This Saturday, June 22, the San Francisco Dogfish travel to Portland to play the Stags for the fourth time this season. The Dogfish will be at full strength this weekend and should take care of business, but there are a number of reasons this will be an engaging affair.
The Stags handed the Dogfish their only loss of this year, but the Dogfish have since redeemed that loss with a 31-13 win over the Stags two weeks ago. The Stags know that they are much better than 31-13 and will want to prove it Saturday. Portland always plays hard and they get runs against every opponent. They responded to their defeat in San Francisco by taking Vancouver down to the wire last weekend. There’s a lot of fight in this team and it will certainly be on display Saturday.
The Stags are also closing out the season on their home turf. They will have the advantage of playing in front of their fans, and more importantly they won’t be playing in San Francisco’s windy conditions. The games played in the Bay Area have had either a stiff breeze or worse. This has taken away the over-the-top hammers and scoobers needed to break the Dogfish defense, has made it harder to huck, and has generated random turns that increase break opportunities for the Dogfish. San Francisco is an excellent team, but the wind has given them a great home field advantage. In Portland the Stags will have the deep game back in their arsenal, and this is one of their big strengths.
All that having been said, this game will showcase a topflight San Francisco Dogfish team that is rounding into form. The Dogfish have four national team members, Russ Wynne, Beau Kittredge, Mac Taylor and Ashlin Joye, and these players will be with the team this weekend after having missed games this season due to USA Ultimate commitments. In addition, the rest of the roster has shown repeatedly that they can play against any seven players their opponents put on the line. They proved this most recently by executing their second short-handed, come-from-behind win over Seattle last weekend. They are disciplined, experienced and benefit from excellent coaching. We may witness some of the MLU’s best Ultimate this weekend, with the Dogfish displaying the elite-level play we expected from them before the season even began.
One final interesting subplot is the play of Portland’s Timmy Perston. Perston is a superstar and an awesome talent in the deep game. Much of Portland’s success has depended on his ability to score off hucks. Perston got seven goals against San Francisco in the Stags’ win, but was held to one goal in the most recent defeat. The Dogfish keyed on Perston specifically in the last game and had great results. Timmy is going to want to show that the last game was a fluke and we can expect he will have something to prove. It will be interesting to see if the Stags have considered adjustments to the Dogfish defensive schemes that previously held Perston in check.
This final game between the Stags and Dogfish will display what the MLU is all about: high-level Ultimate, fierce competition, and great athletes. The Stags’ pride and tenacity will bring out the best in a very good Dogfish team. We can expect to see a spectacular close to the inaugural professional Ultimate season in Portland. See you there.