Photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com
The Rainmakers head south to face the Stags this Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. With a tough loss behind them, Seattle is ready to earn their second road win of the season.
Seattle is back to full strength roster-wise, as they welcome back starters Mario O’Brien, Chris Rupp, Jimmy Chu, Thomas Rosatto and Reid Koss to the active lineup. On the Portland side, beyond the continued absence of Timmy Perston, there is only one inactive player, defensive handler Ben Lohre. Lohre has been involved in 10 of Portland’s 62 points with seven goals and three assists, so he’ll certainly be missed, but the depth of the Stags roster is such that any player can step up to fill in in Lohre’s absence.
“Portland, like Vancouver, has a very strong offense with big time cutters and throwers,” said Eddie Feeley. “Jeremy Norden has a great flick that gets even better when he is throwing to cutters like Mark Burton and Camden Allison-Hall. We want to see hucks go up to those receivers, but we have to do a better job of coming down with those 50-50 discs than we did against Vancouver last week. We will have a good chance of winning the game if we are able to force poor hucks and get D’s on those away passes. I’m hoping for a bit more wind than we had last week to help us accomplish those goals.”
A strong defensive showing will be key if Seattle hopes to topple Portland’s undefeated record. As always, Seattle junk zone defense will look to clog throwing lanes, but downfield defenders hope to do better this week in challenging Portland’s aggressive cutting core.
“I expect Portland to play a very physical game,” said Bryson Uhrig-Fox. “They like to play a lot of one-on-one in the cutting lane, so we’re just going to have to win our matchups. If our defense can do its job and take away the easy looks downfield, I think we can force them into a position where their throwers will try and throw people open. More aggressive throws means more turnovers. The keys to the game for our defense are to shut down the dominant downfielders they have in Burton and Friedman, and to keep the disc away from their main handlers.”
The Stags are undefeated at 3-0, but they have only played against the San Francisco Dogfish and the Vancouver Nighthawks. This is the first time they face the Rainmakers this season.
“I’m really excited to play against Portland for the first time this year, and I’m going to use it as a measuring stick to see where we stand in the Western Conference,” said Feeley. “This is a big game for us because 4-2 is a much different record than 3-3 if we want to stay competitive in the playoff race.”
Seattle will do their best to keep their defensive line on the field; accordingly, they’ll need to make the most of their offensive possessions. As always, the Rainmakers will need to stay focused and play their game, an offense that makes use of short, crisp passes and dynamic handler movement.
“In our two road games this year we have struggled to maintain our focus for the entire game and those lapses have led to losses,” said Feeley. “We need to be able to step off the bus and bring a high level of focus from the beginning of the game.”
One element of this week’s away journey that may help in this respect is the close proximity between Seattle and Portland, which has also allowed for some crossover between the two teams. Mark Burton, Seattle’s top-scoring cutter last year, defected to Portland; in return, Portland lost Steve Gussin, Khalif El-Salaam, and El-Salaam’s dance moves to the Rainmakers. And many of the players who remained on both teams know each other on and off the field. Danny Trytiak and Mark Burton have even made a deal depending on the outcome of this weekend: the player on the losing team will dye their hair the colors of the winning team. High stakes indeed.