Saturday Brunch: Week 4 Dusty Rhodes April 30, 2016 East Coast Blog, Featured, MLU, MLU NewsTable Setting… Rules … Clap “Catches” … Timing of Outs … Offsides … Moar Runs … Per Game Leaders … Skroob … Shameful Tickler … Another Perfect Pick … The Bifurcated Paths after 0-3 … What a country!CoffeeShort Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. A hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.Pardon while I fulminate about the rules of ultimate. Fret not, there is an interesting clip associated.This should be a catch for the Rainmakers.“Why” is related to one of my least favorite (minor) rules in ultimate. Michael LeRoss, by trapping the disc between his forearm and ribs, can claim sustained control of a non-spinning disc. However, can he throw from this position? Does he have his hand on the handle (handle = rim) of the frisbee? I’ll give him serious points for the focus and effort to maintain control under duress, but I would also argue that IF Chris Rupp was able to take this disc from that it should be Seattle’s.Second, the LeRoss proceeds to put the disc on the ground after establishing possession. Then, without play stopping, picks the disc up and throws a completion. If he has established possession, this should be a turnover. If LeRoss has not established possession, the disc should be Seattle’s.The reason I do not agree with the definition of “possession” as “sustained contact with and control of a non-spinning disc” is based on the notion that the frisbee, unique among sports-objects, actually has a handle on it. Before throwing 95 percent of passes (if not more) every player moves one or two hands onto the handle of the disc with either thumbs or fingers on the underside of the disc with the opposite on the top. Even in order to stand without faking, I can think of zero players who do not do grab the handle with one (usually two) hands. So, the clap catch (or in this case the arm/rib trap) is just an prerequisite to actual control of the disc.A rule which defines “possession” more narrowly would eliminate the most contentious “strip” calls (a defender attacks the disc with one hand in a claw while diving as the offender attempts a clap-catch) without encouraging the wrestling matches for the disc which would occur if defenders could grab onto a disc which the thrower was holding. Because, again, literally zero throwers hold the disc in a “clap catch position” once they have established control.So, I view the “clap catch” as a misnomer. The clap does not establish possession or control, though it does stop the disc from spinning. The clap is an intermediate step on the way to legitimate possession and control. In nearly two decades of ultimate, I’ve seen one player throw one pass in a game from the clap-catch position. Let us not protect players who have yet to establish, by their own standards, full control over the disc.Midfield Pull TimeoutsSpeaking of rules, MLU has thankfully reduced the length of timeouts which result in midfield pulls to 20 seconds (as discussed on Cleats and Cufflinks), which should speed along gameplay and maintain momentum for both teams and fans. I applaud this many times over.However, there is still a glitch in the midfield pull rule:If the receiving team is offsides, the disc comes into play in the center of the end zone. While the gaming of this rule has been controlled by league decree that intentional offsides shall result in a band, there remains an incentive to be offsides in order to gain a better starting position.If you ask me, let’s put offensive teams who are offsides on midfield pulls on the back line of the end zone. This may seem harsh, but the whole purpose of the midfield pull is to pin opponents back into their end zone. Or, at very least, let the pulling team choose to re-pull if they like.Other possible solution: Allow the pulling team to choose a starting spot anywhere in the end zone.SweetsTastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky.Another Week, Another Handful of Runs:Seattle over Vancouver: 11-5 second half, 5-0 over the last 5:20New York over D.C.: 10-4 fourth quarter, 5-1 run over the last 3:17Philadelphia over New York: 19-5 first three quarters, 13-2 over the first 17:34Portland over San Francisco: 10-4 in the second and third quartersSeeing more teams go on runs is good for competition as it puts the notion that ultimate is offense-focused to the test. That the relative quality of each team is still developing means that it is unclear whether this only happens against overmatched teams. That the runs are happening at all gives hope that ultimate is a sport in the balance until the very end of the match.EggsAh, the core of the non-vegan breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco’d.Through four weeks of play, here are some per-game leaders on offense and defense:OffenseGoals + Assists: Saunkeah 6.00 (SF), Blake 5.00 (SF), 4 tied with 4Goals: Saunkeah (SF), Compton (NY), Glazer tied with 2.50 (PHL)Assists: Saunkeah 3.50 (SF), Blake 3.33 (DC), El-Salaam 3.00 (SEA)Blocks: Brownlee 1.75 (NY), Hayes (POR), Janinis 1.50 (SF)Throws: Blake 36.67 (92.73%) (DC), Whitney-Brown 34.00 (97.06%) (VAN), Lo 33.50 (95.52%) (VAN)DefenseGoals + Assists: Sheridan 5.00 (SF), Bailey 4.00 (SEA), Woodside 2.75 (POR)Goals: Bailey, 3.00 (SEA), Woodside 2.25 (POR), Sheridan (SF), McKeag 2.5 (SF)Assists: Sheridan 3.00 (SF), Neeley (SEA), Meinershagen 2.00 (POR)Blocks: Sheridan 4.00 (SF), Pineda 3.00 (SF), five players tied with 2.00Throws: Cole 18.50 (86.49%) (POR), Cascino 18.00 (88.89%) (SF), Feeley 16.33 (89.80%) (SEA)Veggies? Fruits? Yogurts?Something light and possibly a positive decision.Great work by Roger Chu for the goal-saving block in the end zone. Chu did his best after the Rainmakers moved upfield in one huge chunk as he then turned to see the thrower at just the right time while having the balance and acceleration to lay out for the block. I begin to worry though, as perhaps he was aided by a wardrobe malfunction. Did you catch it? Go back and watch again. I’ll wait…An analogy:Roger Chu:Shorts::President Skroob:trousers.Speaking of striking sights, we checked in on MLU’s mustache arms-race this week, and Peter Bender has emerged as the lone superpower. That, sir, is a magnificent Shameful Tickler (h/t Newsradio Season 3, Episode 1 for that phrase and image). I myself am a full-beard proponent (Functional! Variable! Personal!), but I have love for facial hair of all stripes. And Bender, at this point, got stripe(s).Waffles or Pancakes?Choose… but choose wisely.In this last week, Luke Ryan picked the Dogfish vs. Portland game exactly (12-18). This is the second perfect pick this season, and has vaulted him to the lead in “Exact Values Picked” with nine. Tom Levy is just behind him with 8 (also one perfect pick), and I’m in third with 7 (no perfect picks). That’s approximately the only thing I’m any good at with regard to MLU picks as I’m tied for the worst record in the league with fellow talker-guy Geoff Poster and lag just behind Matt Ruby in total departure from accuracy.Standings:NameWLEXTotVarTim Brubaker1214193William Curb1214208Matt Ruby1213255Luke Ryan1129170Tom Levy1128165Paul Des Marais1125196Garrett Miley1123202dusty1037208Geoff Poster1036169EX = number of exact values picked out of four per game (W score, L score, Margin of Victory, Total Points)TotVar = total amount off w/r/t W score, L score, Margin of Victory, Total PointsTo end, all of the prognosticators picked the Current to beat the Rumble last week. All were wrong. This means there are no remaining undefeated “experts”. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get on with the competition!This week’s picks seems to be all of a kind save for some variance on the Current vs. the Rumble. I picked the Current based primarily on the notion that the Current have faltered in the fourth quarter but not in the others. There is just more video evidence showing the Current playing well than there is of the Rumble.Beverage of ChoicePlayers or matchups to watch.Though there are four games this weekend, only 6 of the 8 MLU teams are playing. Which means that there are two teams on two-game weekends: The D.C. Current and the Vancouver Nighthawks. With each sitting at 0-3, each could end the weekend at 0-5. Thus, to me, the only matchups to watch are D.C. and Vancouver versus their road trips. To that end, here are a few D.C. and Vancouver things to keep your eye on:Vancouver’s Handler CoreVancouver simply must connect passes. While they’ve improved over their three contests, they still haven’t scored over 13 points in a game in 2016. It looks like they’ve settled in with Nadon, Barber, Lo, Cheng and Hunter as their primary touch-targets with folks like David Stelck, Whitney-Brown and others filling in from point to point or within individual points. Early in the season, the Nighthawks were either hucking the disc to multiple defenders or robotically swinging the disc. If they can find better balance between attacking upfield and holding possession, their downfield receivers are likely to have more success on underneath and middle depth routes.Current CloseoutsOver three fourth quarters in 2016, the D.C. Current have been outscored 22-12. While this seems ugly at the jump, it only tells the start of the story. In fourth quarters, the Current have been broken 12 times and have only broken their opponents twice (both against the Spinners). It is difficult to extrapolate from this going forward, but the Current have shown the ability to play with any team in the East over stretches.The question for D.C. is “What is our go-to play?” or “Who is our go-to player?” In the MLU, just like in the NBA, when the fourth quarter rolls around, the stakes is high(er). The defense has had a full game to acclimate to any standard motion or unique players on the roster. Some of the patchwork pieces and strategies used to give top players rest are no longer appropriate.This is the moment either for superstar players or impeccable offensive design must step to the fore. For a team like Portland, the crunch-time diet they feed their opponent’s defensive rotation starts with Bjorklund and Perston and continues through their disciplined vertical stack attack. The rest of the Stags can stay in their lanes knowing that there are few players who can keep up on an island against either Perston’s tireless speed or Bjorklund’s versatility. This is not to knock or marginalize “The rest of the Stags,” but to illustrate that due to the Stags having a clear dominant strategy, their non-dominant strategies remain viable.What is DC’s go-to option? Is it an isolation look for a cutter? Is it handler-centric motion? Is it a scripted and robust play call?Vancouver’s Engine Must Be DieselWhile D.C. has held a lead in two of their three games, Vancouver has led for a mere 3:26 out of 120 minutes of play. They took a 1-0 lead over Seattle and had a break opportunity on the second point to go up 2-0. Instead, they conceded a hold to the Rainmakers and then went down 2-1 before tying the quarter back up at three. Seattle then scored the first three goals (one hold, two breaks) to go up 6-3.While it is possible to overcome slow starts (please see the growing list of positive runs above), in order to do so, a team must have a defense capable of repeatedly breaking their opponents. The Nighthawks have scored more than one break in only one game this season and that five-block game was the opening weekend match at San Francisco in a deluge.A team can keep it close for three quarters if they only have a strong offense. A team can get behind and roar back into the lead on the backs of dominant defenders. However, a team whose offense tends to get broken early, and whose defense rarely manages more than one break has little hope of victory. There are any number of personnel switches or strategic adjustments the Nighthawks can take to alter the lines and go all-in on one or the other, but they may also be best served by standing pat and trusting that as team chemistry improves, so too will the results. This weekend is the toughest test yet for Vancouver, and the whole league will be watching to see how it plays out.The Place to BePersonally, I’ll…… be riding the Amtrak from D.C. to Providence, Rhode Island to hang with my brother and his family before letting the D.C. Current catch up with me for Saturday’s visit to Boston. Then I’ll be hitching a ride on the Current bus (for old-time’s sake, obv.) back south for their tangle with the New York Rumble. Then just a short many-hour trip back to D.C. where I started on Friday. I’m excited to spend two days with the Current and to see their on-field responses to the inevitable adversity foist upon them on the road. I’m also excited to make my first trip in 2016 to see the Boston Whitecaps in their home environment.I gotta say, while the mass transit system in the US could be so much better, the Northeast Corridor (both Amtrak and generally) is almost on par with the rest of the civilized world. This alone could prevent me from ever moving out of the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic. “Driving is fun” is one of the greatest myths of the 20th century. Sure If you’ve got a sweet ride and no time by which you need to arrive, driving can be a blast. But that’s not most driving, is it?If I can’t get there by train, bus, bike and hoof, there is a high chance that I simply won’t go. Instead, I’m off to see the wizards, the wonderful wizards of ‘bee.