The surprising results of week four highlight the parity in the MLU. Any team can challenge another, regardless of their previous record.
In most professional sports, it’s not too often that a winless and struggling team triumphs over an undefeated squad. The Dogfish had to be optimistic that their record, specifically their loss column, would remain unscathed as they headed north to play the 0-4 Portland Stags. Nevertheless, the underestimated and unappreciated Stags had something to prove.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Whitecaps continue to play flawless Ultimate. Not only did they blow out the Current, but a remarkable grab by one of their players was considered more exciting then a Kawhi Leonard dunk in the NBA playoffs and Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones robbing a home run.
Which team do you think deserves to be first in the rankings?
1. Boston Whitecaps (4-0): The lone remaining unbeaten team, the Whitecaps continue to prove they are a serious contender for the title. Not only did they beat the Current, they dominated them. Boston fired on all cylinders, and came away with the largest margin of victory in any match so far this season, 24-13. Their offense keeps getting better, scoring on average 20.75 points per game (the next highest are the Nighthawks at 18). Also, like last week with Spinners’ Sean Murray, the MLU was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10. This time, it was Boston’s Jeff Graham who had the number one (later number two) play of the day. Last Week: 2
2. San Francisco Dogfish (3-1): The Dogfish have to be disappointed with how they finished against the Stags on Saturday. Up 17-15 late in the 4th quarter, they let the Stags climb back thanks to a few unforced and costly turnovers. They were down some of their key players again, including Kittredge and Taylor, but that did not affect them the week prior in the comeback win against the Rainmakers. Nonetheless, it will surely help to get those players back this week against Vancouver, a team desperate for a win against the number one seeded ‘fish. Last Week: 1
3. Seattle Rainmakers (3-1): Bouncing back from their heartbreaker against San Francisco in week three, Seattle overcame a strong second half by the Nighthawks last weekend. The game progression was actually eerily similar to their loss in week three. Seattle carried another huge lead going into the half, 10-5, with exactly the same scenario as before. And, like the game against the ‘fish, they were outscored second half. Fortunately for them, the second half score was only 11-8 in the Nighthawks favor. The Rainmakers might have a problem on their hands moving forward if they don’t diagnose their second half strategic failings. Assistant Coach Andy Lovseth recognizes, “[We are] still learning to play four quarters of Ultimate.” Despite their struggles late, Seattle is clearly still a force in the West. They have not trailed at any point of their home games, have only given up a league-best 14 goals per game, and are poised to have a strong showing this week in Portland. Last Week: 3
4. Vancouver Nighthawks (2-3): While the heavy winds in West Seattle prevented an incessant huck game like they saw against the Stags in week three, the Nighthawks failed to upset the Rainmakers. They continue to play extremely well on the offensive side overall, but struggle early in games. In fact, in the second half, they were able to earn six breaks to Seattle’s two, tying the game at fifteen. However, like in most of their losses this year, they simply dug themselves into too deep of a hole in the first half. Kirk Savage, a veteran handler for Vancouver, touched on this problem postgame, “This was yet another slow start for us…Our coaches have a plan to alter our warm-ups from here on out to help us get out to faster starts in games.” We’ll see if their altered warm-up routine will translate onto the field this week in San Francisco. If so, ‘fish fans should start to worry. Last Week: 5
5. Philadelphia Spinners (2-2): Once considered the cream of the crop in the East, the Spinners keep slipping and adding to their loss column. Thanks to some high winds, the absence of star Sean Murray, and too many costly turnovers (35 total), Philly struggled to get anything going. They are now only one game ahead of both the Rumble and the Current, who are both striving for that second playoff spot. In fact, if they lose this week in Boston against the undefeated Whitecaps, they will be tied for second in the conference. Obviously, this is not where the former AUDL champions wanted to be in the standings heading into the midpoint of the season. Last Week: 4
6. New York Rumble (1-3): It wasn’t easy for the Rumble to seal up their first victory of the season, but they pulled it off against the Spinners. In a very close double-overtime game, where both teams had to battle the elements, the Rumble finally tallied their first win after a strong finish. They forced 35 turnovers against Philadelphia and the New York offense was able to capitalize. Particularly strong play from Jonathon Cox, who had three goals in overtime, helped the Rumble sneak back into playoff contention. Last Week: 7
7. Portland Stags (1-4): After their nice comeback against the ‘fish, fueled by some great play on both ends, the Stags finally move out of the power rankings basement. Timmy Perston had an excellent game for the Stags, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as he is one of the top goal scorers in the MLU so far. If Perston and their other key players can continue to improve and play strong as the season progresses, the Stags could disrupt the standings enough to sneak into the playoffs. The true test for them will be this week, as the Rainmakers are coming into town with a deeper and healthier squad. Last Week: 8
8. DC Current (1-3): The Current were stagnant against the Whitecaps, and the result should be concerning moving forward. On the losing end of a 24-13 game, DC struggled to put together anything on offense, and their defense was handicapped because of it. The Current looked liked they were ready to play early on, but went on a 10-minute dry-spell late in the 1st quarter, and it took them 7 minutes to score anything in the 2nd. They were coming off a nice, confidence-boosting win last week against Philly, and were hoping to build upon that success. While the blowout knocks them down a couple pegs, they will surely learn from the defeat. Obviously, the Current are only one game back of the Spinners, and thus still very much in the playoff race. Last Week: 6