July 12, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 7 comments
Looking at the history of the Boston/San Francisco rivalry at the top of the sport, you might feel inclined to pick San Francisco to take the inaugural Major League Ultimate Championship.
No Boston Men’s team has won a USA Ultimate Club Championship since 1999, when Death or Glory won their sixth straight title. Since that time, San Francisco teams have won three titles (Revolver with two, Jam with one), all coming in the last five years.
And, just this past weekend, Boston’s Ironside — a team featuring a lot of top Whitecaps talent — fell on double game point to Revolver — a team featuring a lot of top Dogfish talent — in the finals of the US Open, suggesting a thrilling upcoming matchup in the MLU Championship tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the Dogfish will be playing without some of their biggest playmakers: Beau Kittredge, Ashlin Joye, Mac Taylor, and Russell Wynne will all be in Boulder for a Team USA practice in advance of the upcoming World Games. Martin Cochran and Sam Adamson will also be out for the Dogfish.
Those players account for nearly a third of all the goals scored and assists made on the Dogfish. They will leave a big wake in their absence.
While any team missing four of the best players in the country is going to struggle, the Dogfish have showed amazing resiliency when playing shorthanded. During the regular season, they took down the Seattle Rainmakers — the clear second best team in the Western Conference — while missing a large number of starters, including some of those out this weekend.
But Boston has been playing the best ultimate in the league. They tore through the Eastern Conference without a loss and dominated the DC Current in the Conference Finals two weeks ago. Josh “Cricket” Markette and the offense has been outstanding, never having been broken more than three times in a single game.
The challenge for Boston will be to play their best against a team that is a significant step up from the competition they’ve faced in the Eastern Conference this season. The Dogfish are a far better team than the Current — this game, even with some missing SF starters, won’t be a blowout.
Expect the Dogfish to rely on Evan Boucher, Cassidy Rasmussen, and Devon Anderson on offense. Their defensive line is mostly intact: watch for Sam Kanner and Patrick Baylis to make a big impact and try to keep the Whitecaps out of rhythm.
The Whitecaps, who won’t be missing players, should be a picture of consistency. Danny Clark, Peter Prial, and Jeff Graham will lead the way cutting on offense as Brandon Malecek and Markette distribute the disc.
On defense, Will Neff and Teddy Browar-Jarus will have a big impact.
The lingering question facing Boston: can they win when it counts? The current crop of elite Boston players has not been able to crack through to win a USA Ultimate title, despite reaching the finals three times and the semifinals twice in the past five years.
They will need to avoid coming into the game overconfident, as San Francisco’s excellent defense is likely to cause their offense some issues. The Whitecaps nearly lost to the Current during the regular season when they didn’t control the disc well, watching their completion percentage drop below 90%.
The question for San Francisco will be: can they score consistently on offense? Missing Kittredge and Taylor downfield removes two of their biggest targets and makes matching up against them significantly easier.
You can be sure the Dogfish won’t be making any excuses in their locker room — their role players have been in high-profile situations already this season and performed admirably. They are ready to step up for this game.
That said, Boston simply outshines San Francisco on talent in this game. If Boston executes its systems, they will win handily. But as we’ve seen so often, it’s tough to execute under pressure, especially against a talented defense.
The MLU Championship game starts at 6 PM EST tomorrow. Tickets are available here.