Now that most teams have played one third of their seasons, it is time to start looking at how they compare to their 2016 selves. One way to make this comparison is to look at the ICS Power Rankings and use them to compare how each team was faring at this point last season.
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, we are all familiar with the concept of USL teams not playing the same number of games from week to week. We’ve taken the USL’s notoriously unbalance schedule into consideration for this comparison.
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 8th. As Reno 1868 FC did not compete in the 2016 season, they cannot be included in this list.
1 – Real Monarchs SLC (+66)
In the early stages of 2016 the Monarchs were just barely on the wrong side of the average team bubble before they tapered off near the end of the season. In 2017 they have got out the gate quickly and have now won seven in a row.
2 – San Antonio FC (+59)
Like the Monarchs, San Antonio was a little on the wrong side of average in the early portions of 2016 and has shown massive improvements in 2017. Unfortunately for them, the Monarchs have just improved more relative to last season.
3 – Tulsa Roughnecks (+32)
Tulsa’s 2016 slump was well underway at this point last season. This year they have yet to fall below the 1100 average Elo mark, earning them the title of the third most improved team.
4 – Seattle Sounders 2 (+28)
Seattle is still trying to climb back to the average mark this season, but after winning only one of their first twelve matches in 2016, Seattle takes the fourth most improved spot in the West.
5 – Swope Park Rangers (+13)
The Rangers hovered around the average mark for the first part of 2016 before catching fire late to go on to win the Western Conference Playoffs. A slump at this stage last year keeps the Rangers in the top five most improved.
6 – Orange County SC (+7)
Orange County has had a very up and down season so far, but they have set a pace that is slightly better than last year where they made the Western conference semi-finals.
7 – Rio Grande Valley (-9)
The Toros have stayed on the right side of average for the first part of the season, but when compared with their hot start to the 2016 season they have regressed.
8 – Phoenix Rising (-10)
Phoenix is still trying to find its way early in the season while dealing with multiple injuries to key players, and have lagged behind their 2016 campaign in part due to this difficulty.
9 – Sacramento Republic (-13)
Sacramento suffered a team-record scoreless streak early in the season, and has fallen behind the pace of their 2016 season that saw them claim the top spot in the West.
10 – Oklahoma City Energy (-24)
The Energy came out flat to start the 2017 season and have yet to crack the 1100 mark. Compared with a team that was challenging for the Elo lead at this point in 2016, Oklahoma City has a lot of work to do moving forward to catch up to their former selves.
11 – Portland Timbers 2 (-32)
Portland has failed to get out of the starting blocks all season and their pace is behind any team last year. A less than spectacular start to 2016 kept them from being the most regressive team, but if nothing changes they will find their way there soon.
12 – Vancouver Whitecaps 2 (-40)
Vancouver started the 2016 season red hot, and their location this far down the comparison rankings is far more of a reflection on how well they were playing in 2016 as opposed to poor play this season.
13 – Colorado Springs Switchbacks (-42)
The Switchbacks defense has regressed this season, and the Elo ranking of the entire team is paying for it. They have now given up 21 goals in their first 13 games after only surrendering 27 in the entirety of 2016.
14 – Los Angeles Galaxy II (-45)
Los Dos were in the middle of the Elo rankings at this time last season, but are now trying to stay out of last place. If the Galaxy do not want to cement their as the team that has regressed the most, they must quickly return to their 2016 form.
For the most part, the teams who are most improved are the clubs that appear as above average in our current Elo rankings, while the teams who have regressed are below the average of 1100. There are two unique cases, however. Both Seattle and Orange County have improved from 2016 while being under the 1100 point mark at this point this season.
Another notable team is Rio Grande Valley. Despite being an above average team this year, they have regressed compared to when they took the West by storm in 2016.
If nothing else, the only predictable part of the USL West remains the unpredictability that we have seen this season. Eight of the fourteen teams that played in the USL in 2016 are at least 20 points off of where they stood at this point in last year.
What teams will continue to blow their 2016 selves out of the water? Who will continue to take a step back? Let us know your predictions in the comments!