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10 Man Ride: Archers-Chaos, Whips-Woods preview

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Aug 6, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. We have two semifinal matchups to cover: Chaos-Archers at 8:00PM ET on NBC Sports Gold and Whipsnakes-Redwoods at 10:30PM ET on NBC Sports Network. Let’s go!

1. Chaos playing box on a field

Chaos is playing box lacrosse on a field, and it is beautiful. They’re setting picks. They’re setting double picks. At times it looks like the most calculated math equation: Draw a third defender to one two-man game, and find the guys playing two-on-one.

Whether it’s the Dhane Smith-Austin Staats-Kevin Buchanan midfield line that will punch you in the mouth or the Sergio Salcido-Jake Froccaro-Eric Scott line that will run right by you, they are committed to the pick game. Chaos shot 3-for-13 (23.1%) off two-man games during group play – then 9-for-13 (69.2%) off two-man games against Chrome.

They’re drawing doubles (and triples!) and then moving the ball quickly. This was actually a decent recovery by Chrome – they flooded the ball side then marked up on the weakside before Dhane could swing it. So Dhane sends it right back to Staats against a short-stick, and he face dodges and finishes with a leaner-twister combo. Disgusting.

This matchup will be fun. The Archers don’t just switch picks – they trap them. Archers defensive coordinator Tony Resch has had roughly 44 hours to watch film on Chaos’ new look offense. Get ready for a chess match.

2. Two Slide of the Day

The Archers are always ready to rotate behind their double teams. Always. Even when they’re only hedging, the two slide is prepared. This dodge begins on the wrong side; it’s doomed from the get-go. Curtis Corley shows to prevent an underneath crease dive. Matt McMahon is pointing out the pop from the weakside. And Scott Ratliff hunts that pop, arriving on hands and disrupting the “one more!” pass.

3. Will Connor Fields play?

Fields was not seen on the field or on the injury report. It’s the storyline that has to be discussed even if the reason why we have to discuss it is because it won’t have an impact on tonight’s game.

Head coach Andy Towers has emphasized the importance of ball movement. Fields is a conundrum; he moves the ball (4.7 assist opportunities per game in his PLL career) but he dodges for a while before doing so. Teammates have struggled shooting off his passes: Chaos has shot 13.3% off passes from Fields, and 34.4% off passes from anyone else.

The discussed needs more nuance – which I trust it will lack as we enter the offseason and trade rumors swirl. It’s as much about Chaos with Miles Thompson as it is about them without Fields. Most teams are moving rosters around to include one or two off-ball presences like Thompson. Finishers improve spacing!

Maybe we see Fields run out of the box as a change-of-pace option. The Archers have had success with Joey Sankey (3G, 1A, 38%) in that role. The “invert specialist” is a position that was nonexistent prior to 22-man gameday rosters. Sankey finalizers at X have been a spark plug for this team. Could we see Fields in the same role?

4. The Pick-and-Roll Partner That Was Promised

Josh Currier has been excellent in his role replacing Ben McIntosh as Tom Schreiber’s picker. He scored rolling off a pick for Schreiber on Tuesday night, and then he scored cutting from the weakside.

Expect to see a heavy dose of Ryan Ambler and Tom Schreiber two-man games on the lefty wing. In his last eight games (dating back to last postseason), Ambler has 10 goals and nine assists. Those lefty actions open up space for Currier or Marcus Holman to cut into.

I mean, look at that spacing. With Grant Ament and Will Manny at X, the Archers are playing four-on-four above GLE. I don’t like the defenses chances. Atlas helped from the ball-side pipe later – resulting in a “one more!” to Will Manny sneaking for the goal. This offense sees your slides coming in slow motion.

Reminder: Chaos is facing an indefinite suspension from the Crease Collapse of the Week after they left Blaze Riorden hanging against the Whipsnakes. Can they cover cutters in the middle of the field and patrol skip lanes?

5. “Feel sorry for yourself in a week”

Blaze Riorden’s speech after Chaos dropped to 0-4 will give you chills. His team responded. Tyson Bell was blocking shots. Mark Glicini was blocking shots (obviously). Everyone played hard in front of Blaze, who only saw 26 shots on goal. (That might sound like a lot; that number had been north of 30 for three straight games.) This defense stood up for Blaze. They’re starting to find their swagger and arrogance.

If you haven’t heard the speech, listen to Jordie’s solo episode of The Crease Dive. Blaze’s speech kicks it off before Jordie gets into the hard-hitting questions, such as “Was Connor Kelly’s high bouncer the highest high bouncer to ever bounce?”

Watch Blaze and the Chaos compete against the Archers tonight at 8:00PM ET on NBC Sports Gold.

6. Whips penalty kill vs. Perkovic and MJ

Myles Jones and Sergio Perkovic have shot a combined 8-for-15 (53.3%) from beyond the arc. Goalies have saved 38.5% of their two-pointers – that would be a below average save percentage from the doorstep. MJ and Perkovic are using earth and making it impossible for goalies to read their shots. When the Woods go on the powerplay, will the Whipsnakes shut one (or both) off?

The real question: Will the Redwoods even get any powerplay opportunities? The Whipsnakes are disciplined; head coach Jim Stagnitta’s club has only taken six penalties. They might not need to throw junk to prevent two-point shots, anyways; the Whipsnakes killed a league-high 83% of penalties by playing straight up. Michael Ehrhardt’s range can disrupt adjacent passes above the arc. 

7. Whipsnakes’ 5-on-5 offense

Cat-and-mouse substitution games aren’t as common at the pro level. The shot clock is short. Every team has All-American midfielders waiting to get on the field. Let’s sub off and sub on, pronto – right?

Not with the Whipsnakes. If Ehrhardt catches and opposing offensive midfielder on the field, he’ll hang out for a few. He’ll pick for Matt Rambo or in this case, let his teammates play a five-on-five.

Brad Smith starts the party with a wing dodge. The defense doesn’t fully commit to him, but they lose track of Rambo. I’m not sure if Garrett Epple got caught half-sliding or if he thought Eddy Glazener would play sides on that Rambo-Jay Carlson exchange. Either way, it creates a three-on-three out in front and Smith finds Rambo who makes one more to John Haus. (Sidenote: Smith leads PLL with four second assists.)

8. Ryder’s rocker

Ryder Garnsey’s dodging style is so unique. He shows his back to defenders, inviting them to overplay a shoulder. When he catches them leaning – with a rocker or with what Jamie Munro calls a dead shoulder technique – he attacks the cage fearlessly. Ryder takes that tough extra step against anyone, even if it means soaking a check from Brodie Merrill. This recklessness is why he led PLL in unassisted shooting (34.5%) last summer.

But the Whips don’t overextend on-ball or overplay shoulders against postups. Ryder has shot 0-for-10 off the dodge in his career against the Whipsnakes; he is 12-for-34 (35.3%) unassisted against all other clubs. Will the Woods pick for switches or – even better – play hangup two-man games with Ryder to create space between him and his defender? 

9. Cleaning the Glass

The Whips led the league in offensive rebounding rate (29.5%) last year. Through four games, they’ve been even better (35.9%). The garbage man Jay Carlson (13GB) has been cleaning up the trash.

Compounded with Joe Nardella (75% at the faceoff stripe), that is a frustrating possession deficit for opponents to overcome, both physically and mentally.

10. Singles vs. Skips

The Whipsnakes offense will look to make the easy pass. The Redwoods have whiffed when swinging for the fences. Blind throwbacks for doubles and triples have been costly. Even this pass that connects feels unnecessary. Myles Jones drew the slide – there’s a three-on-two on that lefty side, just get it to the closest open guy.

This offense doesn’t need MJ to hit singles; it needs to hit singles then let MJ drive in the run. I wrote about it in more detail on Saturday (in #8) – MJ is at his best popping to space off a dodge by Kyle Harrison, Sergio Perkovic, or Brent Adams. From there, he can hitch for his own shot or scan the field for the open shooter.

Thanks for reading!

Spread the word, submit any questions you want to see answered in this space to me on Twitter (@joekeegs), and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

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