Well, at least my intent is to make it quick.
To start with, the ultimate has been rather strong in the games I have seen. This may be selection bias (Follow Scandal around and you'll see some good ultimating) in part, but the games have been compelling for the most. Comebacks, teams playing unafraid and the like.
That said, the spectator experience is difficult. Nothing about this complex or setup has the spectator in mind. The fields are separated by roads and fences. The field assignments change. None of the games on Thursday are particularly relevant.
This event is about the players. Later in the evening on Saturday, the players become spectators. But even then, there are often multiple semis to watch at once (Women's and Mixed) on different quality fields (seating and surface) with different quality production values. Different speaker systems, different scoreboards, different different different. That this is unavoidable is likely more true than false, but that doesn't obviate that there is an implicit value statement in the placement of the games.
But the point isn't to complain about all of that. The point is to paint a picture. However fragmented and strange, the experiences I can type about are my own. One of the things that has been nagging the heck out of me since watching MARegionals has been round length. It was a debacle watching unobserved game after unobserved game at Regionals end short of 15 points as teams took extra-long halves without even realizing. I assumed that this would improve in the observed games. Well, a little bit... in that at least the halftimes weren't greater than 10 minutes. At the same time, the semifinal between Temper and Patrol ended at 12-11. The game-to-go to the game-to-go between Patrol and Garden State ended at 12-13.
Again, I've fulminated a bit on this before (though I can't find it... if you go back to last year's Nationals, there were a ridiculous number of capped games in bracket play across all divisions) but I was hoping to be proven wrong. Welp... let's just look at one of the (multiple) capped games I watched over the last 2 days. We'll look at the very fun Ring v Ironside men's semi. Why? Because I actually took some notes via twitter last night regarding points and time. Usually, if I'm going to write about a game, I record the number of throws and amount of time taken for each possession (when possible) and definitely for each point. Since I'm not really "working" at Nationals, I haven't been doing this. However, the data from the semi last night is near-complete and very basic. Just score and time. I missed two data points (clocks at 4-7 and 6-10) for which I just averaged two points together to come up with a reasonable facsimile of what occurred. Listed below are all of the points of Ring v Ironside sorted by length. Sadly, I didn't time the final interminable point... but then again, that was literally the only point of the game which was truly untimed. So... perhaps that was right? On to the numbers:
Ring Ironside 1:45:00 1 1 1:47:30 4 7 1:47:30 4 8 1:55:00 1 2 2:14:00 5 9 2:22:00 12 12 2:35:00 3 6 3:05:00 8 11 3:05:00 9 11 3:25:00 3 4 3:30:00 0 1 3:56:00 4 9 4:05:00 7 11 4:11:00 11 12 4:14:00 11 11 4:20:00 6 9 4:30:00 1 3 4:45:00 2 4 5:05:00 1 4 5:05:00 6 10 5:05:00 6 11 6:08:00 10 11 6:25:00 4 6 9:10:00 3 5 10:00:00 HALF HALF 0 0 12 13
23 or under points non-15 Division Pool Bracket Total Pool Bracket Total Men's 5 2 7 9 9 18
24 14 38 24 14 38 20.83 14.29 18.42 37.50 64.29 47.37 Women's 6 2 8 12 3 15 24 14 38 24 14 38 25.00 14.29 21.05 50.00 21.43 39.47 Mixed 9 1 10 16 4 20 24 14 38 24 14 38 37.50 7.14 26.32 66.67 28.57 52.63 Total 20 5 25 37 16 53 72 42 114 72 42 114 27.78 11.90 21.93 51.39 38.10 46.49
Sunday, October 19
Well, at least my intent is to make it quick.
Monday, September 29
So... now these teams should all collude, right?*
I mean that, in the long run, it is now better if Scandal and Green Means Go to both finish as high as possible at Nationals, right? If Both finish in the pro flight, then the region gets two automatic bids for next year, if my reading of the TCT guidelines is correct. So then... should they pool resources to do as well as possible? Should they share scouting reports and tips? Even practice or scrimmage together? Same with Truck Stop and Temper? Same for Amp and Amp?
Spacing, Skills, Leftys.
The cross-division similarity between Scandal and Truck Stop is in that they are excellent at dictating the offensive space on the field, and then attacking it with their specific skills, both based on individual quirks and trained team-level knowledge. They are organized and skilled and coherent. And they each have leftys. Never underestimate the value of sufficient lefthandedness.
As I was speaking with someone whose first polo fields these were not the phrase "I know a lasting club culture when I see one."
Scandal and Truck, Truck and Scandal.
Coaches, a game plan, top-shelf talent, dedication to improve.
DC is the place to be for Open and Women's.
It isn't close.
As for Amp, none of their games were close enough to watch. Literally and figuratively. I kept walking over toward their fields and either the game was over or the first people I saw who knew the score said "Amp is up at least three breaks and they just got a D."
Save for this one moment against AG. There was a poach block on and under cut. If AG scores, it isn't yet half. It would have been 7-5. Timeout. No conversion. Amp scores. 8-4 at half. gap of two versus gap of four is a big difference. Remember that, coaches, captains and leaders.
I don't know how Amp won, so I can say nothing substantive.
Then again... #IJustLosttheGame
There might be something I know about some of those Philadelphia players of a certain age back from once upon a time... but using that is speculation.
Amp is another lasting club culture.
And all these new players show up... and the young ones who had promise turn into the good, reliable club players. Or the club players now coaches or old reliable players like Mr. Moldenhauer.
Wodatch kept DiGirolamo-ing Temper.
Of the first 4 DC O-Points, I'm reasonably certain that Wodatch caught a huck while running free to the endzone on three of them. If I didn't know better, I'd say that Temper had never seen a player do that. However, the previous day coming out of half, this is precisely what Temper did to Garden State Ultimate. A quick strike of two unmolested deep cuts (like.. no defender w/in 20 yards) getting 60+ yard goals off of the pull play (either the 2nd or 3rd throw) as the other five Temper players swept across the field in harmless school-of-fish-style group cutting. The next time down, Garden State matched up on Tyler and kept with him for the majority of the cut... until TD jumped. The GSU defender was impotently staring up at the roof being built over his head. Goal.
I assume that all of these teams are aware that their opponents need to make it to the other endzone to score, and of who DiGirolamo and Wodatch are. Some sort of mesmerizing offensive structure must be eliminating all possibilities of help defense. Perhaps voodoo? A hypnotist?
As magical as that sounds, no. The answer is more basic. If you're playing straight up, no-help man, you're making the game a series of one-v-one matchups. Which plays to the offense. TO put it another way, there should be no moment when the most dangerous deep receiver on the opposing Offensive Rotation is on an island versus a single defender. The structure of the defense must reflect the threats present in a given offense. There are 6 players (not counting the mark) who could be responsible for the endzone. When zero are? Structural problem.
As for the sort of player who reshapes the field, in the games that I watched at MARegionals, those players were: DiGirolamo, Wodatch, Green Mean's Go's Pullers, and Sandy Jorgensen of Scandal.
Each of them changes the geometry of the field. Bending either the defense (DiGirolamo & Wodatch primarily play offense) or the offense (Pulls and Jorgensen generally play defense) or both to their benefit. By changing the underlying equations of the game, they all pose a question to their opponents that must either be answered or circumvented.
And then Temper Truck Stopped Garden State Ultimate.
Temper looked bad at ultimate against Truck Stop. Then they capitulated.
Garden State fought back through the backdoor registering a momentous victory over Patrol in the backdoor after losing to Temper in the front door, 15-11.
Which brings me to something important when it comes to tournament play: The number of games teams play over a weekend.
The game-to-go in the men's division was Temper's fifth on the weekend.
The game-to-go in the men's division was Garden State's seventh on the weekend.
Oh wait... let me check my math: That was Temper's 4.5th or so game on the weekend. They threw in the towel in the final at about halftime (It looked like they brought their O starters out for the first point of half and then never again.) while Garden State fought like hell against teams they needed to beat. Sure, you'll say, that's the penalty for losing. I'll respond that this is ridiculous. My next post will cover this more in-depth via cloning technology.
In the Women's Division, Scandal was the best. It wasn't close, even though Green Means Go (After not trying to win their pool play matchup which was a 13-1 Scandal victory) made a 3/4ths of a game of it in the final. That is, GMG can hang with Scandal. But an upset is near-incomprehensible. The 15-9 finals game was close at 10-8, but it got to 15-9 in a hurry.
Green Means Go was clearly the second team.
Hot Metal was clearly the third best team.
GMG was consistently aggressive in all phases of the game, the gap between their play and Scandal's is a matter of execution&skill rather than structure or strategy. The two play different offensive sets, but both are capable of working the breakside, openside and deep. GMG is more dependent on some of their deep shots succeeding than is Scandal, but the aggression both teams show with their D Rotation offense is remarkable. If you throw a short turn against either of these teams and then pause to think about it for a second, you might as well start walking back to the line for the next O-point. Your moment of remorse is just the window they've been trying to open.
They both have players who are top-shelf quality. However, Scandal has Team USA players. Scandal is the reigning national champions who have traveled the world over the last year. Green Means Go is, simply put, green in comparison.
Woe to the team that underestimates this Philly women's team. You will pay the price. The women on this team play fast, play hard, and have a clear team identity.
Are Ultimate Players Orange-Green Colorblind?
The fields at the Capital Polo Club have enough space around each field to have a restraining line. Ultimate players put their bags on inside the line. They stand inside the line. They put the tents and umbrellas inside the line. They bitch and moan when you tell them to move. They get int he way of the observers. When there are no other games going on anywhere, spectators line up so closely that a player leaving from inbounds can layout and collide with sundry dangerous items from a spectator looking the other way to tents nailed into the ground to coolers to speakers to umbrellas.
Why Why Why?
Stop it. Stop endangering your fellow travelers. Stop making the world more dangerous with no gain. 5 steps behind the orange line... your view is nearly unchanged. The safety of the players, however, is vastly improved. Just do it. How many years... how many folks laying out into stuff... how many Paul George injuries?
Best games of the weekend (in no particular order):
Garden State over Patrol in the game to go to the game to go (Incredible GSU comeback)
Scandal over Green Means Go in the final (Scandal Challenged!)
Green Means Go over Hot Metal in pool play (GMG big comeback!)
Green Means Go over Hot Metal in the game to go (PGH fought the whole way... big plays both directions... no fear from either side)
Worst games of the weekend (in no particular order):
Truck Stop over Temper in the final (White Flag Game)
Temper over Garden State in the game-to-go (Outta Gas Game)
Scandal over Green Means Go in pool play (White Flag Game)
Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other:
Temper v Patrol in the semis (Incredibly bad/ugly game which someone had to win I guess)
Had a decent time spectating this weekend, but I've had about enough ultimate in one weekend to last 2-3 months. I hope I'm more interested by the time my fall league team plays this coming weekend.
*- I have been politely corrected by Mr Miller that this is no longer the case. I had difficulty discerning from this page as I quickly scanned earlier. In the relevant section it states that "this rule is effective for the 2014 season." I took that to mean that the note from above was effective as I scanned. The rule of 1 region, 1 auto bid makes more sense. Section B.2.c.i
This rule is effective for the 2014 season.
Sunday, September 28
"Where are the horses?"
No horses. I told you, frisbee."
Your shirt. It says 'Horse' on it.
Right but for frisbee.
So, coed, the reason I didn't watch you on the first day is because you're not in bracket play. You're in pool play. I can't watch enough of the games to make any sense of your teams. In women's, by watching Scandal, Green Means Go and Hot Metal, I've got decent grasp on what's going on over there. 3/7 teams.
In open, all I care about are the teams in the top 6. I watched four of the top 6 yesterday on the same two adjacent fields, except for Truck and Medmen. Though I'm pretty familiar with the DC/MD open players on those teams through being in the Mid-Atlantic for a long time, my MLU work, the AUDL's existence, and living in the DMV. I can look at the rosters and know pretty well what I'm getting. I watched Patrol and GSU be exactly the teams that that I expected. I not-watched Medmen be the team they always are. Truck has been the team here since Ring left. There are no others, folks. Philly, Jersey and Pittsburgh keep switching names and blowing things up and starting again and shifting philosophies... Yet Truck Stop remains. One of the first (and wholly sensible) UPA/USAU name changes.
Wait... did the UPA make itself change its own name because it was offensive?
Patrol could beat Temper. GSU could be Temper.
Medmen... I don't know how they stack up against Temper, Patrol or GSU.
Dire is less known to me, but I recognize some of them for sure.
Patrol and Med Men have the decided advantage in the backdoor bracket since they've played one less game than Dire Wolf and Garden State Ultimate.
Temper, on the other hand... has the goods. But how much do they have in stock?
This is a tournament. Patrol made Temper look very vulnerable.
GSU did not look wholly overmatched, just situationally.
Would've liked to see that game actually played to fifteen.
Speaking of which, after twitting earlier about games in club not truly being to points, I went through and looked that scored from #MARegionals to see what sort of winning scores most teams had. Of the 66 games played across all divisions, only 38 (or 57.58%) reached their stated point total. 10 (71.43%) of Women's Games, 16 (57.14%) of Mixed Games, 10 (50.00%) of Open Games.
|Division||# of teams||# of games||Games to||Winner Full||Less||-1||-2||-3||-4||-5||No Score||%Full||Under||-1||-2||-3||-4||-5||No Score|
If you missed it above, the men's teams played to 15. The thing that you will not see above is thatall rounds in all divisions were the same length. If you're trying to reach 15 you'll probably need more time than if you're trying to reach 13. To put it another way 13 : 15 :: 105 : (1575 / 13)
That's 121 and two thirteenths minutes, if you prefer.
121 minutes and 9.230769 seconds for the men's rounds.
It wasn't like the teams in open were even finishing *near* the end of their games though. Most most common non-15 winning score in open was 12 (-3) In both Women's and Mixed, the most common non-13 winning scores were a tie between 12 (-1) and 11 (-2).
So, the results are closer to intent in both women's and mixed both in terms of frequency and distance.
Oh also... no scoreboards at #MARegionals. that's... weird. I wish Mike G was still in this region. He'd throw a fit so the rest of us didn't have to.
The plan for Sunday is to familiarize myself with mixed in the 9am round from the polo stands. I can watch the majority of both Amp vs [Ridiculous Jersey] and Tyrannis v [Pribicko's still playing with Herschel? Why isn't Paul on this team?]. Cool.
But then I will start shifting toward field 11 and 5 (which are actually a little too far apart) to see Scandal v Green Means Go and the Truck Stop vs Temper men's final. On the way, I hope to catch a sufficient amount of Ant Madness v American Hyperbole and Ambiguous** Gr(e/a)y v Jughandle. I'm only one set eyes and the like, so choices must be made. Shade, shelter and seats wins barring extenuating circumstances like a final or Scandal.
To get into styles of play for a second:
Temper v Patrol was look-away ugly for much of the game. Trading full field untouched by the receiver hucks... turfing multiple throws... making 50/50 throws out of reasonably open looks. They were all playing hard, but never smoothly. Not an aesthetically pleasing moment in that game. Athletically? Sure. But you're gonna need more than that.
Garden State puts on the gas better than Patrol. There is a sense watching them that they are on the verge of going on a run. With Patrol it feels more like a slow charge forward on the same level. Not so many highs or so many lows. That is... Patrol is less likely to blow a team out, but the are less likely to be blown out also.
Dire Wolf and Medicine Men... If you make it through the back door... I'll check y'all soon.
In the women's division, the difference between watching Scandal and watching the other teams is that Scandal is making choices about which way they will play. They can go long, play the unders, break the mark or do what is required on offense. Not because they have to do one or the other but because it is what needs to be done for Point X or Y. There is a fundamental flexibility that they have that the other teams wholly lack. Depth plays a huge role in this.
Hot Metal and Green Means Go are simply more limited in their options. AS evidenced by their head-to-head play, either team is capable of going up on the other. But in watching that game as it progressed, one of the notable differences is that the Philly players keep pushing hard when they were down. There was no deflation. Once PGH went down... there was a softening around the edges of play that informed all of their lack of true belief. Just at the end, as the game was already over in effect, PGH showed some fight. But too little too late.
PGH or PHL can go to nationals. If there is a fourth team with a shot, I didn't see it.
More than this, I haven't time for. Nor is there an editor. So... up this post goes. " Read More......
Friday, September 26
Regionals is the most exciting tournament in club ultimate.
Nationals is the best tournament, but the drama is reduced. Even with the advent of the Triple Crown Tour and the associated flights of play (Which all sound suspiciously like the vacuous plaudits of "Preferred Customer Status" w/in frequent flyer programs and the like), elimination play is still for teams which already made it to the best tournament in the world. The disappointment of losing at Nationals is always tempered by being at Nationals. It used to be that it was an even softer landing because everyone was at the beach. In Frisco, TX... well... There isn't near as much *free* fun to be had, nor is the scenery any match for Siesta Key. In fact, does anyone know what it is one does in Frisco?
But losing at regionals in the game-to-go? That's the roughest stomach punch in the game. I delivered that stomach punch it totally devastating fashion with Pike multiple times over the years I played (I haven't heard more than 5 sentences from anyone on Los since 2007&9 happened). I even got to do it again with PoNY in my final season, when we sent Bodhi home on their shields via the raw power of a quintuple bird strike.
I was also dealt the most crushing loss of my life in a game to go. In 2006 (as I've written about before... somewhere in this briar patch of a blog) we lost in the game-to-go to a nascent team called "Truck Stop". Without that loss, which caused me to shed tears and break down in a way I still can't put correctly to words, this blog would never have been written, I'd likely never have pushed to be a captain a year later, and I'd have missed out on so many more experiences both within and without ultimate. It was a life-changing experience.
Further back, these sorts of losses are the root cause of Pittsburgh joining with Jersey to form Pike in the first place. They are the sorts of losses which caused Los to cease to be what it was. These are the losses which shift both the landscape of club ultimate and the mental makeup of the competitors. They cause rule changes and format tweaks. It is simply the most exciting tournament in club ultimate.
And this year is the first year I'm truly not on any club team (2001 to Hitch to Pike to PoNY to Ellis Kim's Seatless Bicycle to Trenton Takers to 2014) so I have no idea what's going on with these teams. And unlike last year, I'm not solely following Scandal around (and, for the record, watching Scandal work to win Nationals last year is one of the top three moments in my sporting life). This successive series of steps away from an active playing life (No, Horse is Masters. Masters definitely doesn't count) means that not only do I not know the teams, but I don't know much about the tournament itself. So, naturally, I go to scorereporter in hopes that I'll be able to plan out my weekend of saturation.
While the complaints about the new scorereporter are legion (and wholly reinforced in my attempt to navigate the three separate USAU pages and one facebook page necessary to get all of the relevant info), I really don't want to rehash that here. Suffice to say that I should be able to open that red "Club" button you force me to push in a new window, that there should be some way to view the field map and the schedule side-by-side, that there should be somewhere to view the entirety of the three schedules, and that all of the field numbers should be up now. I'll leave the rest of the issues to folks who use this far more frequently.
So, what I did was compress all of the useful information (to me) onto the front and back of a sheet of paper. Yes, that's right... ONE sheet of paper. And not even full-sized sheet: a 5.8" x 8.3" sheet. The space saving that I used was to eliminate consolation games. I didn't care about loser-full games when I played in them... why would I want to watch losers play now? Aside from that, all games and field info are listed and mapped out.
I then went through and bordered in red the games I knew I'd want to watch (title games, games-to-go, and the top three women's teams playing each other). Next, I went to outline in green the games I expected that I would want to see based on matchups or other factors (men's semis, mixed quarters, a few possible men's quarters matchups, friends on teams, whatever):
However, there is one thing that seems to obvious to fix: Why are the two men's semis separated by two fields of bottom-bracket play? It isn't b/c the #2 seed (Temper) keeps their field if they win (the #7 seed, Garden State, gets that honor... or the #10 seed City Wide Special). And while it is b/c Truck Stop gets to keep their field, it seems to me that a ridiculously easy fix would be to switch the (ostensible) 2v3 semi to field 9 which is next door to field 8 (the ostensible 1v4 semi).
The more positive side of that is that the Sunday field assignments are quite well done, as the final men's games take fields 5&6, women take fields 11&12 and mixed takes (Huh. That's weird. Should that be takes or take? Instinct says "takes", but...) 3&4. 5, 6, 11, & 12 form a box. 3&4 make that box into an L. Sure... I'd prefer one three by two box comprised of fields 10, 11, 12, 4, 5, & 6... but this is fine.
The larger problem, of course, is actually knowing which games will be interesting as the tournament goes along. There is a total inability to know these things in advance, and a limited ability to be updated as they go. If it were covered like the NCAA Basketball Tourney with live look-ins, multiple cameras for each of multiple channels, this point would be moot. Regionals, however, is not yet covered like that. So... perhaps I'll be able to track down a hashtag which covers all of #MARegionals? Or will I be stuck with a hashtag for each division? Or none at all? Perhaps I'll go 'round to the fields and teach everybody to yell "HOOTIE-HOOOOOOOO" in honor of #ATLast this weekend when a game is becoming interesting? (I doubt the cops'll be rolling up... so... we won't need it for that.)
The only format question I have (aside from my usual gripes that seeding is dumb, brackets are *always* the way to go for a two-day post-season tourney, more than 5 games in a weekend should be outlawed and the like) is: Why are there so many games in the mixed consolation bracket? They'll be playing pointless games through the 1pm round on Sunday! How are they expected see the most interesting games of the year in the Open (Champ: 11am, GtG: 1pm), Women's (Champ: 1:45pm, GtG 3:30pm) and Mixed (Champ: 1pm) divisions? Sure, that Women's game-to-go is available to everyone and gets the customary game-to-go timeslot of the weekend... but this extended loser-bracket seems ludicrous to me.
Then again, I've gotten into many conversations about my total disdain for consolation. I always played to win in club. That's the whole point of putting together a team. I always loathed teams who were comfortable playing those games, or even looked forward to them. Even when I played on bad teams... I wanted no part of those games. The dream of winning is dead. Don't make me wander around in a living death. Soulless, opaque eyes robbed of all life hoping to end the pain sooner rather than later. Playing differently b/c the whole point of my trip was already lost by my own devices.
But again... that's me. I still think "flights" are dumb, consolation is a misnomer, last season should not affect this season, you play to win all of the points, and more. You want to play for some other reason? Go find a rec league. I myself have done so b/c I don't play for those same reasons any more. I prefer to spectate these crazy bastards who are willing to run forever and give up their time, future health, future wealth, and whatever else for the chance to appease the ultimate gods.
See y'all out there.
Tuesday, July 22
So, at some point between my writing this post for Major League Ultimate and it getting properly posted, I failed at some part of the connecting process or somesuch. I think it was the outbox of my gmail. Point is, through all fault of my own, it was not published and was never really finished being polished. Nonetheless, here it is unedited in mostly plain text form including my prediction and some observations about VAN.
If you've been wondering what, if anything, I've been writing about ultimate of late, it is all over at my page on MLUltimate.com. It has been a fun season of work and the like with the MLU. I have some other things planned for the space over there and then I should be able to get some writing down over here over the offseason.
Menu: Coffee, Sweets, Eggs, Waffles/Pancakes, Drinks
Short Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. There is a hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.
That is big. D.C. is great all-around but, for my money, Kolick is the league MVP. You can't lose the most valuable player without missing a step. He's the unstoppable break, the unslowable cutter, the surprising defender, and the perfect player to start a team with.
That said, D.C. is far from a one-man team. Kolick's success relies on his teammates in part because of the structure of the sport (only one way to score on your own: Callahan) and in part thanks to the quality of this D.C. team.
To illustrate, a thought exercise. Which of these players has scaled back his role in order to let Kolick be Kolick?
Markham Shofner *
Jeff Wodatch *
Sean Keegan *
Calvin Oung *
Tom Doi *
* - Returners
While one could argue that Prial, Blake, Grabowski, and Peters have also reduced their contributions, they are new players in this season and joined a team on which Kolick was the main option. The first five players, on the other hand, have crafted their respective games over two seasons to mesh well within the gestalt of the offense.
Shofner would be the primary handler on most teams.
Keegan would be a primary handler on many teams.
Oung, while he might be dragooned into handler duties, is more of a cutter. His many roles in this offense, while non-negligible, are less reduced by Kolick's presence than they are changed.
Wodatch and Doi, on the other hand, are pure cutters. Their involvement in an offense missing Kolick wouldn't increase as dramatically as it would if they filled handler roles, but their roles will still change. There will be more space for under cuts without Kolick skittering upline. Deep cuts will be a little harder to come by, as those same upline cuts (and break throws) compress the field for better deep spacing.
The thing is, none of these players lacks the ability, skill, or desire to fill these roles, if not excel at them. They have each had games or stretches over their time in MLU in which they have been not just competent, but dominant.
D.C.'s Offense Prepares for Morgatron
While it will clearly be important for DC's offensive rotation to prepare for Hibbert's defensive ability, by the time the opening pull goes up, it would behoove them to have assiduously prepared for how Hibbert plays after his team generates a block. Thus far, D.C.'s offensive rotation has feasted on the weaker or tired offenses that teams allow on their defensive rotation in return for a high level of defensive competence. (Not every player can be great at everything.)
That defensive rotation players tend to be less aggressive and skilled at offense allows offensive players to better establish team-level defense. Engaging seven-on-seven rather than as a series of one-on-one matchups helps get blocks.
Against the Nighthawks' defense, D.C.'s offensive rotation would be well advised not to rely on getting the disc back before Vancouver scores. The frequency with which Vancouver's D rotation takes shots into the endzone can result in a three- or four-point run without the O line ever getting a chance to regroup and dig in on D.
Vancouver's Pulls and D vs D.C.'s Pull Play
Vancouver's second most consistent defensive weapon (after Hibbert) is their ability to consistently pull with enough depth and hangtime that their opponents must move the disc for 80 yards into the teeth of the defense. While the pressure starts with the pull, it also relies on one or two players covering enough ground to contest the first pass. Commitment to disrupting the pull play is the opening gambit of every Vancouver D point. When done right, it makes the first throw uncomfortable and distracts the offense from reading other defensive schemes in the offing.
D.C. has made hay by aggressively attacking upfield on pull plays. They generally get one or two free passes before the defense is set, suggesting they might be unaccustomed to consistently great pulls. But it also means that D.C. has a plan and executes consistently. Their offensive pull play motion, which I've covered before, starts with an upline handler cut. Few teams attacked Vancouver with this sort of motion – the West seems dedicated to using cutters early in pull plays – yet there are a handful of examples. Here's an instructive one:
[VAN v SEA Week 5]
It's from a Week 5 game against Seattle. Using Adam Simon as the upline option, Seattles scores to make it 14-16 in two throws. He gains a massive chunk of yardage, continues upfield with his momentum and throws a goal. Two throws, 69 yards, six seconds.
This is very close to the D.C. offensive rotation’s pet pull play, although Seattle's version sends the handler directly upfield. D.C. tends to run this cut at an angle somewhere between Seattle’s vertical route and Vancouver’s horizontal handler route run off of pulls.
Should Vancouver overcommit to getting down on the pull, D.C.'s offense is designed to produce a quick away look from handler motion to aggressive cutters. Defenders sprinting down to cover the pull are at risk of having their momentum used against them.
As the game goes on, O and D will strike a balance between running down hard on the pull and moving the disc quickly, both at a measured pace. Vancouver will put themselves in excellent position to win the title if they can generate a few early break chances before this balance is reached.
Tastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky. Like this icing lingering on my fingers.
This section is going to focus on the Nighthawks, as I've had the opportunity to write about the D.C. Current all season.
He’s the focus of every point he plays. In some ways, he’s the most similar player to Alan Kolick in the MLU title game, possibly in the MLU. They both do things you think you've seen before, but with a new twist.
Hibbert on offense is a strange mix of giant, gangly limbs; happy to get in a full-speed race or use a forward-pivoting, two-handed, low-backhand style to irritate unprepared marks to no end. I think he's got the title of MAP (Most Ambidextrous Player) in MLU.
He pulls (and throws deep) with excellent form and power. On defense, he actively discourages opposing throwers from getting isolated deep looks; although when he focuses in on one man, he's tough to get open on and will make bids on under cuts. If you get the disc on him, he's also a large intimidating mark.
Perhaps the right matchup for him won’t be one of D.C.'s top four on offense, affording a little more freedom to roam and help on defense. Ultimately, there are no ideal matchups on D.C.'s O. How Hibbert’s D assignments play out will have a significant influence one Nighthawk success.
Wong is a very aggressive cutter, aware of the disc's movement and ready to set up his cuts for a throw or two down the road. He’s also prepared to get open later in the stall count, as Vancouver throwers trust that a downfield option is bound to emerge.
Wong is also an underrated thrower. While his statistics indicate that he's not the highest-percentage player on the line, his creativity with the disc is above average and he doesn't seem averse to taking the easy option.
Either way, Wong is defensive matchup #1 for D.C. to lock down. I assume this will be a primary defender, but expect that he will see different looks against different lineups as the game goes on.
A nice, calm, high-percentage core on which to build an offense. Knapp is as dangerous as the rest of the team throwing deep or over the top, but his key skill within the Nighthawks scheme is making well-timed reset cuts. His ability to know when the thrower is going to turn and look – or when the thrower is expecting a cut – smooth the timing and disc movement on offense.
This is necessary as the amount of time each downfield cutter receives in this offense removes precious seconds from how long a thrower can spend looking for the reset. By way of timing and ability, Knapp keeps Vancouver's offensive style, which can become a herky-jerky, stop-start affair, running smoothly.
I expect to see a variety of handler defenders on him like Kantor.
While he's a highly aware handler (like Knapp), Savage is more adept at creating space or plays with positioning and a creative set of throws. While Knapp is usually in motion just before the thrower looks, Savage often waits until whenever he is needed and then goes. Both take advantage of minor missteps or poor positioning by defenders, and both are calmer with the disc than the rest of the lineup tends to be.
The extra pressure that Savage tends to take on within the offense includes more aggressive over-the-top throws, finding poached offensive players, and finding spaces to attack in zones. Their respective skills and timing complement each other well.
A variety of handler defenders. Possibly starting with Miner.
As tough matchup for D.C. as he’s been for every team in the West. Over most of the season, D.C. has had the athletic advantage over the offense of most opponents. While they still retain an overall advantage over Vancouver, they lack a player to match Chatha.
While D.C. has players who can challenge him in the air, none of them are as persistently athletic and as large. I suspect that Chatha, like Wong, will see a rotating cast of defenders, and that he will still come down with a deep shot or two over the defense. (The Nighthawks season was a blur of MORGATRON and Chatha skying the bejesus out of hapless foes, while Wong was a threat all over the field on O.) While Chatha will earn clear matchup victories, he will also risk some kind of disadvantage against every defender D.C. puts on him. The Current have put heavy pressure on every opponent's primary options through strategy and athleticism, and Chatha qualifies for the defensive spotlight.
Ah, the core of a non-veganoid breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco'd.
No eggs today folks. The chickens must be unhappy. Or at least it means that these teams have never played before, and neither has been in an MLU title game. Everything we're about to see is unprecedented.
Waffles or Pancakes?
VAN v DC @ PHL
This is far closer to a home game for D.C. than it is for VAN. While D.C. will be without their hometown game crew and crowd, their fans will be within a easy drive, bus or train trip. The Nighthawks fans, however, are a continent away. While it isn't a true homefield advantage, it's analogous to a team in the NCAA basketball tournament playing a game within easy driving distance from their campus. The closest school maintains a majority fan stake. Even unaffiliated fans are familiar with one of the teams and not the other.
That the Nighthawks have no idea what, exactly, the D.C. offense will look like absent Kolick may prove to be more a burden than a blessing. The Current know how they'll change their roles, and have had some time to work on the necessary adjustments. But neither the Nighthawks nor any other team in MLU has seen the Current without Kolick.
The challenge for D.C. is in the execution. Consistent handler play and familiar timing are the engine powering most easy downfield gains, most easy field reversals and many quality deep looks. When that timing changes, how will D.C.'s offensive cutters adjust? How will each thrower adjust his progressions without the single most reliable reset in MLU?
We don't know. VAN doesn't know. Only D.C. knows, and we will all find out on Saturday what's been cooked up in the District's top-secret frisbee lab.
I don't think that either team is prepared for the level and focus of the opposing team's defense. More than that, they are in no way prepared for the rate at which the defensive lines create and convert breaks. Both teams will attack quickly off a turn, work their asses off to score every break, and then put another challenging seven on the line for the next point. Complacency or apathy on offense will mean losing this game as both defensive rotations are accustomed to having their way with the opposing offense.
D.C.'s offense (1.92) and defense (2.26) have converted at a low rate of possessions per goal. Vancouver's defense (2.22) has scored points at a lower rate than their offense (2.34). This will likely be the deciding disparity. And, for better or worse, it all comes down to how effective D.C.'s offense is without Alan Kolick. If they play at or above their usual level, D.C. will win. If they sink a little, they might still win. But if they fall off significantly and score fewer than 13 goals, Vancouver will win.
I don't believe D.C.'s offense will sink that far. I believe that both offenses will turn the disc over at about the same rate. However, as has happened all year, D.C.'s offense will get the disc back enough to keep the game close, and their D will make an unendurable run at some point in the game. That – and not Alan Kolick, despite his brilliance – has been the Current's calling card all season.
This looks to be one of the most defensively fascinating games of the season. Both offenses will be fully tested. In the end, Vancouver's offense will be found wanting and D.C.'s offense will do just enough in their new clothes.
D.C. wins, 19-16.
Beverage of Choice
Players or matchups to take in.
Hibbert vs. Shofner & Keegan
These matchups could decide the game. If you had to pick one player in the game who can out-throw the coverage, you'd pick Shofner. Asked to name the player to get a block on anything shy of a perfect deep shot, you'd pick Hibbert. And as for who might rocket a huck past both the defender and receiver? Keegan. VAN and Hibbert have previously been beaten by this type of throw (see Zemel, Matt, Week 5 SEA @ VAN)
These matchups could decide the contest dramatically or quietly, whether through a huck looked off or thrown, or how the geometry of the game changes any time Hibbert is on the field with either of the other two.
Peter Yu vs. D.C. handlers
No matter who on D.C. ends up with the most touches this game, Yu will be right there pressuring and looking to jump routes and get handblocks.
Throwers should not test his mark as the count gets high. He has an active mark that takes advantage of stationary throwers, and a ready understanding of offensive structure. The latter allows him to gamble on anticipated throws, forcing throwers into sub-optimal choices or execution even when he doesn’t get the block.
D.C.'s offense doesn’t hold the disc as long as Vancouver's does, but they do fall into stretches in which individual players will trust themselves a little too much while their teammates stagnate downfield. If Yu can force two or three high-stall throws from the D.C. handlers, and Vancouver's D can turn one or two of them into defensive possessions, it will help hold off D.C.’s offensive defense and produce fast breaks.
Yu also tries to anticipate handler motion in the backfield for poach blocks, any of which could be the advantage Vancouver needs to build a lead.
Vancouver throwers vs. D.C. marks
This heading is somewhat misleading: The game is really about Vancouver’s multiple huckers against D.C.’s team defense.
Offenses in the East tend to have one or two serious threats with the disc. These players do the heavy lifting as deep throwers, but together tend to account for high percentages of team throws and assists. Often you’ll see one thrower with a ton of throws and another with a ton of assists. Countable throwing statistics dwindle after that.
The Nighthawks have a primary handler through which the offense flows first (Kevin Underhill) and, indeed, he leads the team in assists with 22 (on 315 throws @ 92.46%). But he shares the lead with John Norris (on 275 throws @ 85.82%).
Underhill and Norris are spots 9 and 10 on the MLU assists list. Tied with Jeff Graham and Eli Friedman for 11-14 on the list are Kirk Savage (on 250 throws @ 94.00%) and Aaron Loach (165 throws @ 89.70%) with 20 assists each. So the Nighthawks are the only team with four players in the top 15 , and all of them are on Vancouver's O-line. This might help explain how Wong and Chatha combined for 71 goals caught.
Speaking of Wong (16 assists on 142 throws @ 88.03%), he's tied with Prial, Jake Rainwater (PHL), and Adam Simon (SEA) for spots 20-23 in assists league-wide. Of players with 15 or more assists, 25 are O players and three are defenders: Hibbert, Eddie Feeley (SEA), and James Yeager (SF).
The breakdown by team:
Players in Top 28 - Individual Assists (15 or more) - Total Assists - Ast/Player
VAN 6 - 22, 22, 20, 20, 19, 16 - 119 - 19.83
POR 5 - 28, 19, 15, 15, 15 - 92 - 18.40
DC 4 - 30, 30, 16, 15 - 91 - 22.75
SEA 4 - 26, 19, 17, 16 - 78 - 19.5
BOS 3 - 28, 26, 20 - 74 - 24.67
PHL 2 - 26, 16 - 42 - 21.00
NY 2 - 23, 20 - 43 - 21.50
SF 2 - 18, 15 - 33 - 16.50
Of the teams with the most players in the top 28, three of the top four are VAN, POR and SEA.
Week 11 Place to Be:
PPL Park. Philly. Championship Saturday. Yes.