Previews of the Open Division semifinals at 2014 World Clubs.
August 7, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 12 comments
LECCO — After a long week of games, we have reached the semifinal round of the World Ultimate Club Championships. The world’s best teams face off tomorrow in what, for some teams, will be the first major test of the tournament. There are no easy games ahead for anyone. With tired legs, you’ll have to earn every point.
San Francisco Revolver v. Denver Johnny Bravo
It seemed almost inevitable that we would once again be treated to a matchup between what may be the two best teams in the world right now. The two USA powerhouses have been the class of this year’s club competition stateside, with Revolver as the powerful incumbent and Bravo as the talented and surging challenger.
Bravo landed the first punch this season with a 15-8 blowout of Revolver in pool play at the US Open in early July, handing the defending national champions one of their biggest losses in years.
Both teams shined throughout the remainder of the tournament and met again in the final. We knew we would see a different game, and, indeed, Revolver was ready for the rematch. They made the right adjustments to challenge Johnny Bravo’s deep game, throw off their timing, and create more turnovers. Revolver took home the game US Open title with a 14-12 win.
Notably, neither team was at full strength. Johnny Bravo’s defense is much deeper here in Lecco, and Revolver’s bench looks better on both sides of the disc. This game will show us both teams playing their hardest and flashing the adjustments from their early season games.
“We have to regroup and talk about what has worked and has not worked against them,” said Revolver captain Ryo Kawaoka after the team’s nailbiter win over London Clapham.
Revolver will need to be prepared for the matchup problems that Bravo can create with so many top players — Jimmy Mickle, Nick Lance, Sean Keegan, Kurt Gibson, …the list goes on — on the field.
Brodie Smith has been effective this week as a defensive line player for Bravo. His pulls have been enormous, and his chemistry with Kurt Gibson (the two played college ultimate together in Florida before winning a USA National title together on Austin Doublewide) is dangerous after the turnover.
While Revolver had to spend a lot of energy this afternoon against Clapham, Johnny Bravo continued to look unstoppable in a blowout win over Buzz Bullets.
Yet Revolver will still come into the game as the favorite. They have earned it. Beau Kittredge continues to improve as a player, showing off some unbelievable skill in crunch time against Clapham with a pair of big layout Ds and a massive forehand huck for the game winning assist. He takes an otherwise very good team to the next level, and they are the defending World Champions for a reason.
You should simply get your popcorn and get prepared for a wonderful matchup on the global stage.
BETTING LINE: Revolver (-1.5) v. Johnny Bravo (+1.5)
Seattle Sockeye v. Sydney Colony
The other semifinal has a very different complexion. Whereas Revolver and Johnny Bravo are all business, Sockeye v. Colony has a more relaxed — if equally competitive — attitude.
Both teams have had relatively easy paths to the semifinals, aided by Phoenix’s upset of Buzz Bullets that moved the top Japanese team to the other side of the bracket. In the quarterfinals, Sockeye was clearly the superior team against Furious George, and Colony never looked out of control against Heidees. Neither team has won a game by fewer than three points.
That could make the mental shift a big factor. Suddenly, the competition will be much stiffer for both teams. They know each other fairly well, having played each other in 2008. The Australian National team — which is very well represented on Colony — also played Sockeye in 2011 at the Emerald City Classic in a showcase game; Seattle won on double game point (golden point, to the Aussies).
“They’re super athletic,” said Sockeye captain Danny Karlinsky, “and they have some phenomenal chemistry. Sometimes people overlook that.” Indeed, many of the Colony players have been playing together for years, and they have an easy-going attitude that makes their play look effortless when it’s working.
“The preparation for this game is pretty similar to any other,” said Colony captain Joel Pillar. “We’re going to have some beers and talk about matchups, what they like to do.”
Colony is very pleased with the performance of their defensive line — led by Tom “Cupcake” Tullet — so far in the tournament. They have frequently jumped out to early leads. “That takes pressure off of the offense,” said Pillar.
Sockeye’s offense has looked clinical so far in the tournament, and the team — like Colony — is also focusing more on defense.
“We want to disrupt their chemistry and try to throw off their timing,” said Karlinsky.
Both teams have used their depth so far in the tournament, a luxury afforded by their strong starts and big leads. As the lines start to tighten, it will be interesting to see which team finds an advantage.
Sockeye’s offense is a bit more dynamic than Colony’s, which has to be seen as the edge in the contest. If Sockeye’s varying defensive schemes can force Colony to make mistakes on offenses, it could be a long game for the Aussies. So far, the Colony offense has held up better than the team anticipated at the start of the tournament. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. It should be a defensive chess match, and in some ways the more tactically exciting of the two semifinals.
BETTING LINE: Sockeye (-2.5) v. Colony (+2.5)