Photo by Natalie Bigman-Pimentel –

I would say I was shocked about New York dropping a game after being up 5-10 but the Whitecaps have had that upset once already this season. What shocked me was the 17-6 run after being up 5-10. I mean that’s an 11 point swing. You were up, how do you get an 11 point swing? I’m sorry New York, I’m just upset because you’re one of my favorite teams and you’ve got to stop doing this to me.

The rest of the weekend went as I expected and the playoffs have been all been sewn up with home field advantage hanging in the balance. Both the Spinners and the Stags can claim the number one seed in their respective conferences this weekend with a win and they both have the schedule to favor this outcome. This will be the first time in team history that the Spinners have secured the number one spot for the playoffs and in the past three seasons the Eastern Conference Finals hosts have gone on to win not only the Eastern Conference Finals but the MLU Championship game as well. If the Stags can secure the win they will be the Western Conference Final’s host for the third year in a row – they have yet to win a post season game.

Tonight’s adventure is going to begin with a little of what I’m expecting to see this weekend, a Total Domination IPA (Ninkasi Brewing Company).

Appetizers – Hot Wings

Over the weekend we saw 151 goals scored from the seven teams playing (Whitecaps with a double-header and the Current on bye). Now when I hear that, I hear we just got 151 new data points on the season. And now what to do with this data. This week I’d like to go back to when we were looking at shots on goal. A quick refresher on shots on goal. What I’m looking at are goal scoring opportunities. Basically any throw that goes into the endzone. If it is caught or blocked before going into the endzone it doesn’t count. If there is no reasonable way it could have been caught it doesn’t count – example, this end of game shot is still 10 feet over any player when it goes out the back. No one had a shot at catching it, so it wasn’t a goal scoring opportunity.

What we’ve got here are total shots on goal for a given game. Last time we looked at this it was broken down by quarter, but I was looking at these a little differently this week and you’ll see why in a little bit. 

TeamShots on GoalGoals
Spinners (1)2524
Whitecaps (1)2920
Whitecaps (2)2522
Rumble (2)2516

Definitely seeing holes in my earlier hypothesis that more shots on goals means you are going to be putting in more goals as well – perhaps if I broke things down by quarter it would work out that way, but I’m thinking that hypothesis is dead in the water. Just look at both games from the Whitecaps last weekend. In their game against Philadelphia they had 4 more goal scoring opportunities than the Spinners had, yet they still ended down four goals. In New York both of teams were shooting 25 on goal and we should expect a fairly close score, yet we see that Whitecaps were converting far more often on their shots than the Rumble were. As I mentioned in the intro that was a weird game anyways. Nonetheless this data has some interesting things to gleam from it. Next up we are going to look at total turn overs and shots on goal that were turnovers. 

TeamTotal TurnoversTurnovers on Goal
 Spinners (1)151
Whitecaps (1)189
Whitecaps (2)213
Rumble (2)289

I think the two most impressive stats from this collection come from the Boston at Philadelphia game. First we see that the Spinners had a hell of a game with only 15 turnovers (86.4% OSE) and that when shooting on goal they only had 1 turnover. When they were gunning for goals, they got them. The second incredible stat is that of Boston’s 9 turnovers on goal shots, half of their total turnovers. That means half of their turnovers were on goal scoring opportunities. Now I’m bearing no judgement on whether or not those were good shots (and I’m sure not all of them were – for example) but if I’m getting turnovers I’d at least like to know they could’ve been a goal, who knows you could get lucky.

Now I’ve got something much more interesting to go along with these data sets. I’ve plotted all of the games shots on goal. Let’s take a quick look at last weekend’s action. A quick read on this, number on the field is the goal number, which means you can follow along with the box score to see which who threw and caught each score along with where they were on the field. Numbers in a circle indicate a shot on goal that was a turnover, they also have an arrow to indicate which way the offense was going. I like including shot on goal turnovers because it actually helps you figure out what an offense is trying to do rather than just what happened to workout. You can identify each team by the corresponding color key at the top of each graphic.

Whitecaps at Spinner (20-24)


Rainmakers at Dogfish (20-12)


Nighthawks at Stags (10-27)


Whitecaps at Rumble (22-16)


Fun stuff I know. One more. Here are all the graphs combined. No more numbers – doesn’t make as much sense with combined data. Black dots represent both assists and goals, goals being the ones in the endzones and the assists all the throws coming from the field. Red dots are all missed shots on goal.


Here we can really start seeing some patterns emerging and how teams are using the field. One thing I’m going to need to do in the future is redo all these going in one direction. That will really help add in the dimension of looking at hucks. Sure we can see which throws are hucks in the individual graphs, but in the combined that data gets chucked out the window.

One of the patterns that I’m seeing that doesn’t really surprise me is all the clusters of goals on the sidelines. Typically when a team is forcing the disc they are trying to keep it on one side of the field to narrow the window that defenders have to cover and make the sideline work for them. As such we see a lot more turn overs on goals coming from the sidelines rather than the middle of the field. When you are throwing from the middle you can put the disc out to space in front of your receiver with a lot of room for error. As you get to the sideline that room for error drops and the defense can close in.

One thing that would be great to use this data for is a heat map. While dots are great I’d rather see something that finds the patterns for me. Additionally, this data is messy. We’re looking at how seven different teams approach getting a goal. Rather than combining all the teams I’d like to see each team with all of their games on the season combined. It would give us a better picture of how each offense attacks the endzone, as well as showing us specifically where they struggle with the disc. 

On Tap – Double Shots

We’ve got two double headers this weekend.

Current (2-5) at Whitecaps (6-2)

Having claimed their only two victories over the Rumble this season in close games the Current is a bit of a mystery. They have yet to get blown out this season (largest loss was by 5) and have a goal differential of -12. They are on the cusp of being both great and terrible, they hang with the conference leaders just as much as when they compete in the basement. The Current have a shot at this game, but nothing this season has given me a reason to think they’ll get the upset. The Whitecaps keep the hope of home field advantage alive with a win and as we saw last week against the Rumble the Whitecaps never stop fighting.

20-17 Whitecaps

Dogfish at Rainmakers

I’m not a fan of how the Rainmaker’s schedule shook out this season. They’ve been rematched with opponents week after week and this week get to see them take on the Dogfish once again. Last weekend the Rainmakers took it to the Dogfish in Berkeley, I can’t imagine things going much better in Renton. While the Rainmakers are going to be out a few of their key pieces like Gavin McKibben and Evan Klein they are getting back Khalif El-Salaam this weekend. Because of the college season El-Salaam has only managed to make three games so far this season, but in those three games he has racked up 8 goals and 17 assists. Dogfish could squash the Rainmaker’s hopes of home field advantage off if they get a win, but after losing at home by eight last weekend that seems pretty unlikely.

22-15 Rainmakers

Current at Spinners

The Spinners are one of my least favorite teams to watch. They’ve gotten so good at what they do on offense that it is predictable in what they do – and when they don’t do it, it just makes me upset. Last weekend they only turned the disc over 15 times against a Boston defense that has been creating an average of 25 turnovers a game (forced and unforced). While the Current has a lot of youth on the team, they just aren’t going to be creating enough break opportunities to get themselves into a position to win this game. The Current might be able to create a lead early, but the Spinners defense can get them back in the lead and the offense will keep them there.

22-15 Spinners

Dogfish at Stags

Talking with some of the players on the Stags last weekend they were kind of down about how they played against the Nighthawks. Yes, even in a game where the Stags lead by 17 they saw places where they needed to improve. This is going to be the second game of the weekend for the Dogfish, a team that has historically been terrible on the road. It is going to be a tough task for the Dogfish to pull out a win after a tough game in Seattle the day before. With the Stags defense ready to take advantage of tired legs this one is going to be a blowout.

25-10 Stags

Last Call

We’re here, fantasy playoff. If you’ve made it this far you’ve probably picked up everyone you already need for this matchup but we’ll still go over a few guys you might want to look at. Extra important to remember is that this is a double double-header weekend. With both the Current and the Dogfish getting two games to amass those fantasy points. Make sure you’ve got someone in your superstar position from one of those teams.  

While I was a little disappointing in the injury reports this weekend (I was counting on you to be my superstar James Sheridan) overall we are seeing some fairly complete rosters this weekend. With only a few big names out this weekend and only the Rumble and Nighthawks off on bye weekends most teams should be able to play a full roster. 

Obviously there are some Dogfish that you are going to want to look to pick up if they are still available in your league. I’ve been really impressed with Nick Fiske’s play the last few weeks and even more so by the fact that he is also just getting unlucky on some of his blocks (he also had another block negated by a foul call). He is putting in the hustle on the field and it is showing. Along side him is Devon Williams who is second on the team in blocks with 10 (just behind Thomas Pineda at 11). David Janinis is also another great option, he is second on the team in points played behind Gabe Saunkeah and will definitely see the field a lot this weekend. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Daniel Naruo if for nothing else than his nickname is Robot – he also is putting up decent numbers for the season.

We’ve also got to look at the DC Current this weekend as they are also going to be getting in that double header. I’m going to be honest here and let you know I don’t know what to make of Dominique Gibson. He was my second pick in the draft and while I knew he was going to be busy in the college season I expected him to be making more of the same plays I saw last season. With two blocks on the season he is riding my bench this weekend – I hope I end up regretting this decision because when he is playing well Gibson is a pleasure to watch on the field. But we’ve got other guys to turn to on the Current, if available Kyle Khalifa has been have a hell of a rookie season. Andrew Ferraro could definitely fill in at handler on your line up as well as Mark Flores

Good luck to everyone in the playoffs this weekend. You can find me this weekend doing commentary in Portland say hi on twitter if you’re so inclined @WilliamCurb