Photo by Kyle McBard – Ultiphotos.com
For the past three years the Eastern Conference has sent its regular season top seed to the MLU Championship Game. The Whitecaps are going to be looking to break that record and head out for a chance at their third MLU Trophy. Out west, we saw the Dogfish represent the Western Conference after taking the number top seed in 2013, but the past two years the Stags have ruled the regular season, only to fall in the playoff. If there is one thing to take away from this season however, it is that past results only tell you so much about the future. We saw a lot of records broken this season and I expect there are more yet to fall.
With the regular season closed, so too are the statistics. I’m excited that when I look at a data set I can be assured that it isn’t just because one team has 3 more games than another. As much as I’d like to continue adding to the data we already have it’ll be nice to sit down and really sift through what we have.
But first up let’s take a look at how teams actually did this season.
|Team||Goals Scored||Home Goals||Away Goals||Average Home Goals||Average Away Goals||Average Diff.|
I like splitting up goals by home and away because we often see a different picture on what a team is really like. Some teams, like the Spinners and Current, play remarkably similarly at home and on the road. Other teams, such as the Rainmakers, seem to have a massive home field advantage. Just look to the 120 goals scored at home and while only scoring 87 on the road. They are averaging more than 6 additional goals per game when playing at home. The only other team that has something close to that is the Whitecaps, who are averaging 4.6 more goals when playing at home. The Stags are on the other end of the spectrum averaging an additional 4 goals when playing on the road. This might have something to do with their two games against the Dogfish at home (the only team to keep the Stags from scoring at least 20 goals – and they did it twice). Interestingly the only other team with more away goals than home goals is the Rumble. The Current and Rumble are the only teams to have a better away record than home record this season.
Of course goals don’t tell the whole story, let’s take a gander on the other side of the score.
|Teams||Goals Allowed||Home G/A||Away G/A||Average Home G/A||Average Away G/A||Average Diff.|
Above, we saw the Stags performing better on the road for goals scored, in goals against they have a tremendous home field advantage. The Stags allowed just 59 goals at home this year. The next closest on this list is the Whitecaps with 72 goals allowed at home and they only played 4 home games. Combined the Stags are only giving up an average 14.9 goals per game. The next closest are the Spinners (16.1) and the Rainmakers (16.7). Those are some great defenses. The only non-playoff team averaging less than 20 goals against per game (and just barely) is the D.C. Current at 19.6 goals against per game.
It seems home field advantage takes far more precedence on the defensive side of the disc. The only team to have more goals against at home than away was the Current, but if we correct their goal total for only having 4 away games by adding in one more game at their average goals against rate they fall in line with everyone else. However, correcting for the Whitecaps missing home game they do fall on the other side of this thresh hold (meaning they let up more points at home – but only by a small margin). Take that how you will however since the Whitecaps have only ever lost 2 home games. Ever. It seems their home field advantage comes on offense.
Regardless we see almost every team has some sort of home field advantage, the exception being the Rumble who just seem to perform better on the road – well really the only teams that didn’t blow out the Rumble were the Current and the Dogfish, and that makes up 3 of their away games and only 1 of their home games. Which just brings me to how much the Current baffles me. They have only had one game this season that wasn’t “close” and even that one felt close for most of the game. They are 3-7 yet only have a -19 goal differential. The Rumble, just below them in the eastern standings, had a differential of -65. I honestly don’t know what to make of team that missed beating both the Whitecaps and Spinners by one possession and still plays close games with the Rumble every time.
With the regular season in the books I thought we could also look at how teams have done over the last four years of MLU play.
Last week I said the Spinners and Current game was fairly meaningless, well I was wrong, there was one place it counted, the overall standings (thanks for the tip Mr. Tom Levy). With that win the Spinners surpass the Current overall wins for the first time since 2013. The Dogfish have also moved up on the Nighthawks this season. The Whitecaps still dominate the standings though with only 10 losses over the course of the four seasons. Also impressive is the Stags with 13 losses since 9 of those came in 2013.
Looking at home and away records we again see the importance of home field with the exception of the Nighthawks and Rumble who are just one away win away from being equally as bad regardless of where they are. The Dogfish are the truly impressive team with only 3 career away wins and all of those coming in 2013. They’ve managed to consistently get a few wins every year, but only when they are at home. Those away double headers really kill them – although they had a very impressive double header weekend in Week 10 that I was sure was going to net them a win at half time in Seattle. What a way to lose a game.
Eastern Conference Championship
Whitecaps at Spinners
I’d like to see the Spinners win this game, but I’m not convinced that is what is going to happen. I can’t deny that the Spinners seem to have the upper hand in this game, but I’ve learned not to doubt Boston. In their three games this season I think the first meeting showed the best of both of these teams and the Spinners took that game by two. In their next meeting the Whitecaps were down players and down 13-8 at half. That game was ripe for the Spinners to take, but Boston capitalized on late game mistakes by Philadelphia and once again pulled themselves from the jaws of defeat (second of their five point comebacks this season). In their most recent matchup the Spinner were finally able to pull ahead in the 4th quarter to beat out the Whitecaps 24-20, the largest margin between these two teams all season.
Make no mistake, Boston is going to be ready for Philadelphia this weekend and won’t go gentle into that good night. Last season the Whitecaps had just come off a crushing victory of the Spinners 13-26 that secured them home field advantage. With that mental edge they put away the Eastern Conference Championship with a 21-16 victory. The Spinners may have the mental edge this year having gone 2-1 in the series with the Whitecaps. This is definitely a different Spinners team than we have seen in the past and they certainly look more confident. If they can get it out of their head that they are playing “Boston” and just play their game they’ll get the W.
Both teams are looking strong coming into this game and injury reports look pretty clean. Himalaya Mehta is the biggest name for the Spinners but he has been out since he broke his hand earlier in the season. The Whitecaps will be without Jack Hatchett, but they’ve played most of the season without him so it won’t mess up any of their rhythm. Also out is Andrew Hooker. While Hooker hasn’t been putting up the numbers he has been a mainstay of the Whitecaps defense and is in their top 5 of defensive points played. Nonetheless, Boston is deep and shouldn’t be greatly effected by the absences.
With both teams at near full strength we should be in for a treat of a game out east this weekend.
Western Conference Championship
Rainmakers at Stags
How many years can the Stags host the Western Conference Championship before they get that win. In the past two years they have lost by a single point in both games, but it doesn’t matter if it just 1 point or 20 when the final buzzer sounds. However, this is perhaps the best Stags team we’ve seen yet. While other seasons may have seen a lack of motivation for the Stags as the regular season wound down, we have seen them set numerous MLU records this season. Their loss to Boston this season has only served to motivate them to get another shot at an east coast team.
At the beginning of the season I questioned how well the Rainmakers would fair after losing some of their top level talent. They’ve shown they are as good or better than they were last season and I think their biggest hurdle is mental barriers. With the Stags having already taken three games on them they are going to have to focus on the now and not let the past cloud what they can do.
Again both teams are coming relatively strong into the postseason. The Stags are only missing Jeremy Norden to Worlds. The Rainmakers are missing a few of their defensive handlers but the real missing piece is Khalif El-Salaam (also for Worlds). El-Salaam has been great when on the field for the Rainmakers, but his college schedule has kept him from most of their games. As such the Rainmakers haven’t been relying on him which will probably pay dividends this weekend since having him gone shouldn’t slow down their offense.
In all likely hood we should see the Stags roll this game. But we should have seen that last year. And the year before. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Watch both MLU Conference Championships this weekend, streamed live via MLU Live.