March 28, 2022
By Evan Lepler
The AUDL offseason is heating up, with news of expansion, realignment, and player signings all adding to the anticipation for the upcoming 2022 campaign. Consequently, every Monday we will be asking and answering "One Burning Question" on theAUDL.com, with Daniel Cohen, Adam Ruffner, and myself all writing independently on a particular topic.
Who was more impressive in the AUDL preseason game from Saturday: The Oakland Spiders or the Portland Nitro?
Daniel Cohen: While the Oakland Spiders deserve a ton of credit for coming back after a sizable third quarter deficit, I was thoroughly impressed by the Portland Nitro in their preseason debut. Finally getting to see Leandro Marx tear up an AUDL defense was a treat; the star power is clearly going to be there for this team and they have some nice role players to round out the supporting cast. The offense fit right into the aggressive, fast-paced play of the West Division, as Portland needed just 164 completions to score 24 points, which included attempting a whopping 22 throws of 40-plus yards—only Montreal had a game with more huck attempts last season. On defense, the Nitro experimented with the same double team trap pull strategy that several West teams have become known for, and otherwise showed promising signs of adapting quickly to AUDL play. Yes it was of course a preseason game, but if the high-powered offense is a sign of things to come, even if to a slightly lesser degree, Portland is going to put on a show this season.
Evan Lepler: Despite missing their pair of USA World Games Team candidates—Jack Hatchett and Raphy Hayes—the Nitro still showcased several spectacular playmakers in the franchise’s first ever AUDL action. Leandro Marx obviously stole the show with his versatile excellence, but Daniel Lee and Jake Johnson were also impactful in their preseason debuts. I worry about putting too much stock into one exhibition game, and consequently I am not going to worry too much about the score or specifically the end of quarter situations. It was just enjoyable to watch two teams trying to figure out their stuff while also raising the competitive juices a bit for the first time in 2022. The Spiders indeed exceeded my expectations, competing with admirable energy and determination during their second half comeback. Overall, though, the Nitro were the more impressive squad from start to finish in most every way, except for their tricky-to-identify light orange numbers on their gray jerseys. The biggest general takeaway was that the West Division, which featured the most close games of any of the league’s quadrants in 2021 should be full of razor thin margins again.
Adam Ruffner: Leandro Marx was diabolical as the Nitro striker racked up 14 scores and 670 yards of offense on just 24 touches, looking already like one of the top scorers in the league in his AUDL debut. But Portland was always going to be talented, so what took me more was how well the Spiders played in their first appearance of 2022. Keenan Laurence continues his ascent as one of the best players in the West Division—if not the league as a whole—and contributed 10 scores on Saturday night. The Oakland offense had many steady drives thanks to the handler play of defender-turned-veteran-thrower Matt Crawford, who showcased a full arsenal of throws, including one of the more underrated hammers in the league. And the Spiders defense applied enough pressure throughout the game to eventually wear on the Nitro offense, yielding Oakland turnovers on which they capitalized on numerous times throughout their second half comeback.