The D.C. Breeze need one more win to make the playoffs. It could be this week or it could be July 22, and if it happens, either way it will be against the Philadelphia Phoenix.
This Saturday the Breeze (8-4) will have the chance to get that win at home in front of the Breeze faithful. Being 6-0 at home before the final regular season home game of the year, the team is looking for an undefeated 2017 campaign at Hotchkiss Field.
Initially looking at the Phoenix (2-8), it is easy to assume that the Breeze will pull out at least one win in the final two contests. With Philadelphia being out of the playoffs and an offensive line that is suspect, on paper it should be DC’s for the taking. However, one of the two wins for the Phoenix was against the the Breeze, and Philadelphia continues to improve week after week this season.
This time around for DC, though, a nearly full squad takes on Philadelphia. Both Alan Kolick and Tyler Monroe return to the team after missing last weekend’s trip up north. Kolick’s 14 goals and 24 assists, along with Monroe’s 23 goals and team-leading 37 assists, will be a huge addition for a team that blew out the Ottawa Outlaws by 16. Rookie Joe Freund also returns to the lineup to re-unite the dominant offensive unit that has a 71% conversion rate at home and a +29 goal differential.
In Philadelphia the team failed to have a sense of urgency on both lines. Neither group attacked the disc in a way that one would be accustomed to after watching the Breeze this season. The opponents will have an abundance of athleticism and talent on their defensive line. Watching out for Matt Esser, Marques Brownlee, Greg Martin will be a factor for the O-line. That group has 31 blocks on the year combined, just under a third of the entire team’s total (104). That unit broke DC twice back on June 3, which was enough to squeak by for the 22-21 win.
Missing in the June 3 matchup for the Breeze but on the 28-man roster for this week are Kolick, Jeff Wodatch (27 goals, 15 assists), Nate Castine (who is expected to return from injury), and David Cranston (nine blocks in six games).
As mentioned in the previous preview with these two squads, Philadelphia is the new home for former DC Breeze player Nicky Spiva. He has only played in five contests, but is listed on tomorrow night’s roster. The real danger is Sean Mott with 31 goals and 36 assists.
There is little to no chance that the players on the Breeze will overlook this game given the outcome last time out and the need for a victory. Philadelphia is the team’s only opponent with the playoffs a month away and two games left. Seeds are also not set in stone yet, and in fact the Breeze have yet to clinch a playoff berth. The only playoff fate sealed in the East is the Phoenix who are mathematically eliminated.
A win on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET guarantees a spot in the postseason for DC. Two wins for DC and the team has the No. 2 seed with the Montreal Royal and Toronto Rush facing off once more to decide the division winner. Based on tiebreakers, DC would be at the very least in second place even if the other two teams win out.
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Philadelphia is missing no notable names besides the ageless Trey Katzenbach, so nothing is set in stone. At this point the Phoenix are playing for pride, and when you pair pride with the raw athleticism Philadelphia possesses, it can have a dangerous result. Game on.