2014 US Open Recap, Friday – Sunday

Friday’s lineup was Vancouver Furious George, hometown favorites Sub Zero, and Boston Ironside.  All of these teams were looking strong – Sub Zero went 3-0, Ironside took Bravo to 15-13, Furious George beat Sockeye and took Ironside to 15-13 – of course with 8 of the top teams in the world the US Open stands out as a tournament where you can never take a game off.  Having lost on Thursday versus Johnny Bravo, our bracket spot was on the line, and our final game against Ironside would be our first live-streamed game of the season.

After a 6:45 wakeup (minus breakfast) and an early team meeting, the team headed to the fields to warm up for our first Independence Day matchup.  Coach Payne (unintentionally) grabbed an early mental edge on the Canadians by playing the national anthem on our boombox during the warmup, causing them to stop their drill and stand respectfully while we continued to get ready.  We converted an early break and had a 7-5 lead and possession on defense to take half only for Alex Evangelides to overthrow Sam Kanner going deep.  Furious marched in the goal and proceeded to break us back twice and take it themselves, 8-7, capped by one of their players jumping out of a huge cluster under a hanging throw to grab the break.  Fortunately, our defense came back to life, getting two breaks out of half to regain the momentum and the lead.  A few more breaks over the second half sealed the 15-12 victor.

Our second game was against Minneapolis Sub Zero, with a small crowd of local fans watching.  The wind had started to pick up and by the second half there was definitely an upwind-downwind feel to the game.  Generally we focus on the first few defensive points of a game as an opportunity to make an opponent’s offense work extremely hard, even if we don’t score, so as to tire them out physically and throw them off mentally for the remainder of the game.  However, we didn’t do this very successfully until bracket play, and our first few points against Sub Zero weren’t very notable as we traded to 5-5.  Our offense did do a good job of clamping down after a few turns to prevent Sub Zero breaks – Joel Schlachet in particular has quite a knack for getting the disc back after offensive turns.  Finally our defense broke through to make it 7-5, with Alex Evangelides making a huge layout bid for the turn, starting a 9-2 Revolver run.  Our handler defense did an excellent job shutting down Sub Zero’s reset looks and forcing difficult throws as the wind picked up, and our defensive offense started to clean up both in the downfield cutters and in our dump sets.  Special recognition goes to rookie Greg Cohen for his excellent defense in this game (and throughout the tournament!).

Our final game was against Ironside, and by this point the wind was a big factor – not strong enough to really disrupt the game, but definitely making upwind breaks very valuable.  Our defensive lines came out strong early and forced turns, but the D’s offense stagnated somewhat in the wind and in the face of Ironside’s offensive line.  Still, we got the first break of the game upwind midway through the first half, as Zach Travis cleaning up an upwind shot from Nathan White intended for Ashlin Joye.  We came tantalizingly close to sealing the downwind break on the next point – Lucas Dallman made a great reaction play on his mark, half hand-block and half layout, only to knock it right back into the thrower’s hands; then, a late-stall desperation shot floated over two Revolver defenders and was caught for the upwind score.  Our offense was unable to respond in turn, and for the next 15 points the two offensive lines duked it out as neither defense was able to get a break upwind.  Both teams were looking very sharp – Danny Clark and George Stubbs in particular for Ironside – and it went all the way to 14-13 Boston before either blinked.  An overthrown huck gave Boston’s defense the disc with a chance to win it and, after a timeout, they hit a great throw upwind to John Stubbs for the walk-off break. web search history  This really was a well-played game from an offensive point of view, and it hinged on only one or two plays that didn’t go our way.  Although we knew our defense still would have to play much better to widen this gap in our favor, we couldn’t feel too bad about our performance!  That evening, most of the team headed to the Minneapolis F.C. Stadium (where the bracket games would be played) to watch the NASL team play against the Mexican U-21 team (a thriller that headed straight to PKs after a fight and three red cards in the second half), participate in the opening ceremonies at half-time, and enjoy the beautiful July 4th weather.

Our final pool play game on Saturday morning was against the UK’s Clapham Ultimate. It was again pretty windy and upwind-downwind, and we got several early breaks due to miscues and drops by the Brits.  Like the Colombians, it seemed like it took them a while to settle down and get into their rhythm, but being out of sync for even a few points can leave a team chasing for the rest of the game.  After calming their nerves with a timeout, Clapham played much better through the rest of the game but the lead we had built up was too much to overcome.  We added on a few more upwind breaks in the second half to win 15-10, with defensive stalwart Sam Kanner discovering along the way that playing on the O-line is a little harder than it looks.

We took the afternoon off, looking forward to our semifinal (and happy to be playing in the early game for a change).  After watching most of the Argentina vs. Belgium quarterfinal over lunch at Wild Bill’s Saloon, the team headed back to the hotel to rest and cool down.

Semis and finals were a great opportunity for us to avenge our pool play losses, starting with Boston Ironside.  After our shootout the day before, we knew that our defense had to apply more pressure and stop Boston’s quick deep shots with much better marks, the goal being to make their handlers work and throw lots of short passes.  Downfield we knew this meant we had some leeway deep but had to play much stronger underneath  Our early defensive intensity paid off with breaks, several coming off of Ironside miscues or errors, and we took half 8-5.  The second half was sloppier and we spurned several more short-field opportunities for upwind breaks which should have put the game out of reach.  Instead, Ironside broke late to make it 12-10 and force our offense to go upwind.  Fortunately, our offense held firm (and got a little lucky, with Joel Schlachet in the right place to snag the disc after a huge Boston layout block) through to 14-11, and our defense put the finishing touch on the win, 15-12.

Finals was against Johnny Bravo, and the story was much the same – stop the deep game, which had been so devastating in our previous matchup, with much better marks and instead force their handlers to work harder than ever before to get resets and swings while shutting down in-cuts from downfield.  Although Bravo got the first break to go up 3-1, our first few defensive points were just what we wanted – lots of turns and lots of running for Bravo’s offense – and although we didn’t score our first two points, we broke back on the third and got two more to take half 8-6.  Although our offense gave up a break in the second half after a turfed throw, they stood up strong under the pressure and held out through soft cap to win 14-12, the final goal coming on a huck from Cassidy Rasmussen to rookie Simon Higgins.

On that note, I’ll end the recap by recognizing our rookie class, who all played phenomenally well: Greg Cohen, who earned tough blocks in both the semis and finals and who played gritty defense all weekend long; Alex Evangelides, who brought the great play we saw last year on Sub Zero and had a great layout block deep in the finals; Simon Higgins, who has already earned his place in our tight-knit offense and who scored the tournament-winning goal; Eli Kerns, who played the entire weekend with only one eye; and Chris Kosednar, who we are fortunate to have plying his crafty trade on our side for a change…

See you in Italy!