Chicago Machine Wins the 2016 U.S. Open Men's Division Championship

Posted: July 4, 2016 05:15 PM
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Chicago Machine earns their program's first-ever major championship title at the U.S. Open Championships in Kingston, R.I.

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We have a new champion in the men’s division. Chicago Machine leaves Rhode Island with their first-ever major championship title in their 15-year history after upsetting Seattle Sockeye 15-12 in the finals this afternoon, giving more credence to the theory that one of the hardest things to do in ultimate is beat the same quality team twice in one weekend. 

Sockeye defeated Machine 15-10 in pool play on Saturday, but it was all Machine today. They broke on the second point of the game and kept the momentum throughout. Both teams played the weekend with smaller-than-normal rosters, but today, Goose Helton, Brett Matzuka and Machine’s cache of downfield receivers looked like the fresher squad and were too much for the Sockeye defense. 

One of the biggest stories of the game was Sockeye’s inability to convert break opportunities. Though Machine was steadily the more consistent team, taking better care of the disc throughout the game, Sockeye was still able to cause some turnovers. But they couldn’t get the breaks they needed, going just one for 11 on break opportunities in the final. Excepting several deep shots taken by Reid Koss, Sockeye struggled to even get the disc out of their own end zone on when they did get a turn. Sockeye’s limited practice time so far this season was apparent on the field today, with offensive movement often stagnating and miscommunications more frequent than any championship contender wants to see. 

On the flip side, Machine looked like the well-oiled version of their namesake, with new faces like Pawel Janas slotting into their roles with ease, and people like Travis Carpenter who were mostly role players in 2015 stepping up and taking on more for the team. Unsurprisingly, Brett Matzuka was a big part of the Machine offense, getting resets early and often, but also gaining yards by cycling through the handler corps and downfield cutters’ spots. Despite often squaring off against the speedy Trent Dillon, Goose Helton was the primary initiating cutter downfield and also tallied several assists thanks to his own impressive arsenal of throws. The Machine defense did an admirable job of limiting Sockeye’s big guns – throwing some of the great handler defenders in the game like Walden Nelson and Andrew Sheehan on Simon Montague and forcing Matt Rehder underneath, effectively keeping him out of the end zone and limiting his impact on the game’s stat line. Their zone look also slowed down the Sockeye offense, forcing some difficult cross-field throws, both over and around the zone, that got picked up by the swirling wind and pushed out of bounds or beyond the reach of the intended receivers. 

Both teams were missing key personnel in Rhode Island this weekend. Danny Karlinsky is spending his post-Worlds week getting ready for his wedding, and BJ Sefton spent the weekend supporting the team from the sideline. Machine was without Brett Kolinek and Alex Evangelides. But the U.S. Open was still a good early season test, and both teams clearly wanted to come away with the title and the champions’ prize money. We will surely see these teams battle again as the 2016 Triple Crown Tour rolls on. 

You can watch the replay of the men’s championship final on ESPN3:

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