Analysis: XEUCF 2021 Open Final (Part 2)

Clapham face CUSB La Fotta (Bologna) in the European Men’s final in Bruges after losing their crown to them in 2019. Felix dives into the footage in part 2 of this point-by-point analysis series. Includes more looks at switches, crossovers, hard-focusing on yards, weaknesses of iso offences, criticism of match-marking vert stacks in the end zone, and raises a question about the value & legitimacy of hands-on defence.

… full transcript …

Hey everybody, in this video we’re going to look at the second part of the Clapham vs La Fotta European Final of 2021.

5-2: McHale with another fantastic pull. I’ve been on the receiving end of them earlier this season and it is not where you want to be. The secondary handler is hit and downfield La Fotta immediately crossover and cause another pick. Clapham are tight 1-to-1, and there’s a moment where Hillman could switch effectively, but his teammate doesn’t cover the alternative option, so instead of a switch it’s a legitimate pick. This is the 5th crossover error by La Fotta that’s resulted in a pick call.
La Fotta are still at the back of their end zone when there’s another miscommunication on an under cut covered by Andy Lewis. Quick thinking from Lewis and McHale punishes La Fotta immediately.

6-2: McNeill marks Angella’s well timed deep cut and as he pulls out of it we see La Fotta’s third miscommunication turnover of the game. La Fotta’s O line defence is heads-up – there’s a loose bracket and switch in the backfield which causes confusion, then a second switch onto a deep cut which leaves Funk with no real options on stall 9 and he’s forced to put up a speculative shot. There’s a call on the receiving end, Slaughter could be arguing that the defender couldn’t make the play without there also being contact, but after some discussion and consideration retracts the call, which is probably the right outcome.
Laffi throws the around break upline shot, then gets free upline for another killer around break. Clapham defenders scramble to cover the near corner, and Laffi doesn’t hesitate to put out a crossfield shot away from the defence to the far corner of the end zone.

6-3: Clapham begin the point with a player behind the disc, whose defender is poaching behind the force. Foord and Yeo are clustered on the near side, with their defenders sticking firmly to their 1-to-1 tethers and not looking to help out elsewhere. Briggs clears a massive space in front of the disc, and Gordon beats his mark there. The poach misses an opportunity for a block, Gordon catches and hard-focuses downfield. Briggs’ defender stays tight, and after a fake Gordon directs his focus to Wilson. Wilson struggles to get free, eventually using the space cleared by Foord. Let’s have a look again at the options in the backfield – Briggs was free for a lateral or negative yard pass, which would have been well timed for a continuation pass back to Gordon, or to Foord, or another player from the far side. If Briggs had been passed to, and had hard-focused downfield (as Gordon did) then Gordon would be in a bad position and the pass to Briggs would be unwise, but if this pass went and they are both looking to move the disc quickly, then it would’ve opened the field up with flow and avoided the high stall count. Foord gets well positioned in space connected to the disc, and times his move so that as Gordon turns, he is free and gesticulates for a quick pass. Unfortunately Gordon isn’t balanced or ready to throw a short no-pivot lefty backhand, so let’s look at why.
Gordon doesn’t travel after catching and his initial balance is good. His feet are pointing towards an area which is seeing a lot of movement from teammates, with Yeo running through and separation on players in the backfield. Without changing the position of his feet, Gordon could throw a flick forwards or a backhand backwards, in any infield direction. The mistake here is that he continues to hard-focus on Briggs after the initial look, and puts energy into a pivot and fake when he knows he’s not going to throw the disc. The pivot spends time and energy without gaining anything back for the offence – the only way the investment into this option can pay off at this moment, is if backfield passes are used to move the disc.

Instead Gordon makes the same mistake as he did a few seconds ago – he hard-focuses directly downfield on the next cutter, Wilson, who is covered under, and then commits to an outward pivot without cashing in on it. It’s possible but less likely he was looking at Yeo, who is well positioned for any shot to the end zone – but his defender isn’t watching so the pivot doesn’t help Yeo get free. The pivot does buy Gordon space as his mark commits, but it’s out of sync with Wilson and when he comes back he’s not balanced and ready to throw quickly to the alternative option in the same channel, offered by Foord. He glances backwards but Briggs is marked up again by now, and 7.9 seconds after catching – probably on stall 9 – releases the disc to Wilson.
This is how Gordon has trained and what he’s used to working. If an offence can set up situations every 3 seconds where they have an isolated 1-to-1 in space in front of the disc, you should be able to focus on that space, cut and pivot hard, and advance the disc – or at a minimum, hit a 1-to-1 reset on a high stall. This works fine when you are physically outmatching teams playing hard 1 to 1 – Gordon’s win rate across all games he’s ever played is very high, so he’s used to his teammates winning their 1-to-1 matchups, but in the small percentage of games where the defenders are consistently challenging you 1-to-1 in such spaces, which are also the most important games, more fluidity, versatility, and dynamism is needed to make use of the small windows which open.
In other words, against good defence where isolated players are covered, the limited options of this type of offence can cause it to struggle.

Axel Ahmala executes a well timed cut to gain separation, but looks over the wrong shoulder, asking a hard throw from Wilson. It would have to be an outside-in flick, some kind of fast curving inside out backhand, or from this pivoted position with a high release Wilson could throw a spiraling upside down backhand that turns inside out at the end… like, in theory, I’d love to see it, but it’s not as easy as throwing open side to the separation if he looked over the other shoulder.
Mead looks a little dejected his well timed continuation cut didn’t get looked at. Yeo passes back to Briggs and continues to offer disc moving options whilst Briggs is hard-focusing downfield. He wants to break the force into the wide open space, but Gordon’s cut is a pick and stops the play. He hits the scoober again this time to Wilson, and then comes the O line’s 2nd turnover of the game.
There are a few elements to this turnover. The poach from Tognetti is effective, the throw leads Briggs into the poach, it bounces off Briggs hands, and Wilson’s balance control brings him out of sync. Similar to the first turnover, where Wilson fakes a throw and then releases a similar throw a fraction of a second later, now Wilson pivots once and then again a fraction of a second later for a similar throw. This often results in a turnover when any player does this, whether it’s the mechanics being disrupted or miscommunication with his teammates, smoother balance control and a slow step would have increased the percentage on this throw. Another factor is the early pivot showing the throw to the poach, which makes them more committed to stopping it.

La Fotta waste no time picking the disc up and getting it moving, no player spending more than a couple of seconds looking downfield, Wilson not quite being given the opportunity to earn the disc back, before Tognetti goes for the hammer and it’s out of reach.
Before we have a look at what he saw, let’s see what Clapham’s O line defence did during the fast break. Mead leaves his mark, almost gets run into by Ahmala who is hard-focused on his, and continues to move downfield with the flow, or the current of the players. He sees the next downfield option from the offence and commits to it a fraction of a second too late to cause a turn. At this point he’s well positioned to pick up the next downfield threat, so Yeo switches and finds the open player. This player is open because Briggs left them.
At this moment Briggs is well positioned to switch with Gordon, but Gordon hasn’t received any communication and isn’t up for the switch, which turns Briggs’ move into a flash poach. Briggs then sees Mead’s original mark in the backfield and marks up against them. This means the move ends up being a triple switch between Mead, Yeo, and Briggs, with Gordon tethered to his mark in the middle of it.

Now let’s have a look at what Tognetti saw – the obvious continuation is being pressured by Gordon, and has also been seen by Foord, who takes a step in. His mark makes the appropriate move in the opposite direction, but despite the separation Foord doesn’t show urgency, probably because he senses help may come from Mead or from Wilson. Wilson isn’t aware of the potential poach-bracket, and Foord doesn’t communicate, but the cutter doesn’t attack the back corner, which is what Tognetti is looking for.
Although this could’ve been a break for La Fotta due to the lack of defensive help and communication, it’s a turn due to offensive miscommunication stemming from a crossover.

The Clapham O line once again create a large open space downfield of the disc, and isolate a 1-to-1 matchup – Yeo vs Sebastian Rossi – and Rossi gets an awesome layout D. Rossi knows when he is on-stage and shows great athleticism to match the movements of Yeo early, and then launch himself at the disc. Briggs fake is unrealistic, and has the purpose of communicating with Yeo to bring him under. An unrealistic fake doesn’t convince any downfield defenders or move his mark – but does this matter?
The best defenders pick up information from all around them as they play. If Briggs moved slowly into a potential flick huck, it would have kept the attention of Mastroianni, who was already reacting to the play. If they continued to react to the deep option, there’s a good chance Rossi would’ve picked up on this information and committed more to the threat – reading the reactions of his teammate. Sometimes a well timed, purposeful, and realistic fake can get even an “up” shout from the sideline, and will open up alternative options on the field. With the short unrealistic auto-fake, the potential is taken away suddenly, causing de-synchronisation and giving the defenders quick confirmation that the deep is no longer an immediate threat. Briggs chooses to throw into the tight coverage, he could alternatively have worked with Foord across the back. Yeo sacrifices a few inches to make the catch safer – he could have gone for the high speed crab catch but it is a riskier catch, but at this point the offence are in a tough situation which they could’ve avoided earlier. The autofake, the predictability of the cut, the risky decision, and then the most athletic D in europe.

After the D, Foord is expecting a switch with Wilson that doesn’t happen, then they find themselves surrounded by the offence – the opposite of the situation they want to be in.

Something strange happens in the stack as Ahmala and Mead cross paths and Mead physically moves him out of the way, this is the second time they’ve come together this point and technically it’s against the rules to physically assist with the movement of a teammate, but the intention is to avoid a pick or a switch, and they don’t look like they’re switching any time soon. Mastroianni and Gordon come together, and Gordon calls a push off foul. It looks as though Gordon initiates contact by reaching an arm out, and then Mastroianni continues and increases the contact. Whoever initiates contact is the one committing the foul. Hands-on 1-to-1 defence is against the rules and I would argue it’s not even very good. If you think this is a one-off, Gordon just protecting from contact then I can point to two more examples that happen on the screen at the exact same time.
First, after getting past Ahmala, Mead initiates contact with his mark whilst he checks in with the disc. Second, Briggs chooses to accelerate into the side of his mark and reach out an arm. Many players, particularly in North America, like to play with this level of contact, and it is the norm in certain circles. Call it touching defence, or a bit of jostling, it’s generally accepted if both players are happy and only called if they think it crosses the line. The question is: where do you draw the line? Allowing for any level of intentional contact makes everything far more subjective and opens up a big grey area.

In my opinion, training hands-on defence is counterproductive because it’s against the rules and the other team can choose at any moment to shut down the tactic by making legitimate foul calls. They are under no obligation to tolerate the rules being broken, so the tactic can only be employed when the other team allows it. Instead of preparing for the rules to be broken, we should put training time into developing defenders awareness, so they know where the disc and their mark is without touching them, and have help from their teammates when it’s appropriate.

La Fotta score immediately after the stoppage. All the Clapham defenders are matching up 1-to-1 in identical ways, meaning none of them, except Foord, are positioned to guard a lead pass to the break side space. Who initiates the contact here? Seems fairly mutual. Is the arm and foot movement too much? Who is to say. Did the contact help the defence at all? Is this the most effective way for a team to play defence against a tight vertical stack? I don’t think so. It’s time downfield defenders started working together and surrounding stacks to protect against good break throws and good iso cutters, and avoid all covering the same space.

If this suggestion makes sense to you, and you want your team to start playing like this, you just have to start practicing surrounding in these types of situations. You can recreate stacks with drills and exercises, including these 3 tried and tested methods which are linked in the description. A quick message for patrons – everyone can now access the deleted scenes video which has some of my more controversial takes from this game, and those on the training tier message us on Discord or through patreon and I’ll send you a free pink and purple disc.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you for Part 3.

Watch the Deleted Scenes of this video for some of Felix’s more spicy takes – deemed too spicy for public consumption, $1 patrons and above only!

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