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The Seattle Rainmakers were never the favorite to make the playoffs. The Rainmakers were never the favorite to make the 2015 MLU Championship. The Rainmakers are not the favorite to beat the Boston Whitecaps at PPL Park tomorrow. The Rainmakers are not the favorite to be the first team to take the MLU trophy to the West Coast.
The Seattle Rainmakers are okay with not being the favorite.
“We love the mentality of being the underdog in this,” said 2015 Western Conference MVP Mark Burton. “We are going to play this game, point by point and take advantage of early mistakes and go on a run to gain momentum. Coaches have done a great job prepping us up mentally and physically for this game.”
Point by point. Game by game. That has been the Rainmakers strategy all season long. Starting off with consecutive losses to the powerhouse Stags and 2014 Western Conference champion Vancouver Nighthawks, Seattle continued to fight. They followed a 0-2 start with back-to-back wins against the San Francisco Dogfish, before avenging their Week 2 loss to Vancouver, by beating the Nighthawks on the road to take a 3-2 record at the midway point.
Game by game. Point by Point.
The Rainmakers were able to lock up a postseason bid with a season sweep of the Dogfish and a 2-2 record against the Nighthawks. Seattle was 0-3 against the Stags, but earned a date with them in the Western Conference Final.
The Rainmakers (5-5) won the Western Conference Finals against the heavily favored Portland Stags (9-1) in July. Played in Portland, the game showed exactly how talented the Rainmakers are, especially while playing as the underdog. Seattle scored first after a long point that saw both teams turn the disc multiple times, and the Rainmakers never looked back. In a game that was supposed to be a breeze for Portland, the Stags never led.
“We were a team that needed to build, to get better every game, and we did that. Coming from getting absolutely demolished against the Stags the first game to beating them in the finals showed us that the hard work and dedication paid off,” said Khalif El-Salaam.
The Whitecaps are a powerhouse. The winningest franchise in MLU history, Boston is almost unanimously the favorites, sporting a roster full of 2015 Eastern Conference award winners like MVP Jeff Graham, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year Josh Markette and Christian Foster, along with veterans like Jack Hatchett (2014 Defensive Player of the Year) and impressive rookies Tyler Chan and Sam Kittross-Schnell and coached by Sam Rosenthal, the 2015 Coach of the Year.
The Stags were the favorites too.
“We are approaching this game similarly to our conference championship with Portland,” said Rainmakers defender Ben Beehner. “We know we can’t stop players like Jeff Graham or Tyler Chan, but we can contain them. If we minimize their impact, capitalize on their turns, and if our offense plays tight, we’ll have a great shot to win this game.”
The Rainmakers are bringing some noteworthy players and coaches of their own. Veterans like El-Salaam (the 2014 Breakout Player of the Year) and Danny Trytiak were joined this season by standout rookies Jeff Pape, Andrew Lynch and Evan Klein. Klein, recently named 2015 Western Conference Rookie of the Year, led the league in break scoring. Seattle will also benefit from the return of El-Salaam, Henry Phan and Eddie Feeley, all of whom were inactive for the playoffs.
And then there is Burton. 2015 Western Conference MVP and Scoring Title winner, Burton will be critical to Seattle’s gameplay if they hope to finish their dream season as MLU Champions.
The Rainmakers are ready to go, but each of them acknowledged some of the reasons they were able to come together and reach the Championship.
“We are feeling good, thanks to great buy-in from everyone on the team and amazing coaching by Head Coach Steve Gussin and our Riot [Seattle’s elite club team] assistant coaches K.K. [Kate Kingery], [Charlie] Mercer and Fiona [McKibben],” continued El-Salaam.
“The season doesn’t mean anything anymore, that was just the journey,” said Burton. “This is the pinnacle, the one game, and we are going into it together with love and playing with a chip on our shoulder. After all, why not us?”
To learn more about the game day festivities and to purchase tickets to the Championship Game at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., click here.
If you can’t make it to the game, tune in live at 3:30 p.m. PT here.