Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
Last weekend was all about the weather. Downpour in San Francisco, wind in New York and I think these huddles show how cold it was in D.C. Every team in those games was affected and while it muddies our view of what those teams are really like it does gives us a glimpse into the grit of those teams. Boston’s comeback in D.C. tells us everything we need to know about the Whitecaps and how deep they’ll dig to win. The Nighthawks falling apart in the second half tells us about that team’s youth. Bad weather amplifies mistakes until you can’t see anything else and so we are a little blind as to what we can expect. Fortunately (for the players and the fans) the weather is looking a lot more forgiving this weekend. We’ll get to see some of the other features of these teams and create a more complete picture of who they are.
Appetizers – Playoffs
How did your favorite team do this weekend? 0-1? 1-0? 2-0?
How you start the season matters, but it doesn’t define your season. With only 10 games every win is important and every loss hurts. I spent the weekend looking up past results and how they have historically effected playoff chances. We’ve only got three season of data, but the picture isn’t surprising. There are a few outliers for sure but it certainly tells you something about how the reason of the season could play out.
As I said, we’re only looking at three years of data. My favorite comes from a 4-2 record never making the playoffs, which is just a byproduct of our limited data set. The MLU has only had one 4-2 team and that was the 2014 Rainmakers. The 2014 playoff race out west was a lot of fun to watch. The Stags had sealed up the number one seed and looked like they would face a tough Rainmaker’s team in the playoffs but a late season surge from the Nighthawks netted them the playoffs and got them to the MLU Championship. What I love about this is that it really tells you that you can’t write off anyone’s season early. When the Rainmakers were 4-2 the Nighthawks were at the bottom of the division at 2-4. They flipped the script and took it all that way.
Clinching the playoffs in the MLU is as easy as winning seven games, which is to say it isn’t that easy. You can certainly make the playoffs with less than sevens wins, five almost guarantees it and the Current did it in 2013 with only four wins (the Whitecaps undefeated season devastated the rest of the conference). On the other hand seven losses will get you eliminated from the playoffs, although you can certainly miss the playoffs with fewer.
Locking up home-field advantage for the playoffs can be tricky but comes down to who has the best record at the end of the season. Even with eight wins you could find yourself in a sticky situation where your two losses only come from one team who also has eight wins. In tie breaker events like that MLU goes to record against the other team and in the instances where those records can be tied it will go to point differential. So not only does every game matter, but so does every goal.
Week two will give us a lot more information on what is going to happen as the season plays out, but remember no team is truly out until they hit seven losses. Last year both teams in the MLU Championship started the season 0-2, so anything is possible.
On Tap – Matchups
I don’t have a lot of faith that the Rumble are going to impress me this week. That said, I don’t know what to expect from the Whitecaps either. If they come out flat like they did against D.C. the Rumble have a chance to get up early. If they come out like they did in the 4th quarter against D.C., the Rumble are going to be in a lot of trouble. The big key for the Rumble this week is limiting their turnovers. They had a lot of trouble with the weather last weekend and took a lot of chances that didn’t work out. Boston’s defense is still looking strong and I don’t see them letting the Rumble get away with those chances this week either.
I’ve flipflopped on this game all week. The Current look a lot better than I expected them to, but they also weren’t able to finish out against Boston. The Spinners look good, but not so good that they are untouchable. The Dojo hosts a great home field advantage for the Current so that definitely plays in their favor but I’m not convinced that they are ready to put together a complete game yet. The Spinners are still coming off hot on their 2-0 start and Himalaya Mehta is making a surprisingly great replacement for Jake Rainwater.
The Nighthawks did not look good against the Dogfish. Wet weather definitely hurt them a lot but their offense never seemed able to get things going. In fact they were better at converting their break opportunities (27.8%) then when they were starting on offense (20.6%). The biggest grace for the Nighthawks is that the Stags are heading into a double header and might want to conserve their legs for their next game against the Rainmakers. Over all the experience of the Stags is going to force the Nighthawks into either putting up big swings or deep hucks that are going to get eaten up by the Stags.
While the Stags are probably going to stick to the same strategy for this game it is going to be quite different from their home opener. One the second leg of their doubleheader they are coming into the game tired against a fresh Seattle team that is going to be ready for a rematch. Additionally, the Rainmakers are getting back Cam Bailey who was effectively able to shut down Cody Bjorklund in the Western Conference finals last season. If the Rainmakers had had more than a week to prepare for this game I might see it going their way, but with the relatively quick turn around time I don’t think they are going to be able to make enough adjustments to earn the W.
Last Call – Fantasy Pickups
Last weekend was all about your Spinners and Whitecaps. This weekend is going to be Stags heavy. You’ve probably got a few players from the Dogfish on bye so it might not be a bad idea to pick up a few of those Stag rookies who could see significant play time this weekend. Guys like Trevor Smith who was 24/24 on passes could be putting in a few more goals this weekend or grabbing a guy like Duncan McNally who had fantastic goal saving layout last weekend. Both these guys could be making some big plays against the Nighthawks this weekend and are probably still available in your leagues.
Another relatively unknown guy who has caught my eye is Victor Cheng from the Nighthawks. He was a clear cog in the Nighthawks offense going 24/28 throws over 18 points played and lead the team with a TPOP of 1.034 – unfortunately he is on the Nighthawks Injury Report this weekend, but keep him on your radar for when you need a fill in on bye weeks. Another interesting grab from the Nighthawks could be Erik Hunter (2 goals, 2 assists), whose 2013 stats weren’t stellar at 4 goals, 3 assists and six blocks (I do like those block though) but he has moved over from defense to offense and he looks to be featured there. He had seven turnovers in some pretty terrible conditions on Saturday but what I take away is that he is a guy taking shots. I’m seeing him as a high risk, high rewards kind of player – also its always nice to have a good defensive player on an offense that turns the disc a lot – lots of chances to get extra blocks (see 2015 Rumble).
Other guys you might be looking at if they haven’t been picked up already are guys like Ethan Peck (1 goal, 6 assists), Carter Thallon (5 goals, 1 assist), Greg Martin (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 blocks), Jack Field (1 goal, 1 assist, 2 blocks) or Sandy Hartwiger (2 goals, 3 blocks). If you have options, I’d weigh more heavily Field since the Current only played one game to the Spinners and Whitecaps two. There should also be some interesting Dogfish on the wire this weekend, but with them on bye I can only suggest picking them up if someone is dropping a good known player while filling in their roster, otherwise try and hold onto someone that could breakout this weekend.
One of the things I love to look for in these players is points played versus total fantasy points. Looking at the top performers this weekend they almost all come from guys who played two games. But you also have a couple guys like Raphy Hayes (4 goals, 4 blocks) and Khalif El-Salaam (2 goals, 7 assists, 2 blocks) who lit it up and were in the top 10 despite only playing one game. For perspective looking at the top two players Christian Foster (#1) and Hayes (#2) you see that Foster had 55.7 points and Hayes had 54 (S-Points). The key difference is that Foster had 36 points played to earn those points while Hayes only had 11. Point being if you have Hayes on your roster this weekend expect to see some serious return on investment. To be fair to Foster he is on the defensive side of the disc and I’ll take #1 points overall regardless of how many games they play that weekend.
As mentioned points played can fail a little on defense and it has problems with rookies. While we’d all hope that a rookie who had a big outing would get more play time that isn’t assured, they might be worth the pickup but getting them in your starting line up might be a little premature. Don’t be scared to pick up a hot rookie for trade bait though. On the defensive side of things is that getting blocks isn’t easy and you are going to get games where your defensive star just doesn’t get a block (looking at you Topher Davis) – but points played still plays an important role in that. Defensive players that have a high PP are going to be getting more chances for a block and you only need one or two to swing your fantasy match in your favor.
On a final note for fantasy, don’t give up on your stars that haven’t played to your potential yet. Timmy Perston had a relatively quiet start to the season last year before finishing the season with 37 goals, 13 assists and eight blocks. So don’t worry he only came out of last weekend with 1 goal and 1 assist, you can’t keep stars like that quiet for long.
I had plans to head up with the Stags for their Nighthawks game, but I’m apparently bad at passports. If you want to catch me at a game you can find me celebrating my birthday at the Rainmakers game on Sunday.
Watch all MLU action this weekend, streamed live via MLU Live.