By: Jimmy Leppert
Hello and welcome to ‘The Spectator’. Both the MLU and AUDL will crown a champion after the weekend! A quick preview of each of those events, plus a whole lot of written work to share in this week’s edition.
There are two separate championships that will be decided in the semi-pro ultimate ranks this weekend, first within Major League Ultimate in Philadelphia, and the second within the American Ultimate Disc League in San Jose. Funnily enough, both are holding their events in MLS Stadiums. Other than that, they’re doing things a little bit differently. The MLU event has a youth clinic before hand, and promises an after party in Philadelphia with the champion that fans that are of age would be remiss not to take part in. While the AUDL has been tweeting out the set-up of their Spirit Challenge, and the three events it entails – and oh yeah, they have semi-final games on Saturday night, and the finals on Sunday. Both will be livestreaming the event, MLU with its in-house production team, and the AUDL through ESPN3 or TSN for Canadians. Hopefully the AUDL broadcast will include highlights of the Spirit Challenge zipline.
MLU – Boston Whitecaps vs Seattle Rainmakers
The Boston Whitecaps have to be salivating at this matchup. They had the league’s best offense on the season, and the second best defense in the league to match it. But with 16 total missing players being reported on their roster (ranging from injuries, to personal or work commitments, or other), including to Josh Markette, the Whitecaps may not be the same behemoth in this game. That does leave the door open to the Seattle Rainmakers, who have shown that they can compete with the best in the league, after beating the Portland Stags to reach the finals in Philadelphia with only a .500 regular season showing. They did have the third best offense in the league, but didn’t have the defense to match it – coming in as second to the bottom in the entire league.
On the field match-ups are what makes this game particularly interesting. It looks as if Josh Markette won’t play for the Whitecaps, leaving Jeff Graham and Tyler Chan to carry the load for Boston in the finals. While Seattle may not have been impressive on the defensive side of the disc this season, they are returning their roster to almost full strength for this game after missing Henry Phan, Khalif El-Salaam, and Eddie Feeley for their Western Conference Championship game (Seattle has three inactive players listed). That’s some big fire-power that the Rainmakers are adding back to their roster. If Boston finds themselves missing their star-power players in this game, it could be Seattle’s for the taking.
Watch out for El-Salaam and Phan on the Rainmakers, and Chan and Sam Kitross-Schnell on the Whitecaps in this game. I think the Whitecaps win their second MLU Championship, but the Rainmakers make things difficult along the way.
AUDL – Madison Radicals vs Raleigh Flyers
The Madison Radicals were no doubt one of the best teams in the league this season, especially defensively. The allowed a league low 242 goals over their 15 game season, and 53% of the team their defense converts for a break against their opponents. Their offense is nothing to scoff at either, registering 389 goals on the season, and a 76% efficiency. That’s a double-edged sword no team wants to be on the other side of, and that’s where Raleigh finds themselves heading into the Championship Weekend in their first ever season. They haven’t played like it though, taking center stage as one of the most exciting teams in the league since week one. While they will be without Callahan-winner Jon Nethercutt this weekend, Raleigh looks to be returning to full strength for the weekend – adding back a large part of their roster’s more youthful players, and of course boasting Mike DeNardis as their strategically-minded head coach. Raleigh will have to work around a the stifling Radicals defense if they want to put up some of the same impressive offensive-statistics they’ve been achieving both as a team and individually this season. An easy way to do that? Keep the Madison offensive unit out on the field with strong defense of their own.
AUDL – San Jose Spiders vs Toronto Rush
What could end up being the Spiders weakness? Defense. While their offense is a known commodity, a quick glance at the stats of not only Kittredge, but Christian Johnson, Simmon Higgins and others on their strong offensive unit helps give away just how great they’ve been this season, the Rush may want to look at the Spider’s defense in order to break through and win this game. A 48% defensive rate on the season may not seem that off to the Rush’s 53% (the same as the Radical’s), but the 338 goals the Spiders allowed this season helps finish the story – the Spiders can be lax defensively. Granted, the did play in the toughest conference in all of the AUDL, but if the Rush can hold steady with their offense, the game will never remain that far out of their reach. In covering the Rochester Dragons this season, I noticed the Rush’s break throws above all else – it seemed almost every member of the team was confident in breaking the mark, especially whoever they inserted into their offensive line. That’s nothing unfamiliar for the Spiders, and expect their offensive unit to be leaned on heavily, with perhaps some heavy double-duty minutes for the key contributors as they search for a break against the Rush offense.
AUDL – Finals
Any of the combinations – Radicals or Flyers vs the Spiders or Rush – gives us (the spectator) a great game to watch. There is no question that each of these teams are the best of their division, and whomever they knock down to reach the finals reaffirms their status in relation to the rest of the league. Were the Cascades, Cannons, or Thunderbirds also great teams in the AUDL this season? No doubt about it. In each of their final games, they fought until the very end. If any of those three teams were in San Jose this weekend, they would have just about the same shot of winning the championship as any of the four teams that are in attendance. But they didn’t make it here.
Prediction time! The first game is without a doubt a toss-up, but the Radicals defense has truly been impressive this season. The Rush have been good, but with their injuries to Mark Lloyd and Jonathan Martin, and none of their Canadian U-23 team members at the event, the Spiders should be able to advance to the finals. In Spiders versus Radicals for the championship, the high-powered Spiders offense against the league’s best defense from the Radicals should produce a ton of highlight-worthy plays. In the end, tie goes to the offense.
- Continue to watch the All-Star Ultimate Tour!
- Actually just watch ultimate all weekend long. Sludge has a great guide to get you through the entire thing unscathed.
- Soccer fan? The Premier League starts back up again this weekend. SBNation has another beautiful looking preview. Go grab some eggs and beer before you watch.
- Ultiworld’s club video subscriptions is still for sale. They’re adding games from the Pro-Elite Challenge now.
- You can still fund the All-Star Ultimate Tour on IndieGoGo by the way, and keep that number growing as the home-stretch of the tour comes up.
- The 2015 Ultimate Results Coaching Academy returns for 2015 – it’s been going on this entire week – and you can purchase the VIP package even when it’s over.
Listen to This
- Drake versus Meek Mill is still (almost) all that matters. This story on why the ghostwriting accusations that Meek Mill leveled against Drake actually matter from NPR’s Fresh Air program was extremely insightful.
- Oh and Dr. Dre released a new album, his third album total over thirty years, titled Compton just last night. It’s streaming pretty much everywhere now, and it’s in stores.
- First, two lists that compile a whole other string of well-written work. Conor Friedersdorf from The Atlantic has 100 of the best nonfiction works from 2014 in a categorized list. There has got to be at least a dozen stories in there that could pique your interest. Erik Malinowski also put together a link to each of the ‘Best of American Sports Writing 2015’ list.
- The Change Up: How baseball’s tech team built the future of television by Ben Popper of The Verge takes the reader inside MLB Advanced Media, which recently signed on to produce a whole slew of content for the NHL and already does work for MLB, WWE, PGA, Nascar, and ESPN. It’s fascinating to see how the company grew with the times, and how it continues to adapt and evolve.
- Also in sports, The Confession of Arian Foster by Tim Keown of ESPN. I did feel that the author could stretch the topic a little less, it’s still important that Foster is speaking out about his beliefs, and how he fits into the NFL and American culture in general.
- It’s Not Climate Change — It’s Everything Change by Margaret Atwood on Medium. The piece is powerful enough with words alone, simply consider the author if you question that, but the images and layout structure that Medium is able to provide helps immensely as well. She talks of possible ‘outcomes’ within the conversation of climate change, and a ‘blueprint’ to overcome that.
- Hiroshima by John Hersey of The New Yorker was recently released. The piece was published one year after the fact, making up the entire issue of The New Yorker. It’s been 70 years since the atomic bombs were dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and this piece remains a chilling reminder of those events. Chronicling the lives of several survivors before and after those two fateful days, Hersey’s work was recently re-published online.
- The All-Star Ultimate Tour have been streaming their games on Youtube. Games against D.C. Scandal (Saturday 8/8, 3pm EST) and Philadelphia Green Means Go (Sunday 8/9) this weekend.
- Lisa P of the USA Mixed team and All-Star Ultimate Tour, has been putting up some great video journals of her experiences. Keep watching!
- Ultiworld has a free livestream of the Youth Club Championships in Blaine, Minnesota this weekend. Exciting stuff that even youth has high-quality coverage coming to its ranks!
- The Major League Ultimate Championship game is this Saturday (8/8, 6pm EST) between the Boston Whitecaps and Seattle Rainmakers. You can stream the game, or catch it later on Youtube, through MLU Live.
- It’s also the AUDL’s Championship Weekend – first up are the semi-finals on Saturday (8/8), Madison Radicals vs Raleigh Flyers (7pm EST), followed by the Toronto Rush vs San Jose Spiders (10pm, EST). The winners meet on Sunday (8/9, 5pm EST) for the AUDL’s Championship.
- Finally, last night was Jon Stewart’s final night on The Daily Show, if you somehow missed that news. The final episode is a great look at all of the correspondents who have come and gone on the show, Stewart speaks of avoiding bullshit in the world, and one final Boss-driven moment of zen.
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