July 4, 2023
By Evan Lepler
- Boston's best game ever?
The Boston Glory delivered their cleanest performance in franchise history, enduring just nine total turnovers in their 24-21 road victory over the Rush on Saturday afternoon north of the border. It was the fewest turnovers they’ve had in 33 AUDL games and only the fifth single-digit turn total across the league all season. The Glory also jumped on Toronto early, bolting to a 7-3 lead through 12 minutes and never trailing for a single second in their third road win of the season, matching the number of road wins Boston’s registered in the previous two seasons combined. “They broke us a few times in a row, and we battled back but we just ran out of time,” said Toronto’s Adam O’Donnell, who completed 65-of-68 passes, with four assists. Ty Barbieri enjoyed the most eye-popping statistical day with seven goals and four assists, but Ray Tetreault and Ben Sadok both finished plus-8, while Cole Davis-Brand dished 41 completions with no turnovers, two assists, and seven hockey assists. The Glory are now 5-4 with a chance to clinch their first ever playoff spot on the road at Philadelphia and DC this coming weekend. If Boston can defeat the Phoenix on Friday, then a win either on Saturday at DC or at home against winless Montreal on July 21 would guarantee the Glory a postseason trip. On the other hand, the Rush fell to 4-5, and while they’re still technically alive, Toronto’s playoff chances are significantly slimmer after Saturday’s loss. “Our biggest takeaway is that we have our backs against the wall at this point, so it’s do or die,” said O’Donnell. “We have to essentially win out or we’re going to be missing the playoffs for a second straight year.”
- Philly's five-game heater
The Phoenix avoided a letdown in Montreal, soaring to a 10-5 halftime lead and an 18-10 victory over the Royal for their fifth consecutive victory. “Montreal’s home crowd and stadium is as awesome as advertised,” said Philadelphia Coach Roger Chu. “They have a fantastic game day and great energy there.” Unfortunately for the Royal, their offense could not match the atmosphere. Montreal converted less than 27 percent of its O-line possessions, falling to dead last in the AUDL in O-line conversion rate for the season. Philly’s D-line produced 10 breaks, and the Phoenix were only broken twice. Like Boston, Philly now sits at 5-4, and the Phoenix know that a win over the Glory is essential for the team’s postseason dreams. “We knew that Boston is absolutely going to bring it to us,” said Chu. “They’ve had a strong season so far, and they’ve shown they can win on the road. We’ll need to bring our A game.” Back in Week 3, the Phoenix built a 10-3 lead on the Glory before crumbling in the windy conditions, as Boston rallied back to win 19-16. It’s the biggest deficit overcome in the AUDL this season and a result that led Philly to a players-only meeting that helped turn their season around. “Because we went 0-4 to begin the season, every game has been a must win,” said Chu. “I know that folks are going to hype up how important this game is, because it is important. But we’ve played important ‘must wins’ week in and week out for over a month now. Friday’s no different. We’re going to go to work, just as we’ve been doing.”
- Seven straight for Indy
The AlleyCats also played one of their cleanest games in the long history of their franchise on Saturday against Madison. In fact, the eight turnovers against the Radicals were the second-fewest in the 154 games the organization has played since 2012. They struggled creating separation for the first 32 minutes of the game—Indy and Madison were tied at 13-all with four minutes remaining in the third—but the AlleyCats’ defense broke through late, rampaging for five breaks in the final 16 minutes, closing on a 10-4 run to win 23-17. “The main story of the night was consistent pressure from our D and falling back on our O-line identity of ‘trust and motion,’ said Indy’s Xavier Payne. “This game actually felt totally different than a normal matchup. Last [week against the Radicals], they had our number for what we wanted to do on O. We talked about adjustments and felt really strong coming into the weekend and just needed to take care of business. We were able to get in a team flow state, which allowed us to just play.” Payne and Travis Carpenter both had 42 completions and one throwaway, while Keegan North went 49-for-49, with five assists and four hockey assists. Rick Gross also went 32-for-32 with five goals and an assist. Henry Goldenberg and Victor Luo combined to complete 141 passes with just two throwaways, but the Radicals’ inability to earn the disc from the Indy offense prevented the Radicals from being more competitive in the fourth quarter. Both these teams will face Minnesota this coming weekend, as the Wind Chill travel to Madison on Friday before returning home to host Indy on Sunday. The AlleyCats have spent the past couple months knowing they let a home win over Minnesota slip away—Indy led 4-0, but lost 23-21 on May 6—so they’ll get their chance for revenge in five days. “The Wind Chill have great players and great coaches, but so do we,” said Payne.
- Pittsburgh stays perfect against Detroit
The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds moved to 21-0 all-time against the Detroit Mechanix on Friday evening in the Steel City, winning 25-15 to improve to 4-4 on the season. It was the 10th time that Pittsburgh’s beaten Detroit by double digits, and it kept the T-Birds clinging to life in the Central Division playoff chase. With four games left—two against Chicago and two against Indy—the Thunderbirds still control their own destiny as they try to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2019. But in order to truly contend, they will need to knock off a team with a winning record for the first time this season. Pittsburgh’s 3-0 against 0-8 Detroit, but just 1-4 against everyone else, with their only win coming at the buzzer against the one-win Radicals. As for the Mechanix, they’ve got matchups with Madison (twice), Toronto, and Minnesota remaining in their 2023 season. The inscrutable losing streak now sits at a dumbfounding 70 consecutive games.
- Austin keeps Dallas winless
There was a time when we wondered if Dallas would ever lose. Now, the question is will the Legion ever win? After Austin’s 25-16 victory on Saturday, Dallas has now dropped eight straight and 20 of their last 21, dating back to 2021. (Remember, back in 2016 and 2017, Dallas, then known as the Roughnecks, won 23 games before suffering the franchise’s first loss). The Sol are 7-3—6-0 against Houston and Dallas—and can guarantee themselves a home playoff game by beating the Havoc and Legion one more time apiece this coming weekend.
- 2022 All Defense selection Joel Clutton rejoins Salt Lake for postseason push
Big news on Monday as the Shred announced that they’ve re-signed Joel Clutton for the remainder of the season. The veteran defender registered 15 blocks for Salt Lake in 2022 and is expected to make his return this Friday against Portland. “We’ve had a Clutton-sized hole in that D-line, and he knows all the sets,” said Shred Coach Bryce Merrill. “We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to slot in pretty easily.” It’s easy to envision Clutton matching up with Jeff Babbitt or John Lithio when the Shred host New York, and adding his 6’5” frame gives Salt Lake another weapon for end-of-quarter situations. He attended some preseason practices, but had not been to a practice during the season until last week. “That’ll be a fun storyline going into the final push of the season,” said Merrill. “We’re excited to have him back.”
- Fascinating analysis from Comet Miller
Lastly, I wanted to encourage all readers to check out this new AUDL analysis substack that’s compiled some fascinating statistical breakdowns over the past few weeks. Most recently, the data surrounding pulling trends during the 2023 season is awesome insight, breaking down how pulls have improved and which teams have done the best job taking advantage of the new pull rules. It’s cool to see a quantification of Minnesota’s spectacular pulling and how the Wind Chill have been the best at forcing opponents to start on the back-line. Kudos to author Comet Miller for scribing some really smart and interesting content, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
We’ve got 36 games left in the regular season, including many matchups that carry massive ramifications.
Here are, in reverse order, the five most important matchups coming up these last three weeks.
5) Boston at Philadelphia, July 7
Look, this is a huge game for both of these teams, but the odds the either of these teams can beat DC or New York in the playoffs are between slim and none. I lean towards Philly, but Boston’s performance in Toronto this past Saturday bodes well for the Glory’s chances. It’s also relevant to note that if Boston loses by less than three, the Glory could still have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Phoenix, though they would almost certainly need to beat this Saturday for that to matter.
4) Los Angeles at Oakland, July 15; Oakland at Los Angeles, July 22
The Aviators know they likely have to sweep these two matchups to make the playoffs, unless the Spiders stumble against Portland or San Diego. The contest on July 22 is technically a home game for LA, but it’s actually going to be held at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, the first time that the Aviators will play a game in the city that has produced many of their top players through the years.
3) Indianapolis at Minnesota, July 9
Both these teams feel they are the team to beat in the Central, but Sunday’s result will likely dictate who has home-field in the playoffs. The AlleyCats believe they belong at Championship Weekend for the first time since 2019, while the Wind Chill’s primary goal is to get the franchise’s first ever division title. Remember, no AUDL has played in a Championship Weekend in their home city since the 2018 Madison Radicals, who won the title in unforgettable fashion at Breese Stevens Field. I know I discounted Minnesota’s status as a contender in Part I of today’s Toss, but earning the chance to play the semifinals in front of a wild Wind Chill crowd could still be super exciting.
2) New York at Salt Lake, July 15
“As coaches and players, we will go all-in and throw every single thing we have at them,” said Bryce Merrill. “We are an untested, unproven team. We just gotta throw everything we have at them. We will play to win, 100 percent. All-in. In front of the home crowd, defending Zion’s Bank, we gotta go all-in.”
1) Atlanta at Carolina, July 15, and Carolina at Atlanta, July 22
Both these teams have the firepower to win the whole thing, but finishing first in the South Division regular season standings makes the journey way less treacherous. And though not impossible, it’s hard to fathom either Atlanta or Carolina winning two true road games in the South Division playoffs and then also defeating, most likely, New York and Salt Lake in Minnesota on back-to-back days. Consequently, finishing first in the South transforms the path from two diabolically difficult divisional road games—including a sweaty 109-degree late-July night in Austin—to advancing directly to a division title game at home against the survivor of first-round tussle in Texas. Carolina needs to beat Atlanta twice in order to earn the top seed, while any Hustle win would give them their first home playoff game in franchise history.