To my only semi-trained eye, the Seattle Cascades were so much better than the Vancouver Riptide last Saturday that it was mind-boggling. Beyond just demolishing the Riptide 30-17, the Cascades seemed to have a facility with the game that gave space for personality to emerge out of the athleticism. (That the Riptide won the back end of the home-and-home 26-24 is shocking after seeing the gap between the two teams in Seattle, and it raises all sorts of questions about what a good ultimate sample size looks like).
The play in the first AUDL match I saw had character beyond size and position; even in a single match the way individuals approached the game stuck out. I don’t know that guys were better, but the match looked like two more experienced sets of foes going at each other. That the Cascades were knocked out of the AUDL playoffs this weekend in the quarterfinals would suggest the AUDL is a very strong league.
If, gun to my head, I were asked who I’d bet on to win in a match between Seattle MLU Western Conference Champion Rainmakers and the Seattle AUDL playoff quarter-finalist Cascades, I’d first ask the gunholder to chill because pointing a gun to my head is not within the Spirit of the Game. And then I’d take the Cascades.
That said, I think there’s more going on here than a straight league-to-league comparison. Firstly, while the Rainmakers and Cascades were similarly seeded headed into the playoffs, the underlying goal differential stats suggest the Cascades were the silent juggernaut of the AUDL, while the equivalent team in MLU was the Portland Stags. The Stags size would have really challenged the Cascades based on what I saw of them this year. The Cascades were faster and bigger than the Riptide, they would not have been against an equivalently good MLU team.
Secondly, I don’t know much. But I’d say the play in the two leagues was fairly close. Whatever battles are being waged between the two leagues and top club teams likely make a lot of sense to those immersed in the sport, but to my (relatively still) outside eye, it’s all outrageously good frisbee, well beyond anything I saw in college and certainly well beyond anything I could hope to do myself. Which is a good sign for a burgeoning pro league. If some asshole writing about the league on the internet thinks he can give it a go (see: curling or darts) that’s not a good long term sign.
*looks up professional dart purses*
Well I’ll be.
Anyway, let’s hit this AUDL experience with some bullet points:
•Seattle was staggeringly better in this match. I still can’t get over finding out they lost the next day to the same team. 99 and 94 stuck out to me… I can’t find a roster page to shoutout their names, but 99 and 94 were both really good. Good job, 99 and 94 on the Seattle Cascades. You guys are really good at ultimate.
•Is there pull strategy? Like, what are we doing with pulls? There doesn’t have to be. Thinking about football and kickoffs no one really cares unless it’s close late, but with pulls is there anything in particular that players should be doing consistently? If so, I haven’t really seen it.
•Seattle was so much better that on a couple deep shots, guys were making runs, pulled off the runs, saw the disc hucked deep, and still had time to recover and outrun their defender. These inadvertent double moves made me realize, a) recovery speed is crucial, and b) why am I not seeing more intentional double moves?
•Seattle had a ludicrously good goal-line defensive stand after Vancouver landed a deep shot to an unmarked player on the 1 yard line. They were forced to go backwards after the defense beat the second man to the scene, and then were forced into a low percentage hammer into the corner which fell incomplete. In Seattle though? You gotta hand the disc to Marshawn. Hand. The disc. To Marshawn.
•This goal-line defense made me think about where you start playing defense on a field. If the opposition can beat you deep, why not concede territory and give them a short field. Do any ultimate teams try this? It’s essentially the equivalent of counter-pressing in soccer. You wait for an opponent to get to a certain point where they’ve condensed the field, and then you strike quickly aiming to score off of turnovers. I’d be interested to know if tactics like that could work in ultimate.
•The Seattle Memorial Stadium where the Cascades play is a decrepit stadium by the Seattle Center that manages to feel both old and devoid of personality. It’s kind of a bummer, but it is centrally located. It’s a tough trade off: the Rainmakers play further south, but the facilities are more open and parking is easier. The Cascades did their best to make the stadium their own, but it was too big to take over, and too brutalist in architectural style to really soften up. A lot of teams use this stadium (including the NWSL Seattle Reign) so this isn’t on the Cascades… it’s just the trouble with looking for stadiums near downtown Seattle when you can’t fill up CenturyLink Field.
•The Cascades had great mascots (a pair of Sasquatches, Casey and Kid Casey). The best thing I overheard was in reference to the little one: “I love [sic] Lil’ Casey. He’s got just as much attitude as regular Casey!” As if to prove the point, Kid Casey then Three Stooge’d me for looking down at my phone to write down the quote.
Two more pieces from me this summer, Skyd readers: the MLU Final and then a wrap up of what I’ve learned. I think I’ve learned a lot. I’m certainly using “huck” and “hammer” in fun new ways in my day-to day life.