Now level on the season, NOLA Gold seek fourth straight win Sunday

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NOLA Gold vs New England Free Jacks
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

New Orleans, LA – Successfully back to .500 through six weeks, NOLA Gold will face a tough test against the Seattle Seawolves in Matchweek 7. A top team in the league, Seattle will pose threats on both sides of the ball; hopefully NOLA has a Golden reply at the ready.

Seattle’s record demands respect. Through the first six weeks of play (including their bye), they stand at 5-0, having beaten quality teams Houston and Atlanta in convincing fashion. Their contest with Chicago last week was a rout; though the game was called at halftime because of lightning, the Seawolves had already built a 27-5 lead. One can only imagine what the final might have been if they played a full eighty minutes in the Windy City.

A deeper dive into the statistics, however, suggests that the Gold can hang with Seattle. Though we’ve played an additional game, NOLA boasts a season try count of seventeen to Seattle’s fourteen. Additionally, the Gold lead the league in meters gained this season, standing at an almighty 4,334. Seattle trails closely behind in third place with 3,962 on substantially fewer ball carries, making their meters-per-carry a strong 7.46 to NOLA’s 6.89.

Consistency and discipline are ingredients for success in the MLR, and Seattle stores both in bulk. This is reflected in two key metrics: kicking success percentage and conceded penalties. The Seawolves are league-best in the former, scoring an astonishing 88% on attempted kicks. In a game that could be decided by one possession, this testament to pedal marksmanship may come up trumps for the lads from the Emerald City.

Seattle maintains a rigid posture when it comes to penalties, having conceded 45 until now, second-least in the league. Fouls plagued the Gold during their 0-3 start, suggesting a direct correlation between such infringements of the laws and record. If the Gold are able to keep their penalty tally down throughout the game, they’ll have a chance to direct the scoreline in their favor. Seattle surely won’t self-sabotage with silly infractions.

Statistical analysis isn’t the only lens through which a game can be studied, though. Oftentimes, intangible, unpredictable factors are what lead a team to victory. The American olympic hockey team proved that self-belief and team spirit can level the odds in the 1980 Miracle on Ice against the heavily-favored Soviet team. Leicester City’s fanciful Premier League title run in 2015 proved that resilience and tactical ingenuity could produce championships. In 1184 BC, with their Trojan Horse, the Greeks proved that mental chicanery and psychological misdirection are invaluable components to triumph. For the Gold, good old-fashioned Louisiana weather may be the key factor in getting a win.

Let’s discuss the forecast. The meteorologists are calling for 76* and 58% humidity on Sunday. This is a far stretch from what Seattle has experienced and been acclimatized to; their average game temperature to date, across home and away fixtures has been 43.8*. No matter how you slice it, the Seawolves haven’t yet experienced the Louisiana sun.

As the game stretches on, the Seattle defense will stretch out, leaving open lanes for a flying Rodney Iona or a streaking Dougie Fife. The Seattle props will be huffing and puffing like Thomas the Tank Engine, creating opportunities for Gold diesel locomotives Jarred Adams and Matt Harmon to barrel through. With warm winds predicted to creep up from the gulf coast, the Gold will feel right at home while the Seawolves will be longing for a return to the bitter comfort of the Rain City. As the sweat builds on Seattle’s brow, NOLA’s fitness will prove crucial.

In all, this contest will be a real test of NOLA’s progress. The Gold have momentum, but Seattle has been a brick wall for other quality teams. If we can muster a win, the lads will enjoy a bye week with a much stronger position in the Eastern Conference than anticipated after the first three weeks. This game will be a good litmus test for the Gold’s championship aspirations; the MLR Shield won’t find itself in NOLA without going through the likes of Seattle, San Diego, Houston, and New England, for instance. This week offers a renewed opportunity to prove that NOLA belongs on the shortlist for championship contenders.

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