National Championships 2023: Every Player a Cog in the Chicago Machine (Men’s Quarterfinal Recap)

Machine ride their systems and clinical offense to semis with win over Rhino Slam!

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 Club National Championships is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

Chicago Machine took care of business this afternoon against Portland Rhino Slam!, starting the game with two breaks and pulling even further away in the second half.

The odds were stacked against Rhino before the game even started. Chicago has always been a a tough matchup for Portland, as they haven’t scored a win against Machine in three seasons. “Rhino are a good team, but we’ve played them a lot and we’ve got a lot of data on them. We know who to make throwers on their team,” said D-line mainstay Jason Vallee. Machine were confident in their game plan and knew exactly what it was going to take to secure the win.

The more I see Machine play, the more bullish I become that this could be their year. A few things stood out today that led to their dominant performance. First up is their defense – their defensive studs like Kyle Rutledge, Jeff Gao, and Jacob Bruner impressed as usual, but it’s the depth of this unit that really stood out today. Role players like Jake Steslicki, Asher Lantz, and Benjamin Preiss also shined bright.

There’s no question this D-line is loaded with talent, but the story that’s being overlooked is how effective their end zone junk look has been. These guys are licking their chops whenever they see a team transition to vert stack in the endzone. At various critical points during the game, their poach set would force the Rhino offense 20 yards back. Rhino would hit tight windows to march it back to the 1 yard line, and then get pushed back again. “We’ve got the best coaching in the division,” said Vallee. And it’s not an absurd take either given how advanced Machine’s systems are compared to the rest of the division. It gives them a big strategic edge over other teams that haven’t made as much progress with their systems.

Aside from the defense lighting it up, the Machine O-line was clinical. The player of the game was without a doubt Joe White who had an eruption game, dropping 4 goals, 4 assists, 1 block to 0 turns. This is the most dominant I’ve seen him look in his club career so far. No matter how teams decide to play him, it seems to have almost no effect at all. If White can continue to play at this level, Machine are going to be nearly impossible to stop.

The story of the game for Rhino was their inability to consistently execute in the gusty conditions. Without a top 10 in the division type of thrower on the roster, adverse weather can throw Rhino off their rhythm. Their O-line cutters are sometimes put in tough spots because they frequently have to drop back into the handler set when they should really be more featured downfield.

Freechild in particular was forced to step into an uncomfortable role, as he was one of the few players on the offense that would attempt downfield shots in spite of the wind and pressure from the defense. This explains his five turnovers throughout the contest, as he had to try for risky looks to move the chains. One more elite handler piece for this Rhino team, and I think they would play much closer with Machine.

  1. Jake Thorne
    Jake Thorne

    Jake Thorne is a staff writer for Ultiworld with a focus on the college division. He is a graduate of Cal Poly SLO, where he played for four years. He now lives and works full-time in sales for a fintech company in San Francisco.

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