July 12, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
Parenthetical numbers indicate team's ranking in previous list.
21. Detroit Mechanix (21)
The Mechanix gave it everything they had before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, allowing a six-goal second half lead to evaporate and continuing their 3+ year losing streak intact. Joe Cubitt and Kevin Coulter combined for 15 turnovers alone, but it's hard to blame them too much given their workload of 17 assists and 100+ touches in 76 points played combined. Still, it leaves Detroit with just one more opportunity to avoid their second straight winless campaign on Sunday in Madison.
20. Seattle Cascades (20)
The Cascades close out their 2019 season with a loss, giving them the fewest wins in franchise history. Despite having a punchers chance in majority of games this year, the Seattle defense has fallen all the way to last place—Seattle has dropped further each season since ranking eigth in 2014—allowing nearly 26 goals per game to opponents. Jay Boychuk emerged as one of the premier downfield strikers in the West Division in 2019, but without generating turnovers, Seattle will struggle in a fast paced division; the Cascades are second to last in the league in takeaways with 7.58 per game.
19. San Jose Spiders (19)
When 2019 started, I had the Spiders listed at seventh in these rankings. But with their third straight loss in a row to close out the 2019 regular season—and fifth in their last six games—San Jose disembarks from one of the most perplexing campaigns in league history. The roster has stars, veteran rotational players, emergent rookies, talented throwers, and seemingly guys who can get it done on the backend of the depth chart. But nothing has congealed for the Spiders as they miss their third postseason in four seasons, largely due to a toothless defense. San Jose is the only franchise in the league this season to not have a single player record 10 or more blocks.
18. Austin Sol (18)
A playoff team a year ago, the Sol similarly exit 2019 with more questions than answers. There is a lot of good, young talent on the roster, with Mason Wuensch and Keivaun Waugh emerging alongside Kyle Henke as possible cornerstone pieces in Austin's future. And despite scoring 20+ goals in each of their final three games, the Sol will finish in the bottom five in the AUDL in scoring for the second straight season after registing in the top 10 in 2017.
17. Ottawa Outlaws (17)
Since a nine-goal loss to the Breeze in DC on May 4 dropped them to 0-2, the Outlaws have been tough contenders in their remaining 10 games in 2019. Sure, Ottawa finished the season with a measly 2-8 record, but their scoring differential was just -2.3 goals per game. And the Outlaws lack of production—their 18.91 goals per game average was third-worst in the AUDL—could be directly attributed to their aggressiveness with the disc, as they never feared the deep ball. Ottawa was second to last in the league in completions per game for the second straight season, and were last in turnovers at 23.55 per game.
16. Tampa Bay Cannons (15)
As much space is spent here on Andrew Roney, all of it is deserved. After an 11-assist, 70-completion performance against the Flyers, Roney nearly doubles the next highest Cannons player in completions, and nearly triples his nearest teammate in assists. With a game remaining on their schedule, Roney has thrown a career best 63 assists on the 2019 season, and is first in the AUDL averaging 6.3 dimes a game. What a year.
15. Montreal Royal (13)
Quentin Bonnaud's assault on the endzone has continued from impressive to legendary over the course of the regular season, as he now sits just decimal places away from breaking Mischa Freystatetter's goals-per-game record of 6.78 in 2016. The Flying Frenchman would need nine goals this Sunday at home against Philly to set the new mark, and Bonnaud has reached that level twice so far in 2019, including just three weeks ago against a top-three Toronto defense. Bonnaud's 73 goals on the season is already the highest total since 2017, and is the sixth most goals ever scored in a season in AUDL history. But also don't forget about the main thrower feeding Bonnaud: Kevin Quinlan is not-so-quietly having a career year, posting career bests in assists (50) and completion percentage (94.20).
14. Philadelphia Phoenix (16)
Even with their losing record sealed for the season, Philadelphia's two wins over Toronto alone make 2019 a special season for a young franchise largely still in rebuilding mode. And the Phoenix carried a five-goal lead late in the first half against the undefeated Empire, but couldn't hold on as New York road its stars to victory. Sean Mott, Ethan Fortin, and Ryan Weaver have shown a lot of talent distributing the disc, while HImalaya Mehta leads a deep pack of able receivers. Philly still has a two-game road trip remaining this weekend and a chance to equal last season's win total.
13. Minnesota Wind Chill (11)
The Wind Chill were neck-and-neck with the Radicals in Madison for three complete quarters before a final frame meltdown seal their five-goal loss in Week 14. Josh Klane threw a game-high seven assists, which was only exceeded by his also game-high eight throwaways; he now is third overall in the league this season with 62 assists. And with Minnesota's 2019 regular season schedule complete, at 6-6 the Wind Chill need Pittsburgh to lose both of their Week 15 games in order to qualify for the playoffs through a convoluted three-way tiebreaker scenario involving Madison.
12. Madison Radicals (12)
The Radicals finally snapped a three-game home losing streak to interdivisional opponents with a gutsy, defensive-led win at Breese Stevens Field. Kevin Pettit-Scantling had his best game of the season, compiling a game-high five blocks and leading a Madison coverage unit that held Minnesota to just 17 goals; the Wind Chill entered the game averaging almost 25 scores per game in their last four contests. But the real storyline of the game was the emergence of the Radicals rookies on both offense and defense. HIstorically Madison has been a team crafted around veterans, and with their worst season in franchise history about to close out, it's nice to see the reigning champs with a glimmer of hope on the horizon as they start to plan for 2020.
11. Atlanta Hustle (14)
Another team that is trying to turn a soured season around at the end of their schedule, the Hustle got a franchise-first win over Dallas in definitive fashion, holding a lead wire-to-wire. The offense was once again paced by the speedsters Matt Smith and Eli Jaime, but the Atlanta defense did a great job throwing out schemes that kept the Roughnecks out of rhythm all game long. To say the Hustle don't force many turnovers would be an understatement—their 8.08 blocks per game in 2019 is third worst in the AUDL—but they're 11th in goals allowed. Atlanta makes opponents work, and their disciplined, bend-not-break zone gets into every opponents head at some point in the game.
10. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (9)
The rise of the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds in 2019 is truly a team accomplishment, from the return of Anson Reppermund solidifying the defense, to Thomas Edmonds emerging alongside Jon Mast and Sam VanDusen to provide one of the most dynamic throwing attacks in the Midwest. But the lightning rod that is throwing out wattage like a Tesla coil is Max Sheppard, who went off with an MVP-level performance in the Thunderbirds' Week 14 double overtime comeback win: career-high 12 assists, four goals, two blocks, and 46 completions in 42 points played. After his team went down 19-14 in the second half, Sheppard played in each of the final 17 points of the game, contributing on eight scores including hauling in the game winner.
9. Chicago Wildfire (10)
League leader in assists Pawel Janas continues to establish new standard for throwing excellence, despite his aversion to individual statistical accomplishments. He already cashed in his 250th career assist last Saturday in his third season as a pro, and if he tosses one more tomorrow night, he will become the first player in league history to throw for 70+ in three consecutive seasons. And the Chicago Wildifre may have developed a new offensive weapon to fit in alongside Janas, as Nate Goff returned in mid-June from injury and has been stellar playing on the offensive side of the disc. Normally a shutdown defender, Goff has used his length smartly to pivot out of defensive marks, and generate a lot of power on his throws. In just his last two games, Goff has seven assists on 41-of-44 throws to go along with four goals.
8. Los Angeles Aviators (7)
I've mentioned "rebuilding" a few times in this column, but the team that has been the best at learning on the fly in 2019 has to be the Los Angeles Aviators and their suddenly dazzling lineup of emerging talent. Colombian rookie phenom Joc Jimenez led the team in goals and swagger, bursting onto the professional scene with an inimitable flair in 2019. Danny Landesman has been a playmaker whereever the Aviators put him as a teenager, and seems on a path to exponential growth. Calvin Brown joined the team midseason, and has put together one of the more impressive throwing debuts as a pro in his first five games. The utility of Los Angeles' lineups is the team's true strength, and has allowed them the freedom to tweak, plug, and re-plug players into various positions until they find the right fit and chemistry. Take Sean McDougall as an example of this squad's ability to adapt: He went from leading the league in 2018 in goals scored to now leading the Aviators in assists (46), switching seamlessly from receiver to quarterback in a single offseason.
7. DC Breeze (4)
Not even a Rowan McDonnell eight-goal performance could keep the DC Breeze afloat as they suffered a five-goal defeat in Toronto last Saturday, losing their grip on a potential home playoff in DC in the process. Normally one of the best possession teams in the league, the Breeze committed an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers in their loss to the Rush, and seemed incapable of containing Toronto's offense speed. It was a humbling way to end the Breeze's three-game winning streak, but DC still has a lot of momentum heading into the postseason. Since mid-May, the team has a 5-2 record, and has shown itself a true contender to the Empire in each matchup this season.
6. Toronto Rush (8)
Following their June 29 home loss to the Phoenix, Toronto Rush veteran Cam Harris stated unequivocally that his team would make the playoffs, and be hell to deal with going into the postseason. The Rush then went out and dispatched the rival Breeze, claiming a home playoff game and becoming the first team in league history to qualify for seven straight postseasons. There's a kind of alchemy that happens when a player can transform the power of their words into on-the-field results, and watching a league legend like Harris come through in his role as a captain for a cornerstone franchise is special. It's almost as if you can forget about the team's 2-3 record over their last five games given their sudden confidence in themselves as the winningest franchise in AUDL history. Almost.
5. San Diego Growlers (6)
First West Division title in franchise history. First 10-win season in franchise history. Second most wins in the AUDL in 2019. Number one scoring offense in the league. Legitimate MVP candidate in Travis Dunn. 2019 was a banner year for the San Diego Growlers as they get set to host their first playoff game and manage all of the expectations that come along with it. Dunn, Tim Okita, and Goose Helton have been the best handler rotation in the division by a solid margin, allowing the team to use all of its pieces for maximum efficiency. And though it's been a thoroughly successful season for San Diego, the Growlers pulled out a lot of close wins; the team is 5-1 in games decided by two goals or fewer in 2019. That stat can cut both ways: San Diego has shown a pedigree for making plays in the clutch, and has earned tough wins; they may have won the season series 3-1 vs their West Division Championship Game opponents the Aviators, but that margin is much closer than it seems.
4. Indianapolis AlleyCats (5)
Another franchise experiencing new highs, the Indianapolis AlleyCats locked up their first Midwest Division regular season title since 2012 last Saturday with their home win over the Wildfire. AUDL legend Cam Brock built another column in his own scoring Mt. Olympus, catching his 500th career goal, more than 200 better than the next highest goal scorer in league history. Travis Carpenter, Keenan Plew, and Brett Matzuka are the only trio of teammates in the league to each have more than 400 completions in 2019, and they've completed an absurd 1299-of-1337 throws (97.16 percent) combined. And though the AlleyCats defense ranks in the bottom of the league in takeaways, they are allowing the fourth fewest scores in the league at 19.18 per game.
3. Dallas Roughnecks (3)
Sure, the Dallas Roughnecks 0-2 weekend in Week 14 gives them the most losses in franchise history, and dampens any kind of momentum heading into the postseason. But this Roughnecks squad might still have the best "best game" of any team in the league, even if they haven't necessarily played it yet this season. Dallas has won three straight South Division championships heading into their July 27 showdown with Raleigh, but there are disconcerning trends for the reigning divisional champs. The Roughnecks have failed to score 20 goals in three straight games, and in four of their last five. Jay Froude, Carson Wilder, Abe Coffin, and Kevin Richardson provide a lot of firepower, but the absence of Dalton Smith's stability has been apparent.
2. Raleigh Flyers (2)
WIth two decisive wins over the Roughnecks in the past month, the Raleigh Flyers secured their third South Division regular season title in five years. Now comes the tough news: 2015 was their last appearance at Championship Weekend. Raleigh has always had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent—someone wisely pointed out on twitter the true scope of such things—and they've stabilized magnificently despite the losses they've sustained in the past calendar year. But can 2019 finally be the season it all coalesces? Can departures clear space for opportunity? Bobby Ley has been phenomenal in his first five games as a Flyer, and the rookie trio of Henry Fisher, Eric Taylor, and Sol Yanuck have been heralded all season long in correlation with the team's success. At the end of the day, though, Jacob Fairfax and Terrence Mitchell have been the driving forces behind one of Raleigh's most impressive seasons ever.
1. New York Empire (1)
A five-goal deficit on the road wasn't enough to keep the New York Empire from becoming the fourth franchise in AUDL history to finish the regular season undefeated. Ben Jagt also cemented himself in the record books by notching the fourth 50-assist, 50-goal season in league history, and confirming his status as the most dangerous offensive striker in the AUDL; Jagt is almost underrated for how well he adapts his game in a live environment to also be a factor in the Empire's scoring drives. And somehow—maybe not all that surprisingly—Jack Williams lived up to the hype in his first season in New York, registering in the top five on the Empire in assists, goals, completions, blocks, and points played. New York is far from unbeatable as they prepare to enter the East Division playoffs as the first non-Toronto team in the number one seed. But they do deserve one final curtain call on a fantastic regular season before hitting the true grind.