By Daniel Cohen
March 19, 2020
AUDL teams across the league made significant moves this offseason, bringing in new talent to compete with new competition in 2020. The following are the top 10 offseason additions of 2020.
10. Jeremy Langdon, Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
A team driven by Max Sheppard and Thomas Edmonds in 2019, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds are looking at a more traditional “Big 3” heading into 2020. Jeremy Langdon enters the mix with 21 games of AUDL experience, having last played for the Tampa Bay Cannons in 2017. His resume includes an AUDL championship with the Dallas Roughnecks in 2016, a 60-goal season in 2017, and a per-game career statline of 2.5 assists, 4.0 goals and 0.8 blocks. An athletic hybrid, Langdon has shown he can be a focal point of the offense as both a handler and a receiver when he was last on the field for the Cannons in 2017. Capable of big layouts and momentum-shifting skies, Langdon adds another explosive presence to an already solid T-Birds core. The signing puts them in prime position to compete in the new Atlantic Division.
9. Delrico Johnson, DC Breeze
Back with the DC Breeze in 2020, expect Delrico Johnson to be every bit as impactful as he was in his two prior seasons with the team. In 14 games in 2018, Johnson racked up a ridiculous 24 assists, 41 goals and 21 blocks, proving to be one of the most versatile players in the league. “Rico” gives the Breeze a premiere defensive playmaker, and someone who can seamlessly step into an o-line role when needed. As long as they have Rowan McDonnell, DC will be a strong offensive team; defensively, however, they finished middle of the pack in efficiency last season after ranking fifth-best in 2018. Returning Johnson brings them one step closer to having a complete, championship-caliber team.
8. Alex Thorne, Philadelphia Phoenix
The Philadelphia Phoenix made waves this offseason signing handler Alex Thorne, who last played in the AUDL in 2016 with the Thunderbirds. A product of the University of Pittsburgh program that won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, Thorne is a prototypical o-line center distributor, capable of facilitating each possession and single-handedly moving the offense with a wide arsenal of throws and quick decision making. He will be the primary distributor on a Phoenix o-line that will be without Ethan Fortin in 2020, who signed with division rival DC. Working alongside Sean Mott, I expect Thorne to find a rhythm quickly; the two Philly passers could rival the production we saw last year from Sheppard and Edmonds of the Thunderbirds. Undoubtedly a big impact signing for a team on the rise.
7. Brett Matzuka, Minnesota Wind Chill
One of the great journeymen of the AUDL, Brett Matzuka joins a loaded Minnesota Wind Chill roster that had an abundance of big signings this offseason. Matzuka’s AUDL career path is about as unique as they come: DC in 2014, Chicago in 2015, back to DC in 2016, Raleigh in 2017 and 2018, Indianapolis in 2019, and now Minnesota in 2020. Contributing in a variety of ways throughout his career, expect the creative handler to bring a new dimension to the Wind Chill counterattack. The Wind Chill struggled last year converting break opportunities without a consistent threat at handler; plugging in Matzuka should immediately up their conversion rate and allow them to pull ahead of opponents as their o-line continues to put up a lot points. A strong veteran presence and a talented thrower, Matzuka will bring stability, consistency, and creativity in whichever role he falls into.
6. Kyle Henke, Dallas Roughnecks
One word: robbery. Kyle Henke, the lone all-star representing the Austin Sol in 2019, is now a member of their Texas rivals, the Dallas Roughnecks. A highlight machine since entering the league as a 19-year-old in 2017, Henke takes his talents to a Dallas squad that is making a case for championship favorites heading into 2020. Henke is a dynamic all-around cutter, who consistently makes game-changing plays and swings momentum in his team’s favor. He has 56 assists and 66 goals over the last two seasons, establishing himself as the Sol’s primary offensive threat in that time. Henke now joins a team that knows little else than winning; the Roughnecks have won more games than any other team since they entered the league in 2016. By signing one of the game’s top young players, Dallas has only set themselves up for more dominance in the coming seasons.
5. Brian Schoenrock, Minnesota Wind Chill
Last playing for the Wind Chill in 2017, Brian “Strings” Schoenrock is back for 2020 in another hallmark signing for the Central Division challengers. Despite a two-year hiatus, Schoenrock returns to the field as Minnesota’s all-time leader in goals and points played; in five seasons, Schoenrock racked up a combined 78 assists, 140 goals, and 110 blocks in 64 games. He had four-straight 20-plus block seasons from 2013-16, and a 50-goal season in 2015. On defense, Schoenrock is one of the best in the business at single coverage, using his speed and nickname-deriving length to range sideline to sideline in pursuit, routinely shutting down the opposing offense’s best weapon. On the counterattack, he’s an explosive cutter who serves as a constant deep threat. Of the 19 players in AUDL history with 100-plus career blocks, Schoenrock has played the second-fewest games among the group.
4. Khalif El-Salaam, San Diego Growlers
The San Diego Growlers added several new players this offseason, none more critical than former Seattle Cascade Khalif El-Salaam. The second round pick for Team Rowan in last year’s inaugural all-star captain’s draft, El-Salaam has been a big name in the ultimate community for years, and he immediately upgrades a Growlers roster that has been building significant momentum over the last few seasons. El-Salaam is as versatile a player as they come, playing a 60-40 split of d-points to o-points in two seasons with Seattle. Whether he is generating blocks or creating opportunities on offense, El-Salaam makes his presence known whenever he is on the field, as evidenced by a well-rounded career statline of 68-45-22 (in 22 games). The Growlers roster now features three all-stars in 2020; if they can avenge their semifinal loss to Dallas, the opportunity is there for San Diego to repeat as West Division champions.
3. Matt Rehder, Minnesota Wind Chill
The biggest signing by the Wind Chill, Matt Rehder comes to the Twin Cities after playing with the Chicago Wildfire in 2019. In three AUDL seasons, Rehder has amassed 54 assists, 88 goals, and 47 blocks in 26 career games. His 2019 campaign featured an 11-goal outing against the Wind Chill in the Week 9 Game of the Week in Minnesota, and he averaged nearly four goals per game throughout the year. While Rehder’s ability to dominate offensively is unquestioned, he may end up being most useful on the Wind Chill d-line. With incredible range and great size at 6-foot-4, Rehder is able to stop deep throws from anywhere on the field, using his frame to box out opposing cutters and generate blocks. He is an imposing presence in whichever role — a true matchup nightmare in the Central Division.
2. Chris Kocher, New York Empire
While the 2020 offseason hasn’t been nearly as headline-filled as 2019 for the New York Empire, the reigning champs couldn’t miss an opportunity to fortify their super team. Chris Kocher returns for the Empire after last playing with the team in 2017. A US National Team talent, Kocher was a focal point for the Empire offense in 2016 and 2017, averaging 36.6 completions and 3.1 assists per game in 10 appearances. While their offensive weapons are numerous, Kocher can offer great balance on the d-line, where he can lead the offense after turnovers. Pairing him with Ben Katz, Jack Williams or Beau Kittredge can make for a lethal combination when looking to convert breaks. Wherever he ends up playing, adding a worlds-level talent puts the Empire in prime position to repeat as champions.
1. Kurt Gibson, Dallas Roughnecks
Kurt Gibson, one of the biggest names in ultimate, is heading back to Dallas. Gibson has won two AUDL championships: one in 2014 with the San Jose Spiders, and one in 2016 with the undefeated Roughnecks. His decision to return to Dallas after two years with Chicago makes it clear he’s looking for nothing short of a third title. With an incredible ultimate pedigree, Gibson will bring consistent production to the Roughnecks’ offense; he has averaged over 6.0 scores (goals plus assists) per game in his six-year career. He can move the disc with ease and will fit into any system, creating opportunities for teammates or taking matters into his own hands if the offense is stalling. Whether scoring goals downfield or distributing the disc as a center handler, Gibson’s skill set is among the most coveted of any offensive player in the league. If he plays enough games, Gibson has MVP-potential.