May 10, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
Parenthetical numbers indicate team's ranking in previous list.
21. Detroit Mechanix (21)
After three- and four-goal losses to Indianapolis in their first two matchups of 2019, the Mechanix were blown out at home by Minnesota, surrending the most goals (31) in a game in 2019. Through three games, Detroit is allowing 25.33 goals per game, worst in the AUDL, and are second to last in takeaways. Joe Cubitt, Mark Whitton, Kevin Coulter, and Andrew Sjogren have been impressive running the fast-paced Mechanix offense, but the team will continue to extend it's 29-game losing streak if they cant offer more resistance for opposing attacks.
20. Ottawa Outlaws (18)
Historically a league average offense, Ottawa is experiencing a power outage in 2019, scoring just 34 goals in three games, putting them in the cellar of the league. On paper, this team has plenty of weapons, and rookie David Colic already has 10 goals on the year. The problem may just be maintaing possession: The Outlaws are second to last in team completion rating (89.90 percent) and dead last in completions per game (187 per game).
19. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (17)
A woeful five-goal deficit at the end of the first quarter against the AlleyCats sealed the Thunderbirds fate in their Week 5 matchup, dropping them to 0-3. Perplexingly enough, they had their full lineup of throwers for the first time this season, but just couldn't get anything going in the wet conditions. There is some cavalry on the way, though, as former All-AUDL member Tyler Degirolamo rejoins the team for the first time since 2017. Degirolamo has 139 assists and 101 goals in 24 career regular season games, making him one of the most dangerous offensive players in league history. But a series of injuries beginning in the 2015 playoffs have derailed his career, so it will be worth watching what version the Thunderbirds get this weekend against the Wildfire.
18. San Jose Spiders (16)
At this point, it's pretty dizzying to look at the Spiders roster side-by-side with their results so far in 2019, particularly after their 25-16 shellacking at the hands of the Aviators this past Saturday in primetime. The top-heavy talent has been solid, but far from excellent, and there is little in the way production from the depth on the roster. Maybe the most telling stat: The only team giving up more goals than San Jose this season is Detroit. At 1-4, and with the successes of Los Angeles and San Diego, the Spiders would essentially have to run the table to make the playoffs.
17. Atlanta Hustle (20)
The hardest working team without a win entering Week 5, the Hustle finally tasted victory with a 23-19 win over the Sol thanks to some great team defense and scheming. Kelvin Williams has emerged as the nominal leader of Atlanta's defense, but players like Colin Gaeta, Karl Ekwurtzel, and others have stepped up despite lack a definitive shutdown cover player on the roster. And despite being last in takeaways per game (6.20), the Hustle are 10th in goals allowed per game (19.80), speaking to their ability as a team to slow down and confound opposing offenses.
16. Philadelphia Phoenix (15)
Philly got their first win of the season, but moved down a spot because largely due to the quality of wins of the team's above them. The Phoenix are off in Week 6, but then they have back-to-back home games against Toronto and Montreal, with terrific opportunities to secure wins in each. Philly has always matched up well against the Rush, and a first-ever win against their Canadian rivals could launch them up these rankings.
15. Seattle Cascades (19)
Seattle's 25-21 win over a previously undefeated, fully loaded San Diego roster was the most impressive win so far of the season in the AUDL. The Cascades got contributions from all over the roster, from Mark Burton's nine-assist bomber performance, to Jay Boychuk's eviscerating cutting, to Zach Sabin collecting four blocks, including a layout on a Jonathan Helton under cut, which, frankly, doesn't really ever happen. Seattle dug themselves a big hole by dropping their first four games of 2019, but are now soaring with confidence with a big notch in their belt. If they can get a second win this weekend against the Spiders, the rest of the West should officially be on notice.
14. Tampa Bay Cannons (14)
The Cannons host the Flyers tomorrow night after a two-week bye, and it will be a great opportunity to see how this Tampa Bay team stacks up against a true powerhouse in the league. With Andrew Roney as the anchor in the backfield, the Cannons have used a by-committee approach to their downfield receiving, with no individual player accounting for more than five goals in the team's first two games. That worked adequately against a Atlanta team lacking definitive playmakers on defense, but might be a bigger challenge against a Raleigh team that is loaded on defense.
13. Austin Sol (9)
Since their Week 2 win over the Roughnecks, the Sol have dropped three straight, including both of their road games in Week 5, and have yet to score 20 goals in a game so far in 2019 through five contests. The Austin offense can't seem to find consistency for more than a quarter at a time, and that offbeat rhythm is the primary factor in their 1-4 start that has them in last in the South Division. Mick Walter—league leader in blocks—and Kyle Henke have both been playing at an all-star level, but the team is struggling to develop depth in their throwing ranks.
12. Montreal Royal (13)
Montreal started the 2019 season with arguably the two toughest games in the league: At New York, and then at Toronto. The Royal are still integrating a lot of new pieces that have upside, but the process is taking time and the lack of cohesion is producing stretches of inconsistency. But a season after being one of the most inefficient teams with the disc, the Montreal backfield is a source of power in so far this year, as the team is completing over 94 percent of their throws despite facing two of the top five defenses in the AUDL.
11. Minnesota Wind Chill (10)
Both of Minnesota's losses in 2019 have come against a Chicago team that, quite frankly, looks better than the Wind Chill at this point in the season. It's a tough pill to swallow given that the Wildfire are going to be in direct competition with the Wind Chill for a playoff spot in the Midwest. Offensively, the team is firing on all cylinders, with the best scoring unit in the league and four different players with 10+ goals already. Defensively, though, Minnesota is struggling to capitalize on their break opportunities, and they're a bottom-five team in terms of goals allowed at 23.25 per game.
10. Indianapolis AlleyCats (11)
After dropping their season opener to the Radicals, the Indianapolis AlleyCats have beefed up their record to 3-1 by dispatching Detroit (twice) and Pittsburgh (once) in the intervening weeks. Now they host a dogged Atlanta team in one of the more intriguing interdivisional matchups the league has ever seen. After a slow start, 2018 All-AUDL First Teamer Rick Gross is starting to hit his stride, picking up four goals this past weekend to up his season total to 17, tops on the 'Cats. Indy needs a win tomorrow night, as dropping an out-of-division game is costly in an increasingly competitive Midwest Division, and a big night from Gross could put him back in the MVP conversation.
9. DC Breeze (12)
I was pretty low on the DC Breeze coming into 2019 given their personnel losses, especially losing what was essentially their entire starting rotation on defense. But man, I was wrong. The reigning MVP Rowan McDonnell has been as good as ever, and the Breeze in general have a lot of fight up and down the roster, a sort of inversion of the dynamic playing out in San Jose. DC does a great job of not getting in the way of themselves, and Head Coach Darryl Stanley has infused a patient confidence in one of the youngest rosters in the league. They have a second crack at taking down the Empire this weekend after giving New York all they could handle in Week 2.
8. Los Angeles Aviators (8)
Similar to the previous team, I'm prepared to eat a lot of crow for my perceptions of this Los Angeles Aviators team at the beginning of their campaign. Tied atop the West Division with four straight wins, Los Angeles executes efficiently on offense, and gets after teams on defense, which is a perfect recipe for a deep playoff push. They're 8th in the league in goals allowed per game (18.60) and tied for third in takeaways (12.00). There are a lot of players to give credit to for those numbers, as the Aviators defense is a true collective unit. But it all starts with the smiling energy of Aaron Weaver—the West Coast KPS—and his leadership both on and off the field.
7. San Diego Growlers (6)
Saturday night was a tough setback for a San Diego Growlers team that was rolling through the first four weeks, and a humble reminder that there are no easy games on the road out West. Now they must go on the road again and face a surging Aviators team tomorrow night in LA, and without Jonathan Helton, who is having an MVP-type season in his first season in SoCal. Tim Okita will likely have an increased role, but the game could come down to the performance of Jesse Cohen, who got his first start of the season last weekend in Seattle. Cohen has been one of the better downfield options with or without the disc in the West for years, and if he can work into a groove with his uptempo run-and-gun playstyle, San Diego will have a good chance to reclaim sole possession of first place in the division.
6. Chicago Wildfire (7)
Just two games into 2019, and the Chicago Wildfire are already close to a fully formed unit. Pawel Janas, Ross Barker, and Matt Rehder have taken over the leadership roles on the field, and everyone else slots into their positions from there, allowing rookies like Jack Shanahan, Seth Weaver, and Drew Swanson the freedom to just go out and make plays. Barker in particular is becoming one of the most well rounded players in the league, transitioning from his former role as offensive playmaker to defensive general, orchestrating the Wildfire counterattack. A former D1 recruit as a wide receiver, he is great at navigating space with his legs and athleticism, but what's been borderline revelatory is his collectedness with the disc, completing 38-of-39 throws so far this season.
5. Toronto Rush (5)
It's been written about a lot, but it's hard to get over just how effective the Toronto Rush system is at putting players in a position to succeed, and getting winning results. The team lost its top two goal scorers from last season, and haven't missed a beat in 2019 thanks to the bigger role Nathan Hirst has taken on, and the emergent play of rookie Akifumi Muraoka. Though both lack some height and measureables, both have an almost intrinsic grasp of the Rush's flow, able to time their routes perfectly for bundles of easy scores. The two have combined for 11 assists and 11 goals through Toronto's first two games, and they seemingly have more room to grow yet.
4. Dallas Roughnecks (4)
For the third straight year on the Dallas Roughnecks, Jay Froude is tweaking and improving multiple facets of his game. The longtime highlight reel machine has taken a more throttled role as distributor, and responded with aplomb, completing 39-of-40 passes and tossing nine assists in three games in 2019 to go along with a team-high nine goals. Though he can still dominate in open spaces, Froude seems more content these days to bleed opponents in small spaces, using his lefty throws and acceleration to dictate much of the Roughnecks action. Dallas is by no means racking up the scores—they average just 19 goals per game—but the stability and balance of their attack makes them as potent as anyone in the league.
3. Raleigh Flyers (3)
Jonathan Nethercutt played in his first Raleigh Flyers game of the season last Saturday and performed like an MVP, dishing a team-high five assists on 33-of-34 throws and showing a fearlessness of a wind that rattled many other throws. And South of New York's Jagt/Babbitt combo, there is not a better big man tandem than Jacob Fairfax and rookie Henry Fisher, and both Fairfax and Fisher will only get better. Fairfax can be considered the "veteran" here, even though he was born in 1996—the movie "Independence Day" is older, for reference—and the two already have a sweet chemistry throwing to one another. And though they're big downfield playmakers, both are extremely capable as passers. In five games, they've combined for 20 assists, 162 completions at a 95.86 percent rate, and 33 goals compared to just nine total turnovers.
2. Madison Radicals (2)
Beginning tomorrow night against Minnesota in the Game of the Week, five of the Madison Radicals next six games will be against playoff teams from last season, which should really test the mettle of the reigning champs. The team still has that championship look, and midseason challenges in 2018 ignited the Radicals title run. Madison will be without Peter Graffy for tomorrow night, but return handler Kevin Brown to the backfield after he missed the home opener in Week 3. Brown and Pat Shriwise were a dynamite throwing combo in the team's first win of 2019, and might be feasting against a Wind Chill defense that has struggled to stop the deep shot.
1. New York Empire (1)
The New York Empire make a lot of headlines due to their star power, but really, in this writer's humble opinion, its the veteran depth of this team that gives an adamantium-like backbone to their success. Case in point: handler cover specialist Matt LeMar will be suiting up for his 100th consecutive game for the Empire tomorrow night, putting him in a class all his own. Just two other players have even played in 100 AUDL games—AlleyCats Keenan Plew and Cameron Brock—but that's something absolutely mind-boggling about LeMar's ability to do so without missing a single game. Winning is always temporary, but commitment of LeMar's caliber leaves a legacy worth honoring.