The Seattle Rainmakers gear up for their home opener and a second chance at victory this weekend against last year’s Western Conference champions, the San Francisco Dogfish.

Seattle let the Dogfish off lightly last week in a turnover-laden match-up, but with less windy conditions in the Pacific Northwest and a team with something to prove, Saturday night will be a whole different flatball game.

For one thing, Seattle will be fielding a number of new players due to some planned absences. Veteran handlers Mario O’Brien and Reid Koss are out, as well as cutters Donnie Clark and Sam Harkness. Clark and Harkness led the team in points last week, so the depth of the Rainmakers offensive line will be put to the test.

Fortunately, Adam Simon remains healthy and looks to improve on his performance from last week. But with O’Brien also out of the frame this week, the offensive handler rotation is relatively short. This game marks the MLU debut of Chris Rupp, an alumnus of the elite CUT (Carleton Ultimate Team) where he got a taste of the national spotlight going to nationals for three of his four years playing in college. Expect Rupp to pick up where O’Brien left off, delivering crisp throws to downfield receivers and bailing out fellow handlers with great handler movement.

Also entering the fray will be O-line cutter Khalif El-Salaam, the former Stag and an exemplar of Seattle’s youth scene.

“I am really excited to play in my first home game, actually in my home court,” said El-Salaam. “I am excited for the challenge, especially the feeling of the crowd. Scoring a goal and hearing the home crowd roar with happiness, that is what is fueling me for this upcoming game. Well, that and winning, but that’s a given.”

On offense, Seattle will need to watch out for Dogfish defensive player Chris Hart, a rookie from Santa Barbara who has all the makings of a defensive specialist. They’ll need to avoid throwing into disguised poaches and remember to play their game, with quick handler movement as the centerpiece, rather than trying to bomb it deep at every opportunity.

Dogfish standout Drew Kim is out this week on a toe injury and Mac Taylor is inactive, but the Seattle defense has their work cut out for them: contain the explosive Dogfish captain Evan Boucher and dominate the air against downfield threats like rookie Greg Husak.

Seattle will miss some of their stars this week, but the opportunity for the rookies here is huge. Eddie Feeley’s pulls were right on point, giving handler defenders a chance to set before the disc could be moved. Definitely expect the double team right off the pull this week, regardless of how strong the winds are.

Fans should be excited to see defender Todd Sliva in his MLU debut. Look for the Dogfish to test Sliva on deep looks, and they’ll likely make the same mistake multiple times. Though not quite as tall as the 6-foot-6 Isaac Entz, Sliva can be just as formidable when he occupies the deep slot in Seattle’s junk defense.

“I think we all know that if we play the way our coaches have been preaching we can avenge the tough loss last weekend down in San Francisco,” said Sliva. “We’re going to be without a few players, but that just means other guys on the roster will have the opportunity to step up and show everyone they can play at the same high level. We’ve seen it in practice, and I know we are all excited to let it all out on the field Saturday. Personally I’m just excited for the opportunity to play with an outstanding group of guys who are ready to ball, and to represent Seattle, Bellingham, and the entire Northwest.”

As for who scores the most points, it’s anyone’s guess, though with Clark and Harkness absent this week, expect Danny Trytiak and El-Salaam to rack up the points.

But will it be enough to achieve a win at home? The first pull goes up at 7:00 pm from Renton Memorial Stadium. Get your tickets here or stream the game live to find out.

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