Photo by John King –

Table Setting

The Boston Blemish … Strength or Weakness? … Throw it Where They Ain’t … Lead Us Not Into Temptation … Close Games … Playoff Record Book … Final Predictions … Specific Matchups … Where Else Would I Be?


Short Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. A hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.

Both Portland and Philadelphia have a single blemish on their 2016 records: A one-point loss in a visit to the Boston Whitecaps in May. Both the Stags and the Spinners were undefeated before they took a business trip to Massachusetts, and some weaknesses were highlighted in each contender’s game.

Let’s start with the Stags.

The key to beating the Stags in 2016 is based on using their strengths against them.

Specifically an aggressive deep game, confident throwers and a reliable late-stall count reset game.

The first is one of the identifying characteristics of the Stags. They have tall, fast players who threaten deep (Perston, Adamson, McGinn and Hayes come immediately to mind for the offense) and throwers (Bjorklund, of course, but McGinn, Hayes and in fact almost all of their offense are at worst capable shooters) ready and willing to put the disc up. If Portland connects on deep shots early, they put The Fear into individual defenders and break down team-level defensive discipline. The weakness is that if they miss a few early deep shots, their opponent will have early break opportunities:

5-3 Boston lead, Bjorklund overthrows Hancock on a shot with 1:03 left in the first quarter. Boston takes 14 passes to get to the opposite end zone, but they overthrow Banerji out the back. Sure, it’d have been nice for Boston to extend their lead to three, but they maintained their two-goal advantage heading into the second. 

7-5 Boston lead, Davis throws a deep shot into double coverage. Boston works the disc up to take a short end zone shot to Roth, who gets tackled by the turf monster which prevents an easy goal. While Boston misses this first scoring opportunity, they did create and easy one (And indeed scored on a one pass possession after being given a short field by a Portland dropped swing pass).

9-5 Boston lead, Hayes fires a howitzer of a deep shot to Bjorklund who is easily outrun by Hooker’s help defense. Six throws later, Boston overthrows a deep shot by a couple of feet, but they have again created a vital first-half break opportunity. However, Boston got another short-field opportunity which they throw away into the end zone again which leads to:

9-5 Boston lead, Bjorklund overthrows a deep shot to Perston. Eight throws later and Boston is up 10-5.

Portland’s game plan is that in order for them to find and deliver deep shots, their throwers must give cutters multiple cuts before looking to reset the disc. This leads to putting more pressure on the downfield defenders, but it also puts more pressure on the reset to get open quickly at high stall counts:

Bjorklund has the disc on the sideline and looks downfield for 3-4 seconds, and then turns to his reset (Trevor Smith). Smith is tightly covered by Frederick Brasz and decides to cut to the tight sideline which does not create a lot of space for either the reset or a cross-field outlet. Bjorklund flubs the pass, Brasz get the block, and one throw later, Boston will is up 5-3.

Melius has the disc on the sideline and while he only looks upfield for three seconds, the position of his resets is not clarified when he turns to them, and as a result Melius is stalled out. Boston scores on the ensuing possession to go up 7-5.

Hayes has the disc about 15 yards off of the sideline and again looks upfield for three seconds, but when he turns and looks for a reset, Doherty has Jensen on lock. Before Hayes can turn upfield to release a sweet inside-out to the top of the stack, a stall is called. Boston scores one pass later to go up 9-5.

Perston has the disc about 15 yards off of the sideline and looks upfield for a mere 1-2 seconds (likely feeling the pressure of not throwing a reset turnover). This gives his first reset a chance to clear upfield, and Perston then delivers the disc to what he expects will be an easy second reset. Ben Katz, however, frames this cut perfectly, maintains his hip discipline and fires through the passing lane for a block. Perston then gets a block on the first Boston pass, but again, Boston created an easy scoring chance.

Overall, the confidence of Portland’s throwers can lead them to both take too many deep shots and turn to their resets at suboptimal moments. If Philadelphia can add extra pressure to the mix, they will tally a couple extra break opportunities. Boston managed to stake itself to a 10-5 lead, which was barely enough to eke out a win in the end. Philadelphia would be wise to take Boston’s model and adapt it to their own purposes but they must be cognizant that Portland has the skill and will to make a second half comeback.

And now for the Spinners.

Attack the Break Side

The most common defensive look from the Spinners is a man defense with a hard directional force. The defenders tend to commit hard enough to the open side that shots into the break space are often available. The marks, in turn, tend to overcommit to stop the around pass which leaves the inside throwing lane as the most viable option.

17-14 Philadelphia up. Inselmann picks the disc up after a turnover and immediately delivers a deep break throw to Piers MacNaughton, who dishes to the break side for Thomas Edmonds to toss the easy goal to Nick Thompson. Boston’s offense keeps the Philly lead to two.

18-15 Philadelphia up. Inselmann picks the disc up after another turnover and manipulates his mark to the point where the inside break is open. Having kept track of the downfield space, Inselmann is able to deliver a beauty of a cross-field pass for the goal to Nick Thompson. Boston’s offense keeps the Philly lead to two.

Both of these clips show a lanky thrower delivering a pass through the inside lane into the deep space available. McGinn is the most likely of the Stags to deliver this type of pass (though it would likely be more of a bladey affair) but not all throwers are comfortable with this. However, there is another option to get the disc to that break space and it is an option for which Portland has show affinity: The Hammer.

Tempt the Spinners

16-13 Philly lead. Hirannet has the disc in the center of the field and is being forced flick.  Panna make a open deep cut down the flick sideline and Hirannet takes the shot. However, this throw is pressured sufficiently by the mark such that it does not sit well into the wind. Seven passes later, and Boston has cut the Philly lead to two.

18-16 Philly lead. Hirannet has the disc on the sideline. All close looks are tightly contested, and at a high stall count he chooses to boost it deep to Baer and Brandolph, two of his fellow handlers, only to toss it out the back. Ten passes later, and Boston has cut the Philly lead to one.

19-19 in overtime. Baer has the disc about 15 yards off of the sideline. He takes a medium-depth away throw to Brandolph (still a handler), who Roth D’s up pretty easily. Fourteen passes later and Boston takes their first lead of the game which will eventually be the winning margin.

Portland’s defense would be wise to put the Spinners in situations where their throwers are tempted into marginally more difficult throws than their offense is designed to take. Deep shots to handlers and deep cuts where the mark is making the throw difficult are prime examples, but the Spinners offense is also comprised of more specialists than generalists. Reydams is a big deep threat, and Sickles is an above average deep threat. Aside from those two, the Philly starting offensive line is lacking any sort of true two-way cutters or dominant deeps. Portland would be well-served by team-wide determining which sub-optimal options they can tantalize the Spinner with.


Tastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky.

So far, these two teams are shaping up to have the most hotly contested championship game in MLU history. In the first season, the Whitecaps took it to a depleted Dogfish team 20-15. In the second season, the Current blew the doors off the Nighthawks in the first half and cruised to a 23-17 victory. In the third season, the Whitecaps set all kinds of records while obliterating the upstart Rainmakers 31-17.

The average margin of victory in an MLU Championship game is 8.33 points.

Neither Philadelphia nor Portland has the look of a team who can be overpowered, and I fully expect this game to be decided by fewer than four points.


Ah, the core of the non-vegan breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco’d.

Playoff Records

Single Game

Points: 10 (4 G, 6 A)
Josh Markette, 2013 MLU Championship

Goals: 7
Timmy Perston. 2015 Western Conference Championship

Assists: 6
Josh Markette, 2013 MLU Championship
Alan Kolick. 2014 Eastern Conference Championship

Second Assists: 5
Billy Sickles, 2015 Eastern Conference Championship

Blocks: 4
Billy Sickles, 2015 Eastern Conference Championship
Topher Davis. 2015 Western Conference Championship
Greg Martin, 2016 Eastern Conference Championship

Throws: 63
Alan Kolick, 2013 Eastern Conference Championship

TPOP: 3.00
Tad Jensen, 2016 Western Conference Championship

Incompletions: 6

Danny Trytiak, 2015 Western Conference Championship
Danny Trytiak, 2015 MLU Championship
Markham Shofner, 2013 Eastern Conference Championship
Adam Simon 2013, Western Conference Championship

Catches: 55
Alan Kolick, 2013 Eastern Conference Championship

Drops: 2
Ten Players Tied

Fouls: 3
Five Players Tied

Points Played: 27
Five Players Tied 

Offensive Points Played: 27
Mark Burton, 2015 MLU Championship
Gavin McKibben, 2015 MLU Championship
Danny Trytiak, 2015 MLU Championship

Defensive Points Played: 20
Matthew McDonnell, 2015 MLU Championship


Points: 27 (14 G, 13 A)
Mark Burton (4 games)

Goals: 14
Mark Burton (4 games)

Assists: 19
Josh Markette (5 games)

Second Assists: 16
Jeff Graham (5 games)

Blocks: 7
Topher Davis (3 games)
Jack Hatchett (5 games)

Throws: 166
Josh Markette (5 games)

TPOP: 3.00
Tad Jensen (1 game)

Incompletions: 14
Danny Trytiak (4 games)

Catches: 156
Josh Markette (5 games)

Drops: 3
Matthew Berezan (2 games)

Fouls: 5
Shaun Doherty (5 games)

Points Played: 96
Josh Markette (5 games) 

Offensive Points Played: 87
Josh Markette (5 games)

Defensive Points Played: 80
Jack Hatchett (5 games)

Games Played: 6
Eric Stevens, Terry Roth, Jake Taylor

Veggies? Fruits? Yogurts?

Something light and possibly a positive decision.

Portland is 1-1 in games decided by three or fewer points.

Philadelphia is 3-1 in games decided by three or fewer points.

Waffles or Pancakes?

Choose… but choose wisely.

The conference championships were a predictable affair as everyone not called Geoff Poster picked both games correctly. Geoff’s belief in Boston finally took its toll. There were a mere four exact picks on the the weekend as Luke, Geoff, Tim and I each managed to get one thing right for the Whitecaps’ visit to Philly. No one accurately foresaw the total drought the Rainmakers experienced at the hands of the Stags as the lowest score predicted for Seattle was six higher than the nine they put up (15 by Luke and Tom).

ScoresWLEXTot Var
W: Picked Winner Correctly
L: Picked Winner Incorrectly
EX: Exact values picked. Four per game (Winning Score, Losing Score, Margin of Victory, Total Score). Higher is better.

Tot Var: Total Variance. Total amount by which four values per game (Winning Score, Losing Score, Margin of Victory, Total Score) were inaccurate. Lower is better.

In any case, the standings are tight throughout the table with a mere four points separating the leaders (Luke and Ruby at 35-6) from the laggard (Tom at 31-10). I have half a mind to make the championship game worth four wins/losses just so that everyone has a chance at the end, but that seems too much as it would render the whole regular season exercise meaningless.

Of course, just assigning a standard one win for The Big Game seems to understate the magnitude of the matchup. So, as this is my fiefdom I decree that The Big Game is worth TWO wins/losses. Yes, this means that we’ve spent a whole season to eliminate a mere two out of nine competitors (Thanks, TIM-Tom, but your names are too similar to be considered for everlasting MLU-picking glory), but on the other hand it keeps the pressure on Luke and Ruby to put numbers on the boards rather than rest on their laurels. Luke still holds a commanding lead in Exact Numbers (his 24 can only be tied by a perfect Poster picking performance) which gives him the tie-break edge and eliminates Paul and Garrett from contention as well. It is now down to a five-person race. 

Check out Picks and Predictions for what these irrepressible experts believe will happen in today’s Big Game.

Beverage of Choice

Players or matchups to watch.

Bjorklund vs. Esser

Bjorklund is a physical presence as a cutter and a key component of Portland’s attack. Esser is a physical presence on defense as a cutter-defender and is a key component of both Philly’s defense as well as their break offense. These two players are impressive to watch as they overpower their matchups with a rare combination of speed, size and strength. Both are continually aware of where the disc is and close quickly to make a play. Esser gets the nod in top-end speed, but Bjorklund is far and away the better thrower. Esser gets the nod as a deep threat, but Bjorklund is far more useful around the disc. No matter the specifics, I don’t think that either of these players has faced a matchup quite like this! If one or the other wins handily, count on that player’s team to win the game.

Hayes vs. Martin

I’m not as certain that these two will matchup against each other, but the key is less that they are both explosive athletes, but more what happens after Philadelphia forces a turn. Very often they rely on Martin and Esser to go on the offensive and win 50/50 shots deep. Often Martin has a physical advantage over his matchup in some combination of endurance, leaping ability or speed. In this case, he will have no such advantages. Hayes leads the Portland O-Line in blocks and can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the air. Keep an eye on these two on both sides of the disc, but particularly whenever Philadelphia forces a turn. If Hayes can prevent Martin from scoring, the Stags may be able to prevent the Philly D-Line from ever feeling comfortable on offense.

Woodside vs. Reydams

These are two out-and-out big men in the MLU. Their dominion often goes unchallenged against smaller opponents, but in this case there will be a match on the opposite side. Watching how Woodside covers a threat like Reydams as well as how Reydams deals with a defender who needn’t concede a cushion to challenge him deep will be a key matchup for both sides. If Portland gets the turn, however, I fear that Reydams’ limitations as a defender will be exposed. There is rumor that Woodside is questionable for the game, in which case we may well see Adamson match heights with Reydams. Adamson is not quite the defender that Woodside is, but the matchup remains key.

Perston vs. ?

As is the problem for every single opponent the Stags have faced, someone will have to chase Perston around the field. If it is a smaller defender, Perston can just head to the end zone and point to the sky. If it is a larger defender, Perston can take him on an endless tour of the field until he wins through exhaustion. As a result, the Spinners will likely use a rotation of defenders against Perston which will then dictate matchups across the rest of the pitch AND inform everyone present which plan the Spinners are putting in place on defense.

Brandolph vs. ?

Brandolph poses a “same-same but different” type of matchup problem for the Stags. His quickness makes it quite difficult for taller defenders to keep up with him on shorter cuts while his creativity as a thrower is unleashed when he faces a smaller mark. If the Stags can find an individual well-suited to neutralizing Brandolph, or if they can mix-and-match their way to keep him hesitant, the Spinners offense may sputter.

Meinershagen vs. Sickles

Sickles is a true two-way threat. He has speed and awareness as a cutter combined with height that he leverages both as a cutter and as a thrower. There are not many defenders who can match him step for step in cutting space, challenge him in the air, and apply a strong mark after a reception. Oddly enough, the Stags have exactly that type of defender in Riley Meinershagen. The constant readiness of Meinershagen to make a play on poorly thrown passes as well as his ability to position well in near-all situations could make this a tough day for Sickles.

The Place to Be

Personally, I’ll be…


6:30 PM. Saturday. Check for the stream!

(And also doing some pre-game work. And also finally making it to my first post-championship party, held this year at City Tap House!)