Two weekends ago, Machine traveled to the east coast for their final regular season tournament, the Chesapeake Open. The tournament took place in Boyds, Maryland, a small town between Baltimore and Washington DC, which was temporarily doubling as the hottest place on earth. With temperatures hitting triple digits, and the heat index cracking 120, Machine withered en route to a 6th place finish.
Machine expected a full roster of 27 for the weekend, only missing veteran coach Andy Neilsen, but ended up losing a few key players on short notice. Jesse Buchsbaum was sidelined due to a lingering leg injury, Ron Kubalanza was unable to make the trip due to last minute issues, Bob Liu sat with wrist issues for the first half of day 1, and Von Alanguilan missed most of Sunday with a knee injury. Despite the losses, Machine still had its largest roster of the season, aided by the late season addition of Julian Childs-Walker (formerly of Sockeye/ Sub Zero). The XL roster and sideline support from several friends and family with food, drinks, and ice, helped Machine manage the dangerous weather with very few heat related issues. The tournament volunteer staff was on top of providing shade, water, and ice, adjusting the tournament format to shorten games, and building in an extra bye for all teams during the hottest portion of the day.
Despite being prepared off the field, Machine’s on field performance looked anything but. The tournament started out smoothly, as Machine got out to an early lead, taking half 7-4 over Raleigh’s Ring of Fire. Machine continued to apply pressure, generating multiple breaks in the second half, closing out with a 13-7 victory. The momentum would not carry over against Machine’s next opponent, New York PoNY. Both teams started the game by trading points, but Machine’s O-line stumbled late in the first half. A 3 break effort by Machine's defense was able to keep things close, going into half down 6-7. In the second half, the offensive struggles persisted and the defenses ability to generate turns and convert break opportunities dried up, allowing PoNY to stretch their lead, handing Machine a 9-13 loss.
During a tournament wide bye for the heat, Machine headed to a local restaurant for food and air conditioning. Despite the loss, Machine still controlled their destiny to finish in the top two of the pool and earn a Sunday bye to quarterfinals. To do so would require beating Atlanta’s Chain Lightning and Toronto’s GOAT to finish the day. Unfortunately, Chain Lightning had other things to say about that. The first half went very similar to the start of the PoNY game, with Machine getting a few breaks, but giving up more. In the second half, Chain began to pull away, before a late push by Machine narrowed the gap to tie things up. A Chain Lightning break to go up 12-11 then coincided with the hard cap going off, handing Machine their second defeat of the day. Hoping to salvage some momentum going into the bracket, Machine laced up against GOAT in the final match-up of the day. In a turn of fortune, the offense began to click in the first half, but the defense looked increasingly ineffective. A few hiccups in the second half cost the O-line breaks, but a back breaking 30 minute long point, in which Machine was unable to convert, sealed the deal, as GOAT walked away with a 9-8 victory under the setting sun.
Machine had little downtime to do anything but sleep after finally leaving the fields at 7:30pm and before being back at the fields the next morning at 7:00am.
With a fresh slate, Machine looked to put day 1 behind them as they faced off against Florida United, a team they previously beat in a close contest at the US Open. While the O-line and D-line had their struggles at times, down 1-2 points throughout the game, a break to take half and a late surge was enough for Machine to take back control, giving Machine a 13-12 pre-Quarter victory. Advancing to quarterfinals, Machine was excited to have a chance to avenge the previous days loss with a rematch against PoNY. An early break gave Machine some life, but PoNY was quick to even things back up, and converted an additional break to create separation. Machine’s d-line again struggled to take advantage of several opportunities to convert scores, and the offense ran out of steam as they grinded through several long points. PoNY kept their arm’s length lead throughout, eventually winning 13-11
Relegated to the 5th place bracket, Machine had another date with Ring of Fire. The game went very much the same as day 1, with Machine’s white line defense grabbing a few early breaks. The offense struggled at time, but consistent pressure on the turn was able to keep Ring out of the end zone, ultimately allowing Machine to hold. Machine kept a comfortable lead throughout, winning 11-8. In the final rematch of the day, Machine took on GOAT once more for 5th place. The game had a loose feel to start, but both teams quickly ratcheted up the intensity. Keeping with the theme, the rematch looked an awful lot like the original, with GOAT breaking early and often, then both teams traded out until it was GOAT for the win at 9-13.
A long, hot, and frustrating weekend on the field, Chicago was happy to get back home and reflect on the struggles. Following the tournament with an off-weekend provided a much needed physical and mental break. Machine now sets it sights on the post-season, with the start of the USAU series taking place at Great Lakes Regionals in Rockford, IL on September 10/11 (previously set for Joliet, IL).