Thursday, July 17, 2014

Flying Under the Radar

For the past several years, Vancouver has been in the center of the sports world, especially in Canada. Mainly known for their hockey, Vancouver has become one of the primer sporting cities in Canada, being the most populous city on the Western Coast of the Great White North. When referring to sports teams, especially from the United States, which my opinion is based off of, the first team to come to mind is of course the Vancouver Canucks. Hockey, known for being the sport of Canada, is where Vancouver reigns supreme, the Canucks have won five Northwest Division titles in a row before finishing fifth in the Pacific last season, and in that time being one of the most dominating teams in the NHL.

For those MLS fans there is the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (not to be confused with the Boston Whitecaps of the MLU), they have had mixed results making the playoffs once out of their three year history. However in making the playoffs in 2012, the Whitecaps became the first ever Canadian MLS team to make the postseason. Also lets not forget the women's soccer team, also known as the Vancouver Nightcaps FC, in the USL W-league, which is a Pro-Am league that allows college players to test their skills and play alongside international players. While having won two W-League Championships the team struggled the past couple of years forcing the team to fold, also in due part to competition from the new-found NWSL.

Now all of those teams are in leagues associated more with the teams in the United States, where a majority of the league calls itself home, but lets not forget about the largest Canadian specific league, the CFL. The Canadian Football League, although not as large as American Football still remains a huge part of sporting life in Canada. The BC Lions, based out of Vancouver, average roughly 30,000 fans a game in the past few seasons. Now that number is half of the average NFL attendance but comparing the two leagues are like comparing apples to tomatoes. They are both football but that ends all of similarities between the leagues, besides the primary sport in Canada is, and has always been, hockey. Still lets not disregard the six Grey Cup Championships by the BC Lions as well as holding the second best Win-Loss Percentage of all current CFL teams at .600.

Purposely leaving this topic for last, there is of course the 2010 Olympics held in Vancouver. One of the best Winter Olympics put together in my opinion, even better than Sochi 2014, and introduced the world to British Columbia. These Olympics are remembered not only for the individual performances by the athletes but as well as the how well it was hosted and the spectacle put together for the entire world to enjoy. The crowds at all of the Olympic events were spectacular; the populous of Vancouver truly embraced their opportunity to host the Olympics and in doing so, left a lasting legacy on the Winter Games.

The citizens of Vancouver, who pride themselves on being sport fans, have a lot to be proud of in the last decade. With the rise of professional ultimate frisbee in both the United States and Canada, their teams will yet be just another reason the individuals of British Columbia can celebrate and support their own. The two teams that call Vancouver their playing ground in pro ultimate are the Vancouver Riptide and the Vancouver Nighthawks.

The Vancouver Riptide which are in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) just completed their first season as a franchise with an 8-6 record, third in the West Division, one spot out of the playoffs. Lead by the tandem of Darren Wu and Derek Fenton which are both in the top 10 in AUDL in goals, and Fenton even leads the league in assists! Playing in a division where two of the best teams, featuring some of the world's top players, the San Francisco Flamethrowers and San Jose Spiders, finishing above .500 was an accomplishment. In fact if the West Division was like the rest of the other divisions in the AUDL and had six teams, the Riptide would be in the playoffs being the third team from the West. Maybe with the AUDL continual expansion and playoff expansion, next season would be a perfect opportunity to make a playoff run.

Finally the MLU team, the Vancouver Nighthawks are about to finish an incredible season. Starting as preseason favorites to win the four team Western Conference, Vancouver faded quickly and had troubles with cohesion from the team. However these problems did not have a lasting impact on the team, at the end of the season the Nighthawks made a push for the playoffs going on a four game winning streak, finishing the regular season at 6-4. Not only is the team becoming one of the best pro teams in Vancouver without story-lines on the evening news, flying under the radar in the West also let Vancouver play to their advantages and that was putting on shows on offense and defense. After the astounding run by the Nighthawks the team had to travel down to Portland for the Western Conference Championship to face the 8-2 Stags who had dominated the West all season long, losing to only Vancouver and Seattle once. 

It would be so fitting that the game would be a matchup of runs, where teams would score three straight points at a time, putting the team ahead momentarily as they other adversary would then do the same. The defense that Vancouver prided themselves on ended up being the deciding factor as their defense would score practically as much as their offense. Their leader of the defense and the team, Morgan Hibbert, the "Iron Man" of the team played 20 of the 27 points sending the team to their first MLU Championship Game. One of the most recognizable players in the league with his red hair and was just named MLU Western Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The team's counterpart on offense Brendan Wong, 
MLU Points Title Holder and Western Conference Rookie of the Year, is just as explosive on the other side of the disc by averaging almost five goals a game and recorded 64 points in the season. As mentioned before ultimate is not the main sports story in the daily news, however the Nighthawks have been getting recognition from Vancouver. The team is one of the league leaders in attendance, this season and last, as well as even having their own press coverage. The CBC did give the Nighthawks their first of many moments of fame with their own story on the team featuring Morgan Hibbert. Depending on how the results go in Philadelphia for the Championship, this will most likely not be the only story coming out of the Canadian press on how Vancouver continues to love their sports, even through the sport of ultimate.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Best Professional Team "Current"ly in DC.

Our nation's capital likes to pride themselves as a sports town, and by all means they are! They have a professional football team, men's and women's basketball, hockey, baseball, men's and women's soccer, a professional rugby team, and now two professional ultimate frisbee franchises as well as many other teams. However with all of these teams, the District of Columbia has not had a league champion in any of these sports in almost 10 years. The last well-known team to do so was the 2004 DC United team (MLS), in these ten years there has been no championship parade, no championship rings, no recognition from the White House, and nothing that DC sports fans can call to in recent memory. For now fans must celebrate the small successes in hopes that it will later translate to championship glory, I'm mainly referencing the division championships. But as mentioned above there are two professional ultimate frisbee teams that now call Washington DC home, the DC Current and the DC Breeze, and both are currently in their second season.

For some reason that area reporters and commentators have been trying to comprehend for years, Washington DC professional teams cannot make a playoff push. Yes, recently the Nationals with Bryce Harper have had incredible regular season performances but tank in the postseason. The Capitals have been one of the best hockey teams in the Eastern Conference for the past seven seasons but Alex Ovechkin and company have never made it past the Conference Semi-Finals. The Washington football team has probably one of the most interesting players in Robert Griffin III, but after a respectable 10-6 playoff season, last year they were a disastrous 3-13. Finally the Wizards, who I feel like are the team with the most potential in the near future, arguably had their most successful season since the late 70's (when they were called the Washington Bullets) in advancing to the Conference Semi-Finals. I have been around these teams for my entire life, I grew up in Southern Virginia, my friends and my family support and call these teams their own, I myself tend to think differently but that is another topic for another day. Now that I go to college in the suburbs of the District, these teams are a part of my everyday life. They are, by definition, the local teams, the teams that people grew up supporting, watching, and rooting for to make it all the way. However for some reason it does not feel this way.

I will in no way, shape, or form will call myself a DC sports expert; but I do know sports and I know how sports work. They are my life and have been for my entire life, I pick up on patterns and can normally tell the future trends of a franchise. One problem that I foresee in all of the Washington DC teams is that they all focus around one superstar, one player, that will be the savior for the franchise as well as the city. Think about it, look at all the previously mentioned teams associated with their top players. There's Harper, Ovechkin, RG3, and some may even consider John Wall for the Wizards. However with every accusation, there must be exceptions. The only team that I feel truly gets it (and by "it' I mean marketing and promoting a team) in Washington DC is the Washington Wizards. The Wizards do not just have one player that they showcase to their fans; they have an entire team with John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Andre Miller and more. Now I just named half of their roster and none of these names are new to a DC sports fan. Can you say the same about all the other teams in DC? This is where I bring the ultimate question into play.

The DC Breeze are experiencing their best season so far into their existence. The Breeze are in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL), and went 4-12 in 2013, their inaugural season, with their home games being at Anacostia High School. This year the Breeze are now 9-4 with one week remaining in the regular season and play their games at the University of Maryland Field Hockey Stadium. They have clinched a playoff spot in due part to Tyler DeGirolamo, one of the best ultimate players in the college ranks in recent memory, as well as Brett Matzuka, Jon Pressimone, Alex Thorne, Justin Solis, and other top DC area players, that look to make a run in the playoffs. A team that relies on not just one player but a combination of players on an entire team. In ultimate that is what you need, a collectively team on and off the field, not just one individual doing whatever it takes to glorify himself and living up to the fans standards. It quite simply cannot work that way. Their main opponents in the Eastern Conference are the defending champions, Toronto Rush who are an astounding 18-1 over two seasons, and the New York Rumble who the Breeze have only beat once in their series history. If the Breeze were to advance far into the playoffs they would face teams from across the nation like Chicago, Madison, San Francisco, San Jose, and Indianapolis, before the championship game in Toronto.

Now I move to the Washington DC Current, the main reason why a majority of you read this post. The DC Current are a team in Major League Ultimate, and were founded in the same year as the eight team league two years ago.  In their short history they have found success in becoming one of the premier  teams in the MLU's short history. In 2013 the team had a rough start to the season going 1-4, but in the second half of the season  they climbed back up in the standings and made the playoffs with a 4-6 record.  In the Eastern Conference Championship the Current would lose to the eventual undefeated MLU champions Boston Whitecaps ending their first season as a pro sports franchise. However 2014 started with a bang for DC, with a new home field at Cardinal Stadium on the campus of Catholic University of America, they were set to be the team to be able to knock of the Whitecaps. In Week 2, they did it, a story that many DC ultimate fans will remember for decades, the DC Current defeated the Whitecaps for the first time ever with a game winning hammer from Peter Prial to Calvin Oung after a game ending foul that added seconds to the game. The equivalent of this would be on a last second hail mary in football with a pass interference call on the defense, allowing the team to move closer to the endzone and to get another play off. Well DC scored on that hail mary and the Eastern Conference was changed for the rest of the season, yes the Whitecaps would get revenge the next weekend in Boston, but DC then dominated the rest of the year finishing the regular season with an impressive 9-1 record. In the Eastern Conference Championship they hosted their biggest rivals the Boston Whitecaps again at home where the team went 5-0 in the regular season. In another unbelievable game between these two squads, DC would not be denied as their ferocious defense, that the team has prided themselves on all year, won them the game as they advanced to the MLU Championship. 

The Current now have the opportunity to do something that has not been done in the past 10 years. Bring a championship to our nation's capital. Sure if the Current were to win there would be no championship parade, the likelihood of the team being able to visit the White House and be recognized by the president is slim to none, championship rings are not out of the question but still a heavy expense for a brand new league, but they will bring a sense of sports pride back into the city for a small group of fans. Slowly the fans will grow larger as the league and team hopes to do so in the next coming years, and that sense of pride in the District will grow with them.

If they are able to accomplish this feat, it will be done the "right way" as many sports fans would like to call it and none can argue with. The team was built from the ground up, with tryouts over four weeks at 4:00 in the morning, no "free agency" to bring in superstars from across the league, no yearly draft that rewards bad teams, none of it. Simply players coming together, playing the sport they love, and representing a city that has needed a team like this to root for. There are superstars, there is no denying that, but no one on the team would think that one of the players stand above the rest. 
There is last season's leading goal scorer, Peter Prial (who moved from Boston to DC for school), there is "Can We Call Him MVP Already" Alan Kolick, his right hand man Markham Shofner, the man who always knows where to be Jeff Wodatch, defensive guru Daniel Kantor, and a multitude of other players. All 30 players on the roster recorded at least three points this season; they won as a team, they won as a franchise. This team was compared to being the '85 Bears of the MLU by the John and Greg Show last week, noting that we may never see another team quite like this DC team. One thing is for sure, I am proud to call the Washington DC Current my team and still will be win or lose July 19th for the MLU Championship.  As for the city, that may take some more convincing, but I know that it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the District of Columbia feels the same way that I do.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Conference Championship Recap

This weekend's Conference Championships showcased two dramatic ultimate games. Both were two of the closest games in the MLU all season, which is exactly what you would want when it came to the Conference Championships.  Starting off, the Eastern Conference Championship presented the biggest rivalry in the league thus far in the first two seasons between the DC Current and the Boston Whitecaps. It was another classic game between these two teams I hope we can get accustomed to, that was back and forth before eventually the DC Current came from behind to take the lead and eventually the game. Alan Kolick solidified himself as the clear favorite for East MVP with an incredible six assists, a goal,  as well as two game changing Ds. Once the time ran out on Boston's season, all the focus was turned toward the West Coast where the redemption story, Portland Stags hosted the Vancouver Nighthawks in both teams first ever playoff game. The fifteen minute break between the action was not enough to slow your heart rate down and prepare you for what this game would bring. It was a game of runs by both teams in the first half before transitioning into a back-and-forth match-up with Vancouver scoring the final point. Gritting it out for his team, defensive superstar Morgan Hibbert played an astounding 20 of the game's 27 total points, making his presence known on the field that would eventually surge the team into the MLU Championship.

Star Performer: Brandon Malecek: 6P, 3G, 3A, 36/39 Throws, 0Ds, +5 Point Dif
 Star Performer: Alan Kolick: 7P, 1G, 6A, 37/39 Throws, 2Ds, +6 Point Dif

My Pick: DC over Boston 22-20

I myself witnessed this game at the "Dojo" and it was one of the most jaw-dropping ultimate games I have been a part of. Although the game got off to a shaky start for both teams, DC found themselves on top 4-2 near the end of the first. However the momentum quickly swayed in Boston's favor as they scored four points in a row and looked like they would control the game from there on out. Trailing 10-7 at half, one of the largest deficits of the year for the Current, the team got right back into the game when they got their first break of the second half; thanks in large part to Delrico Johnson's hand block three minutes into the third. DC would then use that energy to come back and go on an 8-4 scoring run that put them on top 17-15 with only 3:45 left to go in the game. Boston would then score but a drop by Calvin Oung, one of the only four drops in the entire game by both teams, gave Boston a break and tied it up at 17. Then an incredible grab by Peter Prial in the end-zone, while surrounded by two Boston players, gave DC a one goal lead that they would hold onto until the final whistle. As mentioned before there was only four drops in this match-up, but there were incredible Ds by both sides, most notably Delrico Johnson's huge sky that prevented a Boston score. Alan Kolick put a stamp on what is sure to be his Eastern Conference MVP Award, recording six more assists on the cleanest offense in the entire league. The home fans for DC also played a huge role, they were loud and obnoxious for the entire game and are a factor into why the Current finished 6-0 at home this season. Once the game was over you could feel the emotion of the players as they rushed the field after defeating the defending champions for the final time this season and finishing the chapter of this rivalry.

Here are the top 5 of some of the incredible plays from this game:

 Star Performer: Topher Davis: 3P, 1G, 2A, 24/26 Throws, 3Ds, +3 Point Dif

 Star Performer: Gagandeep Chatha: 4P. 2G, 2A, 12/15 Throws, +0 Point Dif

My Pick: Vancouver over Portland 25-24

While a vastly different Championship Game than the Eastern Conference and from what was normal between the Portland Stags and the Vancouver Nighthawks, the Western Conference Championship was just as entertaining in a way, if you like game ending drama.  Similar to the first game it started with some Championship jitters while both teams could not get their offenses going, in fact neither team's offense scored in the first quarter which ended with Vancouver scoring 3 straight breaks and holding only a 3-0 lead. The Portland Stags did not score in the first twelve minutes of the entire game but Vancouver would let them come right back and tie the game at four.  After that point the game remained back-and-forth for the rest of the match-up with extremely messy play, silly mistakes on offense, and a trading of turnovers at times. Eventually Kevin Underhill scored making the game 14-13 with only 42 seconds left, plenty of time for Portland to work down the field. But with still 25 seconds remaining Breeze Strout, who was a perfect 33 for 33 in the game, sent a huck down-field to seemingly no one. That overthrow killed the hopes of Portland as the Nighthawks would hold the disk for the final seconds.  While incredibly messy, (9 drops and a ridiculous amount of throwaways) the end of the game was filled with excitement, not knowing who would be the final team to score. Both teams were huck happy, trying to take advantage of every deep cut down-field and neither team had a player record more than four points. Surprisingly to me there was no 10 goal performance by Brendan Wong nor Timmy Perston (who was back for his first game in six weeks), or a 5 assist game by either Morgan Hibbert, Jeremy Norden, Eli Friedman, or Kevin Underhill.  Quite frankly I wanted a little bit more in this championship game and hopefully when the Nighthawks travel to Philadelphia for the MLU Championship their game play will be a whole lot cleaner. 

While the play from both teams was severely lacking compared the Eastern Conference Championship, the top plays were just as impressive:

The MLU Championship will now be played between the DC Current and the Vancouver Nighthawks at PPL Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 19th at 6:30. 
Later this week be on the lookout for City Bios of both teams heading into the game,
 as well as an MLU Championship Preview within the next two weeks.

Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Conference Championships Preview and Predictions

Each team has played 400 minutes in the MLU regular season, and in some instances a little bit more, but now we are less than 36 hours away from finding out which two teams will be playing for the second MLU Championship. Only one thing is for sure heading into the games this weekend is that this year will have a completely different feel than last year.

The Eastern Conference features two teams that were here last year, and both feel confident heading into this weekend. The DC Current had to fight and claw in 2013 just to make it to a winner-take-all game to end the regular season and make it to the playoffs, before eventually losing to Boston. This year they have controlled the Eastern Conference with an impressive 9-1 record, using both their high-flying offense and layout first oriented defense to carry them thus far. On the opposite side of the field the Boston Whitecaps 2013 campaign had dynasty written all over it. When the season was said and done they were 12-0 and MLU Champions, no squad had even came close to knocking off the champs that had a +59 point differential in the regular season, but my how things have changed. This season Boston finished at a disappointing 5-5 needing a little help from DC to even put them in this game. However this team has been in this game before and knows how to win a championship.

The Western Conference will showcase two teams that will be making their playoff debuts this weekend in the Portland Stags and Vancouver Nighthawks. Coming into this season both teams had the opportunity to make heavy strides in the Western Conference and even compete for the championship with both San Francisco and Seattle losing some key players on their clubs. In fact coming into this year, the Nighthawks who were 3-7 the previous season, were heavy preseason favorites to be the top team in the West. The season then started poorly for Vancouver starting 2-4, but have now strung together four straight wins and have full momentum heading into this game. Their opponent, the Portland Stags, had a entire reversal from their previous season when they went a dismal 1-9. They are now heading into the Western Conference Championship with home-field advantage and an 8-2 record, going from last to first in the matter of months.

2014 Record: 9-1                                                                                                         2014 Record: 5-5
Home Record: 5-0                                                                                                      Away Record: 1-4

Star Players:                                                                                                                       Star Players:
Alan Kolick: 44Pts, 14G, 30A, 94.6%, 6Ds                                                            Jeff Graham: 47Pts, 27G, 20A, 96.8%, 4Ds
Markham Shofner: 41Pts, 11G, 30A, 85.6%, 5Ds                                            Brandon Malechek: 43Pts, 17G, 26A, 89.8% 1D
Peter Prial: 39Pts, 23G, 16A, 93.0%, 9Ds                                                            Josh Markette: 42Pts, 14G, 28A, 91.0%, 5Ds
Jeff Wodatch: 34Pts, 22G, 12A, 97.4%, 2Ds                                                        Jack Hatchett: 17Pts, 11G, 6A, 88.2%, 17Ds
Calvin Oung: 13Pts, 6G, 7A, 93.4%, 9Ds                                                                  Jim Foster: 30Pts, 19G, 11A, 95.8%, 3Ds

Head-to-Head Record: DC Current lead 2-1
Week 2: DC defeated Boston 18-17
Week 3: Boston defeated DC 17-12
Week 9: DC defeated Boston 21-16

The Lowdown:
Interesting match-up between the DC Current and the Boston Whitecaps for the Eastern Conference Championship. In the three games that they played this season, one was controlled by Boston, one was controlled by DC, and one was an exceptional game that went back and forth that would eventually be the Whitecaps first loss in franchise history. With that all being said, the combined score of all three games is DC 51, Boston 50; extremely close and very difficult to predict. Going into this game the Current are riding a seven game winning streak (3 NY, 3 PHI, 1 BOS) and have outscored opponents 165-122 in the process of that streak. Boston on the other hand is 1-2 over their last three outings and needed the Spinners to lose in the final week of the regular season to make it to this championship. In their games against each other this season Peter Prial (DC) and Jeff Graham (Boston) have been the workforce for their respective teams, minus the Week 3 game where both players missed the match-up. Prial, who is still undefeated in every game he has played in the MLU, earned 12 points total in both games, while Graham had 11 points. For those that do not know, Peter Prial played for the Whitecaps last season, becoming an MLU Champion, and also held the Goals Scored in a Single Season title with 35, before Brendan Wong recorded an incredible 48. Now Prial plays for DC and has made a huge impact as seen in the stats above, creating a rivalry between both of these teams. This will be the eighth match-up where the Current play the Whitecaps and it has the potential for an incredible game. Oh also do not forget that both of these teams have MVP candidates in Alan Kolick and Josh Markette in just another reason to make sure you see this game. Something has to give for one of these teams, but expect one of the most entertaining games of the entire season.

My Pick: DC over Boston 22-20

2014 Record: 8-2                                                                                                         2014 Record: 6-4
Home Record: 4-1                                                                                                      Away Record: 2-3

Star Players:                                                                                                                       Star Players:
Cody Bjorklund: 41Pts, 26G, 15A, 88.9%, 5Ds                                                  Brendan Wong: 64Pts, 48G, 16A, 88.0%, 4Ds
Eli Friedman: 39Pts, 19G, 20A, 95.9%, 5Ds                                                      Morgan Hibbert: 26Pts, 7G, 19A, 87.8%, 20Ds
Jeremy Norden: 30Pts, 2G, 28A, 93.3%, 3Ds                                                   Gagandeep Chatha: 31Pts, 23G, 8A, 86.8%, 1D
Topher Davis: 19Pts, 6G, 13A, 93.5%, 14Ds                                                           Aaron Loach: 29Pts, 9G, 20A, 89.7%, 2Ds
Mark Burton: 32Pts, 18G, 14A, 88.5%, 2Ds                                                        Kevin Underhill: 28Pts, 6G, 22A, 92.5%, 5Ds

Head-to-Head Record: Portland Stags lead 2-1
Week 1: Portland defeated Vancouver 23-21
Week 7: Portland defeated Vancouver 19-16
Week 10: Vancouver defeated Portland 20-18

The Lowdown:
At the end of last year's season it would have been pretty hard to imagine that the two teams who failed to make the playoffs would wind up in the Western Conference Championship the next year. Despite who wins, both teams should consider the 2014 campaign a success, but lets face it, both teams want to win. When these two teams play each other you can expect a thriller with every game so far being decided by three points or less. However when you look at the two teams they could not be more different.  The Portland Stags have one of the strongest lineups in the West, this year 15 of the 26 players that played recorded at least 10 points. With Timmy Perston being gone for most of the season, Cody Bjorklund and MVP candidate, Eli Friedman, have led the team from the start; but looking at the stats you can't help but notice how great they are for a majority of the roster. On the Vancouver side of the disc, they have some strong players on offense and on defense, I'm mainly talking about Brendan Wong and Morgan Hibbert, both MVP candidates and both players who led the MLU in statistical categories. Wong has recorded 22 of his 64 points against the Stags this season, a large imprint since they have only played three times this season, and has shown that he steps up for Vancouver. However for Portland there has been a different player to step up and lead the team each game! Numerous players get into the action and make an impact for the team. Whilst looking into the head-to-head match-ups, it must be taken into account that the Week 10 battle was the second of the weekend for Portland and the night before had already clinched a playoff spot, letting the coaches rest some of their star players. With that all being said, I still expect another great game between the two squads.

My Pick: Vancouver over Portland 25-24

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Final Power Rankings

Well there you have it, the 2014 MLU regular season has come to a close! This past weekend Philadelphia was unable to defeat the DC Current in order to position themselves into the playoffs, allowing the Boston Whitecaps to take their spot. With the final spot in the 2014 postseason now claimed its time to move on to the conference championship and with that my 2014 Final Power Rankings, no surprise the teams that are still playing are the teams at the top.

1. DC Current: 9-1

Last Week: 1  Change: +0

Defeated Philadelphia Spinners 21-19

Make that seven straight wins for the DC Current as they marched into Franklin Field to knock the surging Philadelphia Spinners out of the postseason. During the week there was much talk of the Current "throwing away" this game and allowing Philadelphia to win. In doing so, DC would then play Philly again in the championship instead of Boston. Those rumors were then put to rest, while even with mixed lines and reduced playing time from the superstars, with DC's fourth victory over Philly this season.

2. Portland Stags: 8-2

Last Week: 2  Change: +0

Defeated Seattle Rainmakers 13-12

While still conserving their role players, the Stags were still able to hold off one of the best offensive teams in the league, the Seattle Rainmakers.  Once again the entire team worked together for the victory, allowing bench players to get improved stats stars to take a rest.  Cody Bjorklund still led the team with four points (two goals, two assists). The team will begin to prepare for the Vancouver Nighthawks next week as they are one of the only teams to defeat the Portland Stags this season.

3. Vancouver Nighthawks: 6-4

Last Week: 3  Change: +0

Defeated San Francisco Dogfish 17-15

In a week where a story on the Nighthawks was covered by The National, Vancouver was still able to go into San Francisco and defeat the defending conference champions. Brendan Wong continued his offensive dominance as he broke the regular season points record with 64 this season (48 goals, 16 assists). Vancouver is currently on a four game winning streak, after starting the season with a 2-4 record, and have a huge wave of momentum going into the Western Conference Championship.

4. Boston Whitecaps: 5-5

Last Week: 5  Change: +1

Defeated New York Rumble 21-16

It may not have been the way the intended the season to play out but with Philadelphia's loss and Boston's win on Saturday, the Whitecaps are back into the playoffs. In their match-up against New York that ended up being the game that put them into the playoffs, Jeff Graham looked like a man on a mission as he assisted on six scores, leading all players on both squads in points and assists. This sets up a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Championship where the Whitecaps will defend their Championship Crown.

5. Philadelphia Spinners: 4-6

Last Week: 4  Change: -1

Lost to DC Current 19-21

Unfortunately the miracle run for Philadelphia comes to close as they were unable to knock off the DC Current at home. The loss of Jake Rainwater proved costly as the Spinners were struggling to move the disc down the field and would ultimately result in unnecessary throws down-field. However Patrick Earles in the loss was able to collect eight points (four scores and four assists). A bright note to end the season, the were 4-2 against all teams that was not DC in the East and finished better than last season's 3-7.

6. Seattle Rainmakers: 4-6

Last Week: 6 Change: +0

Lost to Portland Stags 12-13

The spirit from the Rainmakers was clearly broken before the match even started as Seattle misses the playoffs for the first time. Even with a lead the Rainmakers were out of it and could not build on any momentum. With the loss they fall to 4-6 which makes their win total half of what it was a year ago (8-2) and disappointingly could not match their playoff berth.

7. San Francisco Dogfish: 2-8

Last Week: 7  Change: +0

Lost to Vancouver Nighthawks 15-17

The frustrating season for the San Francisco Dogfish finally comes to an end with a loss to the Vancouver Nighthawks. A common theme throughout the season was missing players for the Dogfish and was a factor again as they were without their best player, Evan Boucher, and could not match-up with Wong and Hibbert on the other side. Losing Beau Kittredge in the offseason was huge this season and hopefully if San Fran can find a new cutter in the offseason, match their 8-2 record and Western Conference Championship from a year ago.

8. New York Rumble: 2-8

Last Week: 8  Change: +0

Lost to Boston Whitecaps 16-21

After a promising start the New York Rumble ended their 2014 campaign on a six game losing streak. Once again the Rumble were unable to play a complete game, allowing Boston to go on a 7-3 scoring run in the final quarter and a half of play. Hopefully New York is able to keep their star players on their roster a build a cohesive unit after a season that was worse than last year's 3-7.

So that will do it for the regular season, there are now only three games left to play and two of them will be this upcoming weekend. Both conference championships will be played on Saturday with both respective winners to face each other in the MLU Championship in Philadelphia. In the East, it will be a rematch of last year's championship except this year DC is the dominating force and Boston was the team that had to rely on a Week 11 win to get in. DC has been undefeated at home this year and will play a huge factor in this the game. The Western Conference Championship will feature two new playoff teams in the Portland Stags and Vancouver Nighthawks. The Stags will host the game but their most recent loss came against the Nighthawks in Week 10 of the regular season, something has to give...

Be on the lookout later this week for my Conference Championships Previews and Predictions on who I think will be the two teams playing in PPL Park on July 19th.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Week 10 Power Rankings

To me it feels like each week gets better and better in the MLU, the drama continues to rise, and the competitiveness of the players comes out even more. This week featured fantastic match-ups on the East and West coast and now have made our playoff picture a whole lot clearer. If you missed any of the games this weekend I suggest that you go back and find them now because they were all worth watching.

1. DC Current: 8-1

Last Week: 1  Change: +0

Defeated NY Rumble 21-15

"All I Do is Win" was heard at the end of every home game this season for DC as defeating New York gave them a perfect 5-0 record at home, and gave them their sixth straight victory (the longest in the MLU this season). This game was closer than what most probably expected but with the DC superstars getting a good amount of rest, the Rumble were able to stay in the game a lot longer. With the limited playing time, 21 of the 25 players for DC recorded at least one point with Jeff Wodatch leading the roster with five points.

2. Portland Stags: 7-2

Last Week: 2  Change: +0

Defeated Seattle Rainmakers 17-16
Lost to Vancouver Nighthawks 18-20

The Stags played two incredible games this weekend against the only two teams that had a chance of playing them in the playoffs. They came away from this doubleheader 1-1, their only one of the season. Jeremy Norden had a combined 11pts this weekend, with nine of them being assists. However after their victory in Seattle, Portland clinched the #1 seed in the West allowing the team to rest some key players and spread the scoring across the board in route to letting Vancouver clinch the last playoff spot.

3. Vancouver Nighthawks: 5-4

Last Week: 3  Change: +0

Defeated Portland Stags 20-18

The preseason favorite Nighthawks, despite their struggles, were able to finally clinch a spot in the 2014 playoffs by defeating the Portland Stags. This game was yet another classic in the Vancouver-Portland series, where the game was tied at 18 with three minutes left to go. When looking at a preview into their Western Conference Championship matchup, it must take into account that this was the second game of the weekend for Portland and they were resting some players. Brendan Wong scored seven more goals, breaking the league's scoring record.

4. Philadelphia Spinners: 4-5

Last Week: 5  Change: +1

Defeated Boston Whitecaps 21-18

After starting the season 1-4, the Philadelphia Spinners have the opportunity to finish the second half at 4-1. A run from Philadelphia that is similar's to DC's run into the playoffs last season; except going into another must-win game for Philly, DC has already clinched a spot. But after their game against the Whitecaps, anything is possible. The Spinners were in control the entire game, holding a three point lead for most of the second half and not allowing Boston's offense to be consistent. The team played like they had to win and it showed.

5. Boston Whitecaps: 4-5

Last Week: 4  Change: -1

Lost to Philadelphia Spinners 18-21

After a 10-0 championship season, this season the Boston Whitecaps will finish at .500 or below and might not make the playoffs. Losing this weekend to the Spinners was the first time in franchise history that they lost back-to-back games and the team continues to be winless on the road. The play from the trio of Markette, Graham, and Malechek was not enough to overcome the Spinners fleeting attempt to stay alive in the postseason hunt. With this loss, much to the Whitecaps dismay, they do not control their own fate. In order to make the final playoff spot the must defeat New York and hope for DC to do the same to Philadelphia.

6. Seattle Rainmakers: 4-5

Last Week: 6 Change: +0

Lost to Portland Stags 16-17

The final five minutes of this game was one of the most exciting, on-the-edge-of your seat moments that a professional ultimate game has ever given me. The game was tied at 15 when Portland won two long points, both that were two minutes plus to take a 17-15 lead. With only 27 seconds now left, Seattle had to score, get a D, and score again.  After an incredible snag by Isaac Entz in the endzone, Seattle still had a faint chance with only 18 seconds remaining. Sam Harkness then perfectly reads the disc to get the D, and the disc gets right in front of the endzone where Kalif El-Salaam turfs a ten yard throw to a wide open teammate. Unfortunately this heart breaker eliminates Seattle from the playoffs and forces them to look ahead to next year.

7. San Francisco Dogfish: 2-7

Last Week: 7  Change: +0


The bye this week will allow San Francisco to alter their game plan, because clearly what they have been doing this season has not worked. The only thing the Dogfish have to play for on Saturday is the chance to get the series win against Vancouver, the #2 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

8. New York Rumble: 2-7

Last Week: 8  Change: +0

Lost to DC Current 15-21

Well I will give the Rumble some credit, they continue to play despite the results they have been getting this season. Unfortunately for them that the most interesting story from the Big Apple in the second half of the season is that when the MLU season is done, Isaac Saul will play for the New York based AUDL team (the New York Empire).  But in their matchup against DC, they were able to stay in the game throughout the first three quarters, before being outscored 6-2 in the final frame. Once again the Rumble will have the opportunity to play spoiler and prevent the Whitecaps from making the postseason this upcoming week.

So now heading into the final week of regular season play in the MLU, the Western Conference has been decided. Portland will get the #1 seed and play host to the Vancouver Nighthawks (#2 seed). The two teams that made the playoffs last year, the Seattle Rainmakers (3) and San Francisco Dogfish (4), have been eliminated. This week Seattle will travel to Portland and Vancouver will travel to San Francisco to conclude their respective regular seasons. In the East, DC has clinched the #1 seed and will host either the Philadelphia Spinners or Boston Whitecaps in the Eastern Conference Championship Game. But first DC must travel to Philadelphia, in a game that if the Spinners won would give the Spinners the #2 seed. In order for Boston to make the playoffs they must beat New York (4) and hope for a Philadelphia loss.

Don't agree? Tell me what I missed in the comments section and who you think 
should be at the top.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Week 9 Power Rankings

This weekend was a must watch in the MLU, every single match-up had playoff implications. Opening the weekend the Portland Stags won against the Dogfish and clinched a spot in the Western Conference Championship, that game was followed up by DC's complete control of the Whitecaps in their first loss in Boston in franchise history. Vancouver put themselves in the driver's seat for the final playoff spot in the West, and then finally on Sunday the Philadelphia Spinners stayed alive in the playoff hunt while knocking the New York Rumble out of the postseason for the second straight season.

1. DC Current: 7-1

Last Week: 1  Change: +0

Defeated Boston Whitecaps 22-16

It is officially the Current's Eastern Conference, yes I know they were 6-1 while Boston was 4-3 but we all still thought the Boston had a chance to comeback. In fact if Boston had won, the East would be singing a different tune. Nevertheless, DC clinched the #1 seed and home-field advantage for the conference championship. Their opponent? They probably do not care and will be prepared for whoever it is. I would expect their star players to still play the next two weeks but not play nearly the same amount of points.

2. Portland Stags: 6-1

Last Week: 2  Change: +0

Defeated San Francisco Dogfish 17-12

Defeating the Dogfish this weekend put last season's bottom dweller team undefeated, 4-0, against last season's Western Conference Champions. While doing so they clinched their first playoff berth in their two year history.  In this game four Stags were able to rack up four points each, including Lohre, Davis, Kenton, and Burton. There were still some turnovers that Portland needs to eliminate but all the Stags have to do is win one of the final three games to get home-field advantage for the Western Conference Championship.

3. Vancouver Nighthawks: 4-4

Last Week: 5  Change: +2

Defeated Seattle Rainmakers 27-12

Last week's game between these two teams was a classic, one of the top 10 games in league history, this week Vancouver did not even give Seattle a chance. Vancouver was in complete control the whole game, very few drops, clean throws, aggressive defense, and every lucky bounce or call went their way. Brendan Wong scored 4 goals bringing his total to 36 on the season and a whopping 50 points, 10 more than second place (Daniel Trytiak 40pts). Three of the team's four wins have been against Seattle as they now hold the tiebreaker between the two teams.

4. Boston Whitecaps: 4-4

Last Week: 3  Change: -1

Lost to DC Current 16-21

This weekend marked the first time a Boston based professional ultimate frisbee team lost in Bean-town. Bringing with that their lowest point total of the season in 16.  When the game started it looked like Boston was the team coming off a seven hour bus ride in getting broken on the first three points to fall behind 0-3.  The Whitecaps simply got out played, DC was laying out all over the field, while Boston failed to run all the way through the disc, misreads etc. However they still control their playoff destiny with a huge match-up against the Spinners upcoming.

5. Philadelphia Spinners: 3-5

Last Week: 6  Change: +1

Defeated NY Rumble 23-22

A huge game from Nick Hirranet that included nine assists, kept the Spinners playoff hopes alive and quite possibly threw his name into the MVP discussion by now being tied with Alan Kolick with the most assists in the league.  From this game I have determined that these teams love playing each other, their combined point total in their head-to-head games was 59-58 with the Spinners scoring one more point. While Boston controls their destiny so does Philadelphia, whichever team wins this upcoming weekend will be the favorite to get the last playoff spot in the East.

6. Seattle Rainmakers: 4-4

Last Week: 4 Change: -2

Lost to Vancouver Nighthawks 12-27

Two weeks ago I had Seattle as the #2 team in the league coming off their win over the Portland Stags and with momentum to try and fight to the top of the standings. Now they are coming off two straight losses against Vancouver and are outside of the playoffs. However if I were Seattle I wouldn't take this game to heart to much as 16 players were listed as inactive or out for this game.

7. San Francisco Dogfish: 2-7

Last Week: 7  Change: +0

Lost to Portland Stags 12-17

I know that this is what we have been used to from the Dogfish all season, but it still shocks me at how poorly they played this weekend.  I am still expecting the members that are 2013 Western Conference Champions to step up but it fails to happen week in and week out. The amount of drops from San Fran this game and this season is astronomical and what has been one of the deciding factors in every loss this season.

8. New York Rumble: 2-6

Last Week: 8  Change: +0

Lost to Philadelphia Spinners 22-23

The Rumble were so close to ending their three game losing streak in yet another thriller against Philly. In this game the Rumble played their best full four quarters all season, unfortunately in a heartbreaking loss. The good from this game: this team looked like an actual team, there was great flow and every player looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves and there were stats from every star player that you expected. The bad: with this loss the Rumble are officially eliminated from the playoffs with two games still to go in the season.

The playoff picture is now more clear with two teams that have clinched playoff spots, two teams that are eliminated and four teams (two in each conference) still battling to get the last spot.  This upcoming weekend there is a huge game in the East when the Boston Whitecaps travel to Philadelphia with the final playoff spot on the line. If Boston were to win they would get the number two seed in the playoffs where if the Spinners won they would control their destiny going into the final week. DC will host New York at home where they have been undefeated the whole season in their regular season home finale. In the Western Conference the Dogfish have off this weekend and the Stags will have the final doubleheader of the regular season. On Saturday the Stags will travel up to Seattle, the only team to defeat them this season, and then on Sunday travel to Vancouver in their final head-to-head regular season game this season.

Don't agree? Tell me what I missed in the comments section and who you think 
should be at the top.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week 8 Power Rankings

MLU play revamped up this past weekend as six of the eight teams played with playoff positioning on the line. The DC Current played at home trying to clinch a berth into the playoffs and also to remain undefeated at home; the Vancouver Nighthawks had an opportunity to gain ground on the Seattle Rainmakers while traveling to Seattle; and the San Francisco Dogfish were trying to remain in playoff contention while playing the conference leading Portland Stags.

1. DC Current: 6-1

Last Week: 1  Change: +0

Defeated Philadelphia Spinners 22-16

The DC Current got back into the work-grind this week by playing a Spinners squad that saw numerous Pitt Ultimate players make their season debuts. Despite the early scare, in which DC trailed 3-6, they fought back and scored four straight points to make it 7-6 and then went on a 10-1 scoring run to take a 20-11 lead.  Early in the game DC's offense struggled to score and used their defense to carry the weight in this game. The Current's defensive play is going to be pivotal in the playoffs because with this win the DC Current were the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

2. Portland Stags: 5-1

Last Week: 3  Change: +1

Defeated San Francisco Dogfish 20-15

The Stags increased their lead in the Western Conference this weekend to 1.5 games over the Rainmakers by defeating the Dogfish in their largest point differential of the season. The game started off in an exciting back and forth thriller that gave the Stags a 9-7 lead at half.  Portland would then ride that lead til the end of the game that was an entire team effort with 17 of the 22 players recording a point.  Now the Stags will go on a three game road trip as they hope to secure a playoff berth before returning home for the season finale.

3. Boston Whitecaps: 4-3

Last Week: 4  Change: +1


Despite coming off a game 23-6 throbbing of the Rumble, Boston had plenty to work on this bye week.  The win was not in typical fashion of Boston with turnovers and throwaways in a lineup that was ran on an X and Y type of lines rather than O and D lines.  Coming out of the bye week, they are getting prepared for a huge match-up with DC at home that will decide the regular season series between the top two teams in the East as well as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs if DC were to win.

4. Seattle Rainmakers: 4-3

Last Week: 2 Change: -2

Lost to Vancouver Nighthawks 24-29 2OT

Seattle had a opportunity to all but clinch a playoff spot in the West with a win over the Nighthawks, however it was all for not. It was yet another high scoring thriller between these two teams that needed two overtime periods to decide it.  Danny Trytiak lead the team with seven points (3 scores, four assists) but had a devastating drop in the end zone that would have put Seattle up a break in the first overtime period.

5. Vancouver Nighthawks: 3-4

Last Week: 6  Change: +1

Defeated Seattle Rainmakers 29-24 2OT

Is this the real Vancouver? Has the real Vancouver finally showed up?The answer is yes but the real question is "are they here to stay?" An incredible battle between Seattle and Vancouver  had to be settled in not one but two overtimes. Even though this was a high scoring affair the difference was Vancouver's defense that was lead by Morgan Hibbert who had six defensive plays, and now puts him in the lead of the MLU with 17. Riding their defensive intensity will be key if they hope to make a playoff push.

6. Philadelphia Spinners: 2-5

Last Week: 5  Change: -1

Lost to DC Current 16-22

Honestly I gave the Pitt Ultimate players more credit than I should have, granted they are fantastic players and lead the stat sheet for the Spinners, but they cannot get thrown in and change everything; it takes time i.e. New York. No one in this game scored more than three points for Philadelphia that included over ten minutes of play without a score from Philly.  Despite the loss Philadelphia still has a shot of the playoffs but must win their remaining games and hope for another loss from Boston.

7. San Francisco Dogfish: 2-6

Last Week: 7  Change: +0

Lost to Portland Stags 15-20

At the very beginning of the season if you told me that the Week 8 matchup between the Dogfish and Stags would feature a 5-1 team and a 2-6 team, I would have thought everything would be reversed.  This week another poor second half was the deciding factor in the game. Leading the team this week was Drew Kim who had 3 goals and 3 assists but the drops from the Dogfish were too much to overcome. With this loss the Dogfish are the first team eliminated from the playoffs.

8. New York Rumble: 2-5

Last Week: 8  Change: +0


Hmmm, New York can make the playoffs with New York defeating the Spinners, Current, and Whitecaps in addition to Boston losing to DC or Philadelphia. Simple right? Well it may seem improbable but the Rumble might make it interesting. I have been waiting all season for the team to put it all together, they have the talent to be a top tier team in the MLU, it just takes time to put everything together. I'm not saying that they will come back because it is highly improbable but expect a better team after this bye week.

All the team are back in action this week with great matchups in the Eastern Conference with top two teams playing each other, DC and Boston, in which DC has the best road record in the league but Boston also being undefeated in Boston. The lower two teams, Philadelphia and New York, will play each other in which the loser will be the first team in the East eliminated from the playoffs and the winner with still a faint shot. In the West both games will be rematches of last week with a change in venues, as Portland travels to San Francisco and Seattle travels to Vancouver.  All of these games will have playoff implications with only three spots left in the postseason and only 3 weeks left.

Don't agree? Tell me what I missed in the comments section and who you think 
should be at the top.