Photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com
Article by Rainmakers player and contributing columnist Ben Beehner:
About this time last year, Mark Burton was saying goodbye to the Rainmakers.
In November of 2013, Mark announced he would be leaving his hometown team and taking his talents to Portland. This last season, Mark helped the Stags go from last to first with an 8-3 season record, notching first-ever wins over Vancouver and Seattle. But now, Mark is ready to return to his hometown and bring a championship to Seattle.
In the inaugural season of the MLU, Mark was a phenomenal breakout star on the Rainmakers. As a scrappy deep threat on Seattle’s offensive line, he led the team in scoring with 33 goals and 21 assists. His highlight of the season came during Week 6 in Vancouver when he dove from inbounds to catch and throw a greatest score to teammate Sam Harkness.[iframe width=”628″ height=”360″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/G4RyhklZgBM” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]
In Portland, it was more of the same. Mark snagged 18 goals and 14 assists with the Stags this last season.
“Playing with Portland was awesome!” said Mark. “Love those guys down there and love the behind-the-scenes leadership that was going on with the Stags.”
It wasn’t easy for Mark, though. First, the three-hour commute from Seattle took its toll.
“It was really tough traveling down there and adjusting in,” Burton explained. “At first it was great, but then things got tough as I couldn’t make some practices. I was still trying to mesh in.”
There was also the issue of no longer representing the city he loves. Both former teammates and the youth players that Mark coaches had questions.
Burton recalled, “People were asking me ‘Are you moving to Portland?’ Kids that I coach and even kids I don’t would say, ‘Why did you go to Portland? You are from Seattle…traitor!’”
There was also some friendly banter from friends and former teammates.
“I was glad to see him go,” joked Danny Trytiak, the two-year Rainmaker and longtime friend of Burton. “More playing time for me. “I am not going to lie, whenever he was on the field I was playing my hardest.”
The two made a friendly wager in the Week 4 game in Portland. They agreed that whoever lost the game had to dye his hair the other team’s colors for following week’s game. Check out the photos of Mark the next week in Vancouver to see who lost that bet.
This year, Mark is ready to come home and rep the 206. “I decided to come back because I love Seattle,” said Burton. “I’m doing it for the kids and the fans. I love the quick and fast style we play here, the great fans that come to our games and the comfort I have with my teammates up here.”
Another product of Seattle who played with the Stags in the inaugural 2013 season, Khalif El-Salaam is happy to have Burton back in Seattle. Despite a strong performance with Portland in 2013, the commute and lack of history was sometimes a struggle for him. In 2014, El-Salaam knew he wanted to come back to the city he loved. As Mark headed south, “Leaf” joined the Rainmakers.
“Mark and I have wanted to play together for a long time, and over and over again we found ourselves on different teams,” said El-Salaam, who found great success with the Rainmakers in 2014, scoring 20 goals and winning the league’s Breakout Player of the Year Award. “They helped me reach new levels in the sport and allowed me to get better. I love the people on the team and the fans are absolutely amazing.”
Last week, El-Salaam signed a 3-year contract, the first multi-year deal in Rainmakers and MLU history. He will finally play with Burton in the same uniform, on the same side of the field.
“Mark brings experience, an ability to get open, voice and overall athleticism to our roster,” said El-Salaam.
“He’ll bring a lot to the table,” said Trytiak. “In my eyes, he is a player that has big throws and can get the disc back on defense. Having another cutter that is not afraid to grip-it-and-rip is going to give our coach a heart attack, but I think it is going to be a huge asset.”
“My advice is to blow up and play the crowd,” said El-Salaam. “I don’t know how Portland fans are, but Seattle fans love a show and they love good ultimate. And throw it to me!”
Burton, El-Salaam and the rest of the Rainmakers are poised to take the West by storm.
“I am excited to join the players who have signed and the players we will be adding to the team. Under the Rainmakers leadership and playing with an underdog mentality, we will be hungry for a chance to be the first team from the West Coast to win it all.”
Wait, did Mark just predict a championship? Absolutely.
“Get ready to Make It Rain. I promise not three, not four, not five, not six…but one Championship.”