These Don’t Lie
We typed at length about shooting percentage in last weekend’s Brunch, and the results of the games this weekend confirmed how vital it is to shoot a high percentage. (As a reminder, “shots” are throws into the end zone.)
Over the season in games against their playoff opponents, three (out of 12) lines/teams shot 80 percent or higher (Philly’s D led the way at 81.82 percent followed by the Spinners as a whole at 80.26 percent and Portland’s D at 80.00 percent). On playoff weekend, seven of 12 lines/teams shot 80 percent or higher:
“Shot%” is the percent of shots which result in goals.
“Shot%Poss” is the percentage of possessions which end in a shot.
Of the seven teams/lines which shot over 80 percent, only one (Boston’s D-Line) was on a losing side. To consider the bottom of the table, in last week’s chart only one team/line was below 60 percent (Seattle’s D-Line at 55.00 percent). On the opening round of the playoffs, Seattle’s whole team shot 50 percent while Seattle’s offense shot 42.86 percent.
Note that four teams/lines were under 2.00 possessions per goal: the Stags, the Spinners, the Spinners defense and the Stags offense. In the regular season it was the Stags, the Stags defense, the Stags offense, and the Spinners offense. In the regular season, none of these teams/lines were higher than 2.67 in possessions per goal. In the playoffs, the Rainmakers as a team were at 3.67 possessions per goal and their offense was at 4.33 possessions per goal.
Finally, Seattle’s defense was 12/16 on throws (75.00%) spread over seven possessions. Of those 16 throws, four were shots and three were goals for a shooting percentage of 75 percent. Boston’s defense had the second fewest throws on the weekend with 34/40 (85.00%). No other lines had fewer than 90 throws.
The only goal for Seattle in the first quarter was after a tipped pass by Portland’s Peter Woodside.
And that’s about the best thing you can reasonably type about Seattle’s first quarter. Actually, that’s incorrect. Seattle’s zone proved it could take Portland out of their dominant game plan and slow the pace of play. The 40 passes that Portland’s offense threw on the first possession of the game was the most throws in a single possession in 2016. This embodied the game plan for Seattle which forced Portland to throw 269 throws on the day. Their previous high was 239 which was in the regular season finale against Seattle. Perhaps that game was more indicative of these two teams that we first accepted as Seattle’s throw-maximizing defense was on display in both as was the end result of Portland doubling up the Rainmakers by the end.
The resultant challenge is that the game, as Italian soccer fans know well, becomes a matter of doing the most with a small number of scoring chances. Another way to say that is that if your plan is to out-Portland Portland in a high-scoring game arms race, you’ll be in for a rough go of it as the score for both teams climbs high. Rather, if Seattle forces Portland to take many passes to score AND takes many passes to score themselves, the number of possessions in the game shrinks and the margin for winning becomes smaller. Provided that each team can play at a high level over those extended possessions.
But there was a problem with this plan for Seattle: They didn’t take (18 shots on 33 possessions for 54.55 percent, the lowest over the weekend) or make (nine goals on 18 shots for 50.00 percent for the lowest over the weekend) enough shots to compete.
Henry Phan’s move to offense had interesting ripple effects.
Phan has been, over the course of the season, a key cog in Seattle’s break offense. In this game, he was shifted over to the offensive line and while his stats were solid (23/25 for 92.5% with two assists), it is not always a matter of aggregate but of the specific:
Portland takes a timeout 18 seconds later at 3:26 in the first quarter to sub in the O-Line.
Bjorklund throwaway (2:54 in first quarter).
Seattle works up to the end zone, throws a goal, brought back on a call (I suspect Seattle threw before the whistle).
Jonathan Masler then tosses disc up to three Portland defenders (2:22 in first quarter).
And that’s a break for a 4-1 Portland lead.
Seattle, if they had converted a break after the timeout from Portland, would have had a chance to get a look at either a tired Portland offensive line (who would also feel they had given up a break, but in fact would have surrendered a mere hold), or a second line of depth for the Stags offense. Either result is precisely what Seattle needs. If they can rain throws all over the field on break possessions, they can tire out the Stags offense and get to attack some bench units.
Here’s the thing: Phan’s second turnover of the quarter was on offense started this long point. Then, after taking Phan out, the D-Line of the Rainmakers had two opportunities to score but unlike during the season proper they were lacking Phan’s positive influence.
But Wait, There’s More
Seattle offense receives the pull with 22 seconds left. There are two goals here: First is to score a goal. Second is to not leave enough time for Portland to score on offense. But the zeroeth is to not give up a break.
Three possible Seattle outcomes with a short clock:
1. +1 for scoring without Portland scoring.
2. 0 for either scoring and giving up a goal, not-scoring and not-giving up a goal
3. -1 for not-scoring and giving up a goal
Sure, technically a team could get multiple breaks (callahan and end of quarter heave?). Or could score and then break (quick heave goal, point block, short field goal. Or go completely bonkers (quick heave goal, midfield pull, Callahan, quick heave goal). But those are outliers. With 22 seconds remaining, playing to control two goals is standard operating procedure.
Returning to the game at hand: A Seattle hammer turn in traffic to the center of field (12 seconds left in the first quarter).
Portland picks the disc up (five seconds left), tosses to McGinn, McGinn hammers for a break goal to put Portland up 5-1 to end the first quarter and the game is all but over. A four-break lead for a Stags squad who loves playing from ahead against a Seattle strategy built to slow the game down? Portland victory ensues.
Footage this weekend of a strange craft at the Portland stadium this weekend.
After multiple mind-bending shadows flitted across the video feed from Milwaukie, Oregon (Is it a bird of prey? A pterodactyl? A boulder flung by Thor?), upon further review evidence shows there was simply a Remote Controlled Flying Thing over the game.
Wait. If we don’t control the airspace over an MLU game, what are we renting these fields for? Let’s see some footage from this mysterious Flying Thing.
For one last glimpse from this game into how important shooting percentage is, consider that through three quarters:
Portland was 14/14 on shots good for 100 percent.
Seattle was 6/11 on shots bad for 55 percent.
My favorite throw of the weekend…
…is Tyler Chan han snapping a flick all the way across the field. The key here is that as Chan catches and settles to throw, he’s already reading the run of play downfield from him. The mark doesn’t challenge the quick flick, the Whitecaps provide a throwing lane, and Chan makes a second assist appear out of thin air.
A Hurried Huck
Boston receives the disc with 40 seconds left in the first quarter. Esser gets the block on an upline cut to keep the score at 7-4 going into the 2Q, but Patel had the opportunity to create an 8-4 first quarter lead. Instead, he rushed the throw with three seconds on the clock. He could have waited to boost it to Reydams or snapped a pass to an uncovered Lindsey in the center of the field. Instead, a hurried huck insufficiently lofted.
Big cut for goal here from Panna. He has Stevens beat and Hirannet delivers the pass down the tight sideline such that the help defense from the center of the field cannot arrive in time. One of the reasons the help defenders were slow-footed was the pace Panna attacked the goal with. He is already up to cruising speed and the defenders haven’t accelerated toward the goal yet, so Panna beats them to it.
This sequence of the game was when the game in Philly was truly decided:
Timely block from Brasz on a Sickles shot to Reydams grants Boston possession down two with 1:35 to play.
After a foul call, a better block from Brandolph, who proceeds to throw the casual goal to Hirannet which puts the Spinners up 19-16 with 1:15 to play.
Of note in this play is one of the tougher things to call in real time. Brandolph gets the block cleanly on Brasz’s throw. However there is a ton of contact when Sickles cleans out Banerji. Brandolph obviated the decision, but then what should the officials do with the dangerous play? Specifically if the resultant yelling from Sickles was taken less kindly by Banerji?
These Do Lie
Some Travel (Non-)Calls
WTF is this travel call?
If either of Martin’s feet are on the end zone line, this should not be a travel.
THAT is a travel from Banerji on the upline cut from Clark.
This is precisely the sort of travel which should be a turnover. Taylor, the thrower, holds back at the last second and as a result moves his foot.
A Call Without Purpose
What is this call? Without the call, there is an easy goal for Bjorklund to Perston. With the call, Seattle gets to set their defense.
In this situation, if there is a foul called, the officials should give a quick restart if the offense so desires. The time is as (if not more) important than the distance. I’d argue that this foul should, essentially, go uncalled unless it is intentional.
Not Everyone Can Be Steamin’ Willie Beamon
That is to say, welcome to the vomitorium (sic), Mr. Banerji.