Machine spoiled the Boston party.
July 4, 2016 by Patrick Stegemoeller in News, Recap with 0 comments
This post is presented by Disc Store. All opinions are those of the author; please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Disc Store!
KINGSTON, RI — While the last semifinal of the day may not have been as tight as the three double game point thrillers that proceeded it, the performance of Brett Matzuka and Machine was a fighting night cap to a great day of competition. Chicago upset the hometown favorite Boston Ironside 15-12 to reach their first-ever US Open final.
Ironside came into the game as a prohibitive favorite after rolling through their opponents on Friday and Saturday, including a convincing 15-11 victory over defending champions Revolver. Their defensive line had been arguably the best unit across the division, and Machine’s offense had not been totally convincing, particularly in their 15-10 loss to Sockeye. For prognosticators, it was easy to imagine that Ironside’s vaunted defense would chew up Machine and send Boston into the final.
At the start of the game it seemed like things would go that way, as Ironside jumped out to a quick two break lead. Machine gave away two easy turnovers that were efficiently punished by Boston, with Russell Wallack and Christian Foster leading the way for Ironside’s defense. Compounding Chicago’s troubles, their D-line was anything but efficient, appearing totally incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities that Ironside’s offense was giving them. When Wallack hauled in a third break for Ironside on a full extension layout grab, Boston’s D-line was 3/3 on their break opportunities, while Machine sat at an uninspiring 0/4.
The score line was in Ironside’s favor, but it may have been papering over some of their flaws. They were making all the little plays that gave them an edge, but many of them were difficult and inches away from failure. The inches that make up those plays can start to go the other way, and they did.
New Machine player Pawel Janas got Chicago back on the right track, displaying expert balance to send a tricky around flick into the endzone for an assist that reduced the deficit to two goals. They’d get it within one on the next point, when Yiding Hou got just enough of his hand on a Tom Annen hammer to direct it towards the turf. Machine’s D-line finally clicked into gear, and they nailed in a break on a toss from Andrew Sheehan, who threw four out of Machine’s five breaks, to rookie Michael Pardo.
After an Ironside hold, Machine broke again, and then with the game at 7-7, Chicago loaded up their D-line looking to take half. A reset miscue from Ironside gave them the chance to do just that. Josh Markette put a nice around backhand into space for Annen but some wires got crossed and Annen was clearing into the stack when the throw went up. The veteran handler could not quite recover in time to save the possession, and suddenly Machine was on the offensive.
Bolstered by the injection of offensive players who had crossed over to the D-line, Machine drove down the field and broke for half. Much of the work was done by Matzuka, who was a whirling dervish. Getting resets and breaking the mark at will, Matzuka ran circles around his defender and notched one of his six assists on a flick to Von Alanguilan whose layout grab punctuated Machine’s comeback and sent the game into half back on serve with Chicago leading 8-7.
Execution errors continued to dog Ironside in the second half, as they gave up a quick break right off the bat when Jared Inselmann semi-inexplicably threw an under directly to Machine’s Kevin Kelly, who proceeded to capitalize on the miscue by quickly dishing then striking down field for the bookends. The goal expanded Machine’s lead, and sent Ironside’s offense trudging seventy, with a clear need to dial up their focus and energy. Overall, Ironside lost the energy battle to Machine all night. “Our intensity failed us in this game” remarked John Stubbs. “We need to work on our mental toughness, because that’s a big factor in intensity.”
The teams traded holds for the next three points, although Ironside labored to score to a greater degree than their counterparts.
The onus was now on Ironside’s defense to make something happen, and it looked like they had gotten a break when Bob Liu shanked a lefty backhand huck1. The disc would return, however, when Liu made a desperation foul call that the observer upheld it despite replays showing that no contact was made before the release of the disc. Given a second chance, Machine would not be denied, as Matzuka sent an inch-perfect hammer to Liu on the side of the endzone to take an 11-9 lead.
Both offenses traded quick holds to take the score to 12-10 on hucks from Will Neff and Pawel Janas, respectively. Janas, a rookie for Chicago, played great all night for Machine, acting as a calm and pragmatic presence next to Matzuka in the backfield and taking his shots when they were there. “Pawel is great!” exclaimed Matzuka after the game. “He kept getting open resets, he’s really talented.”
The offenses continued to trade holds as both defenses started to tire, with Neff racking up his fifth assist of the night and, on the following point, Goose Helton putting in his second. Ironside’s offense would hold again to take the score to 13-12 on nice strike cut from Josh Markette, but offense wasn’t the problem in the second half for Ironside: it was the defense that couldn’t get the job done. With soft cap on and the game to 15, Ironside needed to make a play quickly.
They got the play the needed in the form of a goal saving chase down block from offseason acquisition David Ferrero, but could not capitalize on the opportunity. John Stubbs sent a probing flick huck into the deep space for Hatchett, but it didn’t quite have enough mustard on it and Helton was able to regain ground on the floating disc and get a crucial block.
The Ironside defense was now playing at full tilt and continued to make life difficult for Machine, showing classic Boston hard-nosed defense for perhaps the first time all night. It just wasn’t enough to stop the incendiary Matzuka, who shrugged off the defensive pressure and hit on another cross field hammer into the endzone that gave Machine a 14-12 lead. He was a perfect 5/5 on hammers and scoobers in the game, with each used to lethal effect.
Ironside wouldn’t get another chance to break, as Piers McNaughton muffed an easy catch on the ensuing offensive possession, giving Machine’s D-line a mere twenty yards to go for the game. Ironside put up a valiant goal line defense, and after shutting down several dump cuts they forced Machine to take a stall eight time out. Out of the timeout Walden Nelson blew past Tom Annen for an upline score that sealed the game and sent Machine into the final.
After shaky play early in the week, Machine put together some real moments of greatness tonight, and now find themselves a win away from earning their first every TCT crown. What was the key to their success tonight? According to Matzuka, it’s not complicated.
“We’re a group that plays well together, that’s it,” said Matzuka after the game. “We don’t have all the names of some other teams, but we really embody the team mentality through and through. We’re all solid guys who contribute what we can do, and it’s nice when it comes together.”
The loss fell heavy on the shoulders of Ironside players, not necessarily because of the stakes of the game, but because they know they can play better. “Every team wants to win, that’s obviously the goal, and its disappointing when you don’t,” said Stubbs after the game. “But we, and all the other teams, are building. We’re building towards something in October.”
While Ironside may be pivoting towards the future, tonight Machine earned the right to look towards tomorrow and their showdown with Sockeye in the championship of the US Open.
Tune in to the Men’s Final between Machine and Sockeye tomorrow at 3 PM Eastern.
Liu played the game with many lefty throws due to a right wrist injury ↩