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Data Driven: How Hard has Nashville SC's Schedule Been

By Nashville SC, 05/30/18, 12:30PM EDT

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Numbers show Nashville has had East's toughest schedule

The schedule makers have not made it easy on Nashville SC in its inaugural season.

In fact, you could describe Nashville’s opening 10 games as a trial by fire.

Looking at the caliber of its opponents and the number of road games, Nashville sits a cut above the rest. The numbers show that Nashville has had the toughest schedule to date of any team in the USL Eastern Conference, which bodes well for SC as it heads into a stretch of four home games in the month of June.

There are two significant metrics to measure strength of schedule: average opponent points per game and the percentage of road games. In the former category, Nashville sits in first in the East as its opponents (after its game against Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Wednesday) have accumulated an average of 1.68 standings points per game (ppg). Indy Eleven trails just behind Nashville at 1.61 opponent ppg.

By comparison, the two teams that have played the weakest opponents on average so far, Pittsburgh (1.10 opp. ppg) and New York Red Bulls II (1.06 opp. ppg) have played schedules that are 35% and 37% easier respectively. When you factor in how many road games each team has played, the gap gets wider.

In terms of road game percentage, Nashville SC is also the highest. Including the team’s Wednesday matchup against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, 70% of Nashville’s opening 10 games have been on the road. Right behind them are the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who have played 64% of their opening 11 games on the road. Meanwhile, Charlotte has played just three of its 10 games so far on the road.

Why are home games so important? Teams in the East are averaging almost twice as many points at home this season. A home team on average earns 1.8 points per game, while on the road a team only earns .94 points.

Here is a full chart showing the USL Eastern Conference rankings of opponents points per game and road pct. to determine the full strength of schedule rank.

 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

 

 

 

RANK

 

RANK

OPP PPG

RANK

ROAD %

AVG RANK

1

Nashville

1 (1.68)

1 (70)

1.0

2

Tampa Bay

6 (1.42)

2 (64)

4.0

3

Cincinnati

3 (1.54)

6 (55)

4.5

4

Toronto

7 (1.42)

4 (58)

5.5

5t

Atlanta

5 (1.52)

8 (55)

6.5

5t

Indy

2 (1.61)

11 (45)

6.5

7t

Bethlehem

4 (1.52)

10 (45)

7.0

7t

Penn

11 (1.34)

3 (60)

7.0

9t

Louisville

9 (1.34)

9 (50)

9.0

9t

North Carolina

13 (1.20)

5 (56)

9.0

11t

Richmond

8 (1.36)

15 (33)

11.5

11t

New York

16 (1.06)

7 (55)

11.5

11t

Charleston

10 (1.34)

13 (42)

11.5

14

Ottawa

12 (1.33)

12 (45)

12.0

15

Pittsburgh

15 (1.10)

14 (36)

14.5

16

Charlotte

14 (1.11)

16 (30)

15.0

 

So, what does this all mean?

Despite the hardest schedule in the Eastern Conference, Nashville SC has proven to be a tough opponent and has excelled in the face of adversity. The team has played above-average in its road matches and have taken advantage of its few home matches. Nashville has accumulated an average of 1.0 standings point in each road game, just above that conference average of 0.94 points per road game. At home, Nashville is thriving with 2.33 points per home game, well above the conference average of 1.8.

Given those numbers, Nashville SC’s early-season performance can be put into better context. Coach Gary Smith, technical director Mike Jacobs head up a technical department that is data driven and is constantly crunching numbers on opponents and itself. Smith made it a point to bear down through this tough stretch going into a much more favorable rest of the season schedule.

“We’ve got to finish what we’ve looked at as the first 12 games, eight of them away from home, against some really tough sides,” Smith said after Nashville’s U.S. Open Cup win over Mississippi Brilla FC. “We’ve got to continue our good form, we’ve got to see this run out in good shape, and if we can, look forward to a number of home games, get the fans behind us, get a bit of form and a bit of confidence. I see no reason why we can’t cause some damage.”

With nine home games and just six road games coming up between June and August, Nashville SC is poised to be a breakout team as the dog days of the #SummerOfSoccer roll by.