Photo by Jason Honyotski – UltiPhotos.com
Why is the ref there… anything but vert… offensive canvas… how many throws must a team walk down… two for the road… Price doing work… Graham getting rest?
Short Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. A hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.
Three shot sips:
Reffing is tough. I could never do it. I’m too interested in the tactics and strategies and spacing of the game to be watching the mechanics of the game. Well, at least if I am there in person. But this is too much. If a ref is involved in multiple consecutive incidents of affecting play then said ref is poorly positioned.
While the vertical stack can have benefits depending on personnel and execution, it is like an bike with training wheels firmly attached. Sure, you move forward and it feels pretty cool, but it pales in comparison to the robust freedom offered when the extra support is removed.
This example is an illustration of the obstacle to changing the angle of attack presented by a vertical line of players to one side of the thrower. The number of humans in the space between the thrower and the other side of the field is very high. This includes offense and defense, who each provide their own problems. The thrower, if he turns back toward the center of the field, can only throw in one direction: backward. No inside breaks, no crossfield passes (aside from something over the top) and no two-way options. This is a common sight in many vertical-stack oriented offenses at many levels of play, and it always amazes me that an offense which consistently produces this moment of limited throwing options could be so valued.
3. Not a travel
I feel like this section is becoming ref central after last week and this…. But that is not my intention. In this case, this was an egregious enough and timed sufficiently poorly such that it could not escape mention. This is, more or less, Morgan Hibbert’s version of the Iverson crossover: It looks illegal because you’ve never seen it before. Hibbert is one of the most difficult players to ref in the MLU because he uses two backhands, often with the “wrong” pivot. On top of that, he’s a very large human so each stride (or skip) takes extra time and covers more distance. It is sorta like playing basketball against a legit 7-footer. The size difference creates a time difference which warps the perception of what the sport at hand actually is. The galling thing about this travel call isn’t that it was made erroneously (officials will always make calls with less than 100 percent accuracy), but that it was made on a star player’s signature move in a high-pressure late-game situation. If the ref had literally never seen Hibbert do this before, it would be an understandable error. However, I expect the refs to be as familiar with the players as I am. As such, in this instance, I expect the ref to take an extra breath before blowing the whistle and changing the game.
Tastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky.
No matter how good a crew of cutters a team has, they cannot be both your bread and your butter. There are a lot of smaller roles within an offensive structure without which the advance would stall, but giving downfield cutters a consistent canvas on which to paint is a great place to start:
All are offensive handlers, all have more assists than goals, and all complete passes at a rate above 90 percent. Fitting that Philadelphia has two, Kolick is present and accounted for, Hennessy (like N.Y.) has the lowest completion percentage and Cable (like Portland) has the highest completion percentage.
In fact, of the 12 players who have thrown the disc 200 or more times, only one (Ben McGinn, Portland) has played more than 20 defensive points. A breakdown of these players by team: POR 3, SEA 3, PHL 2, BOS 2, D.C. 1, NY 1, SF 0, VAN 0. The overall meaning of this list is elusive, but as a way to consider the relative efficacy of each team’s offensive core, it is useful.
There are electric players all over the field on offense for the Stags, but their offensive success is grounded by the more-than-capable core of Cable, Steve Kenton and McGinn.
Ah, the core of the non-veganoid breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco’d.
The notion that an offense, if it takes a sufficient number of passes, will simply walk up the field and score is something held near and dear in most of the ultimate community. If it takes 50 or 100 throws, we’ll get there!
Funny thing about that… there haven’t been any 50-throw possessions in 2015. There haven’t been any 40- or even 30-throw possessions. In fact, there have only been 15 possessions of 20 or more throws:
|Wk 9 v POR||Burton Drop|
|Wk 1 v PHL||Taylor Goal|
|Wk 8 v D.C.||Katzenbach Goal|
|Wk 1 v D.C.||Kuzmowycz Goal|
|Wk 5 v BOS||Sickles Goal|
|Wk 1 v SEA||Phan Block|
|Wk 5 v VAN||McGinn Throwaway|
|Wk 1 v PHL||Graham Goal|
|Wk 1 v BOS||D. Baer Goal|
|Wk 6 v VAN||Houser Goal|
|Wk 8 v NY||Sidorsky Goal|
|Wk 1 v SEA||Cole Goal|
|Wk 4 v D.C.||Graham Goal|
|Wk 5 v PHL||Montgomery-Butler Stall|
|Wk 5 v D.C.||Kolick Block|
Of the longest 15 possessions: 5 BOS (4 goals), 4 PHL (3 goals), 3 POR (1 goals), 2 SEA (1 goal), 1 NY (1 goal), 0 D.C., 0 SF, 0 VAN. Five of these possessions resulted in turnovers (italics) and 10 resulted in goals.
Lesson: Possess the disc, but don’t possess it too long!
Stake with your eggs?
Everything is at stake this weekend due to the madness of last weekend! The only team with nothing at stake is the Stags… and they, in an unrelated story, have clinched the top spot and are on a bye this week. San Francisco, Vancouver, and D.C. are all fighting from a disadvantage in their quests to climb into the playoffs. Seattle, Philadelphia and Boston have each earned an inside track to the playoffs, but have work ahead of them still before punching a playoff ticket.
Hard to imagine that this week would be more interesting than last, but here we are.
Waffles or Pancakes?
Choose… but choose wisely.
D.C. 25 @ Philadelphia 22
This should be a good one. I anticipate that each team will win two quarters of play, but that D.C. will go on a longer run of dominance which will result in the end disparity. The D.C. offense has looked strong of late while that has been the calling card of the Spinners all year long. The keys to this game will likely be play of defensive handlers after the turn. In the case of the Spinners, this means Dave Baer. In the case of the Current this means… Well… it depends on who plays this weekend. Will we see Nate Castine or Seth Wiggins? Will Markham Shofner remain on the defensive line? Will it be a handler-by-committee of Brent Bellinger plus whomever else feels comfortable? Will D.C. use more timeouts to put their offensive line out after a turn or to pull from midfield? Baer has been the steady hand behind a lot of Philly’s success this season and will play a major role in this game. While there are more questions for D.C., there are also more potential answers.
San Francisco 18 @ Vancouver 19
This should be a tight game throughout. The key for Vancouver will be whether Brendan Wong plays and whether they can weather another weekend with a tight roster (And the loss of Kirk Savage cannot be overstated). For San Francisco it will be a matter of who, aside from Gabe Saunkeah, will step up against the pressure applied by the chaps from Vancouver. I expect that Vancouver will eke out a victory here in part due to their sour feelings about last weekend’s late loss down by the bay.
New York 18 @ Boston 22
It has been a better late season stretch for the Rumble whether they win this game or not. The offense has shown an ability to keep pace with their opponents, and the defense is finally converting on more break opportunities. However, Boston has also improved over the course of the season while starting at a higher level. As nice as it sounds for the Rumble to rally after their early season letdown to prevent the Whitecaps from making the playoffs, this is where the New York dream gives way to the stark reality that the boys from Boston belong in the playoffs.
San Francisco 17 @ Seattle 21
If and only if San Francisco wins on Saturday would I pick them to beat Seattle. If they get that emotional high from still being very much alive in the playoff race, then the Dogfish could swim through the rain in Seattle. However, after what I predict to be a tight loss in Vancouver the night before, the depth of the Rainmakers will be more than the Dogfish can overcome. By the end of this game, Seattle will be officially in the playoffs.
Beverage of Choice
Players or matchups to watch.
Jacob Price versus whomever
Price has consistently caught my eye over the last few weeks as he has been closing to every disc near him and playing with a baseline level of commitment that seems to elude many players. I like the contributions he’s been making, and though his stat cupboard is rather bare, he is a clear positive presence on defense for the Rumble.
San Francisco versus Weekend Double Header
There have been two two-game weekends thus far in 2015, one for the D.C. Current and one for the Boston Whitecaps. There have been zero victories. While the distance from Vancouver to Seattle is under 150 miles, which makes it among the shorter travel legs for a weekend double header (Boston’s trip from Philadelphia to D.C. was under 140, D.C.’s trip from Boston to New York was under 220), it does include a border crossing. Add in the bitter taste in Vancouver’s mouth after last weekend’s loss to San Francisco and the whole of the deck is stacked against the Dogfish. While even netting one win over the weekend would be considered a success in regular circumstances, in this context, anything less than an unprecedented undefeated trip would deal a crippling blow to San Francisco’s postseason hopes.
Jeff Graham versus Rest
If Graham has made anything clear over his time in MLU, it is that he is willing and able to play through nagging injuries. However, the more relevant question is not whether he can, but whether he should. His presence on the field, even when hobbled, changes the matchups for Boston’s opponent and provides a steady presence for the offense. This weekend they are playing against an opponent everyone perceives as overmatched. Will Graham simply sit this one out and let his little homies ride on these New Yorkers? Or will he make a go of it and hope to catch some rest after the Whitecaps qualify for the postseason? While there is a long break between the end of the season and the title game, Boston will likely need Graham to be a centerpiece just to reach that match.
The Place to Be
Philly. Not just because it is close to me, but because this is one of the most meaningful matchups between these two teams in the league’s young history. Philly is trying to avoid falling out of the playoffs after a strong showing in the early going while the Current are working to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time. Or, to put it another way, both are working to show that they deserve one of the two playoff spots in the East. And, just like last weekend when D.C. played host to Boston, it will be a collision of two teams who expect to win this game.