotte Independence (-1) – 32.46 points
  15. Loudoun United – 30.70 points
  16. Atlanta United 2 – 28.48 points
  17. Hartford Athletic – 26.57 points
  18. Swope Park Rangers – 24.67 points

Not a ton of change in the East, but the places where we had some were crucial: namely, right around the playoff line. Saint Louis’s four-game win streak culminated with a victory against Birmingham Legion, and that six-pointer not only put STLFC back into a playoff slot, it bumped them all the way to ninth. They were aided by Charleston’s 0-1-1 week (including a draw against Atlanta United 2) in climbing that much, but for the time being, that “post-Open Cup run” boost looks like it’s finally coming to fruition.

Tampa also drew ATL UTD 2, which makes New York Red Bulls a comfortable No. 2 – indeed, I’d say it’s just as likely Tampa ends fifth as they do second by this point.

Louisville’s “slow and steady wins the race” approach is starting to pay off with results around them helping the Boys in Purple make a move, despite only a marginal increase in their projected point total. A win over Hartford (and the formula isn’t aware, but a close win at that) is hardly inspiring, but that’s better than the loss to Swope(!!) that dropped NCFC behind them.

The tiers remain basically what they have been for the past several weeks, with Ottawa threatening to drop down to that “in or out?” group. Things won’t get super-easy with Tampa in the midweek, but they’d be doing Pittsburgh/Nashville a favor by getting the upset there.

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 8.55.17 PMScreen Shot 2019-09-15 at 8.55.38 PM

Double-chart once again.

USL West power ratings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 79.07 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 61.95 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 58.69 points
  4. Sacramento Republic (+2) – 52.22 points
  5. Orange County – 51.17 points
  6. New Mexico United (+2) – 48.86 points
  7. Real Monarchs (+2) – 48.49 points
  8. Austin Bold (-4) – 47.94 points
  9. LA Galaxy II (-2) – 47.93 points
  10. San Antonio FC (+3) – 45.96 points
  11. El Paso Locomotive (-1) – 45.07 points
  12. Portland Timbers 2 – 42.72 points
  13. OKC Energy (-2) – 42.45 points
  14. Las Vegas Lights – 41.52 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 33.88 points
  16. Tulsa Roughnecks – 33.19 points
  17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 27.92 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 25.94 points

Many changes in position in that meaty middle of the West (the top and bottom are pretty much locked, though Vegas did narrowly avoid dropping past the point of no return, remaining instead in that meaty middle), but it’s worth noting that it’s less about an individual team changing in points, and more about those around them in some cases: LA Galaxy II actually added two hundredths of a projected point, but lost two positions in the rankings because Real Monarchs and New Mexico United moved past them.

With that in mind… we’re still under 11 projected points separating No. 4 Sacramento from No. 14 Vegas. Had the Lights not beaten Fresno Saturday night, the group in contention would have been a little smaller (the reasonable cutoff for playoff potential would have been No. 13 OKC), but the gap from top to bottom of that group even tighter.

Fresno and Reno do inch closer with the aforementioned result complemented by Reno’s wins over Tacoma and Austin. I still think the top three are going to be locked into the order that they currently stand (Phoenix has already clinched second place, with the next several days key to locking up the top spot… with five games still to play).

You can see in the zoomed-in version of the chart that there’s maaaaybe a bit of separation between No. 11 El Paso (as they jockey with San Antonio for that last spot) and No. 12 Portland… and indeed, if the results this week – finally – go in line with what the current projected table would expect, that separation may become close to permanent.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 9.11.15 PM.png

A couple pretty significant moves here, mostly in the West (weird results are way more fun than boring chalk!). Reno’s 7-1 margin over two games bumps them up a bit – though the fact that the 5-0 against Tacoma was only good-not-great to the computer says a lot more about the Defiance than 1868 FC.

Orange County and Salt Lake City both move up a fair amount, both for beating decent-ish mediocre-ish opponents by nice scorelines. Portland moves down more for the 5-1 loss at Monarchs’ hands than El Paso for a 2-0 handling by OC, which is probably fair.

Saint Louis is starting to see some fruits of its recent win streak – though their climb will lag a bit because they aren’t doing it by particularly impressive scores. One-goal wins impact the table more than they do to change the perceived strength of what your team has done. Birmingham is on the bad end of the most recent STLFC result, losing three spots in the table.

Positions locked

We have our first playoff participants in the East!

Rank order in PPG, sorted by max possible points. I accidentally didn’t include all the columns in the West graphic. We regret the error.

Phoenix is guaranteed a top-two finish, and a Fresno loss this week would officially seal the top spot. That can come Wednesday against RGV, or more likely in the teams’ head-to-head game over the weekend. Neither Fresno nor Reno is particularly close to locking up a playoff spot in terms of number of teams they have to get locked ahead of. However, that soft middle of the West could mean plenty of them begin to fall by the wayside.

Anyway, on to the East, which is quite a bit easier to figure, because there’s a bit of separation. Both Indy and New York have sealed playoff spots, while Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Nashville could sew them up this week if al goes their way.

Nobody is technically eliminated from the playoffs in the East, though any Hartford failure to get maximum points (or a Birmingham/Charleston win) would so the trick.

Games to watch

  • #NSHvBHM (7:00 p.m. CDT Tuesday). Nashville is fighting to remain in contention for a second-round home game, while Birmingham suddenly finds itself fighting for its playoff life after Saint Louis’s resurgence. An upset here makes things interesting in a way, but a chalky result is more intriguing for the top of the standings.
    Numbers say: Nashville SC 2.31, Birmingham Legion 1.05
  • #OTTvTBR (7:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday). Both these teams have hit miniature rough patches, with far more damage done to Ottawa (which could still realistically miss the playoffs) than Tampa (still three projected points clear of losing its second-round home game). Pittsburgh and Nashville will certainly be rooting for the upset – while the Birminghams and Saint Louises of the world could use a limp to the finish out of the Fury.
    Numbers say: Ottawa Fury 0.83, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1.67
  • #STLvNY (7:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday). As noted in multiple different sections above, Saint Louis is on a really good run of form. Going up against New York Red Bulls II, though, is a different task than those they’ve completed over the past few weeks. Even on the road, the Baby Bulls are formidable. If they take down Saint Louis, not only does it throw STLFC back into playoff limbo, it gives NYRBII the opportunity to challenge for the top spot in the East.
    Numbers say: Saint Louis FC 1.62, New York Red Bulls II 1.58
  • #LAvSA (7:30 p.m. PDT Friday). Talk about a six-pointer. If we get a clear winner in this game, one team all-but cements its spot in the playoffs – while giving the opponent a suddenly steep task in having a chance to claw back into contention. The Pure Power numbers like San Antonio a lot more… but this one’s on the road, too.
    Numbers say: LA Galaxy II 1.77, San Antonio FC 1.78
  • NSHvPGH (7:00 p.m. CDT Saturday). This game has huge implications for second-round home-field advantage in the East. It’s a six-pointer with the winner having a major upper hand, while the loser has its work cut out for it to grab that home game. These sides drew in Pittsburgh, and if they do the same in Nashville, the Riverhounds retain the upper hand.
    Numbers say: Nashville SC 1.82, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.31
  • #FRSvPHX (7:30 p.m. PDT Saturday). This is the game of the week… but if Phoenix continues its current form (albeit a dropoff from a few weeks ago, but “winning every game” is still, to me, pretty good), it may not be a great one anyway. Of course, Fresno has home-field advantage and definitely some pride to play for in this one, so it could be a tight battle.
    Numbers say: Fresno FC 1.02, Phoenix Rising 1.59
  • #AUSvLVL (6:00 p.m. CDT Sunday). This game might have been a laugher when Austin was easily the best home team in USL and Vegas easily the second-worst (they were never going to hold a candle to Tacoma, in that regard). Now, Bold FC is just OK at home, and Vegas is still pretty awful on the road, but less so. If Bold wins, we can probably cross Vegas off the playoff ledger, while Bold gets closer to a first-round bye. The upset would throw the West into even further chaos.
    Numbers say: Austin Bold FC 2.38, Las Vegas Lights 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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