Photo by John King – Ultiphotos.com

This Saturday the Seattle Rainmakers will look to come out strong in their first game against their divisional rivals the Portland Stags.

The Seattle Rainmakers have their opening game of the 2016 MLU Season against the Portland Stags on Saturday, April 9 in Portland. After an up-and-down 2015 Season, the Rainmakers finished with a 5-5 record. They upset the 9-1 Stags in the Western Conference Championship in what ended up being an incredibly tight game. They competed against the Boston Whitecaps for the MLU Championship game in Philadelphia, but the Whitecaps blew them out of the water in a 31 to 17 game.

The Rainmakers have many standout players returning from last season, including Khalif El-Salaam (30 goals & assists in 2015), Henry Phan (26 goals & assists), Danny Trytiak (26 goals & assists), Evan Klein (second highest goals & assists in 2015, after Mark Burton, with 32), Brad Houser (23 goals & assists), Gavin McKibben (24 goals & assists), and Eddie Feeley (15 goals & assists). Also returning from 2015 are Ben Beehner, Chris Rupp, Clay Dewey-Valentine, Peter BenderIssac Entz, Matthew Neeley, Peter Ostergaard, and Robin Breen. After coaching the Rainmakers in 2014/2015, Steve Gussin will be returning to the field after playing for the Stags in 2013. The Stags will be without returning veterans Cam Bailey, Todd Sliva, and Ben Wiggins will all be inactive for the tomorrow’s game.

In the 2015 season, the Rainmakers had the highest total scoring efficiency in team history, scoring 47.8% of their total offensive possessions. The Rainmakers had the second highest defensive turnover efficiency in the league, forcing turnovers on 52.9% of their first defensive possessions. They scored the most goals in the Western Conference, averaging 20.9 points per game, but they also allowed the most goals in the West, averaging 20 points against per game. They had a hard time capitalizing on those break opportunities, however, only scoring 40.3% of their first break opportunities. One important player from 2015 that did not return this year is handler Mark Burton. Burton tied the single season record for total points with 63 goals & assists last year, as well as being the MLU all time leading scorer with 142 goals & assists and 81 goals. The loss of Burton as a handler will definitely be felt, and Phan, McKibben, Rupp, and Trytiak will most likely be the ones trying to fill his shoes.

The Stags had a very strong season last year, with only one loss in the regular season. With the most returning players of any Western team, the Stags will also have the team cohesiveness advantage. Returning players include Timmy Perston, Cody Bjorklund, Topher Davis, Aaron Adamson, Raphy Hayes, Peter Woodside, and Riley Meinershagen.

Rainmaker Henry Phan thinks this year’s opening game will be closer than their first game pounding by the Stags in 2015. “Last year we came in with a pretty confident mindset, which was awesome, but the results didn’t show. I think this year will be different. We have a good base that we’ve built upon and we have great leadership this year. I’m thinking it’s going to be a very competitive game, and one that the fans will really enjoy.”

Co-Head Coach Kate Kingery might be slightly less optimistic, focusing on the learning opportunity aspect of the first game. “We are looking to forward to playing together as one team, in contrast than battling it against our teammates at practices.” The Rainmakers have a lot of fresh talent to incorporate into the strong core of returning players this year, and they will be a team to contend with in the West.

Take it from Henry, you’ll enjoy watching the game! Whether you make a road trip of it, watch the game by live stream, or follow the Stags @PortlandStags for live tweets of the games, the opening game will be one to watch.

Season ticket packages available here.

Watch the game live from the comfort of your own home via MLU Live.

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