June 17, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
The most tumultuous weekend ever in AUDL action has completely disrupted these rankings, with multiple teams climbing (and plummeting) in these rankings, and a bold new number one heading into the third week of play.
19. Detroit Mechanix
AUDL goals leader Andrew Sjogren and rookie Jack Havey used their speed in space to continually stretch the Indy defense last Saturday, and Joe Cubitt had over 600 yards of total offense on the night, bringing his season total up to a staggering 1,700+ yards in just three games. But despite some pop on offense, Detroit still ranks dead last in goals allowed and turnover per game, and their narrowest margin of defeat has been nine goals.
18. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
The ‘Birds were held to just 15 goals in Tampa Bay without Thomas Edmonds, but the real missing piece that might account for Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles through the first two weeks might be center handler Jon Mast. With nearly 2,300 career completions, Mast has (very, exceedingly) quietly risen to number nine all-time on the league’s completion chart; more impressive is that there is only one player (Andrew Brown) ranks above him in volume and has a higher completion percentage than Mast’s own sterling 96.10 career mark. Without Mast’s steadying distributing, the Thunderbirds have the second worst completion mark in the league, and are completing less than 90 percent of their throws as a team.
17. Seattle Cascades
Credit goes to the Spiders for making up the seven-goal second half gap, but it did feel like the Cascades snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last weekend. The Seattle defense and their collective speed were hunting all night long, coming up with 16 blocks and converting 10 break scores; 20-year-old rookie Dominic Jacobs and his track background immediately spring to life watching tape. But when the Cascades offense has just a 31 percent efficiency on the night, winning is hard to come by.
16. San Jose Spiders
The Spiders like to shoot, and for three quarters last Saturday that strategy was failing them as throw after throw failed to connect and the visiting ‘Scades lead climbed. But in the any-throw-goes chaos, rookies Jake Thorne and Jordan Kerr started to find their rhythm, igniting San Jose’s furious fourth quarter comeback. Still, it took a 7-1 fourth quarter for the Spiders to avoid 0-2, and tomorrow night they host the reigning division champs from San DIego.
15. Tampa Bay Cannons
Death. Taxes. Andrew Roney putting up ridiculous stats in his season debut. And after his nine-assist, 619-yard throwing performance in the Cannons in Week 2, Roney is now averaging eight assists, 2+ blocks, and 64 completions per game in season debuts since 2018. Roney and Bobby Ley returning was undoubtedly important for the Tampa Bay offense, but just as clutch was the play of Billy O'Bryan, who is currently tied for second in the league with six blocks; O’Bryan committed 11 throwaways in the team’s first two games (losses), and bounced back with a perfect 32-for-32 throwing night in the win.
14. Indianapolis AlleyCats
When Xavier Payne last played in the league with Nashville in 2018, he was an unbridled gunslinger, completing just 85 percent of his 200+ throws. The first-year AlleyCat still likes to pull the trigger at will, but his touch and decision making has improved immensely: Payne has a 96.40 percent completion rate through three games after Saturday’s 47-for-48 game; Payne ranks second in the league in assists (12), too, only trailing teammate Travis Carpenter. But the real added wrinkle for Payne’s game is his defense, as he’s shown a great playmaking ability in space, and leads the league with seven blocks.
13. Madison Radicals
The Radicals still sit at 1-1 after a weekend off, but now face a two-game weekend slate—at Minnesota Friday, home against Indy on Sunday—that will likely determine the fate of their season. Madison is borderline desperate to avenge their Week 1 heartbreaker to the Wind Chill, which makes Sunday’s matchup all the more intriguing as the Radicals will have to find balance in themselves regardless of Friday’s outcome. The team is still without offensive centerpiece Kevin Brown due to a lingering hamstring injury, and has failed to score 20+ goals in six of their last nine games dating back to 2019.
12. Philadelphia Phoenix
The Phoenix got an unforeseen bye last week due to a postponement against New York, and now face a one-game home matchup with a reeling Pittsburgh team on the second game of a back-to-back in Week 3. Sean Mott shined in their lone win, but a lot of credit goes to his handling pair Alex Thorne, who was 34-for-34 on throws in his Philly debut.
11. Minnesota Wind Chill
The new look Wind Chill offense continues to go through early season growing pains without Josh Klane, eking out just six first-half goals in their Week 2 loss at Chicago. They got back on track in the second half behind wiz kids Andrew Roy and William Brandt, but it was too little too late. Maybe more disconcerting for the team, though, was the normally potent Minnesota defense losing their punch. After generating 19 takeaways in their Week 1 win, the Wind Chill managed just seven blocks against the efficient Union offense, providing little to no opportunities for Minnesota breaks.
10. Los Angeles Aviators
We can now officially make it a yearly tradition where I undersell the moxie of this LA franchise in the preseason, and then they promptly make me eat crow with a bunch of unfamiliar players in the first few weeks of the season. Sean McDougall and Danny Landesman were running wild downfield for much of the game on Sunday versus the Growlers, but the real emerging star has been Calvin Brown and his all-around play. Sure, he has 14 throwaways in two games of attrition in the SoCal wind, but the Aviators have been asking nearly everything of their offensive initiator. Brown does equally well in give-and-go small ball sets as he does launching bombs, but it’s been his plays away from the disc that have been just as impactful. Brown was rewarded for his hustle with a buzzer beater goal at the end of the first quarter against SD, and later his skying interception led to a fastbreak LA goal in a two-goal win.
9. Austin Sol
There’s a starting seven’s worth of Sol players that deserve their own little blurb in this space for their mega upset of the Roughnecks, and heaps of credit to the management and coaching staff for going into the Week 2 matchup with confidence and executing for all four quarters. But the real spotlight of the night is reserved for 22-year-old Elliott Moore. Already an Austin veteran, Moore has watched Dallas bodysnatch his buddies from the Sol for years, so Saturday’s revenge must have been especially sweet. The six assists and 300+ yards in total offense were nice, sure, but the real standout part of Moore’s game came on defense, as he got two clutch blocks and barely missed on a couple more. The clincher for Moore’s night was boxing out and reeling in a prayer pass with under 20 seconds of game block as the Sol frantically tried to save possession, sealing the historic victory.
8. Raleigh Flyers
In six seasons as a franchise, the Flyers have never started a season 0-2, and they’ve only won fewer than 10 games one time. Atlanta and DC are very difficult opponents to begin a season against, but Raleigh held fourth quarter leads in both matchups. The offense is ninth in efficiency, and the team ranks third overall in completion rating at 96.00 percent. So quite frankly: Where has the Flyers defense gone? They rank second to last in takeaways per game (6), and only Pittsburgh and Detroit allow more goals per game than the Flyers in 2021. Raleigh has never been exceptional in takeaways, but they were number two in 2019 in converting chances; they’re middle of the pack this season, and that slight shift in converting opportunities is making all the difference in these tight Atlantic matchups.
7. San Diego Growlers
After their first division championship in 2019 and building up expectations throughout the extended offseason, the 1-1 Growlers are in a place of visible frustration with their out-of-rhythm play. Two exceptionally windy games, and new pieces in their lineup, has stunted the normally dangerous San Diego offense; the Growlers have mustered just 36 goals so far this season, and have largely been unable to attack deep, grinding through dink-and-dunk drives to generate scores. Defensively, San Diego is generating plenty of takeaways—12.5 per game, fourth in the AUDL—but through a combination of factors just cannot convert them into break scores. Sure, the Growlers held the Aviators to a scoreless fourth quarter and almost mounted the comeback, but they still converted just 4-of-15 break opportunities in a two-goal loss.
6. Boston Glory
For three quarters last Friday night, Boston looked like the better team against Atlanta, holding a 17-14 lead late in the third frame. But Glory’s normally quick hit offense was not prepared for the Hustle defense and their suffocating zone down the stretch, losing their rhythm and eventually the game in what likely surmounted to an expansion Boston team getting its first taste of pro level, in-game adjustments. And now Glory face a new kind of test: After being so close to a 2-0 franchise start, they’re now tasked with a grueling Week 3 back-to-back in DC and then in Raleigh that could sink Boston to 1-3 if they’re not careful.
5. Dallas Roughnecks
Despite Dallas looking flat and maybe a little outmatched in their loss at Austin, the Sol still needed numerous highlight plays, standout performances, and a nail-biting final possession to vanquish these Roughnecks. It was far from Dallas’ best game, but you could see glimpses of what they’re capable of: Abe Coffin shot a 60-yard rocket that Jay Froude easily tracked down for Dallas’ first score of the season, the kind of play that triggers a giant “UNGUARDABLE” sign in neon lights. Hunter Taylor looked downright fearsome in his ‘Necks debut; the team was working in multiple new pieces and was without 2019 blocks leader Kai Marshall, and they still managed 10 takeaways against a very solid Sol offense.
4. DC Breeze
We’re seeing something new with this Breeze offense, which has converted 70 percent or better of their offensive possessions in each of their three games; the league average is hovering somewhere around 50 percent. The way this team just unearths handlers who don’t make mistakes is remarkable, and is a credit to their system. No Nate Prior this season? Enter Zach Norrbom. No Norrbom for a huge matchup at Raleigh? Jonny Malks steps up and has an MVP-level performance basically out of nowhere, accounting for nine scores and 640 total yards without a throwaway. 2018 MVP Rowan McDonnell has been super solid, but is almost playing more of a support role alongside all the growing talent.
3. New York Empire
After never being displaced from their pole position atop the rankings throughout the 2019 season, the Empire sure have a lot more company up here in 2021. They’re still in rarefied air as the defending champs, but that title grows dimmer by the day. Their Week 3 game at Pittsburgh is the Empire’s lone matchup for a three-week anomaly in their schedule, so the biggest task for New York might be to stay ready while their (increasingly strong) competition gets game reps.
2. Chicago Union
The Union’s strong defensive showing to start the 2021 season may surprise some, but this is a Chicago team that already finished 2019 third in defensive efficiency before adding some of the best defenders the league has ever seen. They have the personnel and the look of a championship defense, and talking to their players, it’s the basis for their team identity. The problem is: The Union may not get much of a test before the playoffs. And right now it feels a bit like using a vice grip to crack eggs in the Central—there’s not much resistance.
1. Atlanta Hustle
Both their wins have needed come-from-behind efforts in the fourth quarter, but given the caliber of opponent in both matchups, there’s nothing to take away from this Atlanta team’s early season success. Austin Taylor, Antoine Davis, Michael Fairley, and some throwback magic from the former MVP Dylan Tunnell all made standout contributions. But the real seller for this team is the fact that they got that road win in Boston despite missing a handful of key players. This team competes all quarter, every quarter, and they earn every chance they get. In 2019, New York went undefeated not because they were dominating every opponent, but because they executed down the stretch in every game. Not to say the Hustle will go undefeated in 2021, but they very much have the same feel of getting it done when it matters most.
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