Photo by Scobel Wiggins – Ultiphotos.com
These Don’t Lie
In one weekend the the number of callahans scored this season was doubled from two to four. For a little historical context in 2013 there were five callahans, in 2014 there were two and in 2015 there were six.
This past weekend, the first Callahan was the sweetest.
The point after the Current’s Keven Moldenhauer sent a smooth backhand down the sideline to a wide open Delrico Johnson to open the third quarter with a 17-second goal and cut Philadelphia’s lead to two (9-7), Philadelphia’s Matt Glazer threw a backhand away on a routine goal-scoring attempt to Dave Baer. This was precisely the sort of start that the Current needed to close the gap to one and set themselves up for a strong second half and a possible comeback.
Joseph DiPaula picked the disc up quickly to get the offense going, as David Baer and David Brandolph set up a double-David mark on DiPaula which closed down his first look. DiPaula then went to his second choice, a scoober over Brandolph to an uncovered Moldenhauer. Brandolph had a sense that this pass was coming and jumped up to either stop or slow it. He timed the jump perfectly and got his fingers on the disc. Off of the carom, DiPaula immediately reacted and laid out to (legally) catch his own tipped pass. Brandolph had the same idea and laid out just a bit higher than DiPaula to reach one hand over the outstretched arms of DiPaula and collect the Callahan.
This play is one that ultimate players everywhere not only discuss while enjoying post-game juice boxes, but literally night and day dream about. 51 seconds into the second half, Brandolph took an opportunity away from D.C. to pull within one, and instead put the Spinners up three. Philadelphia’s offense went on to score the next point (A team scoring a Callahan is pulled to on the subsequent point), and the Philadelphia lead would never again be less than three.
The individual play by Brandolph was exemplary, but what factors combined to create the conditions for this Callahan?
To begin, after the turnover, both DiPaula and Moldenhauer went to pick up the disc immediately and jumpstart the offense. I agree with this decision, however there are a handful of issues:
– With two offensive players in within four yards of each other, a double team on the mark was an obvious option for Philadelphia.
– DiPaula, rather than picking the disc up and throwing it immediately to Kyle Khalifa (about 12 yards to his left and uncovered) or Moldenhauer (also uncovered about four yards to his right), chose to walk the disc up to gain three yards. This traded time for space. In some cases the yardage is valuable, in this case the time to walk the disc up was a boon for the defense as it allowed them to set up and collect themselves.
– There is no around option for DiPaula on either side. While I do not toe the line that there must be a reset in every situation, in this situation DiPaula needed another way to threaten the double team.
– DiPaula looked to the scoober after pivoting over to the backhand/scoober side, paused, and then threw. The delay allowed Brandolph to read the situation, anticipate the throw and get up for the block with impeccable timing.
Here, Vancouver receives the disc deep in their own end zone, and attempts the first pass. Phan, after sprinting down on the pull to his matchup, lays out and catches the Callahan. More or less, this is a simple throwing error, but here is a breakdown:
– The receiver (Joshua Lam) is walking backward away from the thrower (Michael LeRoss) while the defender is accelerating on a perpendicular path. Then Lam, if he is moving upfield, can threaten Phan’s hard charge. If Lam is moving across Phan’s path, it will be made obvious to LeRoss that Phan is attacking.
– The throw is a straight line pass to the inside shoulder of Lam rather than a pass which arcs back toward his outside shoulder. This does not allow Lam to use his body to shield the disc from Phan.
– The play design and the chosen path of the disc do not align. If Lam is moving toward the near sideline, the pass should be thrown to a spot nearer the sideline rather than nearer the center of the field.
Similar to Brandolph’s Callahan for the Spinners, Phan puts the Rainmakers ahead three (8-5), and Seattle would convert the ensuing point to go up four. Vancouver would never again be within four points.
Callahans are often as much fortune as skill, but timing and anticipation are not to be underestimated. Fortune favors both the bold and the prepared. In both of these instances the defender read the situation and committed to making the catch. However, absent the structural and individual errors of the offensive team, the defense would lack the opportunities to make a play.
These Do Lie
This is, quite simply, a terrible play. Watching this play live took me out of my color commentary game for a while. I had to compose myself while attempting to speak slowly and not explode with vitriol. On re-watching the game, I wish I had been more forceful and called for an immediate ejection of Esser. This play would have been a penalty in the NFL as Zach Norrbom was a defenseless receiver. He had no possible way to know Esser was there, and had no opportunity to protect himself. Esser came in high and unrelentingly with an elbow to the head.
This is precisely the sort of play that refs are present to prevent and control. Esser, while he is not out to hurt opponents, is also not holding up his end of the bargain with respect to the purpose of the game. He launched into a space where “unnecessary and/or excessive contact” was unavoidable. Under MLU Rules, referees have the power to eject players after a single flagrant foul (X.c.iv.2). In my opinion, if Esser had received an immediate ejection, it would have been well-earned.
Speaking as a former player (though only in club), this is the sort of foul which would cause me to mull retaliation. Particularly without any sort of official control or discipline. I hope that I would not have retaliated either in that game or the next time I played that opponent, but maturation is a process and I have challenged players for far less than this.
When the MLU goes back to review this play, I believe they will award a retroactive band. If they do, and if my count is correct, that would be Esser’s third band. For his third band, he will be suspended one game. I would like the league to explore the option of suspending a player for the rest of the game in which a third cumulative band is earned as well as the next game on the schedule. While I know of no other league which does this, I believe that it would send the correct message to habitual line-steppers everywhere.
In the East, we now have two eliminated teams as the Current join the Rumble in the ranks of the dead teams walking. Their season started off with four-straight losses, then they won two straight, and last weekend they lost to the Spinners.
However, the Current can still finish with a .500 record if they win their remaining three games, and of all of the teams with a losing record, they have the best point differential (-2.0) and give up the fewest points per game (19.14). In a season with a lot of roster turnover, there have yet been bright spots for the Current. Chief among them is the play of Lloyd Blake as a center handler in D.C.’s offense. His height presents matchup problems for teams without a surfeit of height on their defensive lines while his skill and field vision give the offense a rock to wind their team around. In support on their offensive line, the Current relied a deep well of players well-suited to roles as ideal secondary cutters, but have been pressed into service as primary cutters.
The Current’s defensive lines, now absent Delrico Johnson who has moved to offense, have still found their way to sufficient possessions, but have lacked the ability to consistently attack the end zone. Whether this is due to a lack of handler firepower or cutting consistency varies from game to game. The Current, looking forward, have put together a lot of the puzzle but the picture has not yet revealed itself. The staff and players have work ahead of them in this season and next.
To be fair, this isn’t so much a heave as it is a pinpoint pass to an open player, but the time running out is key. Philadelphia calls a timeout to reset their offense with nine seconds remaining in the third quarter. Whether this is a broken defensive set or an individual player losing track of Matt Glazer is irrelevant as in either case the D.C. defense failed to find nine seconds of pressure to close out the quarter.