Wednesday, April 29, 2015

DC and Portland Take Early Conference Leads as Vancouver Earns Season's First Win

After a week with a massive shakeup in the rankings, nothing changed into this week. Well, that is rankings-wise at least. We learned a lot about each individual team this week with results that many could have predicted beforehand. The Current and Stags both have early leads at point, being the only squads with undefeated records but week in and week out that can easily change. Vancouver and Seattle faced off in the annual "Border Bid" in a battle between the two most inexperienced teams in the league. This all while Boston got their first win of the season after going 0-2 for the first time in franchise history.

1. DC Current: 2-0 

Last Week: 1     Change: +0

Defeated Philadelphia Spinners 18-15

Weekend Superstar: Lloyd Blake (4 goals, 2 assists)

Review: A lot cleaner game for the Current this past weekend as they defeated the Spinners. It may not seem like it now but it was a key victory in their pursuit for the Eastern Conference title. Lloyd Blake who moved from the D-line to the O-line to fill in the absence of Sean Keagan, had a coming out game this past week. His four goals led the team which is starting to look like the team they were at the end of last year. The team now has a winning streak that spans over a year.

2. Portland Stags: 2-0

Last Week: 2     Change: +0

Defeated San Francisco Dogfish  15-12

Weekend Superstar: Peter Woodside (5 goals, 1 assist)

Review: Traveling down to San Fran is going to be no easy task for any team this season. However this time the Stags put this one away after a threat from the Dogfish. The normal stars for Portland continued to get involved, this time the team was lead by Timmy Perston and Peter Woodside. There are still some issues, especially being broken three times in a row in the third quarter that brought the game within one. For now the team holds the top spot in the Western Conference as they will have a rematch of the West Championship next week.

3. Philadelphia Spinners: 1-1

Last Week: 3     Change: +0

Philadelphia Spinners
Lost to DC Current 15-18

Weekend Superstar: Billy Sickles (1 goal, 4 assists, 2 blocks)

Review: The Spinners dropped a close one in DC this past weekend. Despite the numerous attempts by the Current to run away with the game, Philadelphia stayed within striking distance. The difference maker in the game: the weather. The rain, while still affecting the Current, disrupted the Spinners O-line. It will be interesting to see how the team responds when they host DC in Philly and if they can replicate the positives at home.

4. Boston Whitecaps: 1-2

Last Week: 4     Change: +0

Defeated New York Rumble 20-13

Weekend Superstar: Tyler Chan (4 goals, 1 assist)

Review: The Whitecaps got their first win of the 2015 season by controlling the Rumble at home this past weekend. The team got past their 0-2 start by breaking the Rumble for the first three points of the game. From there the Whitecaps "rode the wave" and put away New York. Tyler Chan played in hist first ever professional ultimate game and made his presence known. Chan may be the perfect player to replace the absence of Danny Clark and return Boston to the top of the East. Don't believe me? Just check out his Callahan video

5. Vancouver Nighthawks: 1-1

Last Week: 5     Change: +0

Defeated Seattle Rainmakers 22-20

Weekend Superstar: Kirk Savage (3 goals, 5 assists, 1 block)

Review: Decisive win on the road for the Nighthawks in the annual Border Bid game. The final score was closer than the play on the field. The top stars for Vancouver in Aaron Loach, Brendan Wong, Charles Eyrich, Jordan Tessarolo, and Kirk Savage lead the way, recording 16 goals and 13 assists in the game. Morgan Hibbert had himself a quiet outing with only an assist and two blocks but was forced to leave the game due to injury. The defense stepped up with higher intensity and forced turnovers like they did last year.

6. Seattle Rainmakers: 0-2

Last Week: 6     Change: +0

Lost to Vancouver Nighthawks 20-22

Weekend Superstar: Mark Burton (3 goals, 6 assists, 1 block)

Review: Even with an MLU-high on the week of 9 points, Mark Burton could not will the Rainmakers to a victory. The offense looked much improved, aided by the return of Daniel Trytiak, and converted on a majority of their O points. Their defense forced turnovers, another issue from the previous week, but were unable to convert those turns into points.

7. San Francisco Dogfish: 1-1

Last Week: 7     Change: +0

Lost to Portland Stags 12-15

Weekend Superstar: Andrew Goldstein (1 goal, 2 assists, 2 blocks)

Review: Do not let this loss discourage Dogfish fans. If you take out the fourth quarter of play, it is only a one point deficit for San Fran. Nevertheless a loss is a loss, but the team is starting to find out who they really are and what parts go where. Gabe Saunkeah and Matt Kissmann are getting comfortable together as the main offensive handlers allowing Drew Kim, David Abram, and others fill into their natural positions.

8. New York Rumble: 0-1

Last Week: 8     Change: +0

New York Rumble
Lost to Boston Whitecaps 13-20

Weekend Superstar: Jibran Mieser (2 goals, 6 blocks)

Review: If Jibran Mieser is still available in your fantasy league, he will not be for this upcoming weekend. It however was not just Mieser who had a great weekend for the Rumble, Chris Mazur, John Wodatch, and Ben Faust kept the team as close as they could to the Whitecaps but unforced errors increased the deficit. There should not be much to worry about though if you are New York, after all this was your first game and Boston's third

This upcoming week, the 2013 and 2014 champs in the Boston Whitecaps and the DC Current will have their only bye of the season before facing off in Boston in week four. The Rumble will attempt to get their first win on the year traveling to Philadelphia, as the Spinners are hoping to return to form. On the West coast the Dogfish travel to Seattle for a rematch of the 2013 Western Conference Championship as the Rainmakers will be welcoming Kaliff El-Salaam for his first game on the year. Meanwhile the Stags will head to Vancouver for a rematch of the 2014 West Championship.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Portland Asserts Their Dominance, While Philadelphia and San Francisco Grab Key Wins.

Quite a bit of a shakeup after the first week of competition in the MLU. A lot of teams had to shake off the rust that might have formed during the offseason but it still made for three stellar matchups and a blowout win. After a week of play it appears the East might be more up for grabs than everyone else thought. Even with the Whitecaps losing two games, they had one of the top performances of the week considering what they were faced with. In the West, Portland showed that last season was no fluke and dominated Seattle, while the Dogfish got a win that will go a long way for the upcoming season.

1. DC Current: 1-0 

Last Week: 1     Change: +0

Defeated Boston Whitecaps 19-18 in 2OT

Weekend Superstar: Alan Kolick (0 goals, 8 assists)

Review: Still had to workout all the kinks in Week 1 but bottom line they got the victory. It was an exciting matchup between the Current and the Whitecaps this week, which we are now starting to come to expect when these two teams face off. Lets face it though, if Ben Fleming had not come through in the clutch for DC, they might not be sitting in the top spot for the 10 consecutive time.

2. Portland Stags: 1-0

Last Week: 2     Change: +0

Defeated Seattle Rainmakers 21-12

Weekend Superstar: Cody Bjorklund (1 goal, 4 assists)

Review: A great start to the season for the Stags who looked better than what I gave them credit for. Portland dominated Seattle on Saturday (they were missing El-Salaam) and showed why they should be the favorites in the West. Everyone for Portland was involved and played "smart ultimate", hopefully the team can stay healthy and build off this win. Oh and here's a shout-out to Cody Bjorklund for not only playing but nabbing four assists in the process with a cast on his throwing arm!

3. Philadelphia Spinners: 1-0

Last Week: 6     Change: +3

Philadelphia Spinners
Defeated Boston Whitecaps 22-20

Superstars: Jake Rainwater (4 goals, 4 assists)

Review: As I said in my preseason rankings, this is probably the best opening day roster that the Spinners have ever assembled. It showed on Friday as they stepped up to beat the Whitecaps for the third time in a row. The difference in this one was that the team just came out and straight out beat them. No wind, no luck, just good strong ultimate. This may be the year that the Spinners finally break through. That Jake Rainwater guy also went 40 for 40 in throws while the team only turned it over 10 times.

4. Boston Whitecaps: 0-2

Last Week: 4     Change: +0

Lost to Philadelphia Spinners 20-22, lost to DC Current 18-19 2OT

Superstars: Jeff Graham in two games (7 goals, 9 assists)

Review: Despite losing the first two games of the season,  there are a lot of positives for the Whitecaps. An incredible 13 players that were listed as inactive this week, including their top handler Josh Markette. It was rather impressive how well the team did play without a good chunk of their roster. Combined both games were lost by a combined three points and with a healthy roster it will not be that hard to get three points back. However losing the loss of Will Neff, Jon Hirschberger and Rusty Ingold-Smith for the season is a cause for concern.

5. Vancouver Nighthawks: 0-1

Last Week: 5     Change: +0

Lost to San Francisco Dogfish 14-15

Superstars: Brendan Wong (3 goals, 1 assist, 2 blocks)

Review: The loss of players to the AUDL showed in the opening week for the Nighthawks. While the team is being led by some of the best in the business, having 20 rookies is a huge obstacle to face. In this game there were a lot of uncharacteristic hucks by Vancouver, just the team was unable to come down with them. It will take a while for Vancouver to return to championship form, but never count them out in any matchup.

6. Seattle Rainmakers: 0-1

Last Week: 3     Change: -3

Lost to Portland Stags 12-21

Superstars: Mark Burton (3 goals, 2 assists)

Review:  The Rainmakers learned the hard way that it is tough to win without two of your star players (El-Salaam and Trytiak). The entire team was outworked and looked like an inexperienced team. El-Salaam should return next week and hopefully Trytiak's injury is not that severe otherwise this will not be the lowest Seattle falls.

7. San Francisco Dogfish: 1-0

Last Week: 8     Change: +1

Defeated Vancouver Nighthawks 15-14

Superstars: David Abram (2 assists, 2 blocks)

Review: In a new stadium, the Dogfish looked like a whole happier team as they got a great season-opening win over the Nighthawks. Despite the victory I am not entirely sold on San Fran, there were a lot of drops and they allowed Vancouver to come back when they should have been shutting the door. A key for them the remainder of the season should be winning all the home games because if they can do that they will be right in the playoff chase.

8. New York Rumble: 0-0

Last Week: 7     Change: -1

New York Rumble
Bye Week

Superstars: N/A

Review: Well when are the second to last team in the rankings and the only team bellow you wins, you are going to drop to the basement. The adversity that this New York team is already faces does not bode well. Their bye week was probably the worst place that it could happen on the season and then they will face the team that has played the most games thus far in the season. Oh and that game was originally scheduled to be in New York.

This upcoming week, every team will be in action as the Rumble will join the party. Philadelphia will have the chance to prove if they are going to challenge DC for the Eastern Conference title this year. Moving out West, Seattle and Vancouver will face off where one team will get a much needed victory, while San Francisco has the opportunity to rise to the occasion by hosting the Portland Stags.

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 MLU Preseason Rankings

This is normally where I rant about my displeasure for preseason rankings, but this year I will not give you the trouble. If you really want to see what I have to say just look at last season's preseason rankings. However, I must give the people what they want and give you my speculation for this season.

In the midst of off-season signings I was really excited to see who was going to return for this upcoming season and who will be joining the league for the first time. While there is a lot still up in the air for the 2015 season, I believe a lot of what we have seen the previous seasons will be indicative for this year. The East I believe will still have a dominant team and the West will be up for grabs all the way until the final week of the regular season. Last year we witnessed two teams that had losing records the previous season and battle back to be the top seed in their respective conferences. The conferences might not see this turnover again this year but there will definitely be teams making their way to the top.

1. DC Current: 2014: 9-1, MLU Champions

Superstars: Alan Kolick (14 G, 30 A), Markham Shofner (11 G, 30 A), Peter Prial (23 G, 16 A)

Darkhorses: Lloyd Blake (5 G, 10 A), Seth Wiggins (2013 Rainmakers), Chuck Cantone (2014 Montreal Royal)

Outlook: Last year there was no doubt that the DC Current was the best team in the league. From top to bottom the Current could beat any team they faced. This year I do not expect anything to change; same players, same system and until another team proves that they can beat DC, they will continue to be the favorite.

Why they will be good: Yes the team lost a couple of players this offseason, every team does, but the key players are returning for the team. The O-line that was the highest scoring in the MLU last season, still has Kolick, Shofner, and Prial, to go along with Wodatch, Doi, and Oung, there will be no weak players in this core group. That DC-D is not bad themselves, the constant cycle of defensive players last season led to the success the team had. With Delrico Johnson, Dom Gibson, and Ben Flemming back defensively, their D-line will be tough to score on.

Why they will be bad: Winning a championship is hard, but repeating a championship is even harder. Every team on the schedule will now have their game against DC circled and will be looking to knock off the champs. Them being forced to play 100% every game may prove difficult as the season goes on.

2. Portland Stags: 2014: 8-2, Western Conference Runner-Up

Superstars: Cody Bjorklund (26 G, 15 A), Eli Friedman (19 G, 20 A), Topher Davis (17 Ds)

Darkhorses: Eli Blackman (4 G, 2 Ds), Peter Woodside (8 G, 8Ds), Riley Meinershagen (Injured most of 2014)

Outlook: Last season the Stags developed as a team, transforming from a 1-9 team to an 8-2 team. Besides the addition of Mark Burton who came over from Seattle, the team just simply got good, really good. This year all of top and second tier players are returning to the team (excluding Burton) and have the opportunity to build on last season's success. Having no two game weekends will also help.

Why they will be good: As I said before all of their top players that grew up over the last season will be back once again. While other teams lost a key player or two, all of the Stags are on board for 2015. Its looking like Timmy Perston and Riley Meinershagen are going to be playing for the whole season which will improve an already impressive roster from last year. The ability to take early leads and split the lines for the rest of the matchup could be a strategy that will continue to work.

Why they will be bad: While the team looks good, there are still opportunities for opponents to exploit their weaknesses.  Unforced turnovers were Portland's undoing in their loses in the regular season and the Western Conference Championship. When the Stags get down, teams can often reel off three or four points in a row, forcing the team to have to comeback. Also losing Burton back to Seattle could be a big hole to fill.

3. Seattle Rainmakers: 2014: 4-6, Missed Playoffs

Superstars: Daniel Trytiak (17 G, 27 A), Khalif El-Salaam (19 G, 12 A), Mark Burton (18 G, 14 A in Portland)

Darkhorses: Ben Beehner (3 G, 6 Ds), Eddie Feeley (3 G, 17 A), Henry Phan (2 G, 13 A)

Outlook: Unfortunately for the Rainmakers there was a mass exodus of players to the AUDL team for this season. However bringing back Mark Burton will help fill in the holes missing in the Seattle offense. The team will have a rough test at the beginning of the season but if they can survive the first two weeks the can set themselves up for the remainder of the season.

Why they will be good: Having the trio of Trytiak, El-Salaam, and Burton is one of the best in the MLU. If there will be one player that can turn around the team, the return of Burton will do so. This year the Rainmakers will have a balanced schedule and, just like Portland, will not have any two game weekends this season. The team has a lot experience with a good chunk of their roster entering their third season of play.

Why they will be bad: Losing the amount of players that Seattle did cannot have a positive effect on the team. It will depend on how the top three players get spread out among the lines and how conditioned they are for the upcoming season. Chemistry seemed to be a major problem to turnovers in 2014 and could repeat itself when Trytiak, El-Salaam, or Burton does not have the disc in their hands.

4. Boston Whitecaps: 2014: 5-5, Eastern Conference Runner-Up

Superstars: Jeff Graham (27 G, 20 A), Josh Markette (14 G, 28 A), Jack Hatchett (10 G, 16 Ds)

Darkhorses: Christian Foster (9 G, 5 A), Alex Simmons (9 A, 8 Ds), Will Neff (2013 Whitecaps)

Outlook: The team has lost two huge stars in Brandon Malacek and Danny Clark, fortunately for Boston they already have other stars that will be able to limit the damage. The Whitecaps were probably better than their 5-5 record indicated but they clearly were not the same team that won the inaugural MLU Championship.

Why they will be good: Whenever you have a Jeff Graham or a Josh Markette on your team you know you are in good hands. Both are guys that will play both ways and every point if they had to. Boston is also returning two guys from their 2013 team, Mike Miller and Will Neff that were instrumental in the Whitecaps D-line in the team's championship run.

Why they will be bad: Losing the offense that Malacek and Clark brought to the field will affect the squad at the beginning of the year. If teams can stop Graham and Markette there, it will be interesting to see where the team will look to score. Starting the season on a two game weekend on the road is not going to be pretty either. This O-line needs more time to gain experience and there is a huge chance that Boston can start the year 0-2.

5. Vancouver Nighthawks: 2014: 6-4, Western Conference Champions

Superstars: Brendan Wong (48 G, 16 A), Morgan Hibbert (19 A, 21 Ds), Aaron Loach (9 G, 20 A)

Darkhorses: Will Vu, Charles Eyrich (4 G, 5 Ds), Jon Hayduk (1 G, 1A)

Outlook: This might be low on my rankings for Vancouver but I feel that positions 3-6 are all interchangeable. The Nighthawks will enter 2015 similar to the Rainmakers, in seeing saw a good group of players leave to the AUDL. Most notably were Gagandeep Chatha and Kevin Underhill. Making up for this lost talent will be the biggest test of the year.

Why they will be good: Five words: Morgan Hibbert and Brendan Wong. Both of these guys have proven time and time again that they can put the team on their backs. Hibbert himself has been willing to play every point.  With these guys leading the team they can fill in the void and wait for other players to rise to the occasion. They remain the class of the field in the West until someone proves they can beat them. The Nighthawks have also proven that if they fall behind they can easily reel out four wins in a row.

Why they will be bad: This is going to be team that suffers the most from players leaving their squads. Chatha and Underhill were two huge players for Vancouver, and after the main superstars there is a big drop off in talent level. The team will be very inexperienced and cannot afford to lose close games.

6. Philadelphia Spinners: 2014: 4-6, Missed Playoffs

Superstars: Matt Esser (21 G, 13 A), Jake Rainwater (16 G, 16 A), Nick Hirannet (6 G, 26 A)

Darkhorses: Michael Panna (4 G, 8A), Patrick Lindsey (5 G, 1A), Nick Purifico (2013 Spinners)

Outlook: At the end of last year if you asked me who I thought was the second best team in the East, I would have told you Philadelphia. This season the team will bring back a majority of its players. The major ones all are back for this year (and some even longer) as they look to push for the playoffs for the first time in the MLU.

Why they will be good: The Spinners entering the field this season will probably be the best team that they have put out whilst in the MLU. The team is strong from top to bottom and have been playing with each other for numerous seasons. What you see on opening day is what they have and a win against Boston in the opening week will be a huge statement.

Why they will be bad: In order to make the playoffs you have to beat DC and Boston. Not only that but have to beat them on the road. In 2014 the Spinners only got one road victory and that was a one-point win over the Rumble. Philadelphia has to be better than that if they are going to be successful this year.

7. New York Rumble: 2014: 2-8, Missed Playoffs

Superstars: Chris Mazur (14 G, 20 A), Ben Faust (13 G, 10 A), Marques Brownlee (4 G, 11 Ds)

Darkhorses: Sean Murray (4G, 3A), Chris Wicus (2013 Rumble), Chris Kocher

Outlook: The Rumble have always been an interesting team, and that remains the same entering 2015. The team has always had great stars but building a complete team will be, and always has been, an issue. The team might steal one from Boston or Philly but once again New York has a lot to prove this year.

Why they will be good: Mazur returning is a huge boost for the team. As mentioned in the Ultiworld East Preview, New York rarely turns the disc over. In the offseason the Rumble signed the most players before the roster release that were not previously in the MLU. If the new players can adapt to the same system they could set themselves for one of their best years yet.

Why they will be bad: Losing Isaac Saul is pretty big. Together Saul and Mazur are the main reasons why New York stayed in the games that they did. After Mazur there is a huge drop off at the handler position and he cannot do it all himself. Losing a home game, and that being the home opener due to a scheduling conflict makes matters even worse.

8. San Francisco Dogfish: 2014: 2-8, Missed Playoffs

Superstars: Evan Boucher (18 G, 10 A), Matt Kissmann (12 G, 6A), Jackson Stearns (11 G, 7A)

Darkhorses: Drew Kim (7 G, 10 A), Michael McGuirk, Andrew Hooker

Outlook: Last year was the beginning of a rebuilding process for the Dogfish, looks like the team will have do it again for 2015. Boucher cannot hold the fort for the team the entire season. San Francisco might be able to steal a win here or there, especially at the beginning of the season but expect a lot of what we saw from the team last year.

Why they will be good: A two game home stand to start 2015 will benefit the team immensely with what they have to work with. Moving to a better stadium with less wind will help them gain a home field advantage that they were lacking last year. You will not want to count them out when it comes to any matchup throughout the season.

Why they will be bad: One player cannot do it all for the Dogfish. If Boucher has a bad week or gets injured there will be little chance for them to get a win. With the inexperience there will be a lot of turnovers and mistakes. Oh and the road trips are always going to be an issue; filling out a full roster and the distance is a lot to overcome.

As always, these are merely preseason rankings. After Week 1 there could be a complete turnover, except DC will not be last and San Fran will probably not be first. Either way a lot of things change throughout the season and the outcome is always going to be unexpected. If I were to make a prediction, I would pick DC to control the East and there be a three way battle between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver for the top spot in the West. Bottom line, I cannot wait until opening pull.

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