The final whistle of the 2016 USL regular season has blown, which means the table is set and the playoffs will soon begin. In anticipation of the exciting race to crown the 2016 USL Champion, we're taking a brief look at some of the advantages and disadvantages that each Western Conference playoff team brings to the party.
(Eastern Conference can be found here)
Lucky: 19%. This is the percentage of games lost this season by Sacramento against other playoff teams. It is the lowest percentage out of any team who qualified for the USL playoffs in either conference.
Unlucky: 1. Republic only achieved a margin of victory greater than one goal against a playoff team once during the regular season, a 2-0 win against LA Galaxy II. If the Republic are unable to pull away from teams, they will always be in danger of one play costing them greatly.
Rio Grande Valley Toros:
Lucky: 7. RGVFC recorded seven wins against playoff teams, the highest number out of any team in the Western Conference. The Toros are able to put up a fight against the best of the best, and tend to come away victorious more often than not.
Unlucky: 3. The Toros only won three games in which they did not keep a clean sheet during the regular season. In order to succeed in the playoffs, where the best quality teams are playing, you need to have the ability to win a game where both teams get on the board. This is something that the Toros have not proven they can do.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks:
Lucky: 0.84. The Switchbacks goalkeeper, Devala Gorrick, was the only one in the USL to start at least 25 games and have a goals against average below 0.85 goals.
Unlucky: 7. The Switchbacks lost all seven games during the regular season where their opponent scored multiple goals. The ability to survive a shootout, which the Switchbacks do not possess, will be important in the postseason.
Swope Park Rangers:
Lucky: 6. The Rangers both won and scored multiple goals in six of their final seven games of the regular season. If Swope Park can stay hot at the right time, they will be a threat to any opponent.
Unlucky: 1.08. The Rangers gained an average of 1.08 points from their playoff-bound opponents in the regular season. This is the lowest such number in the West and trails only Orlando City B (1.06) for worst out of any team who made the postseason in either conference.
Los Angeles Galaxy II:
Lucky: 52. The Galaxy II led the USL West in goals scored, and was tied with Louisville for 2nd overall. A high-scoring offense is always a threat in the playoffs.
Unlucky: 32.7. Los Dos' leading goal scorer and runner up for the USL Golden Boot award, Jack McBean, only played in 17 games for Galaxy II before being loaned to fourth tier English side Coventry City. In his short time with LA he scored 15 goals and assisted on 2, meaning he accounted for nearly a third of the Los Dos scoring. Though they are still a potent offense, they have not been the same without McBean, something that could haunt them in the postseason.
Vancouver Whitecaps 2:
Lucky: 1.64. The Whitecaps gained the most points per game against playoff competition out of any team who qualified for the playoffs in the Western Conference. While they are starting off on the road, they have proven they can beat the best both at home and away.
Unlucky: 4. In the final 15 games of the season, Vancouver only managed four wins. In their first 15 games they took home eight victories. A win on the final week of the season moved them up to 6th, but the Whitecaps are still ice cold when they should be heating up.
Oklahoma City Energy:
Lucky: 10. The Energy only allowed ten second-half goals in the regular season, and proved to be difficult to break down if they can take the lead into halftime, allowing a second-half goal on average in one of every three games.
Unlucky: 32. The Energy are the lowest scoring team to make the playoffs in the entire league. Even if you are solid on defense, and the Energy is, you need to score to win games. The Energy also only recorded 10 wins, the fewest of all Western Conference playoff teams.
Orange County Blues:
Lucky: 19. Didier Crettenand and Trevin Caesar, the top two scorers for Orange County this season, combined for an impressive 19 goals. With these two players, who specialize in set piece and open field play respectively, the Blues have a weapon for all situations.
Unlucky: -2. The Blues are the only Western Conference playoff team that finished with a negative goal differential. Having found themselves in a hole at the end of the season, it is unlikely that they can climb out of that bad of a track record.
Which disadvantages do you think teams will be able to overcome? Which advantages are only important on paper? Are there other pluses or minuses that we are missing here?
Let us know in the comments below!