The USL Championship season opened over the weekend with some expected and surprising results. Who could have predicted that Louisville City FC, who was first in the pre-season rankings, would drop 3 points in a 4-1 defeat to North Carolina FC? Did anyone outside of St. Louis think that Saint Louis FC would beat early season favorite Indy Eleven 2-1?
After 1 week of play, there have been some big changes in the league power rankings. Did North Carolina FC really show that much in week 1 to jump up 16 spots in the power rankings? Probably not. Did Indy Eleven really look so bad to see them drop 7 spots to number 11? Again, probably not.
Here are the highlights:
Phoenix Rising FC is the new number 1 in the power rankings after fighting back multiple times in their 3-3 draw against San Antonio FC. Surprisingly, San Antonio didn’t move up at all even though the drew against the now number 1 team.
Orange County moved up 2 spots in the rankings after earning a point in Reno, and are now in the 4th spot.
Weirdly, Reno 1868 FC, who looked like the better team for most of their match against Orange County, actually dropped 5 spots on the list, and are now at 14.
After starting the season at number 1 in the pre-season rankings, Louisville City FC dropped 6 spots to number 7 after their shocking loss to North Carolina FC, who moved up 16 spots to number 6.
Indy Eleven, who lost to Saint Louis FC by a much smaller margin than Louisville, had a bigger drop, moving 7 spots down to number 11.
I think this week is a much more fair ranking, and it's no surprise that they'd get more accurate after the first game.
Phoenix absolutely deserves to be on top after clawing back three times to earn a point in extra time against San Antonio. They won't give up, but they did manage to get five yellows. They'll need to figure out their defense quickly and not pick up cards to maintain pole position. The new battle of the attendance tweets is coming up on Saturday, and if things are half as heated on the pitch as they were in New Mexico last week, someone's seeing red.
Nashville did a thing, and a lot of people were there. I didn't follow it at all, but I saw a big miss that would've properly opened up that game. Not the result an attacking powerhouse should really have against a team that doesn't even have enough players to fill the substitute bench. Underwhelming, like their MLS crest.
OKC put three past a back line that looks extremely poor. They're undoubtedly better than last year, though not the best. It might be a little early to call Deshorn Brown a "Golden Boot candidate," but maybe that's just the realist cynic in me. Should beat Vegas on Saturday.
It was so cold there were snow flurries, but that 0-2 deficit on 70 minutes in Reno had me sweating. Orange County desperately needs another center back and a proven goalkeeper. Harry Forrester needs to get fit quickly and let the game run instead of searching for fouls. Still, that core group proved key to rescuing a point in extra time. Those MLS loans should've been announced yesterday.
What did I say last week? Sacramento needed to be clinical if they were to truly challenge at the top of the West. I know it's only one game in, but that was missing for them. Thankfully their defense is as solid as ever.
North Carolina jumped up 16 spots! And while I think taking down the twice-reigning champions is extraordinary, I'm not sure they can actually maintain that level of play, especially when the other team actually shows up. But Sarachan's put something in the water back east and they may prove to be dark horses this year.
Indy Eleven only scored once despite one of the league's best attacks, and conceding two goals to a team that could barely score during the preseason is just proof that four at the back is the root of every quality formation. Former OC man Thomas Enevoldsen is almost assuredly frustrated and it's clear that Indy need to figure out how to get the best out of his skill alongside Dane Kelly before the former jumps ship to the MLS at year's end.
Andre the Giant (Rawls) made his debut for the Switchbacks and they easily picked apart an Efrain Alvarez-less Los Dos. He was unlucky to nab the clean sheet at the end of the night, but he alone is easily capable of dragging that team up a few places in the West. He looked better in Orange. I miss him.
With Sacramento drawing at home against Real Monarchs and Louisville getting hammered in North Carolina, OC deserve to move up in the power rankings. If OC plays anything like they did when Darwin Jones hit the field in the 69th minute, they will find themselves at the top of the West. The way they came back to get a point did feel like a win, especially against a good Reno team. There were some issues with back line at times and Carlos Lopez had to escape a couple of mistakes. The good news is there still time to solve these issues before May 4th when Phoenix comes to town.
Although I am much happier with Orange County SC’s placement in the power rankings this week as opposed to last, I am a bit confused about some of the reactions, or should I say overreactions by the league after some of the matches. There were also a few teams that I feel that should have moved up based on their performance over the weekend.
There were quite a few overreactions in the week 1 power rankings, most notably North Carolina FC and Atlanta United 2, who both had huge jumps up the power rankings. North Carolina’s surprise win over Louisville was amazing, and they definitely deserved to move up, but 16 spots? That’s a little too much. Atlanta’s victory against a weak Hartford Athletic wasn’t as impressive, but somehow still lead to a 12 spot rise in the rankings.
The biggest shock to me in the rankings is the fact that Reno 1868 FC dropped 5 spots to number 14 even though they were the dominant team against Orange County for the first 70 minutes of the match. It’s hard to think that Orange County moved up, while Reno dropped. If anything, Reno should have remained in their spot at number 9.
San Antonio FC is another team that I feel got screwed in this weeks power rankings. Their 3-3 draw against Phoenix Rising FC, the new number 1 team, should have resulted in a move up the rankings. At least they weren’t punished for their draw like Reno was.
As the season moves forward, the rankings will become more stable, and the true top teams will begin to show, but there has to be restraint and consistency in the early weeks, or people might just stop paying attention.
What are your thoughts? Share below in the comments.
Click the link below to see the full USL Championship Power Rankings.