Recent History and Roster Turnover
Since 2004, GOAT has qualified for Club Nationals four times, with a 2007 third place finish being the team’s most impressive. Recently, Toronto has had issues staying ahead of the rising Northeast powers PoNY and Bodhi. However, 2011 brings a Worlds qualification year, and with that, many out-of-province players have returned to help GOAT take the Canadian title and show the U.S. that they are the real deal. Among these players are David Janssen, Eric St. Amant, Tim Tsang, Colin Green, Jamie Craig, Jesse Robertson, Inian Moorthy and Anatoly Vasilyev. Toly has returned to GOAT after a stint with the Swedish Skogshyddan team, who was the runner up at EUCF 2010. According to GOAT, the true story about the 2011 season is the rise of their younger talent. With players like Cam Harris, Adrian Yearwood and Thomson McKnight fresh off a U23 Junior Worlds Gold, as well as Mike Jones and Andrew Caroll winning the Canadian Ultimate Championships with the Moondoggies (CUC 2010 Finals Video – Moondoggies vs. Mephisto), GOAT is looking very strong not only for this year, but for many more to come.
GOAT is returning 16 players from their 2007 season as well as 6 players who joined Vancouver’s Furious George as Team Canada in WUGC 2008.
Strategy, Leadership and Philosophy
GOAT is led by the speedy and lanky superstar John Hassell, who was one chief contributors on Team Canada in 2008, with 17 assists and 10 goals in the tournament (4 assists and 1 goal in the gold medal game vs. Sockeye). Assisting him is the cool and collected Andy Ouchterlony as well as Phil Watanabe, whose hard work and lead-by-example attitude have been instrumental in making the Toronto powerhouse what it is today. Hassell was nice enough to share some insight as to how GOAT plays, and did so in true Canadian fashion:
“Offensively we run vertical, horizontal and split stack sets. We are emphasizing a possession-oriented game and looking to take what’s there. You’ll recognize that as something more akin to Boston teams than our normal run and gun style. But we are adapting – we have become a far deeper team with an improving skill set. We’ve lost to Boston enough times to assume they are doing something right. Defensively, we don’t do anything too tricky. Our focus is on developing pressure on resets and disrupting offensive flow in the lanes with matchups.
Overall, we’re not a finesse team and strategically we are probably lacking a bit. Any success we have had is from gritty play. In hockey, there are some teams that play a beautiful passing game to attack the zone. We are better likened to teams that dump the puck in, then chase it down to battle along the boards. It’s not pretty, but you grow to love it – or at least you get used to it.”
GOAT’s defensive line is led by Scott Nicholls and Patrick Mooney, who are lovingly dubbed “The Monkeys” for their short and quick pinball style of play. While Toronto may be favoring an offense designed around disc possession, a lot of their young guns will make some flashy plays. Look for Kirk Nylen, Hassell and Ouchterlony to rule the skies this fall.
Thus far, GOAT looks strong with two tournament victories, two second place finishes and a 22-3 record. While GOAT is winless against Ironside this year (accounting for all 3 of their losses), they have been able to assert their dominance over the rest of the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic regions, besting Southpaw, PoNY and Truck Stop in the process. Hassell said the following in regard to GOAT’s early season success:
“GOAT is showing signs of getting into form. We have beaten some strong teams en route to the finals at Cazenovia and the Boston Invite. Ironside beat us in both finals, revealing where we need to get better. The good news is, in big games we are seeing a wide range of guys step up and make plays and there’s still latent potential there…so we have lots to work with. The challenge is to get everyone in sync and peaking together. If we can do that, we are confident that the results will follow.”
On the Canadian front, GOAT has attended Ontario Open Regionals as well as No Borders, where they went undefeated and virtually unchallenged. From this, it seems that Hassell and his crew are poised to make a run at representing their country at 2012 Worlds. To do this, GOAT will need to go through the electrifying Masahiro Matsuno and Vancouver’s Furious George. Hassell said the following about the Canadian Nationals, playing Furious and dealing with Matsuno:
“There’s a bunch of other teams vying for the spot [Canadian Worlds qualifier], so we are not discounting anyone. We have a huge amount of respect for Furious as many of us have played with them and seen what they can bring in big games. Everyone else has faced them enough times to know to not underestimate them. Furious has set the bar for Canadian ultimate for a long time, which has pushed us to get better, and serves as our motivation.
Matsuno is an incredible and dynamic player who you have to be aware of at all times on the field. He’s a player that I think will fit well into the Furious structure, so we’ll certainly be looking for a strong defender on that assignment.”
Regular Season Schedule
Before the series, GOAT will be attending Colorado Cup and Chesapeake Open. Competing in Boulder is Doublewide, Truck Stop, Johnny Bravo, Madison Club, Sub Zero, Boost Mobile and LA Renegade, who will all provide Toronto with a level of competition that will be much stronger than what they will see a few weeks later in Ottawa. Also attending the Colorado Cup is Furious George, which should provide an exciting preview of the Canadian finals.
While GOAT clearly has sights set on winning Canadian Nationals, they will be looking to punch their tickets to Sarasota, especially after failing to qualify in 2010.
Toronto has a strong feeder system with Roy, Grand Trunk and GOAT, which has contributed to a great awareness of the sport of ultimate in the area. Much of this has spilled over into the Western NY area, with Canadian college and club teams frequently making the trip to play against their American counterparts. Also, two of GOAT’s veterans Patrick Mooney and Kirk Nylen have recently coached the junior men’s team at Worlds.
After a strong season thus far, GOAT should feel very confident heading into August and the Canadian postseason. With regard to the likelihood of a national final match-up against Furious, Toronto has the edge with a 4-1 lifetime record (according to score reporter from 2004-current) against Vancouver. Unfortunately, that one loss came at the 2007 Canadian finals, where Furious was victorious 15-8. Looking at the American series, GOAT’s only true competition for the two bids to Sarasota will be Ironside and PoNY, since Bodhi has recently dissolved. Going through Boston and New York will be no easy task, especially given PoNY’s recent results. Again referring to score reporter, listed below is how GOAT matches up against the top northeast teams:
- vs. New York
- PoNY (2004-2011): 15-2
- vs. Boston
- Death or Glory (2004-2006): 0-2
- Twisted Metal (2004-2006): 4-8
- Ironside (2007-2011): 3-12
Stats and other talking points aside, beating Ironside and/or PoNY will be no easy task. Regardless, Toronto should not be satisfied in just qualifying for the American dance. Peaking at the right time is always a challenge…peaking twice is incredibly difficult. Though the odds may be stacked against them at times, GOAT will have an edge their American counterparts come October. Because Canadian Nationals occurs in August, Toronto’s time frame was pushed up by two months this year. Thus, by the time that all 16 teams head to Florida to compete, GOAT’s roster will have been playing together for about seven full months. With all of the top teams being so close in talent, skill and athleticism, this chemistry may prove to make the difference for Toronto. GOAT and its super-powered roster should feel very confident in their chances at taking home the Canadian title and making a serious run at Club Nationals. In 2007, which was the most recent qualifying year for the World Ultimate and Guts Championship, GOAT pulled off an impressive 50-7 record as well as a 3rd place finish in Sarasota. If the boys from Toronto can take home the Canadian crown as well as improve on their best finish at U.S. Nationals, they will be one step close to becoming the Greatest Of All Time.