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10-Man Ride: The Rematch Preview

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Jul 25, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. It’s gameday. We have 10 bullet points to prepare you for Whips-Woods at 4:00PM ET on NBC and Chaos-Chrome at 7:30PM ET on NBC Sports Network. Let’s go!

1. Who covers Matt Rambo?

Matt Rambo averages more points per game (7.0) against the Redwoods than any player averages against any team. He was chillin’ on Landis Island last September. He beat Garrett Epple in matchups earlier in 2019. Look for Finn Sullivan to draw that matchup today.

The Whips go as Rambo goes. More specifically: They go as his ability to create his own shot goes. The Whipsnakes were 6-1 when Rambo scored an unassisted goal. He shot 31.3% off the dodge in wins; but only 11.8% off the dodge in losses.

When Rambo is creating his own shot, he draws double teams. Some players will try to dodge double teams. Not Rambo. He is okay with making the easy pass (i.e. “hitting singles”) so that a teammate can make a play. His unselfishness – both to give up the ball and to take his defender to the crease when he’s being shut off – allowed this offense to reach its full potential in 2019.

7.25 Rambo shot chart

2. Tim Muller: Day-to-day

All-Film Team defender Tim Muller has been upgraded to probable with a back injury. He’s listed as day-to-day going forward.

If Muller misses time, who slides in at close defense alongside Matt Dunn and Bryce Young? Will the Whipsnakes put a longpole down there or try to cover one attackman with a short-stick so that they can play two poles out? The Redwoods initiated from the top of the field more than any other team in the league last year; those alley dodges and throwbacks accounted for 43.5% of their six-on-six shots. The Whips could bump Young up alongside Michael Ehrhardt to match up better with the Woods midfield.

3. Peyton Smith and Greg Puskuldjian’s first PLL test

Keys for the Redwoods’ new faceoff specialists, via their predecessor Greg Gurenlian:

  • How quickly can they adapt to PLL’s rules?
  • Will different styles be a plus or a minus?
  • Will wing chemistry be an issue?

Keep an eye on Puskuldjian’s use of his bottom sidewall. He explained his unorthodox technique on The Stripe with Gurenlian.

4. Myles Jones’ Redwoods debut

Myles Jones had to play off-ball as Connor Fields dodged for much of 2019. When that Chaos offense was clicking, it was beautiful. But there were underlying issues with those two ball-dominant players on the field.

Jones is ready to dodge more – and he’s ready to dodge to feed. Here’s what he told Josh Schafer:

“Being able to dodge and see the whole field, being a 6’5” midfielder, it’s much easier to see over a defense and make through passes. Now I’m throwing to another 6’5” target [Sergio Perkovic] with a heavy shot, understanding that if I dodge down one side, and if the defense slides and rotates, I know they’ll leave the furthest man open and that’s going to be Perk.

“So he’s been really dialing in that stepdown. There aren’t too many times if he catches that ball and shoots it that, you know, goalies are going to make clean saves or come out on the upper end of that shot.”

5. More shots for Sergio Perkovic

That last part is huge: Stepdown shots for Perkovic typically end well for the Woods, even if Perkovic doesn’t score. Those messy saves lead to Kobe assists.

Perkovic heated up last summer after switching to a two-way role. In his final four games, he shot 2-for-7 from 2-point range. He is at his best dodging in four-on-four or five-on-five scenarios that unfold after clears or faceoff wins.

Onto the night game…

6. Jordan Wolf vs. Jarrod Neumann

The 2019 Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year, Jarrod Neumann, will draw the most explosive X attackman on the planet: Jordan Wolf.

Wolf will look to get to his right hand. He shot 21-for-66 (31.8%) with his right yet only 1-for-9 (11.1%) with his left last year. That’s no secret. Every defender knows where he’s going; they still can’t contain him.

Chrome had the league’s most efficient six-on-six offense last year. Much of that stems from Wolf’s initiations – both isolations and pick-and-rolls with Jordan MacIntosh.

7.25 Wolf shot chart

7. Chaos’ invert defense

Chaos’ defense was carved up by inverts last year. Midfielders shot 7-for-10 (70.0%) on unassisted drives from X; most notably in the postseason when the Whipsnakes inverted, inverted, and then inverted again.

Inverts are counters to transition offense – something the Chaos excels at (more on that in a minute). If Chrome wants to slow the tempo, then look for them to turn to one of the best inverting midfielders in the world: Ned Crotty.

Crotty shot 6-for-10 (60.0%) on inverts last summer. His two-handedness makes him a nightmare for a short-stick when he picks the ball up off the endline. He can pick either side and score while soaring above goal-line extended.

8. Chaos fast break O vs. Jacques Monte’s substitution box

Chaos has the most dangerous transition unit in the league. Their close defensemen (specifically Bomb Squad captain Jarrod Neumann) can carry and shoot from 20 yards out. They scored 4.5 fast break goals per game during the regular season last year – by far the most in PLL.

New Chrome assistant coach Jacques Monte runs a tight ship in the substitution box. His unit will be put to the test in its first game together. For his squad to start its #Chromeback on the right foot, it’ll need to prevent easy transition goals.

9. Chaos two-man combinations

Chaos will run more two-man games this year than they did last year. How many more? They initiated 26.1% of their settled shots with two-man games. Archers led the league in two-man frequency (37.1%). Can Chaos go higher than that?

There are two-man partnerships all over the field. Curtis Dickson, Dhane Smith, and Miles Thompson on the right-handed side. Austin Staats, Josh Byrne, Connor Fields, and Kevin Buchanan on the left-handed side. This offense picked for switches too often last year. Let’s hope for more hangup two-man games in 2020. These slick playmakers will punish hesitant defenses in those scenarios.

10. Tommy Kelly vs. his understudy, Connor Farrell

Tommy Kelly has the fastest hands in the league. He won the initial clamp on 76.8% of his faceoffs (highest percentage in PLL), but he wasn’t able to turn enough of those into wins, though. During the offseason he dropped weight. His goal: Turn those clamp wins into faceoff wins.

Kelly will meet Connor Farrell – who he coached at LIU Post – and Hunter Forbes at the stripe on Saturday night.

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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