April 19, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
While Week 2 mostly went to chalk with the exception of Austin's dramatic overtime win over Dallas, the competition gap is tightening across the league. Teams thought to be "middle of the pack" are giving championship contenders everything they can handle in the earlygoing part of the season, and blowouts are nonexistent. Through 11 total regular season games in 2019, the largest margin of victory is just four goals. As another slate of teams get set for their first games of 2019, Week 3 will be the first real look into the true lay of the land around the AUDL this year.
21. Detroit Mechanix (21)
The Mechanix travel to Indianapolis to face the AlleyCats tomorrow night. The last time Detroit went to Indy, they were waxed 40-20, the most goals surrendered in a game and the second largest margin of defeat in 2018. An easy place for the Mechanix to bolster would be their team completion percentage—they finished dead last at 90.00 percent last season.
20. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (20)
Without Sam VanDusen and Noah Robinson in the lineup for this weekend, the Thunderbirds face a tough task opening the season on the road against the reigning champs in the most difficult stadium for opponents. Pittsburgh has a good deal of confidence heading into the new season, but after averaging the second most turnovers per game (28.57) in the league last year, the 'Birds will need to be mindful of possession facing a Radicals defense that will quickly run up the score if given the opportunity.
19. Ottawa Outlaws (18)
One of the issues the Outlaws have faced in recent seasons is finding a good complementary handler in the backfield to pair with Derek Alexander. While Alexander is capable of generating a team's worth of offense on his own, he shouldn't have to shoulder his current workload; over the past two seasons, Alexander has 1075 total completions, while the next highest Outlaws teammate is Nick Boucher—a defensive player—with 482 completions.
18. Atlanta Hustle (19)
To their credit, the Hustle played a much better game in Week 2 against a fierce Flyers squad than in their road opener against the Cannons, but the result for Atlanta was still the same: A loss. There isn't a particular ailment that the Hustle suffer from other than maybe lack of focus. Atlanta held a three-goal lead at the beginning of the third quarter with disc 10 yards from the endzone and a chance to go up four, and failed to convert. Raleigh took the ensuing possession and scored, trimming the Hustle lead to just two before rallying past Atlanta at home.
17. Seattle Cascades (17)
No Mark Burton nor Khalif El-Salaam will displace a lot of handling duties onto Kodi Smart, Henry Phan, and possibly Brad Houser. Though considered to be more of a downfield receiver, Houser showed a steady presence in the backfield at times for the Cascades in Week 1, finishing with two assists on 23 completions without a throwaway. And his career numbers speak to Houser's reliability and quiet potency with the disc: He has a 93.70 completion percentage on 539 career completions, and has thrown 30+ assists in each of the past two seasons.
16. Tampa Bay Cannons (16)
With Andrew Roney at the helm and a win-by-comittee approach everywhere else, the Cannons, if nothing else, have established a clear identity in 2019 well before most teams. 10 different Cannons had a goal in their home opener win, with 15 players registering 10 or more points played. Tampa Bay did a good job of keeping their rotations fresh, and have a good opportunity to start the season 2-0 with another matchup against the Hustle at home.
15. DC Breeze (15)
The Breeze fought admirably against the Empire for three quarters before a series of petty miscues sealed their fate on the road. Rowan McDonnell played the part of MVP, but with a twist: He still had team highs in assists (4) and goals (5), but was less disc dominant than a season ago. Instead, much of the power driving the DC offense was due to Xavier Maxstadt's hucks. A prominent chucker since his college days, Maxstadt routinely caught a good New York defense flat-footed with his laser shots downfield, finishing with four assists and setting up numerous other Breeze scoring opportunities.
14. Philadelphia Phoenix (13)
He played in just six games for Philly in 2018, but Ethan Fortin and his uptempo handling style are in prime position for a breakout year helping pilot the Phoenix offense. A nimble 5'10", Fortin excels at possession and breaking the mark, creating a frenzied pace for opposing defenses to control. He averaged over 45 completions per game in 2018, racking up an impressive 11 assists and another 16 throw-before-the-assist facilitations in 141 points played.
13. Montreal Royal (12)
The Royal were in the bottom quarter of the league last season in turnovers, and are hoping to improve on their nearly 27 giveaways a game average from 2018 while integrating a host of rookies and international players. Kevin Quinlan has always been a gunner—he has just a 85.30 percent career completion rate on 1353 completions and 230 assists in seven seasons of play—but this team might need more facilitators and less risk takers if they want a chance back at the postseason in 2019.
12. San Jose Spiders (8)
The Spiders just look off. Coming off a heartbreaking 0-2 SoCal road trip in Week 2, San Jose has struggled to put together two full quarters of consistent play in three total games. It has felt as if almost every major Spiders performer has had a careless drop in the endzone, with Marcelo Sanchez of all people picking up three drops already on the season; he had three total in 361 points played last season. San Jose hosts their home opener against a surging Growlers team, and without Antoine Davis or Lior Givol available.
11. Minnesota Wind Chill (10)
Minnesota will have a decidedly different roster tomorrow night in their home opener than the last time they played Chicago. The Wind Chill have won nine straight times against their Wildfire rivals, and look to extend their streak with the presence of their new Canadian additions Cam Burden, Jesse Greenberg, Mathew Ladyman, Alan Scarth, and Quinn Snider. Minnesota finished with the best scoring offense in the league in 2018, and can continue to be the best unit if their new smallball strategy prevails in the Midwest.
10. Los Angeles Aviators (14)
The Los Angeles Aviators have earned their way back into the top 10 thanks to their execution on important drives offensively, and a pressure cooker defense. This team likes to get out and run, and Tyler Bacon and Tim Beatty command much of the Aviators offensive action, launching hucks to Sean McDougall, Danny Landesman, and Joc Jimenez that lead to quick scores in transition. On defense, Los Angeles is simply committing to constant pressure all over the field for four quarters, which wears on opponents. Out of the 13 teams with a game played in 2019, the Aviators are third in the league with 12 takeaways a game.
9. Chicago Wildfire (9)
Absent two of their top coverage defenders in Nate Goff and Von Alanguilan, the Chicago Wildfire will likely need a big performance from Jeff Weis. A two-year member of the Wildfire, Weis has 28 career blocks in 21 career games, and his long 6'4" frame allows him to be potent on the counterattack off an opponent turnover, earning him 41 career goals. The Chicago debuts of Matt Rehder and Zane Rankin will certainly be impactful, but the Wildfire need an answer to stop the Wind Chill's fast attack tomorrow night.
8. Indianapolis AlleyCats (7)
The Indianapolis AlleyCats never held a lead against the Radicals in their home opener on Sunday night, but they stuck close to the defending champs and made a run late in the fourth quarter before eventually losing 22-20 in Week 2. Brett Matzuka already looks like a great addition despite playing just 17 points in his Indy debut, and helps fuel a nice smallball lineup the 'Cats used to claw their way back against a tough Madison defense. And while other talented youth usually grab headlines for this team, Keegan North was majorly impressive in his first performance of 2019, throwing five assists on 27 completions and scoring three goals—including a posterizing goal over KPS—while committing just a single turnover.
7. Austin Sol (11)
Short of a title win, the Austin Sol got the most satisfying win they could've hoped for, finally downing the Roughnecks for the first time, in overtime no less, in matchup number 13 since 2016. No single player could take credit for the historic win, be it Mick Walter's defensive athleticism in the clutch, Kyle Henke turning into a receiving tank, or Rory Orloff collecting his requisite handful of leprechaun-ish, what-the-hell plays. But a good hunk of the credit goes towards the handler who led the team in throwaways, Jeff Loskorn. In a wind-damned game of frustraing turnovers, field position, and painstakingly long points, Loskorn's timely big throws unclenched the Austin offense when pinned deep in their own half of the field. A majority his seven throwaways were of the punt variety, trading a risky short yardage offensive opportunity for a chance to put Dallas in an unfavorable position of their own.
6. San Diego Growlers (6)
Historically a slow starting squad, the San Diego Growlers are suddenly 2-0 and leading the West Division for the first time in franchise history. Turns out, adding a former MVP to the roster is a very beneficial move, as Jonathan Helton leads the team in assists (12), completions (56), and points played (54) so far in 2019. But just as impressive has been the play of 2018 All-AUDL member and multi-tool operator Travis Dunn, who has worked as both a backfield faciliator and downfield threat. Given how important he's been to the team's success, it was fitting that Dunn saved the final possession with a layout before firing the game winner to Max Hume last Saturday night at the buzzer.
5. Toronto Rush (5)
In 2018, Andrew Carroll adapted his game-changing speed to become more of a facilitator, dishing 37 assists and nearly doubling his previous career high for a season. But with the Toronto Rush losing three of their top four goal scorers from last year's squad, Carroll might slot back into his more traditional receiving role. Two years ago, Carroll had a breakout performance in the playoffs, averaging nearly four goals per game during the Rush's runner-up finish in 2017.
4. Dallas Roughnecks (2)
For second time since the 2018 championship game, another team simply outworked the Dallas Roughnecks down the stretch. Usually the up-from-under, gritty comeback is the reserved role for this rough-and-tumble Dallas team, but their luck wore off in Austin on Saturday. Absent franchise completions and assists leader Brandon Malecek, the Roughnecks offense struggled with consistency down the stretch. Malecek will be back in the lineup tomorrow night in the Game of the Week rematch, and the rest of the Dallas lineup will be at full strength.
3. Raleigh Flyers (4)
The Raleigh Flyers still have one more road matchup before they get their first home game of 2019. Austin's win over Dallas was a big one for Raleigh, who will host the Roughnecks two times yet this regular season. If the Flyers can go 3-1 on the road in the first four games, they'll have the inside track on the South Division crown. Eric Taylor is leading the team in completions (176, 95 percent) as a rookie; ditto Henry Fisher and goals (13). But it's Noah Saul who has clearly been the team's MVP through three games, quarterbacking the offense and leading clutch drive after clutch drive, while putting up 13 assists on 161 completions to just one turnover in 77 points played.
2. Madison Radicals (3)
True to Madison, the Radicals defense got the scoring going by opening up their 2019 season with a break score following an Indy turnover. Madison continued to apply pressure for the entire game, forcing the AlleyCats to abandon deep looks and work the disc up methodically with short passes. But it was the Radicals offense that looked most impressive on Sunday night. Despite missing Peter Graffy, and late scratches Ben Nelson and Tarik Akyuz, Madison converted 73 of their offensive possessions into scores thanks to the stability of Kevin Brown and Pat Shriwise in the backfield, who combined for nine assists and 131 completions in the win.
1. New York Empire (1)
The New York Empire came into last Saturday night with a championship's worth of hype, and handled both the weight of expectations and an admirable Breeze opponent. Jack Williams and Grant Lindsley fit seamlessly into a star-studded New York O-line, but it was the not-so-faceless mob on defense that won the game. The perennially underrated Josh Alorro earned a big layout block to start the second half New York rally, Beau Kittredge was throwing his body around like he was 10 years younger, and the Drosts did their usual Drost defensive things in the margins, making every DC possession difficult. It was a true team win, and that should terrify the league at large.