DC notched a decisive interdivisional win over Carolina, while Pittsburgh, Austin, Atlanta, and New York also collected dubs
May 1, 2023 by Alex Rubin in Recap with 0 comments
Wow what an opening week! DC and New York each had dominant opening wins. Pittsburgh proved their mettle with a thrilling walk off win over Madison. The Houston Havoc opened their season in front of a big home crowd and led division favorites Austin Sol deep into the game.
The AUDL game of the week lived up to its name. With scoring runs, highlight plays, back-and-forth play, and clutch blocks, this year’s first cross-divisional game was worth the hype.
DC started the game on a 3-0 run and looked like they could just run away with the win given the sloppy play from Carolina’s offense. With Matt Gouchoe-Hanas out, D-line mainstays Suraj Madiraju and Elijah Long were called over to the offense. While their disc skills can not be questioned, the chemistry on Carolina’s offense was distinctly lacking. In the past, Sol Yanuck, Gouchoe-Hanas, and Anders Juengst could be counted on to simply keep the disc moving until something big opened up downfield. DC was able to overwhelm the new Flyers backfield (Yanuck, Long, and Juengst were often the trio behind the disc) and force turnovers uncharacteristic of Flyers teams of the past.
Carolina did move around their lines, giving Joe White some run on offense after he started the game playing with the D-line and offering similar opportunities to Ethan Bloodworth, Ben Snell, and Terrance Mitchell. With so many new players in new roles, the Flyers were bound to be below their typically high standard, but their 20 turnovers is their highest since Week 9 of last season (a barn-burner against the turnover-prone Tampa Bay Cannons). That was their only such game in 2022–they often had fewer than 10 turnovers. The Flyers were also an uncharacteristic 8/13 (62%) in the red zone. For a team that prides itself on being able to relentlessly reset the disc, red zone efficiency is a clear area for improvement.
DC was far from perfect in its opening performance, and after their rough start, the Flyers made it interesting at the start of the fourth quarter. Carolina relied on a trapping double team to force a turnover each from Jonny Malks and Andrew Roy. After converting both breaks, the three goal lead that DC maintained from the start evaporated and the score sat tied at 15.
If their hot start didn’t do it, the last stretch of the fourth quarter showed why DC is considered among the championship favorites. What could have become a tight game turned into something of a blowout. Joe Merrill, Charlie McCutcheon, and Christian Boxley each had clutch blocks for DC down the stretch and the Breeze coasted out a 6-1 run through the final eight minutes to close the game.
D-line Rowan is a difference maker. On a recent episode of the podcast he co-hosts with Malks, One Throw at a Time, McDonnell talked about his identity as a D-line grinder. Over the last two years, injuries forced him into a smaller role on offense, but now that he has returned to full health, McDonnell is aiming to be more of a stopper than a scorer. His run-through block on Mitchell opened the game early for DC, and his presence on the D-line counterattack helped the defense convert 57% of its chances (for comparison, Carolina converted just 33% of theirs). The offense certainly looks different without Rowan, but if he keeps playing this well on defense, he might add a DPOTY award to his decorated mantle–and perhaps even a championship.
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This week’s question comes from @ClaytonAdams11 on Twitter: What elite players would Detroit need to add to win a game? Like would Jimmy Mickle alone be enough?
We actually saw this play out last year. The Mechanix had Johnny Bansfield and Mac Hecht active for the same game. They wasted their talents playing D-line and obviously did not win the game. There is a point where chemistry matters, but on the Mechanix level, they need an infusion of talent more than they need chemistry. I’d suggest that they need three elite players (one thrower, one receiver, and one glue-guy) as well as an elite coach. So let’s keep Mickle per your example, add Chris Kocher as the glue-guy (seriously-when is the last time that one played without the other), and take Dylan Freechild as a World Games level hybrid.1 That should be enough to beat Pittsburgh or Madison if they’re playing O-line and Kocher and Freechild cross over to D when needed to secure a few breaks. To put it all together, let’s bring in Miranda Roth Knowles as the head coach. Unfortunately, the Mechanix schedule does not have any obvious dates to target. I’d consider the July 8 home game against Madison or the July 23 trip to Minnesota if the Wind Chill have already locked in playoff position. The July 15th game against Toronto could work, as GOAT is playing at Pro-Elite Challenge and PoNY (Mickle and Kocher) are skipping it.
- The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds opened their season with an exclamation point: Max Sheppard snagged a buzzer beating floater to walk it off.
- The Philadelphia Phoenix found themselves down 8-1 to the New York Empire after the first quarter. Rainy conditions certainly played a factor in some unforced turnovers, but it appears that the Evil Empire is as strong as ever.
- The Atlanta Hustle crushed the Indianapolis Alleycats.
- Houston led Austin, but in the end the more experienced team prevailed. Houston is quite fun to watch.
|1||New York Empire||-||1|
|7||Salt Lake Shred||-||7|
|8||Minnesota Wind Chill||-||8|
|11||Los Angeles Aviators||-||11|
|16||San Diego Growlers||-||16|
- With their loss to Pittsburgh, Madison falls down the rankings below the Thunderbirds and a Seattle team that nearly won the second end of a road back-to-back.
- Philadelphia also falls after simply looking awful against New York in a rainy game that the Empire led 8-1 after the first quarter.
- Likewise, Indianapolis drops a few spots after an abysmal game in Atlanta.
I’m intentionally choosing players who do not currently play in the AUDL ↩