2014 U.S. Open - Men's Division Preview

Posted: July 2, 2014 05:58 PM

Pool play at USA Ultimate’s third annual U.S. Open gets underway on Thursday morning, with Revolver (San Francisco), Sockeye (Seattle), Ironside (Boston), Johnny Bravo (Boulder), Sub Zero (Minneapolis), Clapham (London, England), Furious George (Vancouver, British Columbia), and EVOLUTION (Medellín, Colombia) facing off in a round-robin format that will give way to bracket play over the weekend. As the first stop on USA Ultimate’s Triple Crown Tour, the Open is the kickoff to the North American club season.

US Open Men's 602x397
Photo: UltiPhotos

The last time most of these teams competed was at the 2013 Club Championships in Frisco, Texas. In the final, Revolver took down Sockeye, 14-11, capturing the first-ever Triple Crown and their third national title in four years. In the semifinals, Revolver beat Bravo, 14-11, and Sockeye took down Ironside, 14-13, in a classic game where neither team ever led by more than two.

Looking past the semifinalists, Sub Zero reached the quarterfinals at last year’s Championships, where they fell to Revolver, 14-10; on the way there, Sub controlled their pre-quarter match up against 2012 semifinalist Ring of Fire and beat GOAT (Toronto, Ontario), the tournament’s overall two seed, in the first round of pool play. Furious wasn’t as successful, going winless in their pool before falling in the pre-quarters to Revolver. (If you’re keeping track, that’s four U.S. Open participants that San Francisco bounced from last year’s Championships.) Furious went on to beat Truck Stop (Washington, D.C.) but lose to the Condors (Santa Barbara, Calif.), leaving Nationals in 14th place.

Rounding out the tournament are Clapham and EVOLUTION, both of whom have already played in tournaments this year: Clapham won London Calling and Windmill Windup, two of Europe’s most competitive spring tournaments, and EVOLUTION placed fifth at Torneo Eterna Primavera in April.

The international teams’ presence is a reminder of what gives this year’s U.S. Open greater weight than the previous two; in early August, all but Sub Zero and EVOLUTION will compete at the World Ultimate Club Championships in Lecco, Italy. With such a prestigious medal in sight – Worlds only happens every four years – teams will take advantage of the U.S. Open as a world-class opportunity for fine-tuning.

Below is a look at each of the 2014 U.S. Open men’s division teams.

 The Field

U.S. Teams

San Francisco, CA



Revolver has been the men’s division’s best team of the last half-decade, making the Club Championship finals every year since 2009 and winning two world titles (WUCC 2010 and WUGC 2012) in the same span; the only blip on their radar was a 2012 Club Championships finals loss to Doublewide (Austin). Revolver coach Mike Payne likes to talk legacy, frequently emphasizing that the team was built not only to be a dynasty, but also to be one that survives multiple years of core turnover. Last year’s title came in spite of the preseason departure of heavy lifters Robbie Cahill, Mark Sherwood and Bart Watson, and success this year will have to come without Mac Taylor, a defensive anchor since 2009.

Payne put his eagerness to retain the crown quite plainly. "I told the team that this is not only the time to develop roles," he said of Revolver’s final practice before flying to Minnesota. "The main goal is to help other teams understand that we have not lifted our foot off the pedal at all."

Additions to this year’s roster include Chris Kosednar and Alex Evangelides of Sockeye and Sub Zero, respectively, along with Simon Higgins and Eli Kearns, both of whom played with the mixed Under-23 United States National team. Most noteworthy, though, is that Cahill is back.

2013TCT Sockeye
Seattle, WA


Last year’s finals run was Sockeye’s first since 2010, but the stage was not unfamiliar territory for the program: the Fish won the Club Championships in 2004, ‘06, and ‘07, and reached the finals from 1995-97 and again in ’05. But while the title years were fueled by firepower few other teams could match, recent Sockeye teams have depended on motion-based offenses that allude the mark opposing defenses can set up and defenses that focus more on blocking space than guarding individual players.

Put another way, Sockeye is the most whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team in the men’s division.

As the semis team with the least amount of turnover from 2013 – only six players on Sockeye’s U.S. Open roster were not on the team last year – the team is positioned well to build from where it left off. Still, Seattle sees this year as an upstream swim.

"Making finals last year was great," said Sockeye captain Tyler Kinley. "But we’re headed into the season knowing how slim the margin is. We could have been a semis team or lower. We’ve had those seasons before. Our mentality is not that of a finals team, [but rather] a team that knows just how much work must go into even putting ourselves in the position to achieve anything."

"Our tenets this year," Kinley continued, "are to play at or above a championship level at every practice, to play with pride – meaning that win or lose, you can leave every game knowing you did all that you could on and off the field, and to play with respect for ourselves and our opponents."

2013TCT Ironside
Boston, MA



Ironside’s page in the history books is a tough one to land on. On one hand, they’ve made the semifinals every year since 2008, including finals appearances in ’08, ’10 and ’11. But on the other, none of those runs have resulted in a championship.

"In the past, we haven’t lost because we’ve been a less talented team," said Ironside captain George Stubbs, speaking to a parity that other captains agree will be on display this weekend. "A bunch of teams, simply put, are good. Any of the top teams will be able to win any single game."

Still, Boston is looking to shake things up in 2014, moving a few key players from the offensive line to defense (Stubbs declined to say who) in order to bring a more dynamic attack after forcing turnovers.

"You capitalize on what’s made you successful in the past while changing the things you think have let you down," said Stubbs. "Last year, you saw a pretty good Ironside team that played a very solid Nationals, but things got sloppy in the pre-quarters and quarters, and we couldn’t quite collect enough to pull past Seattle into the finals."

"Mental fortitude is the biggest goal [for Ironside at the U.S. Open]," Stubbs continued. "There will be a lot of high-quality games, and the ability to take care of business in the games that are slightly less challenging will be really big."

Boston’s biggest personnel change is the loss of Peter Prial, an offensive mainstay since 2009; he’ll be replaced by Brian Garcia, a cutter who played a key role on Revolver’s 2010 championship team.

2013TCT JohnnyBravo
Boulder, CO


Johnny Bravo

Bravo’s roster additions – there are eight total, but the attention grabbers are Kurt Gibson, Sean Keegan, Brett Matzuka and Brodie Smith – dominated spring headlines, and the team is only a season removed from adding superstars Nick Lance and Bart Watson to an already-strong roster. So the question is obvious: can Bravo convert its on-paper talent to a winning team?

Captain Ryan Farrell, himself a member of the U.S. National Team, said successful integration is about balancing deliberate team culture with natural instinct. 

"As we’ve brought in more established players who didn’t come up in our system but are superlatively talented," said Farrell, "[I’ve learned] your culture is not set on paper or the way you talk, but it has to be derivative to what comes naturally to the talent you have."

Farrell cited quick disc movement, a foundation of coach Bob Krier’s offense, as an area where Bravo’s approach has become more fluid. "Bart, Kurt and Brodie are guys that can make powerful decisions and give us the advantage, and giving them six or seven seconds with the disc is generally helpful," said Farrell. "We have our baseline philosophies and want guys to play in a system to some degree, but our task as leadership is to find a way to empower everybody to do the thing they’re best at."

Key absences for Bravo at the U.S. Open include Josh Ackley and Nick Lance; Gibson and Watson won’t be in Blaine until the weekend, and Smith will see limited playing time because he is still recovering from a knee injury.

2013TCT SubZero
Minneapolis, MN


Sub Zero

2013 was the best season Sub Zero has had in years: Aside from their Championships finish, Sub beat Ironside in the Chesapeake Invite finals. Sub Zero has eight new faces for 2014, and with the U.S. Open providing so many games against the country’s best teams, Minneapolis will get a glimpse at what it will take for this roster to continue its ascent.

"We’ve grown a lot as a team the past few years and are proud of what we accomplished," said Sub Zero captain Tom Murray. "We have a very fast, athletic team complemented by great throwers, and we’re figuring out how to make those pieces work together."

Murray said that so far, this year’s practices have prioritized disc skills and fundamental defensive positioning. Coaches and players of all levels should take note: even Nationals teams make sure to invest time in individual talent development.


International Teams

2014TCT Clapham
London, UK

FlagIcon gb



Clapham has long been one of Europe’s best teams, having won the British title 13 years in a row and the European Championships in 2013 and 2012 and coming within a point of doing so in the 2011 final – the last time they lost a game to European competition. Clapham raised eyebrows last year with their strong showing at Chesapeake, where the team bested U.S. Nationals teams Ring of Fire and Chain Lightning (Atlanta, Ga.) en route to a semifinals birth.

Clapham’s biggest challenge is their location: while they’re clearly good enough to beat strong U.S. teams, doing so consistently means being tested consistently, and there just aren’t as many opportunities for that in Europe as there are in the States. Still, Clapham captain Marc Guilbert is confident that his team will have a strong showing at the Open.

"The line between European and North American ultimate has already been broken in Japan at the [2012] World Championships," said Guilbert, alluding to Great Britain’s appearance in the finals. "Clapham is sending a strong, experienced and prepared squad to the U.S. Open. I look forward to taking the fields and seeing what we can achieve."

2013TCT FuriousGeorge
Vancouver, BC

FlagIcon ca


Furious George

"Baptism by fire," said Furious captain Alex Davis of his expectations for the Open. Furious’ squad will be comprised heavily of rookies who need the club experience that Ultimate Canada requires for players to be eligible to attend Worlds, along with veterans for whom three games per day will be a wake-up call after spending the winter playing in leagues with single-game formats.

Furious’ games against North American competition will be particularly important because the team doesn’t plan on attending any tournaments outside of their home region after Worlds.

"We need to earn a bid for the Northwest," said Davis, referring to his region only barely earning a second last season. "Every point in this series counts, so we have to respect these games and shoot for wins."

2013TCT ColombiaCO

Medellín, Col.



EVOLUTION, a second-year team with an average age of 23, is looking to enjoy their first-ever international tournament. EVOLUTION will not be in Lecco because the team lost in the Colombian national semifinals, but the fact that a non-finalist is willing to spend the resources to travel to the States is a testament to Colombia’s rising level of play.

"Our goal is to have fun and represent our country well," said EVOLUTION captain Daniel Jimenez Tatis. "If we win one game, it would be perfect for us." Tatis also addressed his team’s effort to demonstrate spirited play, a goal whose subjectivity has generated a give-and-take dialogue between North American and Colombian teams in recent years. "We want to show the world that Colombia is getting better in the game and in Spirit of the Game," Tatis said.

EVOLUTION will have 18 players at the U.S. Open, and many arrived in Minnesota on Monday to acclimate and begin training. EVOLUTION lost to a skeleton Sockeye squad at Torneo Eternal Primavera earlier in the spring.


U.S. Open Championships Event Page

Event Guide (PDF)


Men's Game Schedule

2014USOpenLogo 435x290  




Have any questions or comments? We welcome community feedback and discussion made in a respectful manner. Please refrain from profanity or personal attacks, as such public comments negatively reflect on our sport and community.