Photo by Brandon Wu – UltiPhotos.com

For all 2013 MLU teams, the time is now.

This is the point at which the teams have now become familiar enough with their new teammates, the new rules, the new field and all else to start to cohere as units rather than collections of individuals. In so doing, they begin to establish both styles of play and start to tell early stories about themselves:

Underwhelmed by their 0-2 start, the DC Current are thirsty for their first pro victory. Calmly succeeding in a familiar context, the Philadelphia Spinners haven’t dropped a game since June 2012.

Key to the future fortunes of both of these teams is a saying as old as plumbing itself: Pressure bursts pipes. The question is:

Which team is under more pressure?

Pressed in the post-game after last week’s last-second loss to Boston, DC’s Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer accepted the pressure by proffering  that “[the DC Current] are not going to go 0-3.” The team as a whole sees this weekend as a perfect opportunity to announce loudly to the league and fans that the Current are simply finding their stride rather than a team to be taken lightly.

Hiding in plain sight, however, is an underlying battle of philosophy as these two teams approach the game very differently. The Spinners’ reliance on a slow but classic dump-swing-repeat set is fundamentally different than the baseline understanding of the DC Current’s offense.

In the Current’s system, all throwers on the roster are expected to take advantage of the squad’s down field athletic prowess and timing. This wide-open approach puts pressure on the opponent to play defender all over the field regardless of who has the disc. This accentuates the space available for both throwers and cutters. The style opens the game up by eating up giant chunks of yardage in one go, and, at its best, forces the other team into a game of keeping up with the Joneses.

“Little by little” concisely and colloquially encapsulates the offense of the Spinners, on the other hand. They seek to isolate sections of the field and work piece-meal from end-zone to end-zone, focusing on one player at a time as the cutters take turns and handler motion is highly scripted. This sort of pressure is more a long-term psychological frustration rather than a campaign of shock and awe.  As the opponent plays tight defense and misses making the play by a step or by momentary sub-par positioning, the pressure builds on the defense to disrupt the clockwork timing and precision of the offense. Ideally, this focus and attention to detail will lead the defense to over-commit and give up everything in an attempt to stop something. This is how they seek to get the big play — as a secondary option off of established motion.

In a timed game, both of these strategies play out differently than they do in a game to points. The lead generated by a big-play offense can evaporate as a patient opponent works to convert the chances they’re given. Conversely, the patient working of the disc back and forth is relied upon for more passes in a timed game, and as such are subject to more unforced errors due to repetition. If either team gets a lead, their versatility will be tested as the context changes.

Will the Current shy away from riskier throws if they are up?  If the Spinners fall behind, will they trade 100% possession for a chance at a quick strike? Only the coaching staffs know the answer to this, though after the first game, the upper hand is clearly held by the Spinners in terms of clock management.

Last, but not least, this is a match-up of players who are exceedingly familiar with each other both mentally and physically. Their quest to be the best has taken them from college to club to MLU and in each iteration, they have battled each other if only due to proximity. The Spinners took round one, though that was just the opening skirmish in a season-long war. This is the rematch that frames the rest of the season for both teams. Will the Spinners retain their aura of invincibility before meeting Boston? Will the Current break their holding pattern at the bottom of the standings before they take on New York?

“Yes” will be the answer to one of these questions. How the teams arrive at that answer will be just as important to the remainder of the season as the answer itself.

Come see the home opener in Philadelphia to determine which team’s style will prevail!

About The Author

Dusty played college ultimate for New York University from 1998-2002, captaining for his final three years. From 2003-2009 he filled various roles for New Jersey's Pike from deepest bench to O-line cutter, D-line handler, O-line handler, and captain before concluding his club career with an opportunity in 2010 to represent New York City on PoNY's D-line. While never qualifying for college regionals, Rhodes played at six Club Nationals in the Open Division (finishing from dead last to tied for third) and coached Drew University to a fifth place college regional finish in 2005. Dusty earned a degree in English and American Literature from NYU and spent all of his remaining energy playing pickup basketball and writing for NYU's Washington Square News.

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