Seattle and Vancouver meet at neutral site this week for the first annual Border Bid. And the stakes in this Western Conference showcase game could not be higher in the season’s third week.

Seattle and Vancouver will meet in Mount Vernon, Washington, situated less than an hour drive from the Canadian border, to determine who the earlier favorite in the West really should be.

The relationship between these two West Coast powerhouses is characterized by an intense rivalry and mutual respect.

“The Nighthawks team is full of solid athletes capable of making a big play at any moment,” said offensive cutter Tommy “Fresh” Rosatto. “This means we need to come out strong and get into a rhythm early to throw them off their game.”

This week’s Power Rankings gave the Rainmakers a modest bump to No. 6, but propelled the Nighthawks to the top spot in the Western Conference at third overall. This might make sense on paper – Vancouver beat San Francisco 25-16, while it took a full period of overtime play for Seattle to win against the same team 21-20 – but fans should keep in mind the Dogfish’s shortened travel roster on the doubleheader weekend.

The difference between Seattle and Vancouver is not as great as this spread indicates.

The key could be how the Rainmakers handle the game’s physicality. Vancouver plays physical defense, and, while Seattle is used to contending with that, if the refs allow the Nighthawks some liberties in coverage, this could bleed into the Rainmakers’ mental game.

“I watched the tape from our first game three times and it was a real eye opener for me,” said Danny Trytiak. “I noticed that we could have won that game had we taken easy shots and if everyone played within themselves.”

“We need to continue to be patient and let the play evolve,” Rosatto said. “We get into trouble when trying to force shots that aren’t there, and we can’t afford that against a team like Vancouver or they’ll take advantage.

“We have to be aware and work through our progressions with defenders like Morgan Hibbert and Nick Menzies on the field. This is where patience and letting the play develop are key for our [offense].”

Paramount to the game will be the continued involvement of Matty Zemel at the cutter position. Adam Simon has been the Rainmakers’ go-to handler on nearly every pull this season, but needs Zemel to inject himself more aggressively into the game.

They’ll get help from Gavin McKibben, who returns to the active roster, and should take pressure off Zemel moving the disc. If they can get Zemel the disc, it will allow the O-line cutter to rifle off his signature gorgeous forehand hucks that seem to evade downfield defenders every time.

But as surgical as Zemel’s deep shots can be, Seattle will do best if they stick to their “small ball” offense: quick inside break throws and handler-driven offense that puts defenders on their heels.

“We really focused hard on how to beat the San Francisco double team, but I feel that our strategy for the Nighthawks is going to be quite different,” Trytiak said. “With so much in their defensive arsenal, it’s tough to say what they’ll do, but I think we are well equipped for whatever they throw at us.”

On the other side of the disc, the Rainmakers defensive unit has their work cut out for them. Vancouver’s Brendan Wong was on fire last week with seven goals and three assists. Kirk Savage’s handling prowess is as daunting as ever, with 65 throws and 65 completions so far in the season. The Rainmakers will also need to keep an eye on Gagandeep “Gagey” Chatha, a Nighthawk rookie who has been deadly in the air since he arrived on the professional scene.

“Vancouver has a lot of athletes capable of making plays in the air,” said defensive handler Eddie Feeley. “If we look to contain just one, another will show up to beat us. We can help contain all of their deep looks by working hard on handlers to keep them out of power positions.”

The Rainmakers made some slight adjustments to their defense between weeks one and two, but the changes were driven by the Rainmakers personnel themselves. Feeley stressed that major shifts will not be made because of a change in opponents moving forward.

“It was nice to play the same team in back to back weekends because we were able to build on success from the previous weekend and make changes to what didn’t work,” Feeley said. “Defensively we aren’t going to make any team-specific changes, just continue to work on our sets and keep improving.”

Don’t forget, the game is in Mount Vernon, not Renton, and fans making the trip can expect to see a boisterous youth presence with the DiscNW tournament Spring Reign just a few minutes up the road.

“I love Spring Reign. The players there always provide a great environment for the showcase games of past years,” Feeley said. “The team I coach, Seattle Country Day School, will be coming to the game, and I encourage all the other teams to come watch a game that matters in the standings.”

“I do hope we’re able to get a good turnout from Spring Reign,” Rosatto added. “I’ve been watching those kids put on a show for years; it will be great to return the favor.”

And if the promise of world class professional Ultimate isn’t enough, fans can expect to see Seattle’s Adam “Chicken” Simon and Vancouver’s Jordan Tessarolo take the field early to sing the U.S. and Canadian national anthems.

Tickets and driving directions can be found here, and for fans who are unable to make it to Mount Vernon, the game will be streaming on MLU Live.

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