The US Open finals against Boston Ironside was a rematch of a great pool play game from Thursday, a tightly contested match in which Ironside broke our offense on the final point of the game to claim victory. While we hoped the final score would be in our favor in this second bout, it seemed certain that either way the game was destined to be a crowd pleaser. Fortunately the game (along with our semifinal against Doublewide) is available in its entirety on ESPN3, so head over to catch all the action and commentary.
First, a short aside: the huge leap in availability of high quality, live/rapid-turnaround game footage changes the nature of the tournament writeup somewhat – while fans used to rely on game summaries and photos to capture big plays and key moments for which video might only be available months later (if at all), now writeups like this one are coming out several days after most readers have already seen the game (and in fact the game footage is the primary source for this material!). So, I’ll try and avoid rehashing what the commentators have said or doing a ton of play-by-play (except for pivotal moments) and try and provide broader impressions as well as an on-field perspective.
Back to the game – our 4pm start time was late in the day, which allowed us to sleep in and relax for most of the afternoon while we watched the other finals. However, unlike our semifinals matchup in the evening cool, our game was right at the hottest point of the day, with temperatures pushing 90 out on the hot turf, not much cloud cover, and only a light breeze. While the team had to deal with the east coast heat and humidity all tournament long, this was definitely the worst of it. The turf also seemed particularly slippery and difficult, with cutters and markers sliding all over as they changed directions, and certainly contributed to several turns.
We started off on defense but both offenses seemed solid out of the gates as we quickly traded to 3-3. Their offense was abusing our flatter marks, throwing easy breaks to open up the field behind our defenders. Our offense was patient and content to swing the disc while waiting for cutters to get open. The first turnovers came from the Mac Taylor – Peter Prial matchup going deep – with one catch ruled out of bounds and Taylor bodying out on the second – and Sam Kanner sent hucks going the other way for two quick breaks and the 5-3 lead. At 7-5, we put in a strong defensive line featuring Beau Kittredge to try and break for half, but Ironside connected on their first deep shot and came right back at us trying to regain the advantage. Cassidy Rasmussen prevented the Ironside break with a great heads-up block after slipping on the turf and secured the half-break going into half 8-6.
There were several great plays made in the points coming out of half as we traded breaks to go to 13-11 – Devon Anderson toed the sideline to save an offensive point and Jordan Jeffery and Nicolai Schlag earned back possession after turns with two layout blocks. While our offense was performing heroically to hold on to what we had earned, the defense was no longer able to come up with blocks – partly due to several pinpoint hucks from Ironside for quick goals. This kind of late game lead can be very dangerous if the defense is unable to secure any more breaks – while victory might only be two points away, it puts a ton of pressure on the o-line to perform while the momentum of a defensive break (especially if there is any upwind-downwind nature to the game) can change the atmosphere very suddenly indeed. While this is a situation where our offense has traditionally excelled (see e.g. semifinals of Worlds in 2012) it’s always better to get more breaks – this level of defensive intensity is something we’ll need to develop in order to pull out close games consistently. In an ending very reminiscent of our pool play game, Ironside’s late run brought things to double game point, and it took Beau Kittredge’s impressive grab between two Boston defenders secured the victory.
Congrats to Boston on two hard-fought and extremely close games (level on aggregate). While we’re thrilled with our victory and how the team and the new players are coming together, it’s still very early in the season and there are a lot of teams out there (including a bunch not at the US Open) that will be working hard to take the next one away from us. It’s a great start to what will hopefully be just as good of a season!