Saturday, August 05, 2017

US Open 2017: Brute Squad vs. Revolution

I got a chance to watch the live stream of this excellent game between two great teams.  There was a lot of hype about how this might be a bracket game at worlds next summer, and that Maddy Frey can't seem to catch the disc standing up.  But I wanted to talk a bit about the strategy of the game, and in particular how I think Revolution might be changing the direction of women's ultimate in the next few years.

One key element in this discussion is that Revolution is athletic to the point the Brute Squad didn't have a decisive advantage . . . at least that is what listening to the commentators you might think.  I think Brute is actually more athletic from top to bottom, but Revolution employs a style of defense that highly leverage their athletes in a way that Brute doesn't.  So it doesn't matter that Brute can trot out Becky, Kami and Lien when Mosquera can guard all three with the way they play defense.

On its face, Columbia does and excellent job poaching, leaving Mosquera to guard the deep space while other cutter defenders only chase a woman deep for two strides before breaking off and finding a new threat to take.  That isn't really new.  What is new, and what warrants further analysis is the success that Revolution has with it against even the best teams in the world.

There are times when the defenders are super close, especially on handlers, and then there are times when offenders are wide open.  Normally, when we see US and Canadian teams try this there is a failure point where the poached player gets the disc and it starts to crumble.  But that doesn't seem to happen against Revolution.  It only marginally happened against Columbia in the World Games final (and didn't happen in the pool play game where Columbia beat the US).

What is new about their defense is the success rate they have of not losing track of a player in a good space.  Revolution, whether by practice or just something innate, is super efficient at making their switches, knowing when to stay and when to leave, and being ready to explode to get the D at the right time.  It must be a nightmare for opposing offenses because it feels like offensive cadence is broken.

Like I said, this warrants more analysis.  It could be that the solution is easy and this defense falls into the category of the Japanese no-mark zone where it is potentially difficult unless you have a plan.  But it also could be that this defense has more merit than a one off and more teams start to implement not just the general structure of the defense (most elite teams have a poachy look to throw at out, at least to mess up your pull play) but tunnel down and figure out the principles of the defense.

Then again, it could just be that Revolution is so athletic that this works and when you try it with your club team it doesn't.  It would be interesting to see something like this tried on the men's side of things, since we have good examples in both women's and mixed.  But, like I said, this warrants more analysis.  Stay tuned and we'll see what comes up.