Photo by Paul Rutherford –

Table Setting

Gone Fishin’ … Expecting to Fly … Right Place, Right Time … Sky Patrol … Possessions Played … Usage Rate … Forget the Frisbee … Police Presence … Clerical Errors … Lagniappe … Expect the Unexpected … Cheesesteaks per Year


Short Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. A hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.

We are now late enough in the season that teams are officially eliminated from the playoffs. So, for some hot sips of bitter, we shall start with the two teams who have been “sent fishin'” as the NBA on TNT crew likes to say.

In our case, it might be more accurate to state that the teams are “Gone Clubbin'” as the club season inevitably begins to take precedence as teams are eliminated from postseason play. There is far less of a conundrum in MLU play in terms of wanting to tank the rest of the season for a high draft pick in the upcoming draft (and the second ultimate has a draft is the second that owners win over labor. Which is another reason international soccer is the best of the professional sports), but the elimination from playoffs still puts team at a crossroads. Do they keep focusing primarily on the best results for this season or do they specifically work toward next season and the seasons after that?

Thus far, the Vancouver Nighthawks and the New York Rumble are the two teams who can no longer play their way into the playoffs. Each of these teams were expected to face challenges this season as they dealt with roster turnover and staffing changes. It showed on the field as both struggled with inconsistent execution and unforced errors. New York leads the league in percentage of passes dropped (2.60), and Vancouver’s defense drops a high enough percentage of their passes (2.30) that their offense’s league-leading drop rate (1.27) is rendered moot.

However, all is not lost for either team.

The New York Rumble have already equaled their win total from last season, and will have two more opportunities to improve upon their 2-8 record from last season. Those last two games, both against Boston, will also provide an opportunity for the Rumble to garner their first win over the Whitecaps since May 3, 2014. The development Marques Brownlee has shown as both a defensive block-generator and a dangerous long-range thrower has been one of the individual bright spots over the season as has the emergence of Sean Mott as a high-scoring offensive weapon. Aside from these positives, the team has been more cohesive in terms of on-field play and off-field, well, play. I look forward to seeing how the Rumble choose to attack Boston over the next two weeks, and I see a bright future for this team over the coming seasons.

The Vancouver Nighthawks can also better their 2015 record (3-7) but, unlike the Rumble, they have neither already reached last season’s win total, nor will they face the same opponent twice. Instead, they will face each of the Western Conference teams once and will need to win out to show improvement in the wins column. Vancouver seems to have found sufficient skill at the top of their roster with defensive disruptor Mitchell Dozzi-Daigle and a handful of versatile offensive players led by Taylor Nadon, Erik Hunter, Graeme Barber and Sascha Lo. The Nighthawks have cultivated a defined style of handler motion which creates space for the downfield players to go to work, and have consistently played better as each individual game proceeds. I expect that the Nighthawks will no longer be the pushovers they were early in the season, and believe that given significant roster carryover, their improvement will continue.


Tastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky.

Great recognition and execution from Adamson. Time is a factor and Perston has the whole field to work with. Adamson gets the big cross-field break off and the Stags pull within one at the end of the game.

Simply having correct positioning can get you blocks, kids. Just ask Trevor Greisman’s head.

This is my favorite throw of the week. Just pick it up and hit the Katz in his spot before the defense can even take a step. Thank you, Foster, for making it look just that easy.

Great work by Solis to prevent the closing defender from making a bid on the disc, and to then speed up for the catch. This is textbook. 

Raphy Hayes skying Perston by pre-loading the elastic strength of his muscles and then climbing up on the ladder to reach the top shelf. Not enough Hayes? How? He’s just a friendly neighbor putting a roof on another man’s house for him. Hayes has had an excellent season, and he never neglects his duties when it is his turn on sky patrol.


Ah, the core of the non-vegan breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco’d.

This section is a slew of stats I found interesting este semana. All per-game numbers require a minimum of three games, and we’ll start with some points and possessions played (TPP = Total Points Played, OPP = Offensive Points Played, DPP = Defensive Points Played). 

Per GameTPP
Khalif El-Salaam21.33
Gabe Saunkeah20.83
Jared Inselmann20.67
Benjamin McGinn20.60
Erik Hunter20.57
Per GameOPP
Gabe Saunkeah19.17
Jared Inselmann19.00
Taylor Nadon18.57
Victor Cheng18.00
Clay Dewey-Valentine17.67
Per GameDPP
Henry Phan17.80
Steven Rice17.29
Grant Cole17.17
Cam Bailey16.80
James Sheridan16.50

We can see that there is a natural limit for points played of about 20, and that offensive players tend to play more points than defensive. However, not all points are created equal. So, who plays the most possessions in a game?

Per GameOPossDPossTPossOPPDPP
Gabe Saunkeah30.1720.5050.6719.171.67
Thomas Lassetter28.0021.0049.0015.751.75
Sean Mott26.0022.3848.3813.256.88
David Janinis23.1724.5047.678.8310.17
James Sheridan18.2527.7546.001.7516.50

Four of the five are from San Francisco! This shouldn’t come as a surprise as they have struggled to maintain possession (over 30 turnovers in each game) and yet they play competent enough defense that they get the disc back from the other team. This persistence on defense when combined with impotence on offense contributes to tiring their top players out.

Next, let’s take a look at which players are most involved in their team’s scoring. Not just in goals or assists, but also in second assists. And yes, I acknowledge that a player can get both a second assist and a goal on a single score, but what we’re aiming for here is a notion of total involvement.  Let’s call this “Points Plus per Game” [(Goals + Assists + Second Assists)/Games Played)]: 

Khalif El-Salaam10.00
Lloyd Blake7.50
Cody Bjorklund7.14
Evan Klein6.20
Billy Sickles6.00

As with near-every other measure, El-Salaam’s play this season has been oustanding. Blake has been the linchpin of a reasonably effective offensive line, and Bjorkland is the career points leader in the MLU. Klein and Sickles, while still worthy of this list, are not such extreme outliers as the first three.

How else can we understand the involvement of players on offense? There is a concept in basketball which applies well here: Usage. That is, which players “use up” your possessions? In basketball, a possession can end with a shot, a turnover or free throws. In ultimate, it is easier as there are no free throws. Each possession (save those ended by the clock) will end in either a goal or a turnover. So, which players use the highest percentage of their team’s offensive possessions will be determined by Usage Rate which equals (AST + TO) / Possessions * 100. (Ast/100 = Assists per 100 Offensive Possessions. TO/100 = Turnovers per 100 Offensive Possessions). 

PlayerUsage RateAst/ 100 TO/ 100 
Khalif El-Salaam34.2523.2910.96
Graeme Barber30.4316.3014.13
Keven Moldenhauer28.818.4720.34
Christian Foster27.3813.1014.29
Gyorgy Aponte26.238.2018.03

You’ll note that here are three basic types of players here. Those whose Ast/100 O Possessions are higher than their TO/100 Possessions (El-Salaam and Barber), those whose TO/100 are greater than their Ast/100 (Moldenhauer and Aponte), and those whose TO/100 are nearly equal to their Ast/100 (Foster). Strictly by the numbers, the first are players who could stand to use more possessions, the second are those who are using too many possessions, and the third are players who are using approximately the correct number of possessions. Which makes me curious about which players have the highest AST/100 and TO/100:

 PlayerAst/ 100Usage Rate
Khalif El-Salaam23.2934.25
Tad Jensen18.8423.19
Riley Meinershagen17.3117.31
Cody Bjorklund16.7726.09
Eric Stevens16.6720.00
 PlayerTO/ 100 Usage Rate
Keven Moldenhauer20.3428.81
Gyorgy Aponte18.0326.23
Taylor Cascino16.3625.45
Andrew Misthos16.2822.09
Christian Brink16.2818.60

Of Note: Riley Meinershagen has yet to be responsible for a turnover this season and throws assists on 17 percent of possessions. That’s flawless work. Which of course got me to wonder, how can we compare positive usage contributions to negative usage contributions? Well, we’ve got maths for that (Ast/100 – TO/100):

Riley Meinershagen17.31
Tad Jensen14.49
Eric Stevens13.33
Khalif El-Salaam12.33
Dan Shaw11.32
Christian Brink-13.95
Keven Moldenhauer-11.86
Bo Li-11.29
Frederick Tsai-11.11
Shane Tracy-11.11

Had enough numbers yet?  No? Here are a few quick-hitting team numbers:

– Portland, Philly, and Seattle average 10 breaks per game. The next closest is Boston at 7.
– New York is the only team with more blocks on offense (42) than defense (41).
– Seattle is the only team with a higher completion percentage on defense (91.7) than on offense (91.3).
– Portland (91.1) and Seattle (91.7) are the only teams whose defensive lines complete over 89 percent of passes.

Veggies? Fruits? Yogurts?

Something light and possibly a positive decision.

Pull. Pull. Pull…. Pull. Okay… Uhm… Simon Says Pull?

Po-Po love ultimate. I mean, the three SUVs make prophylactic sense since no riots broke out during the raucous ruckus on the river in Medford just like the Bear Patrol works in the Simpsons. Then again, maybe they’re just huge Whitecaps fans.

With or without a disc, this Topher Davis head-height bid is almost as aesthetically pleasing as is the way he pops right up afterward.

That’s not a bad celebration at all, Mr. Nadon. I mean… for a mammal.

Waffles or Pancakes?

Choose… but choose wisely.

When Mr. Curb stopped by the office this past week, we had a talk about the pick standings. It mostly revolved around how he didn’t believe he should have been in first place last week. Which was true – I had made a data input error which awarded him a correct pick which he had not actually picked. So, as far as I’m concerned this means he owns all tie-breaks. Fortunately for me, the chances of a tie in W, L, EX and Tot Var is quite unlikely. But we here at Saturday Brunch love little more than lagniappe, so we shall award it nonetheless.

ScoresWLEXTot Var

As we seem to mention every week, this is Luke’s world and we’re all livin’ in it. He’s got the edge over everyone but Ruby in wins, and holds the top numbers in Exact picks and Total Variance.

And, after this weekend, the standings will largely be unchanged as literally everyone picked Seattle and Philadelphia to win. This could be a sign that we see an upset, however, as the last time we all agreed on everything, we were all wrong on one of them. While I picked just like everyone else, I’ll take this moment to state that I think both overdogs are vulnerable this Memorial Day Weekend. If I have to pick a more likely upset, I’d pick the Nighthawks over the Rainmakers as a little believe can go a long way. I don’t think the Spinners are going to look past a Current team with their backs to the wall, but the notion that the key piece of their offense (Lloyd Blake) will either be out with an injury or playing just having been injured.

Beverage of Choice

Players or matchups to watch.

Philly’s Handler Defenders vs. Not-Blake

Philly has been putting extreme pressure on opposing handler sets all season with players like Gabe Colton and Charles McCutcheon. While they are not of the size to matchup with Blake (few are), they are precisely the sort to harry the rest of the resets. If Blake is out, the Current will be weak across the back line rather than having a rock in at least one spot. Keep an eye on how the Spinners choose to attack the Current at the point of distribution. If they succeed, all of the tipped discs in the world will not help Delrico Johnson (or Kyle Khalifa, or any of the other cutters) find the end zone.

Seattle Versus Expectations

One of the funny things in sport and life is that when we expect to win and stumble early on, our expectations can add enough stress to tighten our bodies and minds up. If we find ourselves in a place we never prepared for, we may not adapt quickly enough to find the way out.  Last week the Nighthawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead to start the game. That was their first two-point lead of the season, and while the Dogfish regained the lead, their efforts fell short of victory by the slimmest of margins. This season, the Rainmakers have yet to win a game in which they have trailed by more than one goal. If the Nighthawks can get ahead in this game, they will put the comeback plan of the Rainmakers to the test.

The Place to Be

Personally, I’ll be

… Back in Philly. Not sure if I need to track down a cheesesteak this time around (I have a yearly limit of three), but I do enjoy the stadium out at Germantown Academy. It is a lovely campus, and one of the few (only?) open-air press boxes in the MLU. This allows a better feel for what is going on in the crowd and on the field during the game. There are, of course, some downsides too, like shivering in cold weather as you get the full force of the wind and yet are fully in the shade, but this weekend should not have any issues with frigid weather.  I rue that I’ll be missing most if not all of the UEFA Champions League Final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, but I’ll just have to settle for watching the sixth game of the magnificent Warriors vs. Thunder matchup in the NBA Western Conference Finals! See you at the fields!

About The Author

Dusty played college ultimate for New York University from 1998-2002, captaining for his final three years. From 2003-2009 he filled various roles for New Jersey's Pike from deepest bench to O-line cutter, D-line handler, O-line handler, and captain before concluding his club career with an opportunity in 2010 to represent New York City on PoNY's D-line. While never qualifying for college regionals, Rhodes played at six Club Nationals in the Open Division (finishing from dead last to tied for third) and coached Drew University to a fifth place college regional finish in 2005. Dusty earned a degree in English and American Literature from NYU and spent all of his remaining energy playing pickup basketball and writing for NYU's Washington Square News.

Related Posts