Photo by Scobel Wiggins –

 24 -20 

This game cements the Stags’ standing as the early-season favorite in the West. A useful framework for the season is to chunk the games into three smaller groups (Three opening, four middle and three finishing). At this point, in each season, there has been at least one undefeated team. In 2015, Portland and D.C. are the only two teams who can still finish with an unblemished record.

Portland’s overall team isn’t reliant upon any individual to stand out. Of the 10 players who played more on offense than on defense this past week, seven completed 100 percent of their passes to combine for 67 perfect passes. The other three players combined to complete 80/89 passes, good for 89.89 percent. As a whole, this subset of players completed 147/156 passes for 94.23 percent. Their offense is variable and breaks down defenses through consistency rather than overt show of force. That said, I’d be remiss to not mention the play of Cody Bjorkland and Timmy Perston who provide the base from which the rest of the offense builds. Bjorklund controls the center of the field while Perston is constantly challenging the depth of the opposing defense.

The Nighthawks displayed versatility on their defensive side. They matched up in standard man defenses as well as mixing up their zone coverage. Vancouver committed more players to defense near the disc which serves to close down passing lanes tighter than other variants of the Nighthawks defense. This particular style encourages throwers to put the disc over the top or deep, which plays right into the advantages the Nighthawks often hold over their opponents downfield. The differentiation of defensive style to suit the skills of individual players helps define teams as cohesive wholes rather than collections of individuals. It plays out best in person. I look forward to seeing at least one Western Conference team in person!

 16 – 21 

New York’s inability to cleanly field pulls was the most striking feature of this game. Their offense consistently started off with the disc skip, skid or roll around on the turf while the thrower-to-be failed to find the handle. The timing for the rest of your offense is thrown off, in addition to granting the defense an extra second or two to disrupt the pull play. The anticipation during the game was that the difficulty fielding pulls would decrease as the sun set. Instead, it worsened for the Rumble as they descended to the depths of pull dropping before the night was through:

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But look closer at this drop. What is it Josue Alorro, the putative pull-catcher, is trying to set up? His shoulders are set to the sideline, he’s accelerating away from his teammates into a difficult catch as the disc trails to the sideline and he seems unsure whether the disc will be in bounds or out. Doubt is the last welcome thing when catching a pull. If you doubt your ability or if you have a flood of conflicting thoughts or complex considerations in your head, let it drop to the ground. Then, go back to practice and training sessions to work on it. The correct play to ensure a smooth start to this possession is run wide of the disc early so that when you catch, your shoulders are square to the center of the field and your vision contains the developing play in the background as you catch. Your field of vision is vital! Well, that and catching the disc. If the Rumble want to get back into the mix in the East, they must get into their offensive sets cleanly. Pulls should be caught more often than not by competent players, and doubt must be practiced out.

While Philadelphia came out with victory this past weekend, the level at which they played left a lot to be desired. The types of errors they made on offense varied, but a quick look at one suboptimal decision can better inform us:

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Ian McClellan sends the reset to David Baer, who has momentum toward and vision of the far side of the field. For some unknown reason, the wide Philly player, Rob Robinson attacks toward the thrower. This narrows the field for the Philadelphia offense as the pass from Baer will eventually fail to gain sufficient horizontal distance to change the angle of attack. He could literally stand still and have more advantageous position, in part by maintaining the cut to the center of the field as a possible threat. This should have been an easy, smooth, and useful catch -> throw for Baer. Instead, he nearly (though definitely doesn’t!) travels and sends the disc to a player with worse field vision and position than he could have had if he stood still or even spread wider rather than running toward the thrower.

This is the type of error which the Spinners make on offense. They maintain possession, but concede position. They give up a stronger advantage to take a weaker advantage. It isn’t broken, but it persistently teeters on the ineffectual.

As for the Rumble, they’re the second team in the East to start 0-2. The other, Boston, has since won to get to 1-2. The Rumble would benefit from following suit in the coming weekend.

 17 – 20 

The game opened with a bunch of Dogfish errors, which put San Francisco in a five-point hole by the end of the first quarter. Despite climbing back to within one point by halftime, the game was gifted to the Rainmakers before the end of the opening statement.

An incomplete catalog of the travails of the Dogfish over the first three minutes of play:

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Chris McCarty made the incut, angled his cut to the center of the field and got wide open. Problem is, he failed to LOOK AT THE THROWER! He’s on your team, Chris, you’re open and he wants to share the disc with you!

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There is an open Dogfish (Thomas Pineda) on the bottom of the screen. He’s cutting for the continuation from the reset pass. For reasons which remain unclear, another Dogfish (Mac Hecht), being covered in hot pursuit, sprints at full speed into this space, effectively nullifying both cuts. The second player was taking away an easy, attack-switching option and replaced it with a difficult, less forward-thinking option.

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Nice D, Nick Weiss. If you trust your teammates, or know where they are, you let that pass hit the open player on the other side of you. Instead, you chose to fake your thrower out by looking like you’re going to clear so that he can throw the swing pass, and instead, at the last second (after the thrower has already initiated the throw meant to go past you after waiting patiently for you to get out of his way), you flash through like a defender to get the block.

These are the sorts of plays which put the Dogfish down early and prevented their comeback from being successful, valiant though their effort was. While the Dogfish have dropped two since their opening weekend win, they are not a weak team on the whole. They simply execute themselves rather than the game plan. The Rainmakers, after failing to tally a victory over their first two weeks, are now tied at 1-2 with the Nighthawks and Dogfish. The race for second place in the West is on.

Seven On & On Anon…

1. The Elbow Spike
Seems to be kind of a big deal across the league. I like it. It has a linear, forceful quality bout it. Like a twig being snapped by a raccoon falling out of a tree. Something broken, like a mark or an offense. Either way the conviction to put the disc out of its misery is a humane action and should be greeted with applause.

2. ISO Island
Each team has different offensive structures when they get near the end zone, but a bread-and-butter subset each team uses is to isolate a cutter just in front of the thrower. The distance between the thrower and the ISO is less important than the distance from the ISO and the rest of the receivers. If a defender is alone covering one offensive player who has sufficient space to work in, only a perfect mark combined with impeccable positional cutter defense can prevent an easy goal. More frequently, the result is that the downfield defender sacrifices either vision or position to make gains in the other and has a goal scored on him as reward for the miscalculation.

3. How much time is too much time to leave on the clock at the end of a period?
Every week the issue of time management comes up. While we all agree that the perfect end to a period is to put up a throw which results in both a goal and the expiration of the clock. However, the question of how much time is too much time to leave on the clock becomes relevant as perfection is not always realized. If there are 30 seconds remaining, is it best to take an easy goal which presents itself early, or is it best to languish and drain the clock? How does this change with a minute left? Past that, how important is it to have the last word in each period’s conversation?

Clock management league-wide has improved over three years of play. Each team’s players and staff speak about consciously practicing time-dependent scenarios, which indicates that it is time for the evolution of the underpinning theories.

So, how much time is too much time to leave on the clock for your opponent?

4. Glazer

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Spotlight on Matt Glazer at the top of the screen on the 35-yard line.

This was a strong offensive play for Glazer, who was good for six goals on 20 receptions in this game, but it came at the expense of shaky fundamentals on the part of the New York defender, Alorro. As Billy Sickles catches the disc upfield of Glazer and Alorro, Alorro has his head turned away from the developing play and cedes upfield position to Glazer by giving him a free release. As Alorro turns around to see Sickles with the disc in his hand, he loses sight of Glazer. This is when Glazer starts extending the advantage over the defense; by the 50-yard line, Glazer is one yard ahead of the defense. Now he looks back to the thrower while Alorro stares straight ahead down the field while Glazer accelerates to leverage his advantage into a wide open goal-scoring cut. It may look like he made an easy cut at the end of the possession to catch a goal, but the score was assured by the work Glazer put in well before the reward was attained.

5. 19 Men on a Tired Man’s Chest
Two teams played with 19 players this weekend, and while they both lost, the way that they chose to distribute their playing team contributed to the two teams finishing their contest differently. 6-13 for New York, 10-12 Vancouver.

Vancouver had two players play during over half of the points (Morgan Hibbert and Dave Hochhalter), 13 players play under 50 percent and over 30 percent, and four play under 30 percent. New York had five players play during over half of the points (Chris Kocher, Michael Hennessy, Andrew Hollingworth and Dave Vuckovich), seven play under 50 percent and over 30 percent and seven play under 30 percent. This displays an unwillingness in New York to put their whole roster on the field while Vancouver is willing to distribute play a little more evenly.

More interestingly still is the role filled by the players at the top of each team’s list. For the Nighthawks both Hibbert and Hochhalter played most of their points on defense, with Hibbert on playing during 91.88 percent of defensive points and Hochhalter playing during 83.13 percent of defensive points. Of the Rumble’s leaders in points played, only one, Hollingworth, played most of his points on defense as he stepped on the field for 66.67 percent of defensive points played. Kocher played on 90.74 percent of offensive points while Hennessy, Vuckovich and Chris Mazur all played on 86.42 percent of offensive points.

Perhaps the players on Vancouver are fundamentally more versatile, but the more even distribution beyond the top two players likely assisted the Nighthawks in managing their tight rotations on the day. Save for Ted Chu who played one point, there were no Nighthawks who played fewer than 10 points. There were five Rumble players who came in under 10 points played.

6. Second Effort Catches, Y’all.
Every week in every game there are opportunities for the disc to be caught after the first player makes contact. Whether this first player is on offense or defense is immaterial, but the situation around the deflection or failed catch is vital. If there is a scrum around the player, the group should naturally spread out such that the players who do not have the first shot at the disc are ready for quick-dropping discs. If the intended receiver is in motion in space, he will likely have the best chance at the second chance catch. At the same time, the players nearby would be wise to keep at least one eye on the disc in preparation for the tip, or if the disc is caught, this will aid in timing their next moves on offense.
Recognizing that not every catch is made no matter how simple it presents itself is key to maintaining possession when all seems lost. The act of catching a tipped disc is not an accident, nor is it a decision made in haste which just so happens to be correct. It is the end result of a complex mix of process and instinct honed over time. The players who catch tips tend to be those that put in the extra effort physically to get to the right spot and mentally to know where that spot is through trial and error.

7 “Between the idea and the reality […] falls the shadow
The difference between the envisioned pass and the executed pass is all the difference in the league. A perfectly pictured pass in a thrower’s mind does not always result in a perfectly delivered pass on the field of play. When a player needs to break stride, jump, go to the ground to make a catch or in any other substantive way deviate from his optimal path, his options upon reception are reduced, and the defense is granted respite, however brief, from a fully functional offense. Any cuts downfield which were timed perfectly now arrive too late. Any cuts which were running late are rewarded and reinforced. The defense as a group can take stock of the field state before the thrower can move the disc. The shadow creeps between your best laid plans as they are made manifest on the field of play.

Midfield Heave as Time Expires

Is Morgan Hibbert the only defensive player who can pull the disc the length of the field with regularity?