One of my favorite things about the Elo rankings system is the ability to accurately compare teams from season to season, settling debates if a current club would top a club of years past. With last year’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings in hand, we’re taking a look back to compare this year’s teams to their 2016 counterparts.
Before you dive into this, remember that just because a team is shown to regress here, it does not mean that the club is performing poorly in an absolute sense. The comparison here is relative to the club as it was at this point last season, not to the conference as a whole. Also, not every club has played the same number of matches so far.
The ratings are in descending order based on how a team stacks up to its 2016 counterpart. Those that show the most improvement are at the top, while those that regressed the most are at the bottom.
These ratings up to date with Wednesday night’s matches on June 7th.
Orlando City B: +22pts
After making the 2016 playoffs on the final day of the regular season only to be bounced out by the eventual champs in the first round, Orlando City B are certainly headed in the right direction. OCB is the Eastern Conference’s most improved club this season so far.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds: +20pts
The Riverhounds aren’t exactly taking the Eastern Conference by storm so far this season, but 2017 is still definitely an improvement for the folks at Highmark Stadium. The Riverhounds appear to have a much better side this time around and sit above in-state rivals Harrisburg in the table, something they could not claim at the end of last year.
Charleston Battery: +16pts
The Eastern Conference leaders have made major improvements this year. Romario Williams has become the East’s premier scoring threat and this Battery team just keeps finding ways to win.
Rochester Rhinos: +4pts
The 2015 USL Champions have maintained their playoff caliber side, and could be heading back to the postseason with a team that looks better than last year’s.
Bethlehem Steel FC: +0pts
Bethlehem is one of two clubs in the East whose rating has not shifted at all from last season’s. The Steel have been a relatively consistent club this year, with ratings fluctuating between as high as 1100 to as low as 1083.
Saint Louis FC: +0pts
Saint Louis have seen no change in their rating from last season - which was at its highest point at this time last season. The club sits on the edge of the playoff race currently, with only one win in their last five matches.
Toronto FC II: -6pts
Yes, they are last in the both the league table and our Power Rankings, but this Toronto FC II club is not far behind its 2016 counterparts.
Louisville City: -9pts
Louisville are only slightly off the pace of their 2016 Eastern Conference runner-up selves with much of the season left to play. Louisville is also one of three clubs to have never fallen below the average Elo rating this season.
Harrisburg City Islanders: -11pts
Much like last season, Harrisburg has seen its rating hang around 1100 with some shifts above and below. This year, the City Islanders have seen a bit more fluctuation in their rating, a change of 18 points through the first 10 matches this season.
Charlotte Independence: -17pts
This time last season, Charlotte were a top five club in the East. This year, the Independence have only recently found their rating move back above the average. Although after a strong May, the North Carolina team can only go up from here.
Richmond Kickers: -26pts
Since earning seventh seed in the playoffs a year ago, the Kickers have completely fallen off of the pace from their postseason berth. Compared to last year, Richmond’s rating did not drop below 1100 until the second half of the season. Now, the Kickers’ rating was last above the average after week 1.
FC Cincinnati: -34pts
After smashing expectations and raising the bar for any new expansion club, FC Cincinnati have struggled to find the play to match last season’s in the first two months of the 2017 season.
New York Red Bulls II: -37pts
NYRB II are not a bad club this season, they sit in fourth of the Eastern Conference table as of Wednesday and many of their starters from last year returned for 2017. However, this year’s squad is not performing at the level as the 2016 USL Champions, which is not terribly surprising considering how well they did last season.
Orlando City B is the most improved club of the Eastern Conference thus far. Pittsburgh, Charleston and Rochester join the Florida club as those sides that have seen their rating improve from the same point in 2016. Of these four clubs, three of them currently occupy playoff spots.
Of the two clubs that have regressed relative to this point last year, Louisville and Charlotte have still managed to keep their ratings above 1100, meaning that they are still very dangerous this year. These clubs can still climb up the rankings ladder this season and appear to be just as capable of crashing the party at the top as they were last year.
Despite being bottom of our regression table, FC Cincinnati and New York Red Bulls II still sit in the heart of the playoff race. That is not as an indictment on their club of this season, but a testament to how well these two played last season. Both Cincinnati and NYRB II’s current rating is within 10 points of the average, leaving more than enough time to make any lost ground from the first two months.
What do you think of the Eastern Conference Elo rating Improvement/Regression table? Which clubs do you think improved the most this from last year, and which clubs didn’t live up to expectations? Let us know in the comments below!