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!

How to Dribble: The most unstoppable move in ultimate

Luke Burgess unpacks dribbling in ultimate – what it means, why it’s useful, how to do it, and taking it to the next level.

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Training Flex: Lateral Bracket Switching Drill

This drill video (available to $8 tier patrons) trains defenders’ ability to bracket effectively with a teammate in a 2v2 situation where the offence are crossing over or positioned near to each other. Field awareness and communication are trained as the two players coordinate to keep the offence covered whilst they & the disc moves. Suitable for end zone defence, front of stack defence, and more dynamic situations on the field where two offence players are in close proximity to each other.

Watch full video here.

Analysis: XEUCF 2021 Open Final (Part 1)

Clapham face CUSB La Fotta (Bologna) in the European final in Bruges after losing their crown to them in 2019. Felix dives into the footage in part 1 of this point-by-point analysis series.


… full transcript …

Hey everybody, welcome to the first part of my analysis of the 2021 European Final of the men’s division between Clapham from London, and La Fotta from Bologna. These two teams met in 2019 with La Fotta causing an upset, winning for the first time by using teamwork on defence to disrupt Clapham’s usual patterns (you can find my analysis of this game elsewhere on youtube), so I was excited to see how both teams had developed since then. Let’s dive straight into it.

0-0: La Fotta arrive with pressure on the dump but sagging off the far handler, and with a hat player in the middle. Clapham are spread across the field. La Fotta stop the preferred first pass, and almost have two bids on the second look to Foord. Foord gets balanced quickly and is immediately ready to throw the length of the field if the option is there. The nearest defender is only 30 yards away, and getting split by Briggs and Cartwright offscreen. After they get beaten they’re outnumbered 3-1 and Ollie Gordon follows up for the goal.

1-0:
Clapham arrive sagging off the handlers, and downfield Andy Lewis and Ben Funk set up a poach bracket which leads to a good switch to nullify both options. Coppi and De Lucca almost run into each other, and Felix Martin and Nathan Wragg switch instead of calling a pick, almost in time for Martin to have a bid on the under. If Martin had pre-empted this switch, he was in perfect position to stop the under.
Coppi hard-commits their focus directly downfield after catching, going against the principle of facing infield, and then pivots hard into the backfield. Clapham punish this predictability with tight reset marking, and Martin repositioning to force the upline or inside throw.
Wragg almost gets the D, there’s a bit of an auto-fake as nobody downfield is open, then a sketchy inside-dump caused by the aggressive around force.
La Fotta cluster momentarily and Clapham switch to cover De Lucca and fix their positioning. This is the second good switch Wragg has been involved in this point, and again he almost gets a block immediately afterwards.
La Fotta crossover again and instead of switching Hillman calls pick, there’s something interesting after with Felix Martin using his positioning to hinder the offence, which I think is good providing he doesn’t initiate contact or call pick. He kind of does initiate contact, but it could be interesting to practice this kind of physical double-teaming within the rules, to gain specific advantages in specific situations, just like JinX do earlier in the same tournament.
Hillman and Lewis switch to cover the predictable moves around the disc – again we momentarily see this classic bracket shape as the players crossover against good awareness from Clapham. Gasperini looks off an open pass and Will Rowledge very nearly punishes him for it.
Funk poaches off and physically gets in the way of the next cutter. In theory he could hang around here and block off the cut, but Angella is already connecting with the thrower in order to punish the poach. It’s worth noting that this technique of physically blocking the next cut feels like some kind of blocking foul, but isn’t – so long as contact isn’t initiated and the disc isn’t in the air, it’s legit to double team downfield players.
La Fotta again crossover downfield, which could legitimately be called a pick, or be used by the defence to switch and cover or bid.

La Fotta then make a crossmove in the backfield, and Clapham almost switch, almost call pick, but end up doing neither. The movement isn’t technically a crossover for the offence, but it encourages the defenders to cross over. If the defenders pre-empt the switch then they gain advantage, but if they expect the pick and it doesn’t happen, they’re left in a very bad position. What contributes in this instance is that both Hillman and Rowledge instinctively react to the movement correctly, and take a step to poach or switch, but then revert to their original marks. This makes the pick more likely to happen, and at the same time a sketchier call because of the defenders momentary deviation from 1-to-1. To switch effectively here both defenders have to expect it, and trust that they can commit to the move without verbal communication.
They are punished harshly for this momentary lapse because Gasperini has pivoted infield immediately after catching, not wasting any time on autofakes, and is well balanced and ready to throw anything. Training to switch and to punish blown switches is a good use of practice time – for switching drills check out the training tier on our patreon.
If the defenders are ready to switch here, then 4 primary short field options are taken out.

They don’t switch and it’s not really a pick, so the defence end up surrounded by the offence, which is the opposite where they want to be. This error leads to the goal, as La Fotta hit a continuation in flow and then punish face-marking with a calm throw into space.
There are ways of training defenders to be ready to switch in these kinds of situations, right now coaches around the world are learning how through the Hive training tier content on patreon.

1-1: La Fotta seem to completely forget to mark Conrad Wilson as he runs deep down the middle of the field off the pull. With these angles and distances, any throw which quickly makes it to the end zone here would likely end up in Wilson’s hands.
Gordon spots movement from poaches and pulls out of the throw. Yeo is the poached player so receives an uncontested pass in the middle of the field. Clapham begin to cluster in front of the disc and then comes the first turnover of the match.
Wilson pump-fakes the same throw he releases, which often results in a turnover when any player does this. Whether it’s the mechanics being disrupted, or miscommunication with his teammates, Mead can’t reel it in and La Fotta D line gets the disc in their hands for the first time.
There’s a pick between Wilson and Gordon downfield and La Fotta call a timeout.
La Fotta’s D line come out with a classic horizontal set play plan – two in front of the disc go deep and the 3rd comes across. Ollie Gordon gets close with a bid and earns Clapham O line the disc back. Briggs picks it up early and shows La Fotta how to punish the aggressive sideline no-dump force, with a downfield throw’n’go move. I’d love to see the disc go down the sideline but it’s faked and Clapham flow over to the other side.
Although Clapham are clustering, La Fotta are not switching or surrounding to cover all the angles as a team, and 1.5 seconds after catching the disc Foord is able to place a backhand to Wilson in the far corner.
It’s worth noting that Ashley Yeo was in a very strong position to continue flow at this moment, and that Clapham’s clustering had caused another pick.

2-1: Clapham send 3 players to the disc, and there’s a miscommunication with Gasperini as he pulls out of the cut when he sees Alastair McNeill approaching. First time the Clapham D line get the disc in their hands, and they bring out a militant vert stack commanded by Oscar Modiano. After a predictable first couple of cuts, Brooks does some great work at the back with McNeill to initiate and sustain flow, La Fotta’s buzz switch isn’t tight and Brooks gets them double committing on Slaughter. A couple of passes later Brooks again gets the disc moving forward and finds a pin point pass across the front of the end zone.
Modiano does have his foot down just inside the zone, and Slaughter catches the extra pass in the back corner.

3-1: Fantastic pull by McHale, Clapham come down sagging off the handlers again whilst La Fotta spread and crossover. La Fotta throw another sketchy inside-reset off the line, before crossing over again prompting another pick call. Hillman switches to cover the open player, a good move but negated by the pick. Tonelli throws to this cut from De Lucca, which isn’t very open, and De Lucca unfortunately pulls his hamstring on the play, as many players have done this year after coming out of lockdown.

3-2: Foord times his deep cut well and is visibly frustrated when Briggs holsters it. There’s a pick caused by the loose defensive positioning, stopping the play. Yeo faces infield after catching, Foord steps through to go up line and Gordon has been watching the play develop so uses his speed and then his height.

4-2: Clapham sag off the handlers as some disconnected movement starts happening downfield. With adrenaline pumping and no mark for a second after a defensive bid from Charlie Butt, Zanni misthrows a deep shot to a couple of meters separation, which wasn’t helped by a crossover no-switch pick type thing. He had two open options on stall zero, with his defender out of position momentarily allowing him to accelerate downfield. Instead the bid and opportunity to throw deep gets him overexcited, Hayden Slaughter reacts to it before the huck is released, and results in a turnover we can put down to decision making affected by pressure from the defence. Unashamed shout out to Charlie Butt who I’ve been coaching at Sussex Uni and playing with in Brighton since he started playing in 2016. In the same situation I think he would throw’n’go with the free player down the middle of the field.
There aren’t any switches from La Fotta and after a couple of fouls on the mark Clapham work it up, Brooks again being key, receiving this lefty from Thompson and penetrating the defence, and again getting the disc moving forwards to create the scoring sequence – great separation, drawing a poach, and then punishing it with a well weighted lead pass to Thompson. Really smooth balance control for this throw’n’go scoring touch pass.

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 here where Hillman could potentially switch effectively. 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.

From what I’ve seen so far, La Fotta have been disappointing on both offence and defence – crossing over constantly on O, and not using any teamwork at all on D. Clapham’s defensive teamwork has been much better than last time, with plenty of switching, but the opportunities have been handed to them by La Fotta’s crossovers on offence, meaning Clapham either switch or call pick, again and again. We’ll see whether they make any adjustments as the game goes on. That’s all for now I’ll see you again soon.

Running an Ultimate Taster Session

Felix talks through how to run the perfect taster session for beginners joining university ultimate clubs.
Check out the full article this video is based upon: https://hiveultimate.com/2016/09/13/university-taster-sessions-guide/

Felix’s training plans for the first few sessions of term will be available to Training Tier Patrons next week – pledge now to get a free disc!

3 Times Sockeye’s Flow Carved Up Machine’s Defence in the US Open 2021 Final

We take a look at the best moments of flow from the US Open 2021 ultimate frisbee final, paying particular attention to the techniques the players use to keep the disc moving quickly. We’ve added a Possession Clock in the top left which counts how long the disc is in each player’s hands, leading to an Average Time of Possession for the team at the end of the point.

Full video with 6 examples: https://www.patreon.com/posts/6-best-moments-55872786
Thanks to Ultiworld for the footage – subscribe here: https://ultiworld.com/subscribe

Rhino’s Leandro Marx Earns Redemption Against PoNY

Rhino faced PoNY in the 2019 US Nationals Quarter Final, and again in the 2021 US Open. Both games went to Universe Point. We focus on Leandro Marx’ progression from dropping the disc at 14-14 in 2019, to catching the winning goal in 2021.

4 Offensive Mistakes – Inactivity (3/4)

Noah talks about inactivity on the ultimate frisbee field – why offenses specify active (and therefore inactive) players, and how defence can seek to punish this with systemic poaching off inactive players – creating numerical superiorities in active areas.

Check out the patron-only Director’s Commentary below, where Noah and Felix talk for an hour podcast-style on the topics in the video.

How to Train Flex: Triple Sandwich Drill

Training video for $8 Tier patrons – a drill which trains defenders’ ability to surround a tight stack of 3 offensive players, and the offence’s ability to sustain flow once the disc is moving.

SKILLS:
– surrounding basics
– defensive awareness & communication
– reaction to offensive movement

Watch full video ($8 patrons)

Hexagon Offence Talkthrough

Felix introduces Hex from scratch in this 35min video for $1+ patrons – where hex came from, why teams are playing it, how it differs from stack, where it’s going, and how it fits into the landscape of modern ultimate frisbee strategy. This video serves as an “academic base” to help players learning hex to gain a fuller understanding and get on the same page as each other. Originally recorded in 2019, remastered for 2021.

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