No other team came close.
June 25, 2016 by Lorcan Murray in News, Recap with 3 comments
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This does not feel like an ultimate tournament, at least not by the traditional standards. The stadium is buzzing like a world cup match. Footfall is raining down on the steps of Allianz Park akin to the storms that assaulted Watford’s pitches in the middle of the week.
Everywhere is activity, movement, conversation, life; it feels like stepping into a small city, completely separate from the rest of the country. We are in a magical twilight zone where ultimate is the status quo, a universe where our sport resides firmly at the center. This tournament is an exhibition of ultimate’s global expansion over the last two decades and Saturday is its grand finale.
The adrenaline in the stands is palpable. One can only imagine how it feels to be on the pitch, sitting as it does in a valley of spectators. The Australians have to beat the USA, a team of superstars known around the world, as well as the very reputation that proceeds such an assembly and the weight of the occasion.
It never looks like a fair fight. The USA bulldozed Australia 15-6 in the Mixed Divsion to open the finals festivities in London.
The game was a demonstration of the fundamental difference between American ultimate and the rest of the world. The players built in the USA are simply made with higher quality materials.
In the words of Australian coach Ciaran Hutsun, “Our nationals is a lower standard than their regionals.”
The Australians struggled to contain the American cuts, despite the small differences between the squad athletically. As a virtue of being raised surrounded with ultimate, the Americans have a far more expansive and dangerous arsenal of throws. It seemed as though they could reasonably hit anyone on the pitch from anywhere on the pitch. As a result, every fake is a threat the Australians have to commit to, a fact the American cutters use to get wide open.
The defense was there as well for the United States. After a pair of opening holds, Jack McShane jumped the lane for a short field block and put the US up for good.
“The first block they got early was a real kick in the teeth that started our downhill slump,” said Hutsun.
The Australian offense was littered with mistakes, most earned by America’s reputation rather than their actual, tangible coverage. The few blocks the Australians got were borne more of opportunism than actual defensive pressure.
With the disc in hand, the Americans were nearly infallible. The majority of their limited turns were slightly errant hucks. Most of their possessions are crisp and up the open side.
“Throw the easy pass, fake the hard ones, move the disc quickly, super simple,” said USA assistant coach Nancy Sun. The Americans never seemed like they were going full tilt, though they never really needed to.
The game did open up with the Australians playing the best offense they displayed all game. Smart unders and a diversity of receivers gave the crowd the brief hope that the game would be competitive. The Americans waste little time quashing such aspirations.
Brett Matzuka had every throw and Lucas Dallmann and Becky Malinowski got open at will. The Americans spent the rest of the half capitalizing on Australian mistakes and took it comfortably, 8-3. The few scores the Baramundis were able to scrape together came from hucks involving their superstars.
The second half opened with America on offense. They scored quickly and easily. Applause pattered out of the stands, more a show of respect than admiration.
Khalif El-Salaam made an unbelievable sky to tear down one of Australia’s many hopeful hucks. Chris Kaliviotis responds with a huge layout on America’s endzone line and converted it with an immediate pop to Anthony Dowle. For a point, the crowd is allowed a peek at an alternate game we all hoped we would get to watch in full.
After this brief intermission of competition the game returns to business as usual. The Americans run away nine point winners in the end, a testament to the work ethic the Americans exhibited in the run up to the tournament. As for how the result of sending a superstar team to the World Championships will be received back in the States, Jake Henderson smiled. “I’m guessing that [USA Ultimate] is liking what they’re getting right now,” he said.
In this grand exhibition of ultimate, America are taking their rightful place center stage.