With the top three teams clinching playoff spots over the last couple weeks, the race is still on for the open Eastern Conference spot.
The Rumble are on the inside track, after beating the Spinners in Philadelphia over the weekend. With three games left to play, however (including two against the Current, who are right on their heels), things could get very interesting down the stretch.
Out on the West coast, the Dogfish and Rainmakers are in the playoffs, and will use their remaining games to fine-tune their strategies. The other two teams, the Stags and Nighthawks, will use their remaining games to strengthen and build towards a very promising 2014 campaign.
1. Boston Whitecaps (8-0): The Whitecaps faced their toughest test during week six, when they had to play back-to-back games away. They passed the test. Not only were they the first team to clinch a playoff berth, they did it in dominant fashion. The only question now is whether Boston will finish the year undefeated. They will most likely rest some of their top players in the coming weeks, like MVP candidate Jeff Graham (who is leading the league in scoring at 26), but due to their depth at every position, they will remain an intimidating force even with a depleted roster and could very well finish 10-0. Previous Rank: 1
2. San Francisco Dogfish (5-1): The Dogfish had something to prove against Portland on Sunday. They not only sought revenge on the Stags for handing them their only loss of the season, they were merciless. The victory was easily their highest point margin this season, demolishing the Stags, 31-13. With both the Dogfish and Rainmakers clinching spots, the focus is now on the playoff battle between the two. There are two more regular season match-ups between the teams, in weeks eight and ten, and both should be exciting previews for the semi-final. San Francisco could sit some of their stars during these games, for risk of injury, or get them fine-tuned and in playoff Ultimate form. Let’s hope for the latter. Previous Rank: 2
3. Seattle Rainmakers (6-1): The Rainmakers have a better record overall than the Dogfish, but head-to-head the Dogfish have the upper hand. They are itching to change that. In their last two match-ups you can guarantee Seattle will be high-intensity and determined to show themselves and their fans alike that they are every bit as good as the ‘fish. Last week, they handily beat the Stags and proved that their second half woes that once plagued them are now a thing of the past. Their offense might just be the best in the West when it is flowing well, and they have the capability to make spectacular and game-changing plays. Previous Rank: 3
4. New York Rumble (3-4): The Rumble, who started the season 0-3, have won three of their last four games, propelling them into prime position to snag the second playoff spot. If they win two of their remaining three games, that will happen. Chris Mazur, who is leading the league with 45 points (goals plus assists), led the way as the Rumble moved closer to a playoff berth with a 21-13 victory over the freefalling Spinners. Previous Rank: 4
5. DC Current (2-5): Good news for DC, they are done playing the Whitecaps in the regular season. After losing a close match to Boston on Saturday, 23-19, the Current can look forward to two games against their main competition, the Rumble, and one against the Spinners. According to Current head coach Keven Moldenhauer, the outlook is straightforward for the next three games: “If we win out, we go to the playoffs. If we lose one, we’re out. Simple as that.” Previous Rank: 7
6. Vancouver Nighthawks (2-5): Vancouver had their bye week last weekend, which might have been just what the doctor ordered. After getting knocked out of the playoffs the week prior, in a heartbreaking loss to the Rainmakers, they can now refocus their energy and improve with 2014 in mind. They have the talent, coaching, and the fan base (which showed great sportsmanship by applauding both teams after the Nighthawks victory) to intimidate teams moving forward. All season long they were in close contests, but could never capitalize on their opportunities late in games. Next year, if they can tighten up their play late they can easily challenge San Francisco or Seattle for one of those coveted playoff spots. Previous Rank: 6
7. Philadelphia Spinners (2-6): The Spinners continue to turn the disc over at an alarming rate, and it has cost them six straight games, including four at home. In week seven, the number of turnovers reached 30, which is way too high and completely deflating to an offense (especially when a few of them took place right on the goal line). The future of this season is grim for the once-lofty Spinners, barely clinging to any playoff hopes, and travelling to Boston in week nine after a bye. Previous Rank: 5
8. Portland Stags (1-7): The Stags were victims of possibly the toughest road trip any team will have to face all season last weekend. They flew to Seattle on Saturday, and then after losing to the Rainmakers, hopped on a plane down to San Francisco to take on the Dogfish. Neither game went well for the Stags. In fact, they were on the losing end of the blowout 31-13 victory by the Dogfish. Despite their struggles all year, and their tough schedule debacle last week, they should still be proud of their developing stars. One of whom, Khalif El-Salaam made ESPN’s Top 10 this week at #3, with his amazing grab and reaction. Previous Rank: 8