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10 Man Ride: Nardella for MVP

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Aug 1, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. We’re covering high bouncers, Zedzilla, MVP favorite Joe Nardella, Chrome’s 3-1 finish in pool play, the Two Slide of the Day, and looking ahead to today’s matchups: Atlas-Redwoods at 1:00PM ET on NBC and Chaos-Waterdogs at 3:30PM ET on NBC Sports Gold. Here we go!

1. High bouncers will go!

80.0% of two-point goals in this tournament have been off the turf. Mike Chanenchuk used the ground on a two-pointer last night; Connor Kelly did later.

Goalies have saved 86.4% of non-bounced two-point attempts. Use the Earth, and save percentage drops to 53.8%. That’s enticing. At the risk of sounding exactly like every U11 coach in the country: Bounce your shots!

2. Joe Nardella’s MVP case

Here’s the case: Joe Nardella is winning 77.8% of his faceoffs. He has won those faceoffs against a tough schedule (Trevor Baptiste on Thursday, then Tommy Kelly on Friday). He has three goals (more than many shooters) and two assists (one to Zedzilla and one to Rambo; he can hit either on those fast breaks, which is tougher than it looks).

And by winning those faceoffs, he prevents fast break opportunities. Last year teams shot better on fast breaks following faceoff wins than they did on fast breaks following clean saves or turnovers. Think about that for a minute. The best goalies and the most aggressive defenses won’t generate the quality of fast break looks that a faceoff unit can.

Nardella is the MVP right now, and I’ll hear other arguments, but I sure won’t listen to them.

3. Sergio Salcido attacking from the wing

When Chaos traded for Salcido, I was skeptical. Not of Salcido’s talent – but of the fit. There are a lot of Canadian and Iroquois finishers in this offense who thrive in close quarters. Salcido usually creates 10 feet of space between himself and his defender as he drives wide. I was wrong – he looks great on the wing.

By starting on the wing, Salcido is attacking the middle of the field rather than attacking the alleys. An analytics dream. He had a sweet shovel pass to Curtis Dickson for an assist opportunity in the first quarter. Later, he slipped underneath his defender and snaked back upfield to find a skip lane to Josh Byrne (who made one more pass before Connor Fields was denied on the doorstep). He’s hunting for the pass first; his eyes are on Jake Froccaro here, but when the Whipsnakes don’t slide, Salcido plants, rolls back, and finishes with his stick toward the middle.

Playing on that wing has eliminated left-handed shots from his diet. Good. Salcido shot 3-for-22 (13.6%) with his left last year. Just because he could get his left-handed shot off down that alley doesn’t mean it was a quality look – that’s what the defense wanted. Now, he’s putting more pressure on the defense as a natural side scorer, both on- and off-ball. His man slides, he pops to space (a common theme today!), and the ball pings from Froccaro to Byrne and back to Salcido.

4. Austin Staats to Miles Thompson

The creativity. The strength to hold off a defender and make that “off-hand” bottom hand feed. The finish behind Miles’s back and the defender’s back. My goodness.

5. Two Slide of the Day

Another yawn-inducing sequence by the Whipsnakes defense. Oh, Connor Fields is switched onto a short-stick? No problem. Tyler Warner works his bottom hand, Michael Ehrhardt slides, and Bryce Young splits two off-ball. He has a stick on Ehrhardt’s man, ready to fill, until the pass goes to the pipe. Young sinks in enough to be Ehrhardt’s help, but not so much that he can’t close out to the shooter and force a low angle shot. Kyle Bernlohr is unbeatable from that angle.

6. Three and Four Slides of the Day

This group has a hive mind that teams with more shared experience lack. At times it’s been easy to forget that this Chrome defense returned one (1) longpole. This possession was one of those times.

Will Haus slides to the rollback, Jesse Bernhardt rotates across the crease to Haus’s man. Jake Pulver rotates from the backside to X to cover Bernhard’ts man. And James Barclay passes off his man inside to a peeling Mike Manley so that he can block this stepdown shot.

7. Chrome creating short-stick matchups for Jordan Wolf

“We can’t come out and do the Wolf/Mac two-man game every play,” Chrome LC head coach Tim Soudan told Jerome Taylor before the series. 

As unstoppable as that action is, predictability makes an offense easier to defend. This Chrome offense has been anything but predictable. They’ve turned to inverts for Ned Crotty and Brendan Kavanagh. Jesse King is bullying defenders for rollbacks on that lefty wing like he did at Ohio State. Wolf is running two-man games, but not only with Jordan MacIntosh (see: Wolf’s third assist in a pick-and-roll with Matt Gaudet). And Wolf is playing inside more, forcing his man to slide, and mixing up matchups.

Watch Wolf inside. His man slides. King moves it to Justin Guterding at X, who wastes no time sending it back to Wolf – who is now matched up with King’s original defender. Wolf attacks, draws a doubles, a finds King on the doorstep. (Related: The Waterdogs two slides were nowhere to be found yesterday. More on that later.)

8. Myles Jones, popping to space

The Redwoods offense is at its best with Myles Jones popping off a teammate’s dodge. When he catches in those scenarios, he’s feeding a four-on-three. He either scans the field and finds the open man (Clarke Petterson here)…

Or he attacks the approach to take the middle of the field and find an even better look.

These throwbacks are the Redwoods’ bread and butter. MJ has missed some throwbacks by prolonging that initial dodge too much. Brent Adams and Kyle Harrison are their best options to start – while MJ and Sergio Perkovic popping to space can cause problems for the defense.

9. Sergio Perkovic’s eSh. %

Sergio Perkovic is shooting 5-for-20. So what’s his shooting percentage? Is it 25.0%? 

Nope. It’s 45.0%. Four of his goals have been from beyond the arc. Through three games, a Perkovic shot has been as efficient as a Matt Gaudet shot from the hole (although not quite as efficient as an Eric Law shot on the doorstep). The Redwoods’ offense looks to get back on track against the Atlas at 1:00PM ET on NBC today.

Sergio Perkovic - 2020 Shot Chart (1)

10. BJ Grill wants communication to drive success

As I mentioned earlier, the Waterdogs’ two slides were not sharp yesterday. Brodie Merrill mentioned it while mic’d up. Grill’s body language after goals suggested that he knows who should have sank in. It’ll get fixed. This team is 0-3, but they have yet to play a full 48 minutes.

BJ Grill communicates like a coach. He has been strong on-ball this series – against Rob Pannell, Will Manny, and Jordan Wolf. This hang up two-man game defense is about as perfectly as you could play this action. Read Jerome Taylor’s feature on Grill, then tune in as Grill and the Waterdogs take on Chaos at 3:30PM ET on NBC Sports Gold.

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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