On Saturday the Western Conference Champion San Francisco Dogfish take on the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Whitecaps in Philadelphia to determine who will be the 2013 champions of the MLU.
The Dogfish and Whitecaps both have rosters of players used to winning at the college and club levels, and both teams boast that their talent runs all the way down the bench. This is when we’ll see those assertions in action in a game that’s the culmination of everything these players have worked so hard to achieve this season.
The Whitecaps have demonstrated a relentless offense all season, working the disc across the entire field with short throws and using the dump as an effective way to keep play dynamic until the long throw opens up. The man to shut down is Brandon “Muffin” Malecek, but their well of throwing talent goes deep. And their receivers are like a mythological hydra; for every one that gets dispatched, two more pop up in his place. Jeff Graham, Josh Markette, and Peter Prial are primary targets, but Boston has been generous in sharing the scoring this season throughout its roster.
On defense the team has shown that they’re not afraid to lay out or go high. Jon Hirschberger, Jack Hatchett, and Will Neff have been leading the charge on getting turns for their team, but just like on the offense, the play-making is distributed. Their defensive squad plays a tight man, sometimes with a quick double-team, forcing the short throws and hoping the increased pass count leads to a turnover. When the offense has to switch to play D they have been throwing a zone, giving them a numbers advantage once the disc has turned.
San Francisco Dogfish
The Dogfish are known for their persistent, by-the-book passing offense. They make it look so practiced and easy that you forget sometimes how much work it takes to keep it working to such good effect. There’s probably no throw Kevin Smith hasn’t met and mastered. Unfortunately, some of the go-to members of the offensive squad will not be there on Saturday, including Ashlin Joye and Dogfish top-scorer Beau Kittredge. But the Dogfish have missed these players in a few games this season and made adjustments. If Boston’s O is a hydra, San Francisco is the hundred-handed Briareus—no matter what player steps in to fill for another, the team continues to play as a unit.
The Dogfish will also be short some players on its defensive line, including Martin Cochran and Russ Wynne. Again, the team has shown in past games it can rely on the full breadth of players to make magic, not just a select few. The Dogfish double-team has been used this season to great effect. It will be interesting to see how it fares in a stadium that will lack the unpredictable west coast winds of San Francisco. The Whitecaps are fans of hammers and high long bombs, so the Dogfish, who are also at home going up for the disc, will need to strategize on shutting down those plays, particularly with some of their taller players missing.
These teams match well on paper. If the Dogfish can disrupt the rhythm of the Whitecaps’ quick, short swing-and-dump offense they can force some riskier decisions from Boston. The Whitecaps will need a defensive strategy that doesn’t play into San Francisco’s comfort zone of multiple, patient passes, and find a way to take advantage of San Francisco’s smaller roster. The key for both teams on offense is to value possession and not depend on a turn to get the disc back. With teams this strong, those opportunities are less likely. Both teams have played close games and know what it takes to close it out. The team that wins this matchup will be the team that doesn’t rest on its laurels while the game is still being played.
Since this will be the first time the two teams meet, both sides will have surprises in store; all of the stats and forecasts aside, there’s no substitute for the actual face-to-face contest on the field. What we can predict is that both teams are hungry to take home the first-ever MLU championship title, so fans should expect an epic display of Ultimate talent and determination in this Saturday’s showdown.
The game starts at 6 pm Eastern (3 pm local time) on Franklin Field in Philadelphia. For those who have made or are still planning to make the cross-country trip, tickets range from $15-$145 and the MLU has a day of activities planned to celebrate the championship. For Dogfish fans who are staying home, there will be a viewing party at Kezar Pub beginning at 2 pm on Saturday.