Photo by Paul Andris – UltiPhotos.com
The Boston Whitecaps never trailed in the 2015 MLU Championship game which they won to the tune of 31-17. The Whitecaps began the overrunning of the Seattle Rainmakers on a deep twisting block from Boston’s Christian Foster on the opening point, which resulted in Boston break and a 1-0 lead 1:21 into the contest. While Seattle scored their next offensive point to tie 1-1, they would get broken again to go down 1-3. After correcting course and scoring the next two offensive points, Seattle was down 3-4 and pulling.
Then, a Piers MacNaughton overthrow over Sam Kittross-Schnell’s head fell to the Rainmakers. Seattle’s defense was given a chance to work on offense and quickly completed four passes, but had little position change to show for it. By this point Boston settled into structurally sound defense while Seattle settled into a marginally clogged offense.
Which was when this Jeff Graham block happened. Henry Phan and his defender served to narrow the throwing lane for Eddie Feeley who, while running out of stall, squeezed the disc through that crossfield window in an attempt to hit the swing and release the pressure for the offense. Instead, Graham soared through the air for the block.
Feeley’s turnover would be the only turnover for Seattle’s defensive side on the evening. Which, if it was not their only defensive possession, would be a really impressive achievement. However, while Boston would throw a turnover to end the first half, Seattle did not get a possession after that. Over the course of 40 minutes of play, Boston’s offense turned the disc over only twice. They scored 17 offensive goals over 18 possessions. The one possession on which they did not score was the end of a quarter. The one point in which Seattle had a defensive possession was ended by a midfield layout block from Graham.
Never mind that Boston also tallied 14 breaks in 24 chances for a 58.33 conversion percentage which would have been good for first in the league by a significant margin (league leader Portland was at 39.35%), it was the offense which carried the day for Boston and made the defensive pressure possible.
Not only did the Boston offense score continually, but they scored quickly. Of their 17 offensive goals, eight of them took under 30 seconds. The pressure that this applied to Seattle’s offense, which was already down and trying to play quickly, compounded as the game went on, which led to the Rainmakers hucking the disc when they needed to rather than when they wanted to.
In many ways, the blueprint Boston followed in this game was that of the very first game of the year for Seattle in which they fell to Portland. Boston got ahead early (in part due to Seattle errors and in part due to Boston’s strong defense) and never let up on the offensive scoring assault. The point differential at the end of every quarter was larger than it was at the end of the previous quarter: 3, 5, 9, 14.
While Graham (4 goals, 2 assists, 1 block, 33/33) and Josh Markette (2 goals, 3 assists, 34/34) clearly led the way for the Boston offense, it was a team-wide commitment to offensive execution. Of the 24 Boston Whitecaps to play, only four of them completed passes below 90 percent. Those four went 20/28 and included the only three players on the team to throw more than one turnover.
While it may be lost in the loss, Seattle was not outclassed in this game. They put themselves in a tight spot early on from which they would never recover, but their offense showed stretches of powerful play and their defense managed to cobble together some resistance late in the game. The Rainmakers had a very strong season, and showed exactly zero quit in this game. That should be lauded by all who love sports, but can often be forgotten as we shower the spoils of praise upon the victors. Who we are in defeat is a glimpse of our truest (and often worst) selves, and Seattle showed that they are positive when facing odds worse than they could have imagined going into this game. I see you out there, Rainmakers, and I’m happy you’re here.
These two teams represented the 2015 MLU season very well. They had a swelling positive trend over the season, were undeniably well-coached and defined their own identities on and off of the field. This year has been a blast for me (And I hope everyone else!) from pre-season until today. While we all could have hoped for a closer final, we would be greedy to do so as in this game the very core of sport’s unpredictability was on display throughout.
I’ll close this with a hearty congratulations to the Boston Whitecaps. You have earned your second championship in this young league against the worthiest competition available. Not only that, but the guy you keep putting forward on MVP ballots is not only a fantastic player, but a positive role model. If I was wearing a hat, I would tip it toward both the Whitecaps and Graham. I am not, so instead I will type this:
We were told that the MLU is centrally owned and operated. What we were not told is that that Boston Whitecaps are the owner-operators. It is their league and the rest of us just work here.