Last season the Detroit Mechanix went 7-9 with a -24 goal differential, just missing out on the playoffs. Their regular season did have some highlights though, including a 23-22 victory over the eventual champion Philadelphia Spinners, who went 15-2 on the season. Last year the Mechanix team was mostly composed of Michigan State and Western Michigan grads, but like most returning teams, they have a decidedly new look this season.
One of the main differences for the Mechanix this season will be their coach, Ken Porter. Porter is a North Carolina State graduate, who has been playing for the North Carolina club team Ring of Fire since 2008. This past club season Ring reached the semifinals at Nationals before falling to Revolver. Not only that Porter has often been described as “the fastest man in Ultimate,” having run a 4.64 40 yard dash, and just recently returned from a visit to Japan with a USA All Star team. On the weekend he caught 11 goals, good for third most on the team. Other than Brodie Smith there may not be a more decorated Ultimate player in the AUDL. So not only will the Mechanix benefit from Porter’s wealth of experience playing high level Ultimate, he will be a major asset on the field as well. In an interview with Skyd Magazine Porter was quick to admit he had never coached at this level, only played. But combining his experience and talent with the players the Mechanix already have should help Detroit contend in the tough Midwestern Division.
Though the Mechanix only have seven AUDL vets on their team, their biggest playmakers from last season are on board again this year. Andrew Lucarotti, Logan Vantrease, Dave Hochhalter, and Mark Worsfold will be making plays for the Mechanix this season too. In 2012, Lucarotti threw 43 goals with a better than 2-1 assist/turn ratio. Hochhalter, a Michigan State grad that’s played on Overhaul, a Nationals level Mixed Club team, was the team’s top handlers with 61 assists, good for second in the AUDL. Unfortunately he threw even more turnovers (62) but with some new targets that should have a better time getting open we might see fewer turns from him this season. In addition to Porter, Mark Worsfold will most likely be one of their favorite targets. Worsfold has spent time playing for Overhaul, and also BAT back in the day, the elite open team from Michigan. Last season he scored 50 goals, leading the Mechanix, and at 6’3 he’s a tall target.
Last season the Mechanix played at the Silverdome, and while their former home has given way to the elements they will be playing at Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, an indoor soccer complex. Though the Mechanix moved outside of the Silverdome, they’re still in Pontiac, not central Detroit. They’ll have to work hard to keep attendance numbers up. The Mechanix website is one of the more professional in the AUDL, and is consistently updated, which is not something that can be said for every AUDL team. The Mechanix ownership is one of the main factors that brought Ken Porter to Detroit, so hopefully they can attract top talent in coming years to make up for the lack of top talent in Detroit. The Mechanix aren’t featured on any of UXtv’s weekly AUDL games, but they will also be streaming every home game they have, so you can be sure I will have much more on them as the season progresses.
The Mechanix preseason already started, in which they played one of their sponsors in an exhibition, the Michigan National guard. The game was put on to test their livestream system, and while that end seemed to work well the game was not so pretty. The National Guard were certainly athletic, but the type of Ultimate they were familiar with better suited a random pickup game at a park with your friends from work, not high level Ultimate. The Mechanix were content to huck and d, winning by over 30 goals.
One thing is certain, their competition in the Midwestern division will be much tougher. According to Ultiworld’s power rankings four of the top five teams in the AUDL are located in the Midwest, and the Mechanix are ranked ninth. It’s not hard to see why Ultiworld is more skeptical of the Mechanix. While they did bring in one of the top players in the game in Ken Porter, the rest of their roster doesn’t have the kind of elite Ultimate experience most Midwestern teams have. Michigan hasn’t had an elite level open team since BAT, and that clearly hinders the Mechanix in their recruiting. Last year they were able to get by, relying on Michigan State and Western Michigan players, but with these new promising teams in their division they have their work cut out for them. The Mechanix are clearly hoping their AUDL experience and star player/coach will help give them an advantage. Whether it will remains to be seen.