Photo by Scobel Wiggins – UltiPhotos.com
15 – 18
The weather in D.C. is a thing. Wind, Rain, Madness.
Two weeks, two games, and neither was a particularly clean affair. This past weekend, though not nearly as windy as the first game at Cardinal Stadium, the weather was sufficiently cold and rainy to depress the level of execution for both teams. Any player who attempted more than six throws also threw at least one incompletion. Comparing their first week win over the Whitecaps, in which the Spinners had 15 players who completed 100 percent of their passes (Six of whom threw between 20 to 40 passes), to this loss in which the Spinners had seven players complete 100 percent of their passes (None of whom threw more than six passes) leads to the conclusion that while the Spinners started with a victory in the opening week, sustaining that level of play will be a challenge.
The Current, on the other hand, are sitting at 2-0 and have not yet played a particularly clean game. Over two games none of their players have completed 100 percent of their passes while also throwing the disc more than six times. Reliably winning without requiring offensive perfection is both the path to the top and the sign of a resilient defense. In this game, while D.C. played almost entirely man defense, the specifics varied widely throughout the game against both individual Spinners and the team as a whole. Regardless of whether the Current offense ever runs on all cylinders, the D.C. D is a wrecking ball.
22 – 20
While the Rainmakers made a late-game run to bring the score close, the Nighthawks won each of the first three quarters and looked the stronger side all evening. The theme for the Seattle side was one of unforced errors, the worst of which came in the fourth quarter with 1:37 remaining:
Sam Creed of the Nighthawks gives the disc away on a simple execution error near the end zone Vancouver was attacking. This is a particularly painful sort of turnover as it provides an excellent fast break opportunity. Even if, as in this case, the fast break does not occur cleanly (very strange that neither of the two Rainmakers near the turn pick the disc up), the whole of the field is open for the first Seattle players who push downfield. The key is to generate a strong scoring opportunity while the defense is still recovering. With a goal here, Seattle would have pulled within one late in the game.
Instead, Seattle failed to clarify their offense, leading to a rushed, contested and underthrown Henry Phan huck down the tight side of the field to a very deep receiver in Peter Bender. If this is going to be a goal, it must be in the back of the end zone. Instead, it doesn’t even reach the end zone and the defender, Jordan Tessarolo, has a much better angle on the disc. Rather than forcing the issue to the small side while throwing in traffic, the choice to break out to the other side of the field would have put more pressure on the defense. Even if the quick huck is the decision the offense wants based on time and matchup, the execution must be better to give the receiver a chance to make a play on the disc. The huck must be either deeper or across the field or both.
All that said, the Seattle defense looked much more capable than in the first week. The mixing of a variety of zone looks, combined with the awareness of their reset defenders, put pressure on the Nighthawks from the start of each offensive possession by disrupting the Vancouver pull plays. As Seattle works their full roster back into play, their unforced errors are likely to decrease. If combined with aggressively dynamic defensive play, the Rainmakers will work their way out of the Western Conference basement.
13 – 20
This game was over by the end of the first quarter as N.Y. quickly found itself down three goals. While it being the Rumble’s first game and Boston’s third game of the season certainly contributed to the difference in play, it is not a good sign for N.Y. that many of their wounds in this game were self-inflicted. The apogee of being this sequence by rookie John Wodatch (GIF 52:30-52:38):
Wodatch’s play in the air was incredible. But it was also incredible that he had no idea Shaun Doherty was intelligently lurking to block the disc not once, but twice upon release.
The other two teams with whom the Rumble share this propensity for giving the game away are the Rainmakers and the Dogfish, who are currently occupying the bottom half of the table in the Western Conference. The Rumble certainly get the benefit of the doubt as it was their first game of the season, but they must clean up their play if they want to compete with the rest of the East.
For the Whitecaps, this game was exactly the show of force they needed. Boston looked decent enough in the first weekend, but came out with two tight losses. While a win of any kind would have done them well in the standings, a seven-point dismantling of the Rumble did even better: It served notice to the rest of the East that Boston is not to be trifled with.
One of the new additions to their game was the stellar offensive play of Tyler Chan. The Whitecaps new-look offense seemed sluggish in the first weekend as they created space, but did not attack that space. In Chan, they have precisely the sort of receiver who will attack with abandon. The sight of him repeatedly tearing away from defenders the way only youth can will be a welcome sight for top-notch throwers like Jeff Graham, Teddy Browar-Jarus and Josh Markette. I expect to see Chan score a ton of goals this season as he wears defenders out before taking them to the house. And his obvious joy upon scoring is fun for everyone! Well, everyone excepting the opponent gasping for air only to find the strength in his legs failing.
15 – 12
This was another game in which the weather dominated play from start to finish. There were many open throws during which the disc, upon release, chose to rush to the ground in what I can only assume were attempts to hide from the wind. It might seem a strange thing to say that the Dogfish looked much better in this game than they did in their opening week victory over the Nighthawks, but this game was better played by both sides than that disjointed match.
What truly caused this loss for San Francisco was their insistence on presenting the Stags with gifts like this:
In this clip, Riggs starts with the disc and throws a beauty of an inside break to the center of the field. The next thrower, Gabe Saunkeah, chucks a blade to an uncovered Matt Kissman just outside of the end zone. Kissman throws back to Riggs as his reset who barely rips the disc away from a diving Portland defender. At this point, Saunkeah is open immediately and clapping for the disc. Instead, Riggs looks upfield and leads a pass out perfectly…for a Portland defender to make a block on. This is a waste of so many good, close plays. Then again, pressure bursts pipes.
San Francisco’s defense was up to the task of not only slowing the Stags attack in the absence of Eli Friedman, but they were also able to generate blocks through pull pressure and having the awareness and speed necessary to close throwing lanes after the pass had gone up. I really enjoyed watching Andrew Goldstein get my favorite block of the year to date:
THIS is covering a pull and finding the blindspot of the thrower. At 40:47, you can just see the shadow of the defender at the left of the screen. Goldstein is about 10-12 yards from the intended receiver. The thrower is 13 yards from the receiver. When the throw is released, it has 13 yards to travel, and the defender is six yards from the receiver. He sprints 10 yards instead and catches the disc four yards in front of the intended receiver. I love this. To my eyes, it is a consistent oversight to not send at least one player down at high speed to disrupt the offense. Even if it only occasionally results in a turnover, pressuring the opponent from the moment they catch the pull will result in more taxing offensive possessions throughout the game.
Portland still looks like the best of the West, but San Francisco should not be underestimated.
Seven On & On Anon…
1. Step Up Your Shoe Game…
…like (many of the) the Spinners. Now, we don’t have mandated shoe colors like the NFL, and I wouldn’t presume to speak for the players in terms of what they prefer to wear on their feet for play. However, the majority of the Spinners seem to be rocking the Billy “White Shoes” Johnson look, and it really completes the red, white and blue colors that Philadelphia teams tend toward. Satisfaction can be found in the smallest details. Like Chris Rupp wearing clearly mismatched shoes. I assume that this is a style statement of another kind. Well, unless he likes kick spikes and, like kickers in football, has a different boot for his kicking foot.
2. “Make It Rain!”
Probably my favorite crowd cheer thus far. While, on the whole, the D.C. crowd is the one I’ve seen most tilt the homefield advantage in favor of their team, Seattle’s cheer has a good, strong tone to it and is just tangential enough that it needn’t require explanation and yet isn’t simply cheering the team name.
3. If You Can’t Throw It Down…
…you might want a new celebration:
Uhm…#celebrationfail? You need be able to dunk to make this one work over the crossbar. If you get up there only to find that the yellow bar is just too high, all you’re left with is a moment of indecision and a bungled dismount. I’d suggest a look at Peter Woodside doing it right
4. Suppnick No-Step Backhand.
On at least three separate occasions, Dan Suppnick demonstrated possibly the best no-step backhand in the game. Frequently this is thrown, it is from motion in order to get around a defender who has not recovered to the mark yet. In other situations, it is thrown when the mark is giving enough space for the thrower to take advantage of the a wide throwing angle. However, Suppnick is also destroying tight aggressive marks with this throw:
Yeah, I could watch that on loop for all the live-long-day.
5. GET IT ON THE FIELD
The midfield pull rule is still young and when throwing from midfield, the target is much smaller than when pulling from the front of the end zone, but I’m reasonably certain that the disc should be pulled inbounds. Through two weeks, Boston looks to have the fiercest midfield pullers, and they are also the most consistent. Two separate teams (N.Y. and Philly) pulled out the side in these scenarios, giving their opponent the disc well out of the end zone. Even a weak noodle-armed pull in the end zone is better than that!
6. Look Behind You!
Most players turn their heads to check behind them while closing down on the mark. You can even see it from Jon Hayduk on the mark in the above clip of Phan’s turnover in the Seattle game. This is fantastic and over the last decade or so, this has become de rigueur for players when given sufficient time. It is a perfect example of a small improvement which makes so much sense once you do it and yet would not occur without players and coaches thinking critically about the game. This can be the difference between a completion for the offense and a block for the defense, or it can be the difference between a smooth continuation upfield and the disruption of offensive timing. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll notice this little trick regularly deployed.
7. And Some Flight Paths Are Just More Aesthetically Pleasing Than Others:
Something about this Hayduk toss is incredibly soothing.
Midfield Heave as Time Expires
The early bird may get the worm, but the last player to the scrum gets the best chance at the disc.