Team Analysis US Open Final 2021 (1)

Chicago Machine's end zone defence uses a variety of switching and poaching schemes, and here we break down some of them along with the offensive movements Seattle Sockeye used to score against it.

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Having dropped a pull, Chicago Machine have a few seconds to quickly set up their end zone defence in the US Open Final 2021 against Seattle Sockeye. What follows is a great example of a sophisticated switching & poaching defence, and how an offence might try to break it down.

Breaking it down

1. Poaching & switching

Machine have already surrounded the Sockeye vertical stack, poaching into all of the main cutting lanes. The front of stack player for Sockeye cuts, and one Machine player hands him off to another, who picks him up as his defensive assignment; a nice example of switching on cutters. Notice also that there are two Machine defenders deeper in the end zone, and we can see one of them pointing at an offensive threat that they want their team mate to cover. Sockeye dump the disc directly backwards, and Machine use a Buzz Switch on the handlers.

2. Increasing pressure

Machine do a great job here of building pressure. Another stack cutter to the far corner is closely guarded, where potentially a switch could have occurred. With no other options, Sockeye look to dump again. However, as soon as the dump is engaged, the marker (Joe White) dives across to block backwards throws. The dump runs all the way around but the thrower looks for another target, squeezing the disc through a tiny window, then the disc is caught by the dump anyway rather than the intended recipient. It was a risky throw and Seattle got away with it here. During this passage of play, all of the thrower's focus is on trying to get rid of the disc, rather than scoring, which is great for Machine. At the end of the clip, Machine are in a great position with 5 defenders surrounding the disc.

3. Trap

Sockeye are now trapped in the corner, surrounded by defenders. It is a bad position and they want to move the disc. White takes a look around, realises there is a new reset option, and switches towards guarding the dump closely. The dump then opts to run upline to the front cone. It's not a great cut being so close to the disc, however there's a small window here which Seattle could use to score, so the Chicago defender is drawn in. This clears space behind for a large throw backwards; ideal for setting up a swing that will bypass the defensive set.

4. Defensive Error

Machine make an error here by allowing the disc to move off the sideline. Machine fail to switch decisively quickly enough: the person who was marking the thrower (Pawel Janas) is stood in the front corner of the end zone. Ideally, he should remain in that position and other members of the defence should 'shuffle' their assignments across, so as to minimise the overall movement required of the defence (something that Janas does in clip #6 below). Instead, Janas has to move all the way back to guard a handler. This delay gives Seattle the window they need to swing the disc. We can also see Yoding Hou's surprise that he has two people to cover; again, there was a possibility of switching with Janas covering the upline cut and Hou covering the swing, but Hou has his back to Janas so can't see the opportunity. In the end, Seattle's movement here is reminiscent of a typical handler reset in horizontal stack. Throughout this period, Machine are surrounding the disc, reminiscent of a cup defence.

5. Reacting to a swing

As the disc moves laterally, so Machine need to adjust their poaching positions to deny throwing lanes. The overall movement is very similar that that used by a cup defence when the disc swings; we see some switching as well, communicated by pointing at the assignments that need to be picked up.

6. Defensive Error & Goal

Machine make another error at this point, this time a critical one. Seattle are again near a sideline, and Chicago could attempt to trap at this point. We see Janas deny an upline cut, while behind White & Hou seamlessly switch on two other threats. However, from a strategic perspective we should ask what the offence has to gain by moving closer and closer to the sideline, and whether these movements are truly a threat. As Vennert cuts right in front of the disc, Hou commits but is too late to prevent the pass, then leaves a clear lane open for the return pass that allows Martin to score. If Hou had sat back and waited, allowing Vennert to run in to get the disc, he would then have been in a better position to deny lane cuts and be able to prevent Martin's cut with a Buzz Switch, and ensure that Sockeye were back in a sideline trap.