It was hot in Seattle last week. Not just unseasonably hot (record breaking actually) but just brutal, relentless sun – and yes we can complain about the sun in the Northwest. I spent Sunday up watching the Stags and Rainmakers battle it out for the second time in two weeks and loved the game. Part of me wishes I could just watch the Stags steamroll through the conference with 10 point victories, but their is magic in watching a close, hard-fought game. So despite the sun, despite being down by five I was having a great time. I won’t lie and say I’d have had as great a time even if the Stags lost (I lived through the Stags 1-9 2013 season). Winning is fun. But winning with a comeback though might be even better.
Appetizers – Don’t Call it a Comeback
I started looking at comebacks last weekend after watching the Whitecaps get trounced 5-10 by the Current only to have the Caps come back and win it 17-16. It was a great game. D.C. had a fantastic start, getting up early and putting Boston in a tough spot. But with the bad weather and early season jitters Boston somehow found themselves in a position to close out the game with a four point run with less than four minutes on the clock. I can’t wait to see the rematch between these two teams.
Comebacks might be the best thing in sports. Nothing in the game will set your emotions more on fire than seeing your team overcome the odds. Sports are all about overcoming adversity and you don’t get much more adverse than being on the wrong side of a blowout.
This week I’ve been struggling with defining a comeback. Any game that you were down and turned it around certainly counts for something but perhaps not a comeback. Really what it came down to for me was a team turning around a game that they were not in control of. When teams are trading points easily taking the lead isn’t a huge deal, but taking the lead when they other team really controlled the game is statement. The problem with this definition though is that it is really subjective and I don’t have enough time to watch through every game in the last three seasons and come up with a judgment call on what went down in that game.
My solution was to just look at point deficits. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it takes out a lot of subjectivity.
Unsurprisingly I found out that comebacks are hard. Once you are down in points it isn’t easy to get back into a game. Even the most defensively minded teams have a DSE (defensive scoring efficiency) of less than 40%. If you are only converting two goals for every five defensive points (4/10 -> 2/5) it is going to take you some time to get back into the game and the clock is really going to be your enemy. Once you’re up in a game you don’t need to get breaks to keep your lead, you just need to keep your holds. If your offense is able to convert breaks are only icing on the cake.
Was Boston’s five point comeback the best in MLU history? There have been 15 games with comebacks of 3 or more points. Nine of these were at a three point deficit, and a three point swing isn’t that crazy, it is just a hold and two breaks and not necessarily all at once. Three or more breaks though is a tougher prospect. There was one four point comeback, four five point comebacks and in week 9 of 2013 the Dogfish managed a league record six point comeback.
An interesting note is that three of the best MLU comebacks have come from games between the Dogfish and Rainmakers in 2013. Now this list makes comebacks look very west coast centric – but if we added in the games with three point comebacks we’d see the east coast well represented with six games. It did bug me how similar all these games were, I had to recheck the data far too many times because I didn’t want to believe both the Stag’s comebacks were 8-13. But after wrestling with it for a while I think it is actually telling about when comebacks happen. You need enough time to be down by a decent amount but if you are going to comeback you can’t let them run up the score either.
One thing I’d have love to include is failed comebacks but I don’t feel I was able to complete a comprehensive list of those. My favorite came from the 2013 Nighthawks in week 1 when they were down 6-14 in the 4th quarter and rolled out a six point run to finish the game 12-14. As much as people can say that Seattle took their foot off the gas and let the Nighthawks back into that game it doesn’t change the fact that the Nighthawks took what was going to be a blowout and made it a close game. With a little more time on the clock we could have seen them force overtime. It ain’t over till it’s over.
On Tap – Match Ups
Dogfish (1-0) at Stags (3-0)
For me this is the game to watch this weekend. The Dogfish look better than they have in the last two seasons, but I just don’t know how much better. The Stags have a solid lead in the conference but they had a close game with the Rainmakers last weekend. If the Dogfish can play like they did in the second half against the Nighthawks the Stags could be in for a surprise.
Nighthawks (0-2) at Rainmakers (0-2)
Both these teams are coming in 0-2. Both teams have been blown out by the Stags. But while the Nighthawks still struggled in Week 2, the Rainmakers looked like a different team. If the Rainmakers can build off of their second game against the Stags the Nighthawks aren’t going to have a shot in this game. The Nighthawks are still working on gelling together and just don’t seem to have the experience they need.
Rumble (0-2) at Current (0-2)
Another match up of 0-2 teams. Another game where one of those 0-2 teams suffered a big comeback from their opponent. The D.C. Current is a very different team than they have been in the past. They’ve yet to completely gel together but by the end of the season they look like they could be a very athletic and dangerous team. This is not going to be the Rumble’s weekend. With two away games they are going to spread thin. If they can work on chemistry and not worry about the results I can see them using this weekend as a boosting point to steal a win from the Current in Week 4.
Rumble (0-2) at Spinners (0-3)
The Spinners are one of the deepest teams in the league right now and they use that depth effectively. We are going to see a lot of weird lines coming out this weekend because there is not a lot New York is going to be able to do to stop these guys. We’ve already seen how difficult two away games in a weekend is for top teams and it is going to be even worse for the Rumble.
Last Call – Fantasy
The Dogfish are the team to watch this weekend. With so many unknown rookies on their team someone is going to be picking up those points and we just don’t know who yet. The reason you want Dogfish rookies is that they are one of the most fantasy relevant teams this season. All the way out in Week 10 the Dogfish are going to be on a late season double header. The reason this is important is that it is the first week of fantasy playoffs (the Dogfish also have a juicy match up against the Nighthawks the next week). Having an ace in your sleeve like Gabe Saunkeah for those games will be a huge advantage, but you aren’t going to find guys like that on the waiver wire.
I’m interested in guys like Jason Edelman, Nate Young and Daniel Naruo. Rookies that look like they could be going places on the team. But remember just interest right now, we want to see how these guys develop on the team. Dogfish that you might be interested in picking up now include David Janinis and Thomas Pineda.
You might be interested in keeping you Stags rookies you picked up last weekend for their rematch with the Nighthawks in Week 4 where you will see points again. After that it might be time to consider looking for replacements for them as the Stags have two bye weeks coming up in Week 6 and Week 8 (with a questionable game in Boston sandwiched in between).
Feel free to play Spinners at depth this weekend. The Spinners often look to use all of their roster with 16 of their guys getting an assist or goal last weekend. There should be a lot to go around with their game against the Rumble. There aren’t a lot of Rumble players I am confident in playing this week despite their double header. Your mileage may vary but there are a few flyers you can take from the Rumble. They include Mason Compton, Bo Li, and Seth Canetti. It’s going to be a rough weekend on the Rumble but these guys have already started showing they are part of that amorphous offense.