Photo by John King – Ultiphotos.com
On a warm and windy day in Portland, the Seattle Rainmakers took on the Portland Stags for the Western Conference Championship in a repeat of last year’s matchup. Unlike last year, when the Rainmakers had a great game with enough surprises in their cleat bags to win against the Stags, this year the Rainmakers lost to the Stags 9-18. The score may seem similar to the last game of Seattle versus Portland, which ended with a score of 10-20, but while that game had very low Rainmakers numbers and the Stags won handily, this game was hard fought, with both teams laying it all on the line to win. It was a great game to watch, even if the Rainmakers lost.
In the beginning of the first quarter the Stags and Rainmakers both got a hold point, putting them at 1-1. That was Seattle’s only score of the quarter, however, and Portland went on a run, scoring four more points to end the first quarter 1-5. There were some long points in the quarter, including one that went over three and a half minutes and had five turnovers between the teams from a combination of interceptions and poor throws.
In the second quarter the Rainmakers seemed like they were rallying. They scored four points and got their first break point of the game. The score went to 5-8, well within their grasp if they got a couple more break points. The Stags got two more points to bring the game to 5-10, and they never let the Rainmakers get within shouting distance of winning again.
The third quarter was another quarter in which the Rainmakers only scored one point. The Stags got four, including three break points. There were a lot of turnovers this quarter as well, with only five points scored in 10 minutes. Seattle had some throwaways, which shows their mental game slipping. Brad Houser had a great catch five yards out from the end zone but didn’t pause to see his cutters, and his throw was for naught. The third quarter ended 6-14. No team in the MLU has come back to win a game from eight points down, but the record was set by the Rainmakers when they came back from a seven point deficit against the San Francisco Dogfish on June 11. It wasn’t out of the question for Seattle to come back and win the Championship, but they would have had to shift the momentum away from Portland and play with no errors for Portland to exploit.
In the final quarter the Rainmakers picked up the intensity. There was a great layout block by Dylan Harrington and a block by Luke Jesperson. The Rainmakers scored three points, including two break points, and kept the Stags to four points. The play was too slow to allow Seattle to come back for the win. The final score was 9-18, with the Portland Stags set to play in the MLU Championship in Philadelphia against the winner of the Eastern Conference Championship game the Boston Whitecaps or the Philadelphia Spinners.
The Rainmakers tried to mix it up this game to keep the Stags on their toes. Unfortunately, their zone did not phase Portland, perhaps because they showed it in the previous game. Henry Phan, normally the linchpin of the defensive handling line, played offense as well this game, which was not the success Seattle was looking for. Peter Ostergaard said that the Rainmakers just couldn’t make it happen on offense. “I think we were getting it on the line and couldn’t get it off on the line. We just couldn’t set up our cuts properly. And we weren’t really deep threats so [the Stags] didn’t have to respect that. They were under us five yards,” and they didn’t capitalize on the poaching, he said. Tido continued that they did better later in the game. “We found by the end of the game that we could just trust each other. Deep shots were opening up, and it was fun playing with people despite the score.”
Co-Head Coach Fiona McKibben said that the defense was good. “We really slowed down their offense a lot. We got turns from our d’s, and we just couldn’t quite perform on our offense. We made mistakes and couldn’t recover from them.” The Rainmakers had eight blocks this game, and forced fifteen turns on the Stags. Seattle got 24 turnovers themselves, and their offense faltered. They had a 31.6% Offensive Scoring Efficiency, much lower than Portland’s 72.7% OSE. The Rainmakers only got three breaks this game, compared to the Stags ten breaks. Dylan Harrington had a good game, with two goals and two blocks, though, and Evan Klein had one goal, two assists, and one block. Phan had two assists, and Daniel Walton and Houser each had one goal and one assist.
The Portland Stags are an amazing team this season, breaking records right and left. They have the highest Defensive Scoring Efficiency in MLU history (43.5%), the most goals in a season (228), the most breaks in a season (159), the most blocks in a season (107). In addition, Cody Bjorklund has the most blocks in a single season with 41, and players have lifetime records, including Riley Meinershagen for most blocks, Bjorklund for most points and most assists, and Timmy Perston for goals.
The Rainmakers did very well this year, rebuilding their team and winning all their games that weren’t against the Stags. They have the higest Break Possession Scoring Efficency in MLU history at 55.4%. They had the second fewest turnovers in the league (210), had a team completion percentage of 91.2%, and was one of only three teams to finish the regular season with a Defensive Scoring Efficiency of over 40% (they had 41.5%). The Rainmakers should be proud of what they accomplished this season and for giving their all in their final game. Peter Ostergaard said that he’s sad that this is the end of the line for the Rainmakers. “It’s disappointing to give [the Stags] things but we also played hard and we got better over the course of the game, which feels good. [The Rainmakers] are a great bunch of guys, so it’s a bummer to have that be the last game of the season.”
Dylan Harrington is looking forward to summer play and next year’s MLU season. “I love this team. My teammates are great. I’m excited to play with a bunch of them in the club season, against a bunch of them in the club season, and then come back for round two next year.” Fiona McKibben says that it was a great rebuilding year for the Rainmakers. “Overall it was a fun game and a fun season, and I’m really proud of the guys, how they’ve grown as a team. I think that we’ve done a lot of building this year. We’ve taken a lot of guys who didn’t play pro last year and have done a lot to build our program.” I am excited to see what they come up with next season.