On Saturday, the San Francisco Dogfish meet the Portland Stags for the first time this season. The Dogfish are currently 1-2 and the Stags are 1-0.

The Stags surprised most of the league with their 23-21 win over the Vancouver Nighthawks on opening weekend. At this point it might seem like old news, but not to Portland—they’re coming off a bye week to face the Dogfish in San Francisco.

The Stags are entering this game with the sweet taste of recent victory and the knowledge that last season they handed the Dogfish the first of their two losses. Like the Dogfish they’ve undergone some roster changes, but the Stags’ victory over Vancouver suggests they’ve overcome the hiccups of last season.

Instead, those hiccups seem to have made their way to the Dogfish. Their opening weekend win against the Seattle Rainmakers was reversed last weekend with a close loss to the Rainmakers on Saturday and a big loss to the Vancouver Nighthawks on Sunday (the same Nighthawks who fell to the Stags to give Portland its 1-0 record).

But the Dogfish won all of their home games last season, and this year’s home opener against Seattle. Portland will be walking into an arena where the fans want to see redemption for their team’s two losses on the road last week. Last season San Francisco came back with a vengeance after each of their two losses. The players may have changed, but the sentiment remains the same.

Speaking of players, the Stags will be missing four, including a key member of their personnel to date. Timmy Perston has been transferred overseas for work for the near future, and though the team is making assurances they’re equipped to work around his absence, he scored a personal-best nine goals in their April 12 game. That’s a significant chunk out of any offense.

Still, the Dogfish can’t rely on Perston’s absence to win this game for them. They will be missing six players of their own—less than the eight they were missing while on the road last week, but enough to potentially dampen a bit of the team chemistry they’ve been building.

San Francisco’s biggest asset in their past three games has been their defense. It’s still a crazy-making affair that teams dread, and rightfully so. The challenge has been to maintain stability on offense. With three games under their built now the Dogfish have undoubtedly identified which connections are working and established their own rhythm and flow instead of feeding into their opponents’.

Portland was an undervalued team last year and has shown it is a not-so-dark horse for 2014. But the Dogfish have played two more games than the Stags, have the advantage of a fervent hometown crowd on their side and everything to gain in this game. In fact, the Dogfish are sitting in the MLU rankings in the same position the Stags were in before they achieved their upset win. This is a chance for karma to pay it forward.

Come watch the game and see this showdown happen in person! Buy your tickets here.

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