USL power ratings: Oct. 7, 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. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 65.14 projected points
  2. Nashville SC (+2) – 62.26 points
  3. Indy Eleven (-1) – 61.86 points
  4. New York Red Bulls II (+1) – 60.43 points
  5. Tampa Bay Rowdies (-2) – 60.15 points
  6. Louisville City – 59.07 points
  7. North Carolina FC – 55.18 points
  8. Ottawa Fury – 54.02 points
  9. Charleston Battery (+1) – 45.95 points
  10. Saint Louis FC (-1) – 45.51 points
  11. Birmingham Legion – 43.49 points
  12. Memphis 901 – 37.52 points
  13. Charlotte Independence (+2) – 34.38 points
  14. Atlanta United 2 – 34.15 points
  15. Bethlehem Steel (-2) – 33.33 points
  16. Loudoun United – 32.85 points
  17. Swope Park Rangers – 28.12 points
  18. Hartford Athletic – 24.57 points

Pittsburgh managed to drop points in one of its two games this week, but with control of their own destiny (still a point clear of Nashville if both teams win all remaining games, and three points ahead of Indy if the Eleven do the same), and the easiest schedule remaining of any Eastern Conference contender – dating back to their win over Loudoun Tuesday and their draw against Atlanta Saturday, their only games against teams with the opportunity to make the playoffs come the next two weekends against Saint Louis and Birmingham. Certainly both of those sides will be scrapping for that final playoff spot, but certainly there’s a reason they have to, as well.

Nashville was the beneficiary of some favorable out-of-town results, the only team in the top five to not drop any points this week (because they did not play). That bumped them up the rankings despite an extremely slight reduction in their rating. Indy finally halted its precipitous (four games in a row) fall, but the recovery maneuver can only do so much there.

Down the table, things mostly played out as expected (keep an eye on Louisville’s annual late-season surge, by the way), with a little bit of wiggle for that aforementioned final playoff spot. Neither Charleston nor Birmingham could strike a blow in their six-pointer, which is probably much more damaging for the Legion – which currently projects out of the playoffs, and would have been a lock with the win – given that Charleston (home games against Memphis, Loudoun, and Bethlehem) has an end-of-season schedule so easy it would make Pittsburgh blush.

It’s worth noting, at this point in the year, that the decimal projections are a little silly – we know exactly how many points are possible for these teams (for those with three games left, 0-7 or 9, those with two 0-4 or 6), and splitting hairs by hundredths of a projected point is a bit… pedantic, maybe? Still, the purpose of the exercise is about comparisons between the teams more so than it’s about the strict point totals themselves: just n=know to take the latter with a grain of salt.

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Zoom me in, bro!

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USL West power ratings

  1. Phoenix Rising – 77.82 projected points
  2. Fresno FC – 58.74 points
  3. Reno 1868 – 57.56 points
  4. Orange County (+1) – 51.64 points
  5. Austin Bold (-1) – 50.70 points
  6. El Paso Locomotive (+4) – 50.46 points
  7. Sacramento Republic (-1) – 50.40 points
  8. Real Monarchs (-1) – 49.52 points
  9. New Mexico United – 47.47 points
  10. LA Galaxy II (-2) – 46.33 points
  11. San Antonio FC – 44.40 points
  12. Las Vegas Lights (+1) – 43.36 points
  13. Portland Timbers 2 (-1) – 42.12 points
  14. OKC Energy – 39.99 points
  15. Rio Grande Valley – 37.74 points
  16. Tulsa Roughnecks – 33.08 points
  17. Colorado Springs Switchbacks – 28.39 points
  18. Tacoma Defiance – 26.98 points

Nobody in that middle tier seems to have particular interest in separating from the pack, and that’s increasingly applying to Nos. 2 and 3 (Fresno lost to El Paso and Tacoma this week, while Reno drew El Paso), so it may be for the best that Austin Bold didn’t play this week, even if it saw them – at least temporarily – move behind Orange County SC. It’s also semi-wild that OCSC move up more than an entire point for a win against No. 14 in the table, but such is the nature of this cramped middle group.

El Paso’s big week (you may recall them from such positive results as “beating No. 2 and drawing No. 3, as discussed in the previous paragraph) moves them up into safe playoff position, and for the time being, even a projected by spot.

While there’s still plenty of time for craziness – and certainly we’ve seen at least our fair share thereof this season, particularly in the West – it does look like the teams currently occupying 1-8 are safely in the playoff field (with the order still way up in the air for 4-8), while New Mexico and LA Galaxy are very close, with San Antonio and maaaaaybe Vegas having an outside shot.

With just 22 games in two weeks left to play in the West, it’s crazy how much some things are still up in the air. That’s what happens when one team (Phoenix) is dominant enough that they were a guaranteed loss for teams most of the year, and another couple (Tacoma and Colorado Springs) were largely a guaranteed three points for most of the season – the range for teams outside those two groups gets much tighter. Fresno and Reno made the most of it, the current 13-16 didn’t take advantage, and the rest is teams slugging it out mid-table.

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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Pittsburgh’s draw against Atlanta United 2 dings them worse here than it does on the table, but it’s mostly a non-entity. They have been (and remain) close enough to Nashville for a while now that we can consider those teams effectively equal on strength, so nothing really changed with a slight flip in the 100ths place.

Indy’s “lose close, win big” strategy this week helped them out, as weak results from teams near the top of the West provided the opportunity to move up in pure power even as the Eleven continued to hemorrhage points in their quest to win the East. It surprises me to see Indy (which has stunk results-wise on the road) not have a massive homefield advantage number, but I guess they’re largely winning 1-0 or 2-1 even at Lucas Oil, and a 0-1 road loss isn’t going to harm then advanced numbers too much.

Not a ton of intrigue up and down the table here, with a few one-position flips and not much more.

Positions locked

Rank numbers in PPG, table sorted by max possible points.

There are now official just 12 teams left in playoff contention in the East (though it’d require a miracle for Memphis, and it’s getting late for No. 11 Birmingham), and we’re stuck on six remaining alive for the conference title. We’re also pretty close to locking in Hartford as the conference’s worst team.

On the other side of the Mississippi (shhh I won’t look at a map if you don’t try to tell me where Saint Louis and Kansas City are), Phoenix remains the only team with its spot fully locked-in, but Fresno is getting pretty close despite its brutal week. Four teams are officially eliminated from playoff contention, with OKC’s only hope to not join them requires a perfect close to their season, LA Galaxy II losing out, and making up a GD of four along the way (which, to be fair, would be required for them to get two wins while LA gets two losses).

North Carolina officially punched its playoff ticket in the East, while there are now five Western Conference berths (Phoenix, Fresno, Reno, Orange County, Sacramento) spoken for.

Games to watch

  • #NSHvLOU (7:00 p.m. CDT Tuesday). This is a huge one in the East. With a win, Nashville gets inside track on the No. 2 position in the final table. With a loss, Louisville’s late-season rise has made it possible that a position as low as sixth is possible (though top four remains most likely). A win for Louisville would almost certainly make LCFC a top-four side, given they have two layups to end the year.
    Numbers say: Nashville SC 1.03, Louisville City 0.69
  • #SLCvOC (7:00 p.m. MDT Wednesday). The congestion in the middle portion of the Western Conference table makes this one the potential difference between a first-round bye and second-round home game, and a first-round road game for either of these teams (and in the worst-case scenario, a Monarchs loss could be the first step of missing the playoffs entirely).
    Numbers say: Real Monarchs 2.20, Orange County SC 1.13
  • #ELPvAUS (7:00 p.m. MDT Thursday). The rare Thursday game is not just existent, but a pretty good one, too: the downside for either of these teams isn’t as severe as SLC’s is the night before, but the upside is pretty significant. Even though they won’t control their destiny when it comes to passing OC, there’s a chance at a home playoff game regardless.
    Numbers say: El Paso Locomotive 1.49, Austin Bold 0.79
  • #PORvSA (7:00 p.m. PDT Friday). Last-gasp time for San Antonio. Taking care of this one is necessary but not sufficient (they’ll need quite a bit of help, in fact) for keeping the playoff dream alive.
    Numbers say: Portland Timbers 2 2.06, San Antonio FC 1.98
  • #TBRvIND (7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday). This is the blockbuster of the week in the East if it’s not that Tuesday game between Nashville and Louisville (which is probably more significant on the basis of current form, though not the table). Other teams near the top are hoping for the traditional Indy “bunker to draw.”
    Numbers say: Tampa Bay Rowdies 1.60, Indy Eleven 0.90
  • #FRSvLA (7:30 p.m. PDT Saturday). Fresno beat Phoenix Rising… and has gone on to lose three in a row, sometimes in embarrassing fashion. Can the Foxes pull out of their tailspin to retain the No. 2 seed in the West and enter the playoffs with some sort of form? LA Galaxy II is still fighting for a playoff spot, and getting the upset would go a long way toward sealing it.
    Numbers say: Fresno FC 2.02, Los Angeles Galaxy II 1.33
  • #SACvOC (7:30 p.m. PDT Saturday). Another game that can have an outsized impact on that crowded middle in the West. Either of these teams could compete for that No. 4 spot in the conference, and a six-pointer against another contender for the position would be massively helpful to either.
    Numbers say: Sacramento Republic 1.30, Orange County SC 0.77

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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