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Eastern Conference - One Number Why

With the playoffs kicking off tonight, we take a look at the numbers that will impact each club’s quest for the cup.

Ryan Hodek

On Wednesday, we looked at each first round match for the Eastern Conference, and gave our predictions to each fixture. Given the knockout format of the playoffs, matches can be decided by just a few factors, meaning the advancing to the next round or going home can be decided on just one moment. Today, we look at one defining number which will be why each club in the East will win or lose to the title this season.

#1. Louisville City

Why they will win

1- Seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Over the past two editions of the playoffs, the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference have advanced to the USL Final, winning the league on both occasions. If history is any indication, Louisville should cruise to the league final.

Why they will lose

3- Number of wins by multiple goals against playoff teams. Having run away with the top spot of the Eastern Conference, there was not much that Louisville did wrong this season. One spot of worry for the Kentucky club might be their low number of multi-goal wins against playoff clubs. Playing teams close will mean that Louisville’s defense will always have to be alert, as one mistake could be the difference between advancing or elimination.

#2 Charleston Battery

Why they will win

24- Number of goals scored between Romario Williams and Heviel Cordoves this season. The pair of forwards accounted for nearly half of all the goals scored by the Battery this season. Look for Charleston to lean heavily on this dynamic duo throughout the playoffs.

Why they will lose

3- Number of matches won this season when conceding a goal. Headed into the playoffs, Charleston are currently riding a 10-match winless streak when conceding a goal. A lot of pressure will be placed on the defense to maintain the clean sheet in a match, as we would have to go all the way back to June 24th—a 6-1 triumph over Toronto FC II—to find a match where the Battery conceded a goal, and still took all three points.

#3 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Why they will win

7- Matches unbeaten to close out the regular season. Tampa Bay will be riding the longest unbeaten streak of any playoff club in the East. This momentum will serve them well to hit their stride at the perfect time to make that push towards the final in their maiden USL season.

Why they will lose

1.00- Average points per game on the road. The Rowdies are tied with FC Cincinnati for the second lowest road points per game of the playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Good road form will be key if Tampa has any hope of advancing to the later rounds of the postseason.

#4 Rochester Rhinos

Why they will win

14- Number of clean sheets in the season. Rochester finished the regular season with the most clean sheets and fewest goals conceded in the Eastern Conference. The Rhinos will look to the backline to help guide the club through the playoffs, hoping to return to their first USL Final since 2015.

Why they will lose

36- Goals scored in the regular season. Despite their stout defense, the Rhinos have struggled to score goals on offense, having the lowest goal tally of any Eastern Conference playoff club. Rochester has scored 22 fewer goals than the conference’s goal leader, Louisville, who scored 58 on the year.

#5 Charlotte Independence

Why they will win

1.38- Points per game on the road. The biggest story of the final month of the season had to be Charlotte’s fall from the upper reaches of the conference into the bottom half of the playoffs. One thing that the Independence can capitalize on is their form on the road, having the second highest points per game this season of all Eastern Conference playoff clubs.

Why they will lose

5- Number of losses by Charlotte to close out the season. The Independence cost themselves a home playoff match losing the last five matches of the season. Those five losses each came against playoff clubs, which does not inspire confidence in the club’s ability to compete in the postseason.

#6 FC Cincinnati

Why they will win

100- Saves by Mitch Hildebrandt this season. Hildebrandt finished the regular season as the only keeper in the USL to record 100 or more saves. This reliability in goal for FC Cincinnati should benefit the side, particularly if any match were to go into a penalty shootout.

Why they will lose

4- Number of wins against playoff teams in the regular season. Alongside Bethlehem and New York Red Bulls II, FC Cincinnati have the fewest wins against this year’s crop of playoff clubs. A lack of success against the top clubs in the East does not bode well for the Ohio club’s chances at advancing deep into the postseason.

#7 New York Red Bulls II

Why they will win

11- Number of wins when scoring the opening goal. The key for the defending champions to earn results in the postseason will be to find the back of the net first. If the Baby Bulls find themselves in the lead early in a match, they can become a very dangerous and difficult to club to face.

Why they will lose

13- Number of losses by NYRB II when conceding multiple goals in a match. Despite their prowess on attack, the Baby Bulls have struggled the most on defense of any playoff team, even leading the conference in goals conceded at 60. When NYRB II gave up multiple goals in a match, they went on to lose that fixture 13 times this season, with only 2 wins when allowing multiple goals.

#8 Bethlehem Steel FC

Why they will win

1.31- Points per game on the Road. Much like Charlotte mentioned above, Bethlehem have performed very well away from Goodman Stadium this season. Steel are in the top four of playoff clubs road points per game this season, which should benefit them when they open the postseason on the road in Louisville.

Why they will lose

8- Number of losses Steel have when they concede multiple goals. Bethlehem are tied with the fewest clean sheets (6) of any playoff team in the East. If Steel were to concede more than one goal in a match, it may doom their chances to advance. This does not sit well for the first round fixture as they face the Eastern Conference leader in goals.

Who do you think will win the Eastern Conference? What is your prediction for 2017 USL Final? Do you see any upsets happening over the course of the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below!