May 7, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in News, Recap with 6 comments
With eight games of action this weekend around the American Ultimate Disc League, we are now through Week 4 of 14; most teams have played a quarter of their games, lineups are starting to gel, and games are getting more meaningful.
While the playoff picture isn’t totally in focus at this point, we can begin to see some likely contenders as well as some teams that have a lot of ground to cover to get back in the race.
Here’s a look at this week’s action.
Toronto Rush 31 – 18 New Jersey Hammerheads
The Rush, after an outstanding 4-0 road trip, returned to Toronto for their home opener against New Jersey. With an AUDL and Pro Ultimate record 2300 fans in attendance, the Rush blew out the Hammerheads with their characteristic patient attack, speed, and size. The game was nearly in the books at the end of the first quarter, when the Rush had a 9-3 lead and all the momentum.
Now 5-0, the Rush are the only undefeated team in the league and, as we discussed last week, could well close out the regular season without a loss.
They will have two tough games against the Empire, who showed they could hang with the Rush in the first half of their game last weekend. But both of those games will be in front of a raucous home crowd, narrowing significantly the chance of an upset.
With no interdivisional play, the Rush will need to take care of business against the East, but be steeling themselves for the tough matchup they could eventually find themselves in against the qualifier out of the Western Division in the AUDL finals.
Madison Radicals 19 – 15 Minnesota Wind Chill
Madison (3-1) now has back-to-back wins over the Wind Chill, helping to push Minnesota (1-4) all the way down to the bottom of the Western Division table. This was also Madison’s home opener, and they drew a solid 750 people on a cold Friday night.
Madison spread out the attack, but they were led by Pat Shriwise with four goals, two assists, and a block. The Radicals trailed early in the first quarter, but used a 3-0 run to take a lead they would never relinquish.
Both teams were missing many of their star college players, who were away playing in the USA Ultimate North Central Regionals tournament in Iowa.
Minnesota was also without their best all-around player, Grant Lindsley.
The Radicals are now a half a game back of the Wildfire, who they beat in their only meeting this season. Windy City travels to Madison this weekend for a pivotal midseason game. A win for Madison would give them a half game lead in the Midwestern Division.
Detroit Mechanix 22 – 16 Minnesota Wind Chill
The Mechanix handed Minnesota their fourth straight loss in Detroit on Saturday. Minnesota only had 15 players on the field during the game — playing short-handed on the road makes it that much tougher.
With three more games against the Wildfire and two against the Radicals, the Wind Chill have a tough road to the playoffs at this point.
One bright spot: Brian Schoenrock played well, notching six goals, an assist, and a block.
Cincinnati Revolution 23 – 22 Detroit Mechanix
In the second game of a back-to-back homestand, the Mechanix came up just shy of notching their fourth straight win as the Revolution (2-3) handlers carved up the dome, avenging a home loss to Detroit (3-2) earlier in the season. Chris Powers had seven assists and just one turnover for Cincinnati, while Isaac Jeffries ripped it up downfield, scoring seven goals and adding two assists.
The Revolution were the only road team to win this week in the AUDL. But Detroit was also coming off of a rare two-game home weekend.
Windy City Wildfire 25 – 17 Indianapolis Alleycats
The Indianapolis Alleycats traveled to Chicago for their second game in a row against the Wildfire, but this time without their star cutter and AUDL leading goal scorer Cameron Brock.
Brodie Smith had an eye-popping 15 assists for the Alleycats (along with five turnovers), often hitting rising star AJ Nelson, who finished with six goals and two assists.
Keenan Plew stepped up in Brock’s absence, with six goals and four assists, but the Alleycats were again simply outmatched by the stronger, deeper Wildfire roster.
Brock, who suffered a brain hemorrhage last week, will, at best, miss four to six weeks, further depleting an already injured Alleycats lineup. Although the Alleycats are 1-3, they have a week off to get healthy and only one more game against the Wildfire. If they can get wins against the middle of the pack teams, they’ll have an outside shot at a return to the playoffs.
New York 26 – 11 DC Breeze
The Empire thrashed the DC Breeze in New York on Saturday, mixing together a steadier offensive line and creative defensive looks to roll out to an early lead that grew throughout the game.
Alon Brown was the top performer for the Empire, finishing with five blocks, two goals, and four assists. Top players Husayn Carnegie and Jack Marsh also had strong games, providing much of the offensive firepower for the Empire.
The Breeze simply couldn’t take care of the disc. They had a half dozen turnovers just feet from their endzone, often because they were too aggressive with difficult throws, trying to find gaps in the defense that didn’t exist. They frequently threw into double coverage on hucks as well.
WIth the win, New York moves to 2-1 and has an important upcoming road trip, their first of the season, up north to Toronto and Rochester. While a win against Toronto would be huge, it’s unlikely — they’ll need to focus on beating everyone but the Rush, who are almost certainly going to emerge as the top seed in the East.
Philadelphia Phoenix 23 – 18 DC Breeze
The Philadelphia Phoenix continue to look like a threat in the East as they move to 2-1 after defeating the DC Breeze on Sunday, but they didn’t make it look easy against the Breeze. The teams battled close for three quarters, each going on small runs, and at the end of three it was 16-16. But the Phoenix closed it out strong, going on a 7-2 run in the fourth quarter to win at home.
The Phoenix’s only loss this season came on double game point at the hands of Toronto. The pivotal point in their season could come in mid-June when they face the Empire three times in three weekends (two games in NYC, one in Philly).
While New Jersey is certainly a part of the conversation in the East, the Empire and Phoenix have looked early like the two teams poised to get the second seed. The winner of that three game set will be in the drivers seat for the two spot.
Rochester Dragons 20 – 15 New Jersey Hammerheads
Rochester notched their first win of the season after opening the season with a brutal 0-4 road trip. The Hammerheads, coming off of a tough game against the Rush, didn’t have the legs to hang with a fresh Rochester team, much improved with the addition of their college players.
Rochester got the win without Zach Smith, one of their key handlers, relying on a balanced attack and tough defense. Eric Dixon was a steady source of offense with two goals and four assists (and no turnovers).
Kenny Calello had a good game for the Hammerheads, but the team struggled to put points on the board.
Now sitting at 1-3, the Hammerheads record looks worse than it is. Two of their losses have been at the hands of the Rush. They have yet to play New York or Philadelphia, which will be the team’s main competitors for a playoff spot going forward.