1. Seattle Rainmakers 2-0
The Rainmakers take the top spot by virtue of being the only 2-0 team to win a game by more than three points. Though unlike other 2-0 teams both of their victories have come at home, there’s reason to think they’ll keep up the pace. First, the solid 18-12 victory over the Stags compares favorably to the Dogfish’s 14-11 win against them. And though the Nighthawks staged something of a comeback in them against the opener, the 14-6 lead they opened was a show of dominance, and they started to run out the clock on the Nighthawks. No other team has created the kind of leads Seattle has. I suppose the Dogfish get the number one spot for most people due to Revolver’s success, and Revolver>Sockeye therefore Dogfish>Rainmakers. But the Dogfish aren’t Revolver and the Rainmakers aren’t Sockeye. Sockeye doesn’t have players like Seth Wiggins, Adam Simon, or Mario O’Brien. And Ben Wiggins isn’t their coach. When you add those players to an already talented Sockeye core that isn’t missing nearly as many of its key players from 2012 that the Dogfish are, you get a very dangerous team. The Rainmakers will face their toughest test of the season on Saturday, playing the Dogfish in San Francisco. After Saturday they’ll go six weeks before they face the Dogfish again, so it’ll be the game to watch.
2. San Francisco Dogfish 2-0
Yes, the Dogfish do have a lot of Revolver players. Most notably Beau and Mac. It goes deeper than that too, with Martin Cochran, Cassidy Rasmussen, Ashlin Joye, Devon Anderson, Eric Greenwood, Jordan Jeffery, Nick Schlag, Ryo Kawaoka, Sam Kanner, Russell Wynne, Patrick Baylis, and Zach Travis all on board as well. Anytime you get 12 Revolver players on a team they are going to be a force. When you supplement those guys with Boost Mobile players like Drew Kim, James Pollard, Evan Boucher (who, when he played was one of the best players in the AUDL last season), and David Abram, the Dogfish are one of the top teams in the MLU. Unlike Seattle though, a lot of big names from the club team are missing from the MLU squad; Adam Simon, Bart Watson, Robbie Cahill, Mark Sherwood, Jonathan Hester, Jonathan Levy, and Josh Wiseman. The Dogfish escaped Vancouver with a one point victory in a thrilling game, and have a favorable schedule coming up. After hosting the Rainmakers Saturday, they travel to Portland to play the Stags, then the Nighthawks and Stags visit San Francisco the following weeks. No game is by any means a given in the MLU, but you have to like the Stags chances in all those games. I’d expect them to be 5-1 after week six, easily setting themselves up for the playoffs. But, I think it’s unwise to regard them as the heavy favorite in the conference.
3. Philadelphia Spinners 2-0
The Spinners got the 2-0 start I expected them to, and are in prime position to capitalize. They’re the only 2-0 team to get both their victories on the road. The next two weeks they host the Rumble and the Current, giving them a good chance to get to that 4-0 start. After that if they just go .500 for the rest of the season they’ll be 7-3, no doubt good enough for the playoffs. The Spinners have had more impressive victories than the Whitecaps so far, though only barely so. It’ll be interesting to see whether their pro Ultimate experience advantage will start to dissipate now that other teams have a couple games under their belt.
4. Boston Whitecaps 2-0
The Whitecaps just barely got out of DC with a 20-19 win over the Current. Even though a win is a win, I think it’s fair to say that expectations were higher for this team in the early going. While San Francisco, Seattle, and to a lesser degree Vancouver were supposed to be the class of the west, the Whitecaps, with all of their Ironside and other Boston club talent were supposed to have an easier go of it in the east. We’ll see if they start to create some separation now that they have some playing experience together. This weekend they travel to New York and the next they host the Current. Many people will be looking ahead to May 18, when they host the Spinners, but given the small margins of victory seen across the MLU the Whitecaps can’t take any game for granted.
5. Vancouver Nighthawks 1-2
The Nighthawks salvaged their weekend by traveling to Portland to ruin the Stags home opener, winning 21-17. The night before they lost their own home opener to the Dogfish by just one point. In that game the Nighthawks showed they can’t be taken lightly, just like they did in their game against Seattle, when the Rainmakers took their foot off the pedal and the Nighthawks scored six straight to make the final score a 12-14 loss. Next week they host the Stags, which should help them get back to .500. After that they travel to Seattle to play the Rainmakers again. If Seattle loses their week three match to San Francisco, a win in Seattle would vault the Nighthawks to second place in the standings, with their two remaining games taking place in Vancouver. Of all the teams outside the top four, Vancouver is the most talented and in best position to jump into a playoff spot.
6. New York Rumble 0-2
Though the Rumble’s point differential is worse than the Current’s due to their three point loss to the Whitecaps, the Rumble didn’t start the season with two home games like the Current did. But, the Rumble’s position ahead of the Current may be short lived, as they face a difficult upcoming schedule. This week they host the Whitecaps, then travel to DC and Philadelphia in the following week. That back to back is going to be rough, since both are road games, and Philadelphia and Boston won’t have to play a two game weekend until late May. The Current have a two game weekend that same time, but the Current are playing at home for one. New York has surprised so far with their competitive play, Ben Faust, Dan Hejimen, and Joe Anderson are just a few players that have stood out for them, but the time for moral victories is over.
7. DC Current 0-2
The Current have had a couple tough home losses in a row. Over the next four weeks they play a road game in every eastern conference city, along with a home game against New York. This stretch will make or break their season. If they don’t win at least half of those games, they’ll be at best 1-5, for all intents and purposes out of the playoff picture entirely. Even a 2-4 record might be too much to come back from. Asking a team to go 3-1 over a four game stretch with three road games is no easy task, but it’s something the Current have to accomplish if they want to stay relevant this season.
8. Portland Stags 0-3
Poor Portland. As they are all too accustomed too, they have to play Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver over and over again. Adding insult to injury the players from Rhino 2012 that aren’t on the roster might be able to beat the Stags in a game. If you put Chase Sparling-Beckley, Seth Wiggins, Mario O’Brien, Tad Jensen, Dylan Freechild, Jacob Janin, and Aaron Honn on the line is there a lineup from the Stags you would take over those seven? The Stags have played admirably so far, especially battling the Dogfish in San Francisco, only losing by three. But in a league where almost every game is decided by one or two points, the Stags have yet to come within two points of a win, losing by three, six, and four. So far only four games in the MLU have been decided by three or more points. The Stags have lost three of those four games. And it’s not like you can find a lull in their schedule, since the only teams they play are Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver. I don’t think the Stags will go winless, at the end of the day they still have talented players on their team, but the whole at 0-3 is too deep and the talent disparity too great to talk about this team as making a playoff run.