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10-Man Ride: Archers, Chrome improve to 2-0

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Jul 29, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. We’re recapping the Archers’ 9-7 comeback win over the Waterdogs, Chrome clinging to a 12-11 win over the Redwoods, and we’re previewing the first-ever #PLLAfterDark matchup between Redwoods-Chaos at 11:00PM ET tonight (not a typo) on NBCSN. Here we go!

1. Christian Mazzone, cutting through on fast breaks

The Archers scored 2.9 fast break goals per game last season. That’s alright (fourth in PLL). Their rope unit dominated enough on defense and their six-on-six offense moved the ball so well that they didn’t need to rely on transition. But now, they’re getting transition shots, thanks to Rutgers product Christian Mazzone.

This five-on-four is a ticking time bomb; two more Waterdogs are hustling into the hole. Mazzone defuses the situation, identifies a three-on-two on the righty side, then seals and rolls Brodie freaking Merrill. I mean, c’mon! Brodie shrugged the kid aside, anxious to approach Marcus Holman at the two-point line, and Mazzone cashes in.

As a team, the Archers are making more of these cuts. They’re probing for shots early in the clock. Scott Ratliff’s clear through against Atlas made this Mazzone goal possible. To their credit, Atlas is getting back in the hole (slightly) better than last year. This is a split-second six-on-five as Atlas substitutes a pole on the field. A fleeting moment. And the Archers are able to capitalize because of the spacing the Ratliff, Mazzone, and Dominique Alexander create.

2. Archers defensive adjustments

Defensive coordinator Tony Resch’s unit adjusts better than anyone. Opponents shot 23.3% after halftime last year (2nd lowest in PLL). Through two games in the Championship Series, the Archers have held opponents to 5-for-40 (12.5%) shooting in the second half.

Their attentiveness in the locker room is unparalleled. The whole team huddles around an iPad. Resch speaks. They listen. Pupils dilated.

Their second half recoveries yesterday were incredible. This Waterdogs offense wants to share the ball. They did in the first half (more on that in a minute). But there were no options in the second half. Goalie Adam Ghitelman made 10 saves and boasted a save percentage that would be impressive for a free throw shooter (90.9%). Of course he had his usual dose of dive out attempts, run outs, and carries across midfield – highlighted by him plucking Ratliff’s pass deflection out of the air on the final possession.

3. Christian Cuccinello, the human battering ram

Cuccinello started on attack against his former team, and he wasted no time initiating. Hung up at X, he attacked his defender, drew a slide, broke the slide’s stick (!), and dished to Ben Reeves who found Connor Kelly for a stepdown.

I like Cuccinello starting on this offense. He was one of the best initiators in the league last summer any way you slice it. He shot 32.1% unassisted, set up 25 assist opportunities, and dished five second assists. This offense needs someone to take over down the stretch. The Waterdogs have led for the bulk of their first two games as a club. They are competing; they just need to find a closer.

4. Danny Eipp: Two-way certified 

Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan took Eipp in the expansion draft because he liked the concept of Eipp as a two-way guy. He’s always been an offensive player; there was no proof that this would work aside from Eipp’s speed and work ethic. Plenty of players are two-way in theory, but not in practice.

With Zach Currier out in the brain health protocol, Eipp saw more time on both ends. Bryan Costabile earned his two-way tag on Monday night for standing up Tom Schreiber. I’m ready to deem Eipp a two-way midfielder, too, after seeing him match feet with Captain America. Look where this dodge starts! Eipp travels from the Atlantic to the Pacific against the Magellan dodge, forcing a wrong-sided shot which goalie Charlie Cipriano gobbles up.

5. Ament hangups (and some PSU nostalgia!)

Marcus Holman called it in the pregame huddle: “I feel like we’re gonna get hung a lot in this game.”

The Archers razor picks for Grant Ament left their rookie quarterback alone at X ready to deal. His behind-the-back feed to Schreiber (reminiscent of Schreiber’s cut to win gold in Netanya!) was beautiful. It made SportsCenter’s top 10; we’re working on hanging it in the Louvre.

Shoutout to Ryan Ambler for making Ament feel at home with those picks on goal-line extended when the defense is hung up. That is straight out of Penn State’s playbook.

6. Chrome’s invert offense

Ned Crotty, Brendan Kavanagh, and company are bringing short-sticks behind the cage and scoring at will. Crotty’s two-handedness (plus his background as an attackman from his days at Duke) make him a matchup nightmare behind the cage. He shot 6-for-10 on inverts last year, and he canned one last night.

Kavanagh brings a different dynamic. He’s all left. Defenses try to cut the field in half, but his hesitations and re-dodges expose showing defenders. He has made some unselfish plays that lead to shots two passes away. Those unselfish, team-first plays – including Jordan Wolf taking a backseat to these inverts, which isn’t something any X attackman would do – are defining head coach Tim Soudan’s Chrome club. 

7. Discounted double teams against the Redwoods

Double teams are on sale! The Redwoods offensive spacing has been awful through two games (more on how to fix that coming from special guest Deemer Class later). Off-ball players are hanging wider than the dodger, leading to easy squeezes. Will Haus bullies Myles Jones on-ball then bulldozes Brendan Gleason. This doesn’t cost him anything. Jones is not a threat from 25 (or 30?) yards off camera.

Donny Moss gets even more bang for his buck here. There are 30 seconds left on the shot clock – an entire possession is squandered because Sergio Perkovic is 20 yards from the cage on goal-line extended.

This Chrome defense is suffocating. And even when they need to rotate behind these doubles, they’re up to the task…

8. Two Slide of the Day: Mike Manley 

Mike Manley is playing like MIKE MANLEY! in 2020. He’s strong on-ball, sliding with the body, and throwing himself in front of shots to protect his buddy John Galloway.

This rotation to Matt Kavanagh’s pop is damn near perfect. Manley sees the shot clock; he knows Kavanagh has to shoot. He doesn’t bother breaking down and chopping his feet on his approach (a must against Kavanagh’s bag of hitches). Instead, he’s looking to do one thing and one thing only: Wear that shot like a tuxedo on prom night.

It’s a carbon copy of his Glick against Chaos. A two-man seesaw leaves a shooter open, and Manley’s anticipation puts him in a spot to make a play.

(Sidenote: For new readers, a Glick is a blocked shot, named after Chaos SSDM Mark Glicini. And going forward, a Gaudet is a drawn penalty that leads to a powerplay goal. As in, “Matt Gaudet had three Gaudets last night in Chrome’s one-goal win.”)

9. Deemer’s Thoughts

Chaos LC midfielder Deemer Class is out of the tournament with a lower body injury. He’s been watching from home – so I asked him for his thoughts on the Chaos-Redwoods matchup tonight. Here’s what he had to say:

Flipping Fields – it’s a simple concept in theory, but a difficult one to teach and understand. The ball needs to move fast, east-west and north-south in the offensive end. It is key for Chaos and Redwoods to tighten this up as they progress through the tournament and as they head into their matchup.

Benefits:

  1. Attacking backside and rushed approaches
  2. More off-ball cutting opportunities while defenders have to turn heads more
  3. Better flow and involvement of entire unit

We’ve seen glimpses of this from each offense, but not enough. Too many possessions have gone stale. This Sergio Perkovic 2-pointer (set up by Brent Adams’ “third assist”) shows what the Redwoods offense looks like when they flip fields.

10. Tucker Durkin is in the bubble! 

Is that Norman Bates? No, wait a minute… bah gawd, that’s Tucker Durkin’s music! Atlas LC defenseman and captain Tucker Durkin is in the bubble, per Chris Jastrzembski per Trevor Baptiste’s Instagram story.

Durkin tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in July. He had to self quarantine and test negatively before he could fly out. Now, he’ll have to quarantine again on-site and test negatively before he can practice. The Bulls play the Whipsnakes tomorrow night at 7:00PM ET on NBCSN. Durkin would be a huge boost for a defense that has dropped SSDM Kevin Unterstein down to close in his absence.

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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