Last Monday, Fresh and I drove up to Portland for the Team Australia vs Rhino friendly. The Dingoes were in the States for a pre-Worlds tune-up and Portland was their first stop. Chase (exciting, boring) and I wanted to get a game of practice in before we got to Sakai and had to do this announcing thing with people actually listening to us. So after much cajoling, Fresh had agreed to drive up with me and film the game with Chase and I miked so we could listen to how we did and see what we needed to get better at. That part went well; we worked through some of the more obvious mistakes and sorted out a lot of little details. Both of us tend to color/analysis and neither is a true play-by-play like Bryan Jones, so we are going to be a bit minimalist on the play-by-play. I watched a lot of Euro 2012 and that system seemed to worked pretty well. Like most of the rest of this frisbee journalism stuff, we know the frisbee, its the journalism that takes a little figuring out. Anyway, on to my expectations for the tournament…
I’d expect the two major divisions to go chalk with the US, Canada and Japan finishing 1-2-3 in some order. The remaining handful of quality teams will be fighting amongst each other for that fourth semifinal spot. I know a lot about the Americans and the Canadians, a bit about the Japanese and only rumors about everyone else.
The US in ultimate is a bit like Brazil in soccer – it’s gold or nothing. The US teams are justifiably favored to win in every division, including the U-20 tournament in Ireland later this summer. Still, the US has never pulled off a complete sweep (of what would now be 7 divisions), so we should expect one of these teams to falter.
Revolver is really a complete team. Led by three A+ players in Cahill, Watson and Kittredge, they are able to relegate stars like Mac Taylor and Mark Sherwood to the D line. Somehow, they’ve added Kurt Gibson just for Worlds! To their incredible depth of talent, they bring an incredibly strong and poised mental game that is a great preventer on the kind of hiccups that doom great teams. I don’t see them losing, but if they do, it’ll be to the Japanese.
Fury is on an incredible run of titles. They are deservedly and forcefully challenging Godiva for the Greatest-of-All-Time: Fury is at 9 Nationals- or Worlds-titles and Godiva at 10. In preparation, the team has kept its most important pieces (coach Tsang, Snyder, Bosscher, Penny, Sun) while adding an incredible amount of talent from the recently graduated college ranks (Sherwood, Sharman, Ruden, Finney, Desmond) plus getting Nazarov away from Blackbird. If this team falters, it will be on roster management – there are 28 women on the roster and that means someone isn’t going to get the minutes they deserved.
We aren’t covering Mixed or Masters until the finals, but that said, I fully expect to see Surly and Blackbird in the finals. Surly’s preparation and talent set them above the competition last October in Sarasota and I expect the same to happen in Sakai. The only danger I see for Blackbird is that they were a bit of a one-trick pony (Brian Garcia) last October, which is always a bit risky. As for Women’s Masters, I don’t know a thing about it other than Vivian Zayas is playing, so they are sure to win.
As the Canadians have moved further and further away from the dominant Lugsdin-Grant-Cruikshank era, they have really begun to develop a nice (for them) long term identity. In a lot of ways, this identity is very similar to the Italian soccer team: bruising defense paired with just enough offense to win. The success of this team at Worlds will hinge largely on how well Furious is able to incorporate the talent they brought in from the east. Hassell, Yearwood, Vasilyev and Ouchterlony carried Goat to quarters last year and should provide Canada with an offensive lift. This team, too, is carrying 28 and will have some roster management problems with that many players.
The women are a mirror image of the men: Capitols plus a sprinkling of West Coasters. Frew and Chan are a great pair of players to add, but I am not sure that this very young Canadian team has the depth of experience necessary to pull off what would be a monumental upset to top the Japanese and the Americans. Still, this is essentially the team that stunned Riot in 2010 and Traffic in 2011 so they are no strangers to success in big games.
The challenge for the Japanese is to get over the hump and win. They’ve stockpiled quite a warehouse of silver and bronze medals, but they’re lacking a World’s gold. (I’m not going to count Perth, where a weakened Subzero was the strongest American competition.) Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed playing against and watching the Japanese in action. Their game is built on speed and technical ability. In comparison to the North American game, it lacks the raw physical strength and most importantly, size. For either the men or women to win this year, they will have to play to their three strengths. First, they will have to play a technically precise game; not necessarily a conservative game, but they will need to be spot on with their throws, particularly the long ones. Second, they will need to use their junk defense (zone for the men and poaching for the women) to slow down offenses and generate pressure. Finally, they need the home crowd. The hugely partisan Vancouver crowd was the edge for Furious in 2008 and Sakai might just be what it takes to boost the Japanese over the top.
Europe and Colombia
What I know about these teams could be measured in a teaspoon, but I can give you their reputations. The Europeans will play an open and very non-physical game (with perhaps the exception of Great Britain). The top three teams this year have been Great Britain, Germany and Sweden and one of them will emerge as a serious contender at this tournament.
The Colombians have been a system on the rise, but their brash, physical style has clashed with the dominant ideology about how the game should be played. They far surpassed all comers in the lowness of their SotG scores in 2008. I’m looking to see how their development and Spirit have changed and progressed in four years.
The Australian men played four games in the States prior to travelling over to Sakai for the tournament. An extra 8000 miles in the air and a week and a half of travel speaks volumes about this team’s commitment to success at Worlds. They are taking this tournament very seriously. Unlike the North American teams for whom Worlds is an occasional endeavor shoehorned into trying to earn or defend a USAU title, for the international teams Worlds is the peak event. When Chase, Fresh and I first started getting set up we asked them for a roster so we could practice calling the game and familiarize ourselves with the team (we are covering Australia-France on the 8th). They agreed, but then we overheard them talking about switching jerseys so that no one would be able to use the footage as scouting material. It was only after we’d assured them that only the three of us would ever see the footage and we were using it for broadcast practice did they relax and warm up to us.
Strategically, they are a defense-first team and the game between them and Rhino was not the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Offensively, they looked out of rhythm at times; an issue I contribute to jet lag and team chemistry (they are from all across Australia). I would expect this situation to fix itself as the tournament progresses. While they have a number of good throwers, they are lacking the one or two really dominant throwers that can set a team apart. Consequently, lot of their turnovers came from miscues and throwing errors, particularly on hucks.
The Worlds Schedule is a bear to read. It will make the most sense to you if you scroll down to where the seeding and bracket is built. Trying to figure out the format from the daily schedule is nearly impossible.
Here’s our broadcast schedule. All times and dates are Pacific Daylight.