In their first loss of the season, Seattle needs to regroup after a trying away matchup that saw them fall to the San Francisco Dogfish.
The Rainmakers boarded a pondhopper Saturday morning at Seatac International and touched down a few short hours later at SFO. With the better part of the afternoon ahead of them, they took Haight-Ashbury by storm, grabbing a relaxed lunch of burritos, nachos, and chips at Zona Rosa before splitting into smaller groups to either explore the neighborhood and nearby Golden Gate State Park or hunker down out of the sun to physically and mentally prepare for that evening’s battle of the titans.
The team took to the stadium hours before the first pull to gain their footing on unfamiliar terrain. The grass fields at Kezar Stadium had a dampening effect on the players’ stride after two consecutive weeks on astroturf at home, but they were able to acclimate and adjust to the surface before the end of warm ups.
The night began nicely enough with the Rainmakers scoring off the bat with a huck from Danny Trytiak to Mark Burton, followed by a San Francisco turnover and a score by Skip Sewell. The Dogfish were able to respond almost point for point for the remainder of the quarter, bringing the score to 5-4 Seattle, even on serve.
Seattle really took off in the second quarter though, with connections between Adam Simon and Frank Barich, Mario O’Brien and Simon, Donnie Clark and Ben Beehner, O’Brien and Sam Harkness, and Tyler Kinley and Sean Sears to bring the Rainmakers to an even ten by the end of the half. On defense, they forced tough throws and caused plenty of turnovers as a team. There were also two massive Ds by Clark and Sewell that helped hold the Dogfish to 5. The away game looked to be in Seattle’s control as they headed back through the tunnels of Kezar Stadium to the locker room.
But the Rainmakers got off to an inauspicious start in the third quarter with an out of bounds pull by Reid Koss and a D against Sears by San Francisco’s Evan Boucher. The Dogfish would go on a four point run later in the quarter as Seattle’s defensive unit faltered and began escalating with fouls. By the end of the third quarter Seattle still held the lead but their margin had shrunk considerably to 12-11.
San Francisco was then able to score within the first 30 seconds of the final quarter despite a valiant effort in the air by Sewell. The Rainmakers answered right back with a hammer from Trytiak to Harkness, and with a defensive takeaway by Kinley, everything looked to be back on track, even if the score was a little too close for comfort. But a handler swing across the field that popped up and was taken away by the Dogfish showed that the wheels were about to fall off.
Seattle would pull ahead one last time with a hammer from O’Brien to Adam Holt and a strong run-through D by Elliot Trotter, but some uncharacteristic turnovers on throws and catches by Holt and Harkness would prove too costly to recover. San Francisco took the lead 15-14 with two minutes to play and Seattle trailed for the first time in the season.
There were echoes of the Rainmakers’ first match against Vancouver, in which their seemingly insurmountable lead was decimated by a late run. Seattle may have held on to the game that time with large thanks to the time constraints of MLU regulation, but the clock was not kind to them this weekend in San Francisco, and they would give up another goal before finally succumbing 16-14 to the Dogfish.
Ultimately, it might be easy to blame the loss on some mid-game injuries that took away from an already light roster — Allan Laviolette was not cleared to play after warm ups and Seth Wiggins left the field in the first half with a hand injury, possibly a fracture — or on the hostile crowd, but head coach Ben Wiggins owned the results. He stressed to his team that they should keep this game in mind until they were given their next opportunity.
The Rainmakers will not meet San Francisco again until June 15 when they’ll play as the visitors once more, so they’ll have nearly a month and a half to digest this painful loss, adjust strategically, and grow stronger both as a team and individually. In the meantime, they’ll see Vancouver and Portland twice apiece in home and away settings with both to hone their chops in a variety of environments, friendly and otherwise.