10 Man Ride: Invert Szn
CLEAR! The ride is on. The playoff bracket is set. Waterdogs LC has secured a spot in the semifinals in Philadelphia. Atlas, Archers, Redwoods, Whipsnakes, Chaos, and Cannons will compete in the quarterfinals in Salt Lake City.
Let's recap the final weekend of the regular season.
1. Dhane Smith's daring feeds
Dhane Smith makes passes few other players would dare to attempt. Most try to draw a slide and hit the open man. Dhane will throw it to someone who is completely covered, but he’ll put it on their shoulder opposite their defender.
44.7% of his assist opportunities have been to the doorstep or hole -- way above the league average (25.4%).
This set play off a restart has a lot of moving parts. It’s a Nations concept (two-pass pick-and-roll) and Spain PNR (pick the picker) blended into one. Mac O’Keefe rolls to the rim, runs off a pick, and Dhane hits him with a beautiful pass.
2. Delayed pass down pick downs
Midfielder-turned-LSM-turned-SSDM Ian MacKay has been playing lights out for Chaos. He switched picks onto Grant Ament and Rob Pannell all weekend. During the month of August, Chaos opponents have shot 4-for-31 (12.9%) off two-man games -- down from 27-for-82 (32.9%) prior. MacKay has been a huge part of their smothering pick-and-roll scheme.
His hustle just makes good things happen. MacKay blocked a shot on Friday night. He swam Tre Leclaire and boxed him out on a loose ball in the corner. He anticipated a Ryder Garnsey low-to-high miss for a run out on Sunday.
And he’s a huge threat when he crosses midfield.
MacKay buried the game-winning two-point goal against Archers -- his third 2-pointer of the season. He stays and plays during the substitution phase for delayed pass down pick downs with Josh Byrne.
Byrne is dangerous sweeping in those 4-on-4 scenarios, especially when MacKay is being guarded by an offensive midfielder terrified to switch.
Six-on-six defenses are difficult to solve; any points early in the shot clock can be the difference in the playoffs.
It’s crazy to look back on Chaos’ 2020 postseason run now knowing that that version of their trips offense was only the tip of the iceberg. Head coach Andy Towers has leaned into his club’s Canadian identity by: trading for MacKay, Wes Berg, and Chris Cloutier; adding Chase Fraser; and drafting Tanner Cook, Ryan Smith, and honorary Canadian Mac O’Keefe. It’s working.
3. "I can go... NO! I'm there!"
Listen to Eddy Glazener mic’d up, and you realize how quickly he diagnoses what went wrong on a given defensive possession. Sometimes he’s doing it in real time.
The General was guarding Josh Byrne on Sunday. The ‘Woods switched every pick-and-roll, but wanted Glazener to be hot after being switched off Byrne. Here he’s switched onto Wes Berg -- and tells his teammates “I can go!”
Garrett Epple starts to slide in Glazener’s blindspot.
“NO!” Glazener shouts.
Byrne hits Berg on the backside pipe.
“I’m there!” Glazener scolds Epple.
It has to be difficult to take the top assignment and organize the defense. Glazener somehow manages. Most of the game was much cleaner for the ‘Woods, who held Chaos to 25.0% shooting in six-on-six sets.
4. Crease Collapse of the Week: Garrett Epple
There isn’t a defender who makes more plays within scheme than Garrett Epple. He’s not a quiet right-place-right-time defender. His arrival is always accompanied with an exclamation point.
His cross-body pass deflection on Max Adler’s last-second fast break was absurd. He made a similar play on Friday’s opening faceoff against Joe Nardella. Epple clogs passing lanes while sliding better than anyone in the league.
5. Paul Rabil sweeping lefty
Chrome’s slow-to-go defense proved to be kryptonite against certain offenses (see: Archers on July 4th weekend). The Cannons offense was not one of them.
Paul Rabil is shooting off the dodge better than any midfielder in the league. He and Lyle Thompson are the types of dodge-to-shoot threats that dismantle man-to-man defenses. Watch Chrome deny Rabil’s pass up top -- and press out on Lyle in the alley -- turning down double teams while Rabil rolled to a high percentage area.
With the Cannons’ season on the line, Rabil posted 3 goals, 1 two-pointer, and an assist. He has fit into every role in offensive coordinator Sean Kirwan’s system -- dodging, finishing inside, and stepping into time-and-room rockets.
This offense has been insanely efficient against the slow-to-go Chrome, the slide-and-recover Archers, and the gameplanning Whipsnakes who look slightly different defensively each week. As long as they can compete at the stripe, this team can upset someone in the playoffs.
6. Jeff Teat's off-ball hesitation
We’re close to reserving a weekly bullet point for a savvy Jeff Teat off-ball play. Last week it was his subtle stick grab to wrap his defender around Jake Carraway’s screen. This week it’s his hesitation cut (h/t @coachpughlax).
Teat sells the screen before continuing his cut and canning a SportsCenter Top 10 BTB goal.
Teat has shot 8-for-21 (38.1%) off the catch and 8-for-20 (40.0%) off the dodge. It’s tough to find a more balanced player in the league -- and he’s only a rookie.
This save by Kyle Bernlohr… how?
8. Mikie Schlosser rolling downhill
League average unassisted shooting is 24.0%. Shooting above that means you draw the pole. Shooting above 30% leads to quicker double teams.
Since 2017, Mikie Schlosser has shot 40.3% off the dodge.
Pole him. Double team him. It doesn’t matter. Mikie’s motor helps him accelerate past any on-ball defender. He makes smart decisions at full speed. And sometimes he escapes ridiculous scenarios.
The Waterdogs are headed to Philadelphia for the semifinals after winning the regular season. They made offseason moves at every level -- from adding Ryan Brown on attack to Mikie in the midfield to Eli Gobrecht, Liam Byrnes, and Ben Randall on defense to Dillon Ward in cage. Head coach Andy Copelan and his staff brought in the right pieces to complete 2020’s scrappy underdog of an inaugural squad.
9. Justin Guterding's Whipsnakes debut
The Whipsnakes didn’t bring in Justin Guterding to replace Matt Rambo (who is, by all means, back) or the trashman Jay Carlson on attack. They added Guterding to bring a veteran playmaking presence to a young midfield.
Out of the box, Guterding will draw some short-stick matchups. He attacked those with two-man games on the wing -- with Zed, rather than Rambo, as his picker. And when the Whipsnakes absolutely needed points, they inverted Guterding.
Team scoring is up league-wide this summer, from 10.9 in 2020 to 11.9. But every goal will need to be earned in the playoffs. Invert threats like Guterding will help kickstart the offense when usual sets go stale.
10. Archers attacking mismatches
Speaking of inverts… Will Manny was attacking short-sticks this weekend. He drew one on Friday night and tried to wave Grant Ament out of his way to X; then did it again on Sunday against the Whipsnakes.
The Archers would prefer to play motion offense. Some defenses -- especially Chrome, Whipsnakes, and Chaos -- have dared them to initiate with dodges.
The 2021 Archers have the players who can score against those sticky matchups. Connor Fields led the league in unassisted scoring in 2019 -- against the top matchup, week-in and week-out. Against short-sticks now? It’s too easy.
Archers draw Chaos -- a rematch of last year’s semifinals -- in the quarterfinals this weekend. We’ll dive into a preview of that matchup later this week.