Tuesday Toss: Week 8

May 28, 2019
By Evan Lepler

After crossing the midway point of the 2019 AUDL regular season, it’s an appropriate time to take stock of the recent results and evaluate where we are. Here are eight quick thoughts about how Week 8 fits into the general context of the season.

1. Midwest Division In Chaos

With Chicago edging Indy, Pittsburgh smacking Minnesota, and Madison losing in Toronto and surviving in Detroit, all five teams in the Midwest mix have either three or four wins, with just a game and a half separating first place from fifth place. The AUDL has never had a region with this many teams competitively in the hunt for a division title. Don’t try and make a transitive property argument in the Midwest, as it will take you on a vicious cycle.

Here’s a look at each team’s record vs. each of their divisional foes:
Madison Radicals (4-2): 1-0 vs. Chicago, 1-0 vs. Indy, 0-1 vs. Minnesota, 1-0 vs. Pittsburgh
Chicago Wildfire (3-2): 1-0 vs. Indy, 0-1 vs. Madison, 2-0 vs. Minnesota, 0-1 vs. Pittsburgh
Indianapolis AlleyCats (4-3): 0-1 vs. Chicago, 0-1 vs. Madison, 1-0 vs. Minnesota, 1-0 vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (3-3): 1-0 vs. Chicago, 0-1 vs. Indy, 0-1 vs. Madison, 1-1 vs. Minnesota
Minnesota Wind Chill (3-4): 0-2 vs. Chicago, 0-1 vs. Indy, 1-0 vs. Madison, 1-1 vs. Pittsburgh

Excluding Detroit and interdivisional games, the standings would look like this: Madison 3-1
Chicago 3-2
Indy 2-2
Pittsburgh 2-3
Minnesota 2-4

It’s fun that each team has games remaining against every other opponent. Here’s the remaining schedule of games involving these five teams:
Chicago @ Minnesota, June 1
Indy @ Madison, June 1
Madison @ Minnesota, June 15
Madison @ Pittsburgh, June 22
Minnesota @ Indy, June 22
Chicago @ Madison, June 28
Indy @ Pittsburgh, June 29
Chicago @ Indy, July 6
Minnesota @ Madison, July 6
Pittsburgh @ Chicago, July 13
Pittsburgh @ Indy, July 14

2. Radicals Experiencing Title Fatigue

A year ago, on the Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend, I aimed to put Madison’s poor performance against Raleigh in perspective, suggesting that the team had serious issues that needed to be resolved. A few months later, after a few important lineup tweaks and a refocused mindset, the Radicals became the AUDL champions. So it’s important to remember that we have witnessed the Rads rally back from tough losses in the past. They still have the best record in the Midwest and are the most likely team to host the contest where a Championship Weekend berth is up for grabs. But it’s also hard to ignore that the Radicals have less margin for error than recent years. Their collective explosiveness has whittled just enough, along with the gradual improvement across the rest of the Midwest, that Madison’s perch atop the division is as precarious as its been at any point in the past five years.

3. Toronto Still A Titan

The Toronto Rush displayed a focus and urgency against the Radicals that was missing from their Week 7 road trip. It obviously helped significantly to add Andrew Carroll, Isaiah Masek-Kelly, Geoff Powell, and Adrian Yearwood back into the lineup, but the story of Saturday’s 22-15 victory was Toronto’s full-team effort, with 14 different players finishing between +2 and +4 and no one finishing higher than +4.

Offensively, the Rush remained patient and poised. Defensively, they were fast and fierce. And they were still without a handful of top line guys like Bretton Tan, Connor Armstrong, Mike Mackenzie, and Marijo Zlatic. The New York Empire are surely the favorite in the East Division and probably in the entire league, but Toronto’s pedigree and potential make them a genuine threat to New York’s final four future.

4. Andrew Roney's MVP Stock Increases In Cannons Loss

On last week’s AUDL Podcast, I ranked DC’s Rowan McDonnell, New York’s Ben Jagt, and San Diego’s Travis Dunn as my top three in the race for midseason MVP. Tampa Bay Cannons' Andrew Roney was the fourth guy on my impromptu list, though a reconsideration might be necessary after the Cannons were clobbered by the Atlanta Hustle on Saturday without Roney on the active roster for the first time this year. Atlanta, looking like a different team in its last four games compared to its first four, might still have won even with Roney present, but the margin surely would have been substantially closer had the Cannons been able to rely on their most consistent and effective playmaker. The definition of MVP can be hard to pin down, but Roney’s disproportionate value to his team is undeniable. If the Cannons’ can pull off a few more wins, Roney will have to be in the MVP conversation.

5. Minnesota, Philly Cooling Off As Midseason Approaches

The Minnesota Wind Chill became the first Midwest team to win at Breese Stevens Field in Madison in six years. The Philadelphia Phoenix earned their first victory against Toronto after losing every meeting against the Rush since Toronto joined the league in 2013. These were potentially transformative moments for both these franchises, but instead now look like outliers following disappointing outcomes in the aftermath. The Wind Chill have dropped two straight, a 13-11 home loss to Indy in tough weather conditions and an even more decisive 24-17 road setback in Pittsburgh this past weekend.

At 3-4 overall, Minnesota’s season is very much on the line the next two games as they host Chicago (in the Stadium "Game Of The Week") and Madison on June 1 and June 15. The Phoenix followed up their historic victory over the Rush with an even bigger dud, falling behind 4-0 and losing 25-15 to the previously winless Montreal Royal. Philly’s 2-3 record leaves them still within striking distance of the East’s final playoff spot, but the Phoenix closes the season with five of their last seven games on the road, and their only home games are vs. DC on the second day of a back-to-back on June 16 and vs. New York, the only remaining undefeated team in the league. In other words, getting blasted at home by Montreal was a huge punch in the gut toward Philadelphia’s postseason aspirations.

6. New York Is No 2016 Dallas

Personally, I am curious if the Empire will go undefeated in the regular season. They absolutely could, but games at DC, Raleigh, and Montreal are genuinely difficult games, while late-season trips to Ottawa and Philadelphia could transpire after New York has already clinched the number one seed, leading to the opportunity to rest certain stars.

The Empire’s talent is undeniable and they have collectively shown glimpses of brilliance throughout many of their games, however New York’s season barely compares to the blitzkrieg of dominance that the inaugural Roughnecks inflicted up on their opponents. The Empire’s 6-0 start has included six wins by a total of 27 goals, an average margin of 4.5 goals per game. When the Roughnecks started 6-0, their smallest triumph was six goals and their goal differential was +64, or 10.7 goals per game. A valid argument could be made about the much deeper talent pool across the league now compared to 2016; Dallas had twice as many double digit wins in its inaugural season (8) than we’ve seen in eight weeks of the 2019 season league-wide (4). The competition is tighter and the Empire have passed every test—with the help of an acknowledged officiating error against the Breeze—but New York looks far from invincible heading into the second half of their season.

7) San Diego Could Clinch West In Next Two Weeks

This will happen if the San Diego Growlers sweep the Los Angeles Aviators, who the Growlers face on the road this Saturday and at home two weeks later. In their previous two meetings, San Diego earned wins by margins of two and six, with the larger triumph coming on the road after falling behind by as many as three in the opening quarter. Obviously, the Aviators could rewrite the narrative and seize control of the West by winning both of these upcoming SoCal clashes, but the Growlers have given very few signs of vulnerability in recent weeks.

8. South Division Will Be Settled With Two Dallas-Raleigh Showdowns

Barring a shocking development, it will be the Dallas Roughnecks and Raleigh Flyers meeting in the South Division title game for the third year in a row, and the two remaining regular season meetings on June 15 and July 5, both in Raleigh, will likely dictate the location of the battle for a spot at Championship Weekend.

At the moment, Raleigh (6-1) and Dallas (5-1) are both the beneficiaries of some substantial rest, as neither team is schedule to take the field in Week 9 or 10. Though the Flyers have four of their final five games at home, three of those four contests are against the Roughnecks and the Empire, who are a combined 11-1. Dallas’s main difficulty will be managing a pair of doubleheaders, traveling to Tampa Bay on the eve of the first Raleigh meeting and venturing to Atlanta a day after the second Flyers’ battle.

The Tuesday Toss is published weekly on theAUDL.com during the season. Got a comment or question about the AUDL or the current state of ultimate? E-mail Evan Lepler at AUDLMailbag@gmail.com. Feedback can also be levied on twitter: @EvanLepler