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 (W-L-D) but not location or score.
Pittsburgh’s flat-track bully routine saw the Riverhounds go from pretty close to No. 4 Tampa to much closer to No. 2 Nashville. They ran through that script a few times this year, but were a little iffier against top competition. The analogue would be New York Red Bulls II… who lost as soon as they were in a single-elimination game against a top side. That’s not to say Pittsburgh is doomed, just that the formula may slightly overrate them because they didn’t stop at 2 or 3.
Real Monarchs SLC made a big leap, with a blasting of Orange County SC (previously a pretty good road side) under their belts. The RSL 2-side is similar to Pittsburgh in that they don’t cut off the scoring when they get a lead… but dissimilar in that they’re also likely to give up goals in bunches. In single-elimination play, they could stay hot and overachieve expectations, or see one weak day bomb them out.
Sacramento Republic was the lone team to win a play-in game and win at the weekend – perhaps not surprising, because that’s a really tough ask – and they got rewarded for it by the numbers.
At the very top, Phoenix’s draw against Austin was Rising FC’s second-worst home result (the other being a 2-1 loss to the Monarchs) since April. I’ve shown a bit of wariness late in the year about Phoenix’s form, and while I don’t think they’ll cruise to the title, I do think this one seems a bit more like a blip than an indication of continued slipping. At the same time, Austin was a pretty poor road team for most of the year, so it could be worrisome going into a rematch against SLC. However, #dollarbeernight, so…
Games to watch
literally all of them.
- #PHXvSLC (7:30 p.m. MST Friday). Rising will be the best team in USL history no matter what happens in the playoffs, but they seem determined to make that a bit of a question. Real Monarchs are the most recent team to beat them – and did so in the Valley of the Sun late in the year.
Computer says: Phoenix Rising 2.86, Real Monarchs SLC 1.05
- #PITvLOU (7:00 p.m. EDT Saturday). The Riverhounds are a totally different animal at home, but there’s something to be said for Louisville’s confidence on the heels of back-to-back titles. At the very least, this “score seven goals” stuff won’t keep up for the Hounds.
Computer says: Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.23, Louisville City FC 0.63
- #NSHvIND (7:00 p.m. CDT Saturday). Nashville and Indy have played competitive games over the past two years, but the Eleven were outclassed in Music City earlier this Summer. Can the Boys in Gold do it again in their typical home venue (rather than Nissan Stadium, where the first game took place)?
Computer says: Nashville SC 1.41, Indy Eleven 0.70
- #ELPvSAC (7:30 p.m. MDT Saturday). El Paso swept the season series this year, including a 3-1 game in West Texas. However, Sacramento’s late rise and a late fade for Locomotive could see this one be a little more interesting than the numbers think.
Computer says: El Paso Locomotive 1.21, Sacramento Republic 0.92