Day 2! Following the showcase games the various divisions get down to figuring out where they really stand. Today was a day of wandering and I found a couple pretty good spots to sit and watch the games from. While I made an effort to get to some Team Canada games I was really out looking for friends and shall do so for most of the tournament. Anyhow, I’ll quickly recap the few games I watched, what bothered me, a few discussions I had, and an upset.
I started the day by watching TC Open vs Mexico. It was an interesting balance as TC were very dominant on defence but didn’t have as smooth an offense at certain times. Mexico was using a flat wall zone worked quite well compared to the cup they ran in Prague. The slanted cup left little in the midfield and took away easy hucks. TC didn’t struggle against it but it did break the flow for a few throws before the adjustment came a few points later. With a handler cut during movement the midfield was opened up along with the long. Final score was 17-2. TC Open hasn’t really been challenged today and should experience their first real pressure when playing Colombia tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see how the lines shift at the tournament moves on and the team get their feet under them. Also to note is that TC Open is the only team with a perfect record not to have a player in the top 25 point scorers; this points to balanced lines and good capability across the spectrum.
I’d like to take a moment to note the field conditions. I spent my time on the grass fields which are very short natural grass fields. They’re quite good and the ground is firm but not hard. The biggest issue with the fields are the lack of grip. In many games I saw players that would be able to cut on a dime in a mud pit having issues with changing direction. Most often they’d slip on harder movements. Something to keep in mind as the tournament progresses as it may have already caused issues today.
During the same time slot Japan played Austria. The Japanese took half 9-4 and it was evident that Austria was giving them a hard time. Austria was playing a very tight cup with plenty of running from the front players. Japan plays a touch style (many safe passes) but with the number of turns Austria was creating it was obvious that Japan was having issues. Japan won the game reasonably well (17-9) in the end but Austria is one to keep an eye on as they head into GB tomorrow and NZ the day after.
Speaking of GB Open…it would be nice if you would avoid playing rugby between the pitches and hitting spectators, repeatedly, with the ball. It takes a lot to piss an Aussie off to the point that he takes the ball and kicks it two fields over and then complains to the field officials.
Speaking of Australia. How about that upset? Australia Open Masters defeated the USA in a dominating performance 16-13. The MVP of the game should go to “Tom Rogacki” #42 who scored five points and threw two assists. Tom was simply unstoppable in the first half with several players assigned to him and failing entirely. It took a special combination of players to finally prevent the deep hucks from connecting with him but the damage was done. From the start it was a highly intense game but Australia had the height advantage. USA was under-throwing constantly and did not look comfortable for the first half. It took till midway through the second half for the USA to start gaining momentum and drawing Australia back in. It was took late and Australia takes an interesting match and the upset. If and when these teams meet agan expect energy from the USA right away.
I also had a quick peak at TC Open Masters vs New Zealand. While Canada won 17-10 I’m not sure it was the best of victories. There seem to be some issues on the Open side (Open and Masters Open) in taking many risks on longer points. I saw several throw aways that could have extended the lead quickly but the decision making wasn’t the best. Better games shall be needed against future opponents.
Following a quick lunch and chats with several friends I wandered back to watch Mexico vs Philippines. The discussions I had were quite interesting and perhaps I should fill you, the loyal readers, in on a few of them.
Speaking with Nate, of Furious, I learned that WUGC is the first of four major tournaments that they’ll be playing in over the next month. It makes for quite a touring schedule and shows just how committed these guys are to our hobby. Funny to think of it as just a hobby especially when at a major tournament like WUGC. It also points out how much money we spend on travel and food to play or watch this game of ours.
I ran into Mama Moore as well as she’s playing for South Africa Mixed at this tournament. There are a few teams here that are using it as a development tournament. South Africa’s intended goal is to take players from all over the country, allow them to experience the tournament, and take the experience and what they’ve learned back to their own programs. It’s an ambitious goal and hopefully one that pays dividends in the future. There are a few other teams that are also using it as a development tournament which brings me to the next game I watched.
Mexico vs Philippines! A game that if you’d started watching you’d be surprised that the Philippines won. Coming out of the gate Mexico threw on their slant wall zone and forced the disc to move laterally. The biggest issue was that the Filipinos weren’t taking yards on the disc and also weren’t taking long shots. As with all zones, the disc eventually turns and Mexico was getting turns quite frequently. If ever you wanted to see strategy prevale over skill then this game was it. Mexico had a superior defensive strategy but were definitely not more skilled with the disc. However, they had what they needed when they needed it, in the first half. Mexico went into halftime with a 9-6 lead confident that they had the game in the bag. Unfortunately they made a few offensive changes and the Philippines made good adjustments to route Mexico in the second half. Aside from three goals (one of which was a Callahan) Mexico struggled in the second half. The offensive change was probably a bad call in hindsight and made even worse that it was made strictly on the call of a strong player who’s ego felt that he should be handling as opposed to a handling pair that was doing well. The game finished 17-12 for Philippines and gave them their first Open win of the tournament, a rather unexpected one as well.
On the next field over was France vs Sweden Open. France was arguably the stronger team in the first half with great movement and breaks. Sweden had some interesting defence but did not gel as a cohesive unit in the opening stages. French handlers were throwing well and their vertical stack offense in the endzone paid off big several times. However, Sweden’s defence midway through the first half changed drastically, after a timeout, and they went on a run to take half at 9-4. With a comfortable lead Sweden changed their pace again as the two teams traded points and breaks to finish 17-12. Sweden is now 2-0 going into day three while France is 0-2. Both teams are looking like there are wins in the future for them. In discussions with other sideline pundits we commented on how while Sweden has typically been strong they likely won’t challenge the top teams too much. Times have changed and this team is very young and still need another few years.
Turning my attention back to TC I sauntered (yes, sauntered) to watch Team Canada Mixed play China. While it was a resounding victory, 17-4, many spectators felt it wasn’t. I made a comment: “We should not be here,” when the game was at 15-4 and the fact is: I was wrong. If any TCM players are reading, my comment was utterly wrong at the time and still is. Many consider China to be a pushover and an easy team to beat. The fact is that they’re not. I played against many of the players in the Open division at Prague twice and each time the game was a challenge. China is a developing program but it could be more accurately described as a non-existent program. With the vast size of the country and almost entirely composed of expats one could liken the team to be yet another American team. The players are passionate and most are very good players. They know their strategy and aren’t afraid to go toe to toe with any team out there. So a 17-4 win is a good result against a team that forces you to play defence and offense in a tournament that’s unlike any other.
Tournaments like WUGC, WUCC, and CUC are similar in many ways. The top teams are going to play against weaker teams that they’ll most certainly beat. However, as the tournaments are long it’s a battle to prevent attrition that the top teams fight. The goal is to make it to quarter finals in good shape with minimal injuries so that when the tough teams come the best lines are available. Tournaments like ECC or Sarasota are entirely different because every game is hard and requires great effort. As the tournaments are different the strategies in certain games must be different. There is no doubt that Canada could have achieved a better result playing against China but it would have required players to put their bodies on the line and could have resulted in injuries. There are completely legal plays that are not dangerous that can result in injury, especially when one lands, that just aren’t worth making in the earlier stages of a tournament. So I state again, the 17-4 win was a good result and it was a small test for the team. It’s important because they kept their heads, they adjusted, played well, and were able to maintain pace in a game where one has to toe a line in performance.
Speaking of performance, how about that Canada vs USA Women’s game? It was an interesting experience with the ladies down initially. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No team comes out of the gate like Fury. Now it appears that no team closes the gate like Team Canada Women’s. With the ladies playing round robin and no quarter finals this was a very important win. The ladies don’t have as much pressure on them through the next few days. They have a few challenges coming up but should be able to dominate and make it to the semis now. Most important about that last game is that Canada showed great late game fitness. Also to note is that both teams have great defence all over the field but especially near the endzones.
That wraps up the day two update, on day three…more games…and maybe some guts. Also below you’ll find some photos from Day 2.