June 10, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
The Canada Cup schedule was announced this week, with the return of the Montreal Royal, Ottawa Outlaws, and Toronto Rush scheduled for Saturday, July 17. The three teams are still in the midst of announcing their rosters, so we will get back to their rankings once their tournament draws slightly nearer.
19. Detroit Mechanix
After dropping both of their games in the opening weekend of play, the Mechanix losing streak has reached an incredible 40-game mark. Andrew Sjogren currently leads the league in goals (8) and points played (58), while Joe Cubitt tops the AUDL with 110 completions; teammate Bryan Walsh currently sits second with 100 completions. Detroit is keeping the disc in their best players’ hands more, which has led to a slight uptick in their scoring average from 2019. But when they surrender 64 goals over a two game stretch, there is little the offense can do to compensate.
18. Austin Sol
The Sol defense came out firing in Week 1, generating two quick breaks against a heavily favored Dallas home team before nature intervened and a tempest postponed the match. Austin finished in the bottom third of the league in 2019 in points allowed, so for them to gut check a championship-level Roughnecks offense right away is a good sign for the Sol in the new season. They will get a chance this weekend again to show if that defensive intensity can sustain.
17. Tampa Bay Cannons
The Tampa Bay defense got off to a great start in Philly last Friday, with rookie Unmil Patel setting the tone early with a nice deep swat as Tampa Bay took an early lead. But a raucous home crowd fueled by Phoenix highlight plays vaulted Philly past the Cannons in the second half; Tampa Bay struggled with offensive consistency without star throwers Bobby Ley and Andrew Roney. A 14-point drubbing by the Breeze the next day in DC, and suddenly a promising Cannons preseason has turned into an 0-2 hole with a very challenging Atlantic schedule coming up.
16. Indianapolis AlleyCats
Indy took care of business at home on Friday night to get their first win of the season, with Travis Carpenter putting up video game numbers in his season debut. But the following night in Chicago, the new-and-improved Union defense put the clamps on the AlleyCats O-line, limiting Indy to just 12 goals on the night. With just five returners from their 2019 division championship roster, it was a reminder for the ‘Cats that their system is still developing after such heavy lineup losses.
15. Los Angeles Aviators
Similar to the DC-New York rivalry, the Aviators may struggle to get the win against the Growlers, but that does not mean they play any less intensely for four quarters as Los Angeles narrowly missed a huge upset at home. Sean McDougall was once again the centerpiece for Los Angeles’ offensive attack, with the new additions of Sam Fontaine and Sam Cook adapting quickly alongside Calvin Brown for a pretty potent Aviators throwing lineup. Playing as the underdog, you have to take some shots with the disc. But the Aviators were just a little too aggressive in looking for opportunities, and committed some costly and unforced errors.
14. Madison Radicals
Wild things happen at Breese Stevens Field. And Friday night’s finish might have been the craziest of them all as Madison held a one goal lead, the disc, and had to complete just one pass to seal the win...and they didn’t, conceding a turnover and essentially the game with two seconds left on the clock in regulation. The Radicals got back on track the next day in Detroit, but the loss to the Wind Chill is still ringing. Madison is now 2-4 in their last six games at Breese, leaving a giant question mark for a Radicals team that built six-straight division titles off the idea that they never lost at home.
13. San Jose Spiders
The retooled Spiders offense struggled a bit in the first half, putting up just seven goals before finding their rhythm down the stretch and looking like the unit that finished fifth overall in scoring in 2019. Justin Norden remains as underrated as any thrower in the league, finishing with a game highs assists (6) and throwing yards (542); no player on either team had more than half of Norden’s throwing yardage output. The additions of throwers Scott Xu and Mark Lin give San Jose a nice backfield, but the defense has to create more takeaways than the five they generated in the loss.
12. Seattle Cascades
The Cascades offense was one of the most efficient from opening weekend, led once again by the Mark Burton to Brad Houser connection, as well as the sudden signing of local legend Adam Simon. Following a four year absence from the team, Simon looked very comfortable in his return, completing 35-of-36 throws and finishing with over 400 yards of total offense. Seattle always plays well at home, so their real test might come this weekend as they face a rematch down in San Jose.
11. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
No team had a harder scouting report heading into the opening weekend than the ‘Birds, who had to somehow gameplan for an expansion Boston team that nobody had seen. Still, Pittsburgh flew to an early lead before a series of unforced errors at the end of the first quarter gifted Boston’s defense a string of break scores, giving Glory momentum that they never conceded after. The Thomas Edmonds and Max Sheppard duo still looks good, but with the team moving to a more competitive division for the first time in 2021, you wonder if their chemistry will be enough in the gauntlet that is the Atlantic Division.
10. Philadelphia Phoenix
After allowing six goals in the opening frame of action, the Phoenix defense dialed in, holding Tampa Bay to just 10 goals in the remaining three quarters. Rookie Nate Little was the emergent star from the night, but perhaps the most clutch defensive play came on a Sean Mott hustle swat deep that led to an ensuing Philly break score near the end of the first half. Mott finished with game highs in both throwing (396) and receiving (270) yards, but never felt like he needed the disc, always operating within the flow of the Phoenix offense.
9. DC Breeze
Rowan McDonnell was held scoreless for the first time in his career, and it still took a second half of heroic plays from the Empire to dispatch the Breeze at the buzzer in regulation last Friday. DC’s young and hungry defensive corps led by AJ Merriman held the Cannons to a Week 1 low of just 10 goals the following day, showing resilience in the wake of another tough, last second loss to New York. They get a reeling Raleigh team in Saturday night’s “Game of the Week”, and while Rowan had a fairly quiet Week 1, he scored a career-high 10 goals in his last meeting with the Flyers in 2018.
8. Minnesota Wind Chill
There were many times throughout Friday night’s game where the Wind Chill could’ve let the crowd and Radicals defensive playmaking overwhelm them. But this young Minnesota team showed incredible mental toughness in the hostile confines of Breese, especially given the absence of handler Josh Klane. Captain Brandon Matis’ out-of-nowhere rundown goal at the start of the fourth epitomized this team’s commitment to hustle and drive, and the re-additions to the Wind Chill defense produced a league-high 19 blocks.
7. Boston Glory
It was their first game ever as a franchise, but it sure did not look like it as both the Boston offensive and defensive units finished in the league’s top five in efficiency after the first weekend of play. Lefty handler Ben Sadok had one of the most impressive pro debuts I’ve ever seen, immediately commanding Glory’s offense and always getting open for swings, resets, and the occasional goal. But just as impressive as Boston’s throwers on offense are the guys leading their counterattack on defense. Brendan McCann has as deep a bag of throws as anyone in the league, and now has the keys to run Glory’s D-line offense alongside the offhand hucking specialist Eugene L'Heureux, who punished Pittsburgh with 206 yards throwing on just six completions.
6. Raleigh Flyers
The Flyers finished 2019 with the number three scoring offense in the AUDL, so it was a shock to see them put up just four first half goals against Atlanta on Saturday night. Raleigh got back on track in the second half, with their new wheel-and-deal smallball offense built around Eric Taylor, Sol Yanuck, and rookies Matt Gouchoe-Hanas and Anders Juengst completing a combined 200-of-206 throws (97.09 percent). Without their franchise leader in blocks David Richardson, though, Raleigh struggled to create turnovers, finishing the night with just six takeaways as a team.
5. San Diego Growlers
The Growlers offense once again dominated the redzone with their chemistry and give-and-go schemes, converting all 11 of their goalline opportunities in their Week 1 win against LA. Captain Tim Okita used his throws like a scalpel, completing four assists and 49 throws without a throwaway, dictating much of the action whenever the disc was in (or near) his hands. New Growlers Hunter Corbett and Greg Cohen each had big layout blocks in the endzone in the second half, but the San Diego D-line offense struggled to convert their opportunities, allowing the Aviators to linger in the game. San Diego can afford some missed chances against familiar foes for now, but their Week 4 matchup with Dallas looms large if the defense can’t punch home break scores.
4. Atlanta Hustle
There’s a lot to get excited about with the tuned up Hustle following their Week 1 win against their rivals from Raleigh. Parker Bray looked every bit as dynamic in his return from an extended injury, and longtime veteran handler Austin Taylor finally has the weapons around him to showcase his already considerable throwing arsenal. Matt Smith has always made clutch, highlight plays, and seems ready to ascend to an even higher level of play with the increased expectations of this team. But it was really the Hustle defense, led by Jakeem Polk, Brett Hulsmeyer, and JP Burns, that deserves a moment in the spotlight. Polk set the tone immediately in the first quarter with a ferocious swat in the endzone, and Burns contributed his own minutes later; they seemingly flustered Raleigh and their bigs out of attacking deep space, a huge win for Atlanta against such a potent Flyers offense.
3. Chicago Union
From the time they stepped off their team bus in full formal fits, you knew the Union were going to take care of business. There was a rather ho-hum grind to Chicago’s first game as a title frontrunner, even with Nate Goff getting a layout block in the endzone early to set the tone. After a 2019 season spent shepherding the defense, Ross Barker demonstrated why he is so dangerous as an offensive playmaker, accounting for four assists, four goals, and over 350 yards of total offense. There’s balance and depth all over this roster, but what the Union really need is a challenge.
2. New York Empire
The Empire may have lost some tremendous talent from their 2019 championship roster, but it’s kind of hard to remember that right now after the sterling debuts of Ryan Osgar, Elliott Chartock, and rookie receiver John Lithio, who all contributed immensely in the Empire win. Ben Jagt had what felt like a pedestrian night for him, and still finished with a game-high 403 receiving yards and five total scores. The crown for the night, though, has to be reserved for Jack Williams, who called his own shot before elevating above a crowd and bringing down the walkoff goal at the end of regulation.
1. Dallas Roughnecks
The Roughnecks are so deep this season that one of the most interesting storylines to follow will simply be who plays on offensive or defensive rotations, as most of the team’s star players can cleat up on either line. Jay Froude has been one of the most productive scoring machines in the league since joining Dallas in 2017, but was slotting into more of a coverage role in the team’s playoff push at the end of 2019. His switch might open up for team newcomer Kyle Henke to have a more primary role in a very young ‘Necks offense that features Abe Coffin and Carson Wilder.
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