Buzzer Beater: Minnesota Chill Chicago in Union’s Home Opener [UFA Week 3, 2024]

Lots of action this week including nailbiters in DC, Portland(!), and Seattle.

The Chicago Union on the line in their 2024 home opener against the Minnesota Wind Chill. Photo: Daniel Cohen - Ultimate Frisbee Association
The Chicago Union on the line in their 2024 home opener against the Minnesota Wind Chill. Photo: Daniel Cohen – UFA

It was a busy week in the UFA as 18 of the league’s 24 teams were in action. Though there were no massive upsets (and the power rankings largely stay the same), there was quite a bit of excitement. The Boston Glory nearly knocked off the DC Breeze on the road in a battle of the top two teams in the East; the Carolina Flyers did notch a win over the Atlanta Hustle in their heavyweight South Division matchup. Oakland managed to win both games of a Cascadia road trip–and they did so with a +2 goal differential. Philadelphia scored just 10 points for the second consecutive week; the Phoenix have a lot of questions to answer as their O-line held on less than 50% of their possessions once again. All of that is exciting to watch online, but we start today in Chicago…

In Appreciation of the Gameday Experience

A few months ago I moved to Chicago, returning to the city where I spent my college years. The last time I went to a semi-pro Frisbee game in Chicago, Brodie Smith was taking selfies with fans after the game, so I already knew it might look a little different when I went to the Union-Wind Chill game on Saturday night. It turns out Union games this year are different even from last year – the team moved to a new stadium with the potential to be one of the best in the league. With scenic views of Lake Michigan greeting fans and a whole second field adjacent to the playing field that repurposes as a play area for kids wanting to throw a Frisbee on their own, Martin Stadium has everything a UFA team could want.

For this season opener, Chicago drew over 800 fans, about three times as many as the team drew last year. The team offered discounted tickets for youth as a fundraiser, giving 50% percent of those ticket sales back to the teams. It felt like every youth ultimate player in Chicago turned out for the game. There was a joyous energy in the stands as the kids went wild whenever the Union did something positive. Even opposing players remarked that the energy felt better than years past in Chicago. The Union clearly drew energy from the crowd and raced to a 5-2 first quarter lead.

I watch a lot of ultimate. Like, a lot a lot. Most of it happens on my computer screen, but I love to watch games in person. Though it’s sometimes easier to watch online–I can pause and rewind the video and skip the time between points–there’s a different intimacy with the game when actually watching it live. On a screen it’s harder to see the majesty of a floating pull or to hear the thundering footsteps of a cutter and their defender changing direction at the same time. It’s fun to hear the crowd cheer for a goal, and there’s nothing that beats the roar of a crowd when the home team gets a layout block. Ultimate is still finding its place as a spectator sport, but nights like Saturday’s remind me that an event does not need to be perfect to be fun and good.

I attended this game with somebody who had never seen ultimate played at anything beyond a pickup game before, and she likened it to a Single-A baseball game. Given the UFA is just over a decade into its existence and many teams are still figuring out the right combination of stadium, location, concessions, and non-game activities to pack their stands, I’d call that high praise. I’m sure many people reading this attend UFA (and/or PUL and WUL) games, but if you have not yet planned to go to a game this season and you live within a reasonable distance of a team, it’s worth making the effort.

While my attention was partly off the field, there was a pretty good game happening too. The Wind Chill’s front-of-stack offense hardly gave up the disc, and their defensive intensity stood out in the second half. Starting each of the third and fourth quarters with 4-1 runs, Minnesota clearly made better second-half adjustments which the Union struggled to find answers for. The Wind Chill did ultimately prevail in the game, but the event felt like an off-the-field victory for Chicago.

The Ultimate Frisbee Association's Chicago Union's new field sight in 2024, Martin Stadium. Photo: Alex Rubin
The Chicago Union’s new field sight in 2024, Martin Stadium. Photo: Alex Rubin

News and Notes

  • Carolina continued their undefeated season with a second straight win over a strong Atlanta team The Hustle were playing without Brett Hulsmeyer, Justin Burnett, and Jakeem Polk, among others.
  • Boston currently sits in first place in the East standings after splitting a weekend road trip. The Glory lost their first game of the season in a 12-11 nailbiter against the Breeze, then turned around and thumped Philadelphia 19-10.
  • Madison started their season strong with a rain delayed win over Pittsburgh. The Radicals won every quarter and Andrew Meshnick added three more blocks to his career total, inching him closer to 200 for his career.
  • Indy crushed Detroit; Xavier Payne’s four assists led the way for the AlleyCats’ D-line
  • Montreal beat Toronto to earn their first win of the season. Tobe Decraene managed a +5 stat line despite five turnovers. His 5A/2G/3D helped the Royal earn their first win over the Rush since April 30, 2022.
  • Austin comfortably took down Dallas. Evan Swiatek notched five goals and five assists in a well-rounded performance. Mark Evans nearly matched it with five assists and four goals of his own.
  • Oakland squeaked out a pair of one-goal wins on their PNW trip. The close game against Portland registers as a bit of a surprise, but the Spiders did well to rebound and win on the road against a resurgent Seattle team. Spiders cutter and Ultiworld contributor Jake Thorne led the second game with five goals.


Have a question about the UFA? Send it in to [email protected] with UFA Mailbag in the subject line. You can also message me on Twitter at @StallSeven, or subscribers can DM me in the Ultiworld Discord

Are the Flyers title contenders? – Shelby Salkar on Discord

The Flyers present an interesting case right now. They’re 2-0 with two solid victories at home over the Atlanta Hustle. Good? Absolutely! Title contenders? It’s pretty early to be making prognostications like that. The South is a unique division because the three top teams (Atlanta, Austin, and Carolina in alphabetical order) are all going to make the playoffs. That’s a near certainty, but what’s uncertain is which team will have the advantage of home field. Though teams have won on the road before (see Austin last season), there’s a significant advantage to playing at home both in fan support and player availability (again, see Austin last season). All of this is to say that even making Championship Weekend will be difficult for the Flyers. Once there, they’ll have to face off against teams like Salt Lake or New York or maybe Colorado or DC, who are also really strong. The Empire made winning look so easy over the last few seasons that it’s tough to judge what it will take to win this year. The Flyers certainly have the talent to win on any given day against those teams, and in that sense yes, they are a title contender, but at this point I hesitate to call them a favorite.

One thing Carolina has that other teams probably envy is versatility. Their entire starting set of seven O-line players from last week’s game have D-line experience. Sol Yanuck and Trevor Lynch are getting time on defense after a few seasons with them pulling the strings on offense. Carolina can tailor their personnel to specific matchups and strategies, and in a league where individual game planning and coaching matters, that could make a difference.

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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