Japan v Great Britain (Open)
This game ran a very predicable script from the opening pull all the way until 13-8 Japan and then things got crazy. Great Britain got within one 12-13 on a backhand around to Penny and then had disc to tie after Sasakawa and Tanaka miscued a dump. Japan ended up winning 16-13 but showed real vulnerabilities and the Brits much more toughness than is ordinarily expected from such a young and inexperienced team. The game is up on NexGen if you want to see the replay.
The wind was a huge factor throughout. It had been a consistent South wind the first two days of the tournament running straight up and down the championship pitch, but in the middle of the day yesterday it swung to the Northwest. Now the wind had to jump over and around the main bleachers making conditions on the field swirly and unpredictable. There were lots and lots of unforced errors on both sides.
The Japanese had a lot of success with short (10-15) yard backhands straight up the field and then working off those to the breakside. The Japanese were running a four-handler set on offense with Sasakawa, Tanaka, Takahashi and Kichikawa. Their offense is pretty fluid and all four of them will sneak downfield and the cutters (known as middles here), especially Kurono, work back under. Because so much of their offense is dependent on the handlers attacking upfield, an additional fourth provides the structural support to facilitate this attacking freedom.
The Brits tried four defenses against the Japanese: forehand, backhand, junk and wind. They didn’t give forehand much of a look and must not have liked it, because they stuck with the backhand even when the game looked like it was slipping away from them. They played junk a bit but the Japanese murdered it and Britain wisely put it away. The Japanese offense isn’t completely invulnerable against junk defenses, but they have to be built in a way that will slow down and contain the quickness and tempo of the Japanese handlers. Britain’s junks were built on size and trapping; consequently they never really got set or caused much problem. I threw the wind in as a defender because it created a lot of turnovers: high backhands too far and low backhands too low. Oddly, the Japanese offense struggled more going downwind and the Brits more going upwind. The Brit-up-Japan-down points were all very long and often had multiple turns from both sides. The Brit-down-Japan-up points were very, very quick and typically one possession.
Down 8-13, Great Britain finally found a recipe for success: bruising defense and an opportunistic deep game. They continued to play backhand, but they were rougher on the mark and on cutters. They did a really nice job of poaching just enough on the open side maybe 10-15 yards off disc (right where Japan wanted throw) to rattle the Japanese receivers. On offense, they took shots. When they got those shots up in the air, they worked. In the couple of instances they found themselves in endzone offense, the length of the British throwers earned easy breakside goals on ‘high’ backhands.
The takeaway for Japan is mostly things they already knew: they are vulnerable against the deep ball because of their size and need to do a better job of maintaining possession. Their best defense against getting hucked on is not giving the other team the disc. Next, Japan faces a tough test against Canada in power pools.
What Great Britain gets is a huge boost in confidence. They took a hit and got back up. In digging themselves a 5 goal deficit, they put themselves in a position where they were going to need to play near perfect ultimate, but they were in a position to win. Great Britain will also get a shot at Canada. With the rest of Pool A struggling, they can also begin turning their attention to eventual quarterfinal matchup Germany, Sweden or Australia.
Canada will get its own shot at Japan in power pools. If the Japanese play the way they did today, they will lose. Bruising defense and an opportunistic deep game is Canadian ultimate. This game will be decided on the ability of the Japanese handlers to maintain possession.
USA vs Germany and Canada vs Colombia (Open)
These games were very similar as the top teams dominated defensively and won easily despite not playing particularly well on offense after the turn. The Revolver D team was uncharacteristically sloppy and undisciplined throughout their game. I kept waiting for Dutchy and the rest of the Revolver leaders to rein the D-team in offensively in the same way they found their focus defensively coming out of half, but their play never really improved. Certainly a little of the problem is the lack of doubt on outcome (Revolver’s combined tournament score by the end was 51-14?), but quality play regardless of circumstance is Revolver’s hallmark.
Germany showed good quality on offense hanging around 9-6 at the half but gave up 6 in a row to begin the second. Tiro and Bettenmeuller were great, but not enough. The Germans don’t have the depth of the Americans and really need their top 5 or 6 players to play fantastically. They will cross into power pools with Australia and Sweden.
Of the top three teams, Canada looked the best. They had some turnovers, but the wind had picked up by that time and a mistake here and there was to be expected. They allowed the Colombians to lure them into a lot of fruitless discussions and wasted a bunch of shade and rest time, but it wasn’t a big deal and the game certainly wasn’t in doubt.
Colombia, represented by Bogota’s Comunidad el Oso, is struggling. Unlike the 2008 team, which was a true national team, this Colombia team is a club team representing for their country ala Revolver or Fury. As quickly as the Colombians have grown as a country and a program, their isn’t enough talent there yet for them to compete using that system.
Random Worlds Stuff
If you get a chance to ride the shuttle bus with Australia, take it. Well, homeward at least. They’re a bit less lively in the morning.
Ran into Idaho. He’s here, of course. He claims to have played 32 tournaments in 1999 and 30 in 2000, both well above my highs of ~25 in the same two years. So a challenge for all you junkies out there: can anyone touch that record?
I don’t really feel like I’m in Japan. The first day I was here, yes, absolutely. Then all the frisbee players arrived and unleashed a flood of 5 and Patagonia on Sakai, bringing their own crazy nation with them. I feel bad for all the Sakai residents suddenly turned into ex-pats in their own neighborhoods.
The first three days of broadcasting have gone great. We’ve had some technical difficulties adapting to the electrical system here, but everything else is great. Chase and I have found a good rhythm, the camera men are holding up physically and youngster Vinh Bui is holding everything together. Chase and I have a coin cup going for forbidden words: yesterdays were ‘absolutely’ and ‘interesting’ and we (mostly Chase) ended up paying Vinh ¥808. In revenge, Chase is going to take ‘mk’ away from me.