USL Rankings – 2 June 2015

After a brief hiatus, the Scratching the Pitch USL Rankings are back. While we were away, USL dominated NASL in the third round of the US Open Cup, and some “surprising” rumors about corruption within FIFA have begun to surface. The USL regular season also continued along its merry way.

The item that jumps off this list and the table is the difference in performance of the MLS-2 sides in the Eastern and Western Conferences. In the East, the MLS-2 teams are precipitating toward the bottom. In the west, however, MLS-2 squads are scattered up and down the ladder. There are a number of factors that contribute to phenomenon, but StP is going to stick with Occam’s Razor for an explanation. The Eastern Conference is full of strong independent USL teams with storied histories, while many of the independent USL clubs in the West are nearly as young as their MLS-2 counterparts.

USL Eastern Conference

RochesterRhinos_100E1. Rochester Rhinos

Last StP Rank: 1

USL Standings: 1 | Record: 7-0-4

PPG: 2.27 (1) | Goal Ratio: 3.50 (1) | TSR: 0.70 (1)

Rochester has clearly been the dominant team in the USL Eastern Conference to this point in the season. The Rhinos are the only undefeated team remaining in the entire league, and they have posted seven shutouts through 11 matches.

Last week, Rochester dispatched Montreal for the third time this season, effectively killing an old rivalry before it could be renewed. Steevan Humberto Fortes dos Santos knocked in the game-winner early in the first half.

Up Next This Week: The Rhinos have a bye week.

CharlestonBattery_100E2. Charleston Battery

Last StP Rank: 2

USL Standings: 2 | Record: 6-1-4

PPG: 2.00 (2) | Goal Ratio: 1.58 (3) | TSR: 0.59 (3)

Justin Portillo converted from the mark in the 18th minute for his second goal of the season, and the Battery held on to beat Wilmington 1-0 at Blackbaud on Saturday.

StP would like to give a tip of the cap to Maikel Chang. The Cuban international has not received much attention outside of Charleston, but he his play has merited it. Chang’s 5 assists are tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 at Wilmington Hammerheads FC

This will be the third meeting between the Battery and Hammerheads FC this season. Charleston won both prior matches by a combined score of 3-1.

LouisvilleCityFC_100E3. Louisville City FC

Last Week StP Rank: 3

USL Standings: 4 | Record: 4-1-5

PPG: 1.70 (4) | Goal Ratio: 2.25 (2) | TSR: 0.59 (4)

Louisville may be an expansion team, but there is plenty of experience in those purple kits. Kadeem Dacres, who provided the goal in the recent 1-1 draw against Saint Louis, has been excellent at times. Matt Fondy is starting to get hot. StP fails to see how this club might miss the playoffs.

Up Next This Week: Louisville has a bye week.

RichmondKickers_100E4. Richmond Kickers

Last StP Rank: 3

USL Standings: 3 | Record: 5-2-4

PPG: 1.73 (3) | Goal Ratio: 1.46 (4) | TSR: 0.49 (6)

The month of May presented a bit of trouble for the Kickers, beginning with an implosion in the opening moments of the second half against Charleston on May 2. Richmond only managed two points in four games through the first four weeks of May.

Last week, though, Richmond doubled-up Red Bulls II by a score of 4-2. Eli Garner and George Davis IV were both credited with a goal and an assist. A triple save by Ryan Taylor early in the contest helped keep the momentum in favor of the Kickers.

Up Next This Week: Sun., June 7 versus Charlotte Independence.

This will be the third meeting between the Independence and the Kickers this season. Richmond won the first match by a score of 3-0. Charlotte won the second match by the same score.

PittsburghRiverhounds_100E5. Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Last StP Rank: 5

USL Standings: 5 | Record: 4-3-6

PPG: 1.50  (6) | Goal Ratio: 1.25 (5) | TSR: 0.48 (7)

The Riverhounds have been an exciting team to watch under Coach Steffens in 2015, and it is safe to say that the 6-5 comeback against Harrisburg represented the acme of exhilaration. The Riverhounds snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with three goals in stoppage time.

Rob Vincent and Kevin Kerr have proven to be every bit as much a dynamic attacking duo as Dallman and Angulo were a couple of years back. If the Riverhounds defense stiffens a bit, then Pittsburgh will be more than formidable down the stretch.

Up Next This Week: Sun., June 7 versus Saint Louis FC

The Riverhounds and Saint Louis FC played to a 1-1 draw in the only previous meeting on April 11.

HarrisburgCityIslanders_100E6. Harrisburg City Islanders

Last StP Rank: 7

USL Standings: 6 | Record: 4-3-1

PPG: 1.63 (5) | Goal Ratio: 1.13 (6) | TSR: 0.45 (9)

Harrisburg stumbled out the blocks this season, but were climbing up the standings with 13 points in the club’s last five matches. Then the City Islanders lost to Pittsburgh last week after leading 5-3 in the 86th minute. Time will tell if there are lingering effects from the tragic outcome of this match.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 versus Toronto FC II

This will be the first meeting between the City Islanders and Toronto FC II.

SaintLouisFC_100E7. Saint Louis FC

Last StP Rank: 6

USL Standings: 7 | Record: 3-3-3

PPG: 1.33 (7) | Goal Ratio: 1.00 (7) | TSR: 0.46 (8)

Although the Louligans often have the last word when it comes to “bantering” with the Coopers, Saint Louis FC has yet to put an exclamation point on the pitch against Louisville. The two sides have played to two consecutive draws after Louisville claimed victory in the season opener for both clubs. Saint Louis will have one more chance to even the series against their rivals, and it will come in the last match of the regular season. StP gets the impression that as long as St Louis continues to play decent soccer, fans will not really care about any results until that final contest.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Saint Louis FC and the Riverhounds played to a 1-1 draw in the only previous meeting on April 11.

CharlotteIndependence_100E8. Charlotte Independence

Last Week StP Rank: 9

USL Standings: 9 | Record: 2-3-3

PPG: 1.13 (8) | Goal Ratio: 0.82 (8) | TSR: 0.59 (2)

The Independence are starting to gallop at a pace equal to that of the horse and rider depicted on their crest. Charlotte started the season with a paltry 0-2-2 record. In the last four matches, however, the Independence have put together a respectable 2-1-1 record, with both wins coming against top teams in the conference.

StP is interested to see the long-term effects caused by the departure of athletic defender, Marlon Hairston. Hairston provided an extra spark in the Charlotte attack and earned a recall back to Colorado Rapids. He leaves a gap behind him that will not be easy to fill.

Up Next This Week: Sun., June 7 at Richmond Kickers

This will be the third meeting between the Independence and the Kickers this season. Richmond won the first match by a score of 3-0. Charlotte won the second match by the same score.

NewYorkRedBullsII_100E9. New York Red Bulls II

Last Week StP Rank: 8

USL Standings: 8 | Record: 3-5-3

PPG: 1.09 (9) | Goal Ratio: 0.79 (9) | TSR: 0.49 (5)

Here is the good news for any fans of RBNYII. Your club has completed two matches against each of Rochester, Richmond, and Charleston. In theory, Red Bulls II should face easier competition most of the rest of the way. StP predicts that more and more results are headed to New York.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 at FC Montreal

Red Bulls II beat Red Bulls II by a score of 3-2 on May 24 in the only previous meeting between the two clubs.

TorontoFCII_100E10. Toronto FC II

Last Week StP Rank: 11

USL Standings: 10 | Record: 2-5-2

PPG: 0.89 (10) | Goal Ratio: 0.47 (10) | TSR: 0.39 (11)

There are road warriors, and there is Toronto FC II. Let us not confuse one with the other. While one might sympathize with a team having to play its first eight matches on the road, one would also have expected better than five losses in that time.

On the bright side, TFCII competed with Rochester in the club’s first match in Toronto last week. The overwhelming majority of the remaining schedule keeps the junior reds in the friendly confines of home.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 at Harrisburg City Islanders

This will be the first meeting between Toronto FC II and the City Islanders.

WilmingtonHammerheadsFC_100E11. Wilmington Hammerheads FC

Last Week StP Rank: 10

USL Standings: 11 | Record: 1-6-3

PPG: 0.60 (11) | Goal Ratio: 0.44 (11) | TSR: 0.42 (10)

There are certainly any number of Hammerheads staffers, players, and fans ready to hit the reset button on this season.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 versus Charleston Battery

This will be the third meeting between Hammerheads FC and the Battery this season. Wilmington lost both prior matches by a combined score of 3-1.

FCMontreal_100E12. FC Montreal

Last Week StP Rank: 12

USL Standings: 12 | Record: 1-7-0

PPG: 0.38 (12) | Goal Ratio: 0.36 (12) | TSR: 0.37 (12)

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to mention Antigua in association with a last place team in the rankings. I only do it now so that you are not fooled by the numbers. FC Montreal will not surpass the former USL club in terms of futility.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 versus New York Red Bulls II

FC Montreal was defeated 3-2 by Red Bulls II on May 24 in the only previous meeting between the two clubs.

USL Western Conference

OrangeCountyBluesFC_100W1. Orange County Blues FC

Last StP Rank: 1

USL Standings: 3 | Record: 5-3-1

PPG: 1.78 (2) | Goal Ratio: 1.88 (1) | TSR: 0.62 (1)

Make no mistake. The Blues are a legitimate contender to win the USL Western Conference.

Orange County has a number of attacking weapons in its arsenal with whom most American soccer fans were previously unfamiliar. Didier Crettenand (Switzerland), Cristofer Ramirez (San Salvador), and Denzel Slager (Netherlands) have been potent options all season. Midfielder Sueng Ju Kim (South Korea) is starting to hit his stride and has three assists in four appearances.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 versus LA Galaxy II

This will be the first meeting between Blues FC and Galaxy II this season.

SeattleSoundersFC2_100W2. Seattle Sounders FC 2

Last StP Rank: 2

USL Standings: 1 | Record: 6-3-2

PPG: 1.82 (1) | Goal Ratio: 1.44 (2) | TSR: 0.51 (5)

It’s not as if Seattle’s roster is devoid of players that keep goalkeepers awake at night. The likes of Andy Craven and Darwin Jones have helped make Sounders FC 2 the highest scoring team in the league. Unlike the Blues, though, Seattle’s emphasis on the attack has sometimes left the back exposed. Seattle may be the only team to average more than 2 goals per game, but they also concede 1.5 goals per game.

Up Next This Week: Fri., June 5 versus Tulsa Roughnecks FC

Sounders FC 2 lost 4-3 to Roughnecks FC in the only previous meeting on April 16.

SacramentoRepublicFC_100W3. Sacramento Republic FC

Last StP Rank: 6

USL Standings: 2 | Record: 6-5-1

PPG: 1.58 (4) | Goal Ratio: 1.40 (3) | TSR: 0.59 (2)

Anyone remotely familiar with USL will attest to fabulous play of Rodgrigo Lopez, but is Sacramento Republic FC a one-man band? In the 2015 USL regular season, Republic FC is 6-0-0 when Lopez scores a goal. Conversely, Sacramento is 0-5-1 when Lopez does not score a goal. (Okay, in this instance Occam’s Razor probably doesn’t do the trick. The stat is still quite interesting, wouldn’t you say?)

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 versus Austin Aztex

This will be the first meeting between Republic FC and the Aztex.

OKCEnergyFC_100W4. OKC Energy FC

Last StP Rank: 3

USL Standings: 5 | Record: 3-2-3

PPG: 1.50 (5) | Goal Ratio: 1.00 (6) | TSR: 0.52 (4)

A certain USL blogger and OKC supporter started to worry when his team went four consecutive matches without a victory. Back-to-back wins against Sacramento and Austin should assuage his fears.

Danni Konig (5G, 2A) appears to be the offensive option that OKC lacked in its inaugural season.

Up Next This Week: Fri., June 5 versus Portland Timbers 2

This will be the first meeting between Energy FC and Timbers 2.

ColoradoSpringsSwitchbacksFC_100W5. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Last StP Rank: 7

USL Standings: 9 | Record: 4-5-0

PPG: 1.33 (7) | Goal Ratio: 1.21 (4) | TSR: 0.48 (7)

Admittedly, the StP staff scratched their heads when the computer spit out Colorado Springs at number five in the West. The Switchbacks have lost to every opponent they have faced other than Salt Lake City and Arizona United.

On the other hand, Colorado Springs is scoring goals at a clip only surpassed by Seattle. At the center of that attack is USL veteran Luke Vercollone (5G, 4A).

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 versus Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

This will be the first meeting between Switchbacks FC and Whitecaps FC 2.

LAGalaxyII_100W6. LA Galaxy II

Last StP Rank: 9

USL Standings: 5 | Record: 5-4-1

PPG: 1.60 (3) | Goal Ratio: 1.08 (5) | TSR: 0.58 (3)

An ugly 0-3-1 start to the season has been overcome by LA victories in five of the last six matches. The most recent win came thanks to a stoppage time goal by Raul Mendiola. It was a bit of a role reversal for Mendiola, who has been a playmaker this season for Los Dos. The product of the LA Galaxy Academy has contributed seven assists so far this season.

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 at Orange County Blues FC

This will be the first meeting this year between Galaxy II and Blues FC.

PortlandTimbers2_100W7. Portland Timbers 2

Last StP Rank: 8

USL Standings: 6 | Record: 4-4-2

PPG: 1.40 (6) | Goal Ratio: 0.93 (7) | TSR: 0.44 (10)

Portland is a squad that has primarily handled teams in the bottom half of the table and struggled with those in the top half. Consequently, T2 finds itself near the middle of the standings and these rankings.

Up Next This Week: Fri., June 5 at OKC Energy FC

This will be the first meeting between Timbers 2 and Energy FC.

ArizonaUnitedSC_100W8. Arizona United SC

Last StP Rank: 4

USL Standings: 7 | Record: 4-5-1

PPG: 0.60 (12) | Goal Ratio: 0.55 (12) | TSR: 0.39 (12)

Arizona has been abysmal in most of its matches, and the numbers bear that out. United gives up nearly twice as many goals as it scores, which is no surprise because they allow their opponents many more opportunities than they are able to create for themselves.

StP is included among the many media outlets that praised Arizona for offseason additions to the roster. Perhaps this is a case in which a group of talented individuals has been assembled rather than a team that plays well together in a system.

Up Next This Week: United has a bye week.

AustinAztex_100W9. Austin Aztex

Last StP Rank: 7

USL Standings: 8 | Record: 4-6-1

PPG: 1.18 (9) | Goal Ratio: 0.87 (8) | TSR: 0.47 (9)

Up Next This Week: Sat., June 6 at Sacramento Republic

This will be the first meeting between the Aztex and Republic FC.

VancouverWhitecapsFC2_100W10. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

Last StP Rank: 10

USL Standings: 10 | Record: 3-4-3

PPG: 1.20 (8) | Goal Ratio: 0.80 (9) | TSR: 0.42 (11)

Up Next This Week: Wed., June 3 at Real Monarchs SLC and Sat., June 6 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Whitecaps FC 2 lost 2-1 to the Monarchs on May 24. This will be the first meeting between Whitecaps FC 2 and Switchbacks FC.

TulsaRoughnecksFC_100W11. Tulsa Roughnecks FC

Last StP Rank: 12

USL Standings: 11 | Record: 3-5-2

PPG: 1.10 (10) | Goal Ratio: 0.56 (10) | TSR: 0.48 (8)

The Roughnecks had won back-to-back games for the first time this season before being beaten by Portland last week.

Gibson Bardsley leads the team with 3 goals scored.

Up Next This Week: Fri., June 5 at Seattle Sounders FC 2

Roughnecks FC edged Sounders 2 by a score of 4-3 in the only previous meeting on April 16.

RealMonarchsSLC_100W12. Real Monarchs SLC

Last StP Rank: 11

USL Standings: 12 | Record: 1-6-4

PPG: 0.64 (11) | Goal Ratio: 0.56 (11) | TSR: 0.49 (6)

This is not the team I thought I would see based on my perceptions of the Real Salt Lake academy. Perhaps I should allow a season or two for some continuity to develop between the academy and the Monarchs.

Up Next This Week: Wed., June 3 versus Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2

The Monarchs lost 2-1 in the only previous meeting with Whitecaps FC 2 on May 24.

Explaining the Rankings

This isn’t the hip, advanced statistical analysis of TSR and PDO (look for that in future posts), but an algorithm has been applied to arrive at the rankings presented here. The four components of the algorithm are:

  • Match Results – Wins, losses, and draws aren’t the only thing, but they are a great place to start.
  • Strength of Opponent – As the cliché goes, you have to beat the best to be the best.
  • Match Location – It is usually more difficult to win on the road, and clubs get credit for that here.
  • Goal Differential – Beating the best is one thing. Beating them into a pulp is even better.

Points per game (PPG), goal ratio, and total shot ratio (TSR) are not included in the algorithm used to calculate the rankings, but they are valuable metrics. StP thought the readers would be interested to view them alongside the rankings.

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