Rush to Face Breeze in DC

June 7, 2018
By Louis Zatzman

If the Toronto Rush have had a weakness in the past, it’s been playing in D.C. In 2017, the Rush were spanked twice by the Breeze at home, with embarrassing scores of 32-21 and 25-17. In 2016, the Rush also lost once to their divisional foes. Those three games represent half of the Rush’s all-time regular season losses. Even if winning 33-20 against the Breeze in Toronto earlier this year is a temporary salve, the Rush won’t be happy until they win in D.C. 

This Saturday will be the first and only opportunity for the Rush to win in D.C all season. 

They dominated the Breeze the last time around. Jeremy Norden threw dimes from the D-Line, finishing with 7 assists. Mike MacKenzie and Isaiah Masek-Kelly used their athleticism from the D-Line to muddle the Breeze offence, finishing with 8 blocks between them; many came in highlight fashion. 

Perhaps the most intriguing success story on the game was Toronto’s rookie Ben Oort, who finished with 6 goals from the O-Line. Most interestingly, Toronto and D.C were the two teams for which Oort auditioned during a short trip to North America before the season. He was invited to join both rosters, but he cited Toronto’s better chances at a championship as one reason why he joined the Canadian club. D.C might have been wishing he made a different decision after the last game. 

Of course, the Breeze were without a variety of rotation players, but star cutter Rowan McDonnell was available and was ‘limited’ to 3 goals and 3 assists. Marijo Zlatic defended him terrifically and will likely be tasked with McDonnell again. In only his second season with the Rush, Zlatic has emerged as one of the team’s best options on opposing initiation cutters. His high IQ, size, and ability to change direction make him a terrific defender in all areas of the field. 

If the Rush have an area of their game that needs occasional tightening, it’s their offensive focus. The Rush threw 18 turnovers against the Royal, and the D-Line needed to carry the team across the finish line. In fact, the defence scored an outrageous 10 of the Rush’s 24 goals during the game. Coach Raina and the Rush must be happy that the defence was so effective, and it’s nice to get that contribution when you need it. It’s better not to need it.  

Cam Harris and Adrian Yearwood made a few uncharacteristic throwing mistakes last weekend for the Rush, but they’re talented veterans. They won’t make the same mistakes twice. 

Furthermore, the Rush will be playing only their second Stadium Game of the Week. They’ll have an opportunity to showcase their dominance to a much broader audience. Recently, a staffer on a team outside of the East believed Dallas (7-1) to have the best record in the league; Toronto’s workmanlike consistency, winning games due more to clean unders and solid defensive marks than to highlight plays, can fly under the radar.  Especially in comparison to Raleigh’s recent dominance. Look for Toronto to make its typical understated declaration against D.C, with a crisp offence and active, physical defence.

The Breeze are a far superior team at home – with wins over Raleigh and New York as their signature wins on the season – but the Rush have more talent at practically every position on the roster. It should be a closer game than week 8’s 33-20 laugher, but Toronto expects nothing less than another step on the march towards a perfect season.

To help me prepare for the game, Noah Fleischman, a writer for the D.C Breeze, helped out. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

Louis Zatzman: What happened last time? Why will this game be different? 

Noah Fleischman: Last game was a tough one to lose, especially on the road. This game will be different because it is at home, and the travel is now put onto Toronto and not D.C. Even though Toronto has played well on the road, I think D.C can take advantage.
Louis: 18-year-old Ben Oort tried out for D.C and Toronto and was invited onto both teams. He chose Toronto and has led the team in goals on the season, including against D.C last time around. Any regrets? Is he a piece that would look good with the Breeze?
Noah: Oort is a solid player, and yes, he would be a nice weapon to have on D.C, but the Breeze have found other weapons (McDonnell, Wodatch, Miner) to score.
Louis: The up-and-down nature of the D.C season continues. A huge loss to Toronto, a tight loss to Montreal, then two monster wins. Why can't the team find stability? 
Noah: D.C has had an up-and-down season, but I think they are hitting their stride, realizing they have to win out to make the playoffs. The differences in opponent caliber certainly accounts for some of D.C’s scores recently, as has player availability.
Louis: Everyone's better at home, but for D.C it's been night and day. Why such a ridiculous variance in performance, even more so than pretty much any other team in the league?
Noah: The last two home games have been huge wins for DC beating Raleigh and New York. The variance at home should start to subside, and the Breeze are playing as a unit and playing with a passion. That should be true whether at home or away. The goal for them is to win out the rest of the season and make the playoffs.


Stat Watch

D.C (9 games played)

Assist Leaders: Goal Leaders: Block Leaders:
Rowan McDonnell – 26 
Xavier Maxstadt – 20 

Rowan McDonnell – 33 
Jeff Wodatch – 22 
Delrico Johnson – 20 

Delrico Johnson – 15
Troy Holland – 14  


Toronto (8 games played)

Assist Leaders: Goal Leaders: Block Leaders:

Andrew Carroll – 18
Cam Harris – 16 
Adrian Yearwood – 15

Ben Oort – 23 
Ben Burelle – 15
Andrew Carroll – 14 

Isaiah Masek-Kelly – 12
Cam Harris – 10 


The line: Tor (-3.5) vs DC (+3.5), per AUDL pick em