Nashville SC

USL power ratings: Sept. 23, 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 – 66.79 projected points
  2. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (+2) – 63.25 points
  3. New York Red Bulls II (-1) – 62.89 points
  4. Tampa Bay Rowdies (-1) – 62.76 points
  5. Nashville SC – 61.93 points
  6. Louisville City – 57.66 points
  7. Ottawa Fury (+1) – 53.31 points
  8. North Carolina FC (-1) – 51.26 points
  9. Saint Louis FC – 47.76 points
  10. Charleston Battery – 46.13 points
  11. Birmingham Legion – 45.95 points
  12. Memphis 901 (+1) – 37.30 points
  13. Bethlehem Steel (-1) – 36.36 points
  14. Atlanta United 2 (+2) – 30.87 points
  15. Charlotte Independence (-1) – 30.66 points
  16. Loudoun United (-1) – 29.34 points
  17. Swope Park Rangers (+1) – 27.05 points
  18. Hartford Athletic – 25.65 points

The battle at the top of the East got really interesting with losses for Indy, New York (a pair of them, in fact, for the Baby Bulls), and Tampa. Nashville and Pittsburgh couldn’t find a clear winner between them to take serious advantage, but the big drops for NYRBII and Tampa do see the Riverhounds take over second spot in the East (despite a slight drop in raw numbers).

The Eleven have to be wiping the sweat off their brow after the loss to Birmingham doesn’t punish them a whole lot thanks to the rest of that chaos. Indy still has a crowded schedule with six games left to play, but that’s both a strain on the ol’ stamina and an opportunity to control one’s own destiny going forward.

Other changes throughout the table are mostly uninteresting, aside from the ongoing situation with the 9-11 spots. Saint Louis is not quite two points ahead of Birmingham in the projection, with Charleston’s Sunday win over NCFC landing them in between that pair (the Battery would have been out of the playoff projection with a draw or loss). Things are very tight there, but Charleston has played one of the toughest schedules of anyone in the East – which means their run-in (Red Bulls and Birmingham, but then a non-murderer’s row of Loudoun, Memphis and Bethlehem, and even though this method is blind to location, those are all at home).

Basically what that boils down to is the Legion must win the six-pointer against Charleston in a couple weeks, or rely on getting a result against one of New York or Pittsburgh to feel solid about the playoffs. A situation that looked settled for much of the season is finally a very intriguing one with just a few weeks to go.

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Zoom me in, bro!

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USL West power ratings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 78.37 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 65.69 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 60.14 points
  4. Orange County (+1) – 52.14 points
  5. Sacramento Republic (-1) – 51.48 points
  6. Austin Bold (+2) – 49.40 points
  7. New Mexico United (-1) – 47.82 points
  8. Real Monarchs (-1) – 47.06 points
  9. LA Galaxy II – 47.04 points
  10. El Paso Locomotive (+1) – 46.03 points
  11. San Antonio FC (-1) – 45.57 points
  12. Portland Timbers 2 – 43.87 points
  13. OKC Energy – 42.40 points
  14. Las Vegas Lights – 40.18 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 35.43 points
  16. Tulsa Roughnecks – 32.23 points
  17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 27.05 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 24.09 points

It finally happened! Phoenix list, which means Rising is only about 13 points ahead of No. 2 in the projections (and that team is Fresno, which made a huge climb with the win, too: Phoenix’s dominance over the course of the year was obviously much-discussed, but we may still have been understating things).

The interesting part, of course, comes outside of the top three: anybody from about No. 4 to No. 13 isn’t quite safe yet (though obviously OCSC and Sacramento, at least, are getting very close – and I’ve finally called it a day on Vegas’s postseason hopes), nor is any of them eliminated. As noted in the parenthetical, a couple teams are close to joining the Phoenix-Fresno-Reno triumvirate in being effectively locked into the playoffs, even if they haven’t technically clinched. A win for Sacramento Sunday over an OKC team fighting to stay in the hunt would have done it (and the draw probably doesn’t help OKC enough, either).

Given the difficulties these teams are having in finding separation with one another, the matchups are going to be the key in the final 4-5 games of the year (or six for El Paso). That’s a story for a later section, though.

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.

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At this point in the year, any single game can only affect a team’s numbers so much (it’s only about 1/30th of the resume, after all), so the bigger swings are notable.

Fresno’s win over Phoenix may have required two unsuccessful penalty kicks by Solomon Asante (one saved, one post), but it’s still something nobody else has been able to do since the opening two months of the season. Pretty good! That bumps them way up, even though the game was at home.

Ottawa complemented a very solid 1-0 win over Tampa Bay with a flat-track bully routine against Hartford (two penalty kicks!) to trick the numbers into liking them a little more than is probably justified.

Quietly, Memphis is on a four-game win streak (against three of the worst teams in the league before Saturday’s win over Saint Louis, to be fair, but given that Memphis was one of the worst teams in the league before this streak – and still isn’t far off it – there’s nothing to be ashamed of there), bumping them three spots up the table with the most impressive of the bunch over STLFC.

Indy drops two spots for its loss to Birmingham (who the computers just won’t come around on, even with a result like that: having several losses by three-plus goals’ll do that to you), while Orange County and San Antonio didn’t so much drop as Ottawa and Louisville moved up past them.

Positions locked

Rank order in PPG, sorted by max possible points.

We have our first official eliminations in the East, with Charlotte and Hartford locked out of the playoffs. Eight teams are still alive for the top spot, with the top five-ish all having a realistic shot at it.

In the West, we’ve long known Phoenix would be the No. 1 seed, and with Fresno and Reno both officially locked into the postseason, it’s probably not long before they’re officially seed Nos. 2 and 3. As you may expect given the projections, there’s a significant meaty middle outside of that trio and the bottom two, who have been eliminated.

Games to watch

  • #MEMvPIT (7:00 p.m. CDT Tuesday). Memphis may have thoughts that its current win streak gives it a chance at the postseason. Those thoughts would probably be misguided, but they may exist. Winning this one would make it less a pipe dream. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s taken over the No. 2 spot in the projected table for the time being, so everyone else jockeying for a home game in the second round is pulling against them.
    Numbers say: Memphis 901 1.05, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.79
  • #TULvSA (7:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday). For whatever reason, I’ve found myself pulling for San Antonio to make the playoffs this season – and unfortunately, they’ve mostly let me down, even when they occasionally pull into one of those projected spots. Taking care of a bad Tulsa team is necessary but not sufficient for making the postseason.
    Numbers say: Tulsa Roughnecks 1.20, San Antonio FC 1.30
  • #NYvCHS (7:30 p.m. EDT Friday). Saint Louis and Birmingham (and to a lesser extent, Memphis – I can’t over-emphasize how much I think their postseason hopes are unrealistic) are rooting hard against the Battery. Meanwhile, a Baby Bulls side coming off a rough week will want to defend MSU Soccer Park. If Charleston can make this a game, they’ve earned one of those playoff spots.
    Numbers say: New York Red Bulls II 2.24, Charleston Battery 0.67
  • #LOUvTBR (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). Louisville is playing its best ball of the year – now an annual tradition for late-blossoming LCFC – while Tampa has remained near the top of the table despite playing some really shaky ball. Can the Boys in Purple insert themselves into that second-round host conversation?
    Numbers say: Louisville City 0.95, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1.44
  • PITvIND (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). No. 1 v. No. 2 in the projected table (though both are well below that in quality). What more could you want? Probably goals, since these are two teams who’ll very much mutually agree to a draw.
    Numbers say: Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.31, Indy Eleven 0.80
  • #RNOvSLC (7:00 p.m. PDT Saturday). Reno is feeling comfortable about its standing here, but things are tight enough in that next tier that a loss might have the Monarchs starting to worry.
    Numbers say: Reno 1868 2.59, Real Monarchs SLC 1.59
  • #SACvELP (7:30 p.m. PDT Saturday). If Sacramento is to cement its place among the safe, comfortable playoff teams… it may come at the expense of an El Paso side that’s still just hanging on the fringes. Meanwhile, an El Paso win would have them feeling good about making the playoffs… but keep that middle of the West extremely muddled.
    Numbers say: Sacramento Republic 0.77, El Paso Locomotive 0.34
  • #PORvAUS (1:00 p.m. PDT Sunday). The only Sunday game this week may not be the most intriguing, but there are some implications here. Portland is one of the worst home teams (in comparison to road performance) in the USL, but they need this one to stay realistically in the playoff hunt, most likely.
    Numbers say: Portland Timbers 2 1.97, Austin Bold 1.48

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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