June 19, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
Available to watch LIVE on AUDL.TV
Boston Glory and the Raleigh Flyers are two playoff hopefuls that have run into tough competition in the first few weeks, and both find themselves with an early season must-win matchup tonight in the AUDL Game of the Week.
Boston started its inaugural season as a franchise with a big win on the road in Pittsburgh in Week 1, putting up 29 goals in their introduction to the AUDL. But the team has suffered two straight losses, including a 32-20 drubbing by the DC Breeze last night. Glory absolutely has the talent to compete against the best in the Atlantic, but they are having some struggles adjusting to the learning curve of the pro game.
Ben Sadok, Henry Babcock, and Tanner Halkyard have paced a Boston offense that currently ranks fourth in scoring and ninth in offensive efficiency. Each player individually accounted for over 400 yards of total offense last night in DC, and will likely have to carry a similar load against the Flyers tonight.
Sadok in particular has been a revelation. In his first three games as a pro, Sadok is averaging 47 completions (94.70 percent) and a league-high 658 yards of total offense per game; he ranks in the top 10 in the league in both goals and assists. Nominally a handler, Sadok has been excellent at using his throws to set up opportunities as a downfield striker, leading the team in both completions (48) and goals (5) last night. Raleigh struggled to contain a similar speed-and-spread attack against the Breeze in Week 2, so Sadok could have a big night again if his legs can maintain in the second game of Boston’s back-to-back.
The main obstacle for Boston this weekend will continue to be their ability to generate and convert break opportunities. The absence of D-line handler Brendan McCann was immediately felt last night as Glory failed to convert on any of their five break opportunities; Boston was 6-of-9 on break opportunities in Week 2.
Raleigh started this season as a favorite to win the Atlantic Division and are now staring down the barrel of their first ever 0-2 start. The Flyers look good in stretches, and their team offensive stats are impressive, ranking in the top 10 in scoring, efficiency, and team completion percentage. But Raleigh has struggled with consistency. In Week 1, they were held to just four goals in the first half against Atlanta. Last week against DC, the Flyers held a three-goal second half lead before a few miscues on their own half of the field gave the Breeze the disc in favorable positions for easy break scores.
The disconnect for the Flyers seems to happen somewhere in getting the disc from the backfield handler set to their primary targets of Henry Fisher and Jacob Fairfax. Both averaged nearly five goals per game coming into the 2021 season, and they have just 10 goals combined in their first two games this year. Maybe the most telling stat of Raleigh’s weirdness: After posting 39 assists as an elite downfield continuation thrower in 2019, Fairfax has yet to throw an assist in 2021.
Defensively, Raleigh is chasing. It would be incorrect to say that the Flyers defense is bad, but they are out of sorts. Raleigh ranks last in the league in takeaways, despite being tidy with their break opportunities when they have them; Raleigh was 5-for-7 on break chances in Week 2. The upside of this is that both Flyers losses have been by razor thin margins, so even a slight increase in defensive pressure could yield big results for Raleigh.
It’s still much too early in the season to put too much weight on a single game. But the result of tonight’s matchup could very well vault one team back into contention, and dash the dreams of its loser.
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