Japan v USA: Japan switching, a blown sandwich, and Jimmy Mickle’s precise cut and throw for goal



Reddit thread & comments on this video
… full transcript … In this video we’re going to take a look at a point from USA v Japan in the Worlds final of 2016. First we’re going to have a look at Japan doing some switching early on in the point, then have a look at them setting up some sandwiches (but not really following through with them), and at the end we see Jimmy Mickle with some good pivot control to finish off the point.

As the disc is in the air moving downfield, the Japanese defenders behind the disc all bust a gut to get in front of it again. There are a couple of slight errors as Japanese defender #16 is trapped between two defenders and without a mark. He tries to communicate initially to get the player on the far sideline marked, and then to push white hat #97 onto marking the near-side handler. At the very end of the clip he switches again to make his teammate on the far sideline’s job easier.

Whilst all this defensive switching & re-marking is going on, USA #4 Schlacket has slipped through the net and is temporarily unmarked. #10 Matsuno, who may have poached to stop Beau’s deep cut, recognises this and has begun to close him down at speed before the disc is thrown, but is narrowly unable to get there in time to stop the pass.

This is a mistake from Japan, caused by a misunderstanding and/or a lack of communication. As the two USA offensive players meet, the deeper Japanese defender (#16 Jun Kusano) seems to expect he and his nearby teammate will form a sandwich around the two cutters, and positions himself accordingly – covering any deep moves and expecting his teammate to cover either cutter going under. At the moment just before the USA player moves, the positioning looks all good for a sandwich (they could even work together with the other nearby defenders to make it 3v3 or 4v4), however when the under cut happens it becomes clear that yellow-boots is not aware of the plan, and the opportunity has been missed.

What’s interesting is that Kusano was expecting the sandwich to happen, suggesting it is an element of the defence which Japan have agreed upon / practiced. If the USA players moving towards each other had triggered all the nearby Japanese defenders to look to set up a sandwich, it could have presented the USA with an unfamiliar situation from which they would need to work to get free, and upped the defensive efficiency by requiring less movement. This would have looked like classic confusing Japanese not-quite-man, not-quite-zone defence.

Kusano was on the Buzz Bullets’ universe point D line against Ironside at WUCC 2014, and scored the winning point. Yohei Kichikawa – who blows the sandwich here – is also a veteran Buzz player and the top assister for Japan in 2016. It’s possible Kichikawa was given the strict matchup of Mickle for this point, making him exempt from what are revealed to be standard switching/sandwiching defensive moves by Japan, and perhaps out of habit he positions himself as if he’s going to take part in the sandwiching move, but then he sticks rigidly to Mickle, and it’s this miscommunication that has a negative effect on Japan’s defence.

It looks as if Japan are setting up another sandwich afterwards, but you don’t really get to see if this one is an illusion or not. Jimmy Mickle makes a perfect lateral cut at the angle which best exploits this front-and-back sandwich, knowing the Ashlyn Joye is well equipped to hit that cut with a quick inside-out flick. When Mickle gets the disc he resists the urge to pivot outwards down the sideline and instead looks infield – this opens up the space immediately for Helton to cut to the far corner for the USA score.

This point showed some interesting potential from Japan’s defence, but in the end it was dismantled by solid, patient, and deadly play from the USA.

Japan v USA WUGC 2016: Japan communicating to cover USA’s initial options

Reddit post & comments on this video
… full transcript …

First thing that catches the eye here is Japan’s #3 not following the early deep cut, but switching onto Beau instead – he’s likely been given the task of stopping the first under threat whilst a teammate picks up the deep threat (a fairly common tactic to stop set plays).

More interestingly, the two Japanese defenders towards the top of the screen position themselves so they are able to see each other, and then communicate via gesticulation – pointing out the threat they want the other player to cover. They haven’t decided exactly who they will be marking until they arrive and analyse the situation. If Mickle (cutting under on the far sideline) had arrived earlier, it’s quite possible the Japanese defenders would’ve chosen to mark different players. Both defenders react immediately to the shared communication, and take their marks. This one-second of communication & teamwork puts USA on the back foot and results in a stall-6 layout save.

USA may be applying the old adage “run through the poaches” here, however the Japanese players are not really poaching – after the first couple of seconds they are each covering a specific mark. Note how every defender glances frequently between their mark, the disc, and the space – dynamically reacting to the positioning/space and where the thrower is focusing, so they are able to save their energy by only committing to cover realistic & time-critical threats. This gives the impression of poaching, improves the efficiency of their movement, and helps facilitate dynamic switching of marks.

Ben Wiggins (/u/blwiggins) realised that Buzz defenders pay a lot of attention to where the thrower is looking when trying to figure out their D in 2007 – this clip of him throwing a no-look score and then giving a knowing nod has stuck in my mind ever since! (excuse the quality – it’s more obviously no-look on the DVD) It’s apparent that Japan run down the pull matching person-for-person, and when they arrive they re-analyse, focusing on communicating and switching where possible. This maximises their effectiveness and adds an unpredictable element which often negates any set play the opposition has planned.

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