10 Man Ride: Top Matchups of 2021
CLEAR! The ride is on. The 2021 PLL schedule is out. It’s bursting with rematches, revenge games, and reunions.
Here are the 10 matchups I’m most excited for this summer:
1. Whipsnakes-Chaos, June 5th, 5:00PM ET, Foxborough
It’s a 2020 Championship rematch – but these teams have an even deeper history.
Remember: The Whips defused the Bomb Squad. Prior to their 2019 postseason matchup, Chaos was scoring 3.5 fast break goals per game.
Since? 1.8 fast break goals per game.
So many of Jarrod Neumann’s transition twos came from crossing over midfield on the opposite side from the box. The Whips matched feet at midfield, preventing Neumann from finding seams for 20-yard stepdowns. This was the last two-pointer Neumann hit – on August 10, 2019.
Bonus subplot at the stripe: Joe Nardella (72% in 2020) will face off against his training partner, Max Adler.
2. Redwoods-Whipsnakes, July 10th, 6:00PM ET, Minnesota
Woods-Whips VI will be another chapter in the league’s biggest rivalry.
Last time these two teams met, Garrett Epple and Eddy Glazener held Matt Rambo and Zed Williams pointless. Not scoreless – pointless! – and it still wasn’t enough to win.
In the 2019 Championship and 2020 semifinals, the Woods have come up one goal short. Did the Woods get one goal better by trading for Rob Pannell? Or will the kings stay the kings?
(Sidenote: Woods-Whips VII goes down in Albany on August 13th. And if history is any indication, Woods-Whips VIII will take place in the playoffs.)
3. Archers-Whipsnakes, August 15th, 4:45PM ET, Albany
Archers-Whips will conclude the regular season for the third time. There’s a high chance that playoff implications – in the form of the first-round bye – will be on the line.
This is why Archers LC head coach Chris Bates drafted Graeme Hossack and Warren Jeffrey – to defend Rambo and Zed.
Rambo has 14 career assists against the Archers on 18 assist opportunities. Phrased differently: Teammates have buried 77.8% of shots he has set up for them against the Archers. He has picked apart their slide-and-recover scheme as a dodger and as a hinge on the wing. The Archers need Hossack or Jeffrey to can contain him at GLE so they can hold some slides… which is easier said than done.
4. Atlas-Cannons, June 27th, 12:00PM ET, Baltimore
These two teams have only been in the same league for a few months, yet there’s already close ties.
Atlas LC head coach Ben Rubeor was Cannons LC head coach Sean Quirk’s assistant in Boston in 2019. They’ve orchestrated a couple trades this offseason. Cannons LC acquired Paul Rabil early in the trade window; then Atlas LC added Brent Adams shortly after the Entry Draft.
Note: Atlas and Cannons play again this summer in Colorado Springs.
5. Atlas-Waterdogs, August 14th, 4:15PM ET, Albany
The 2021 College Draft class is absolutely loaded. Barring any trades down, Atlas and Waterdogs will select first and second overall. Those two picks’ careers will forever be interwoven like Bird and Magic.
Andy Copelan built this Waterdogs roster to run between the arcs; Ben Rubeor appears to be doing the same with Atlas. Think of all the two-way versatility potentially on display here: Zach Currier, Ryan Conrad, Bryan Costabile, Joel Tinney, and Brent Adams.
Toss in LSMs like Ryland Rees and Andrew Newbold who can pull up from 20 yards or make one more pass, and we’ll see plenty of tic-tac-toe breaks like this.
6. Redwoods-Chrome, June 6th, 3:45PM ET, Foxborough
These two teams have traded two of the most exciting runs in PLL history.
In Week 10 in 2019 it was the Redwoods rattling off a 10-1 second half to secure the score differential tiebreaker over Atlas and a playoff spot.
In 2020, it was Chrome answering a dirty hit by Epple with a 9-2 second quarter.
Two very good teams who don’t like each other very much? Sign me up.
7. Archers-Chrome, July 2nd, 7:00PM ET, Long Island
Archers-Chrome was one of the best matchups of 2020.
It opened with rookie Grant Ament taking Jesse Bernhardt to the rack, fearlessly.
Then Bernhardt almost fouled out – and Archers led 8-3 at halftime.
Then Chrome came roaring back with a 6-1 third quarter.
In typical #PLLAfterDark fashion, the game went to overtime. And it ended with Ryan Ambler’s catch. The Catch.
8. Chaos-Waterdogs, June 11th, 7:00PM ET, Georgia
The Canadian Cup! Which club will earn the title of Canada’s Team?
Chaos has more Canadians (10) than Waterdogs (5) but the Waterdogs won this matchup in 2020.
Chaos buried 47.5% of shots off two-man games in 2020 – by far the best in the league. Waterdogs (28.2%) were a distant second. Get ready for picks, re-picks, slips, hitches, leaners, and levers.
9. Whipsnakes-Cannons, June 12th, 12:00PM ET, Georgia
The 2020 PLL Champions against the 2020 MLL Champions.
This Whipsnakes defense is historically dominant (more on that soon…). They’re already a dynasty – with as many championships in two years as the Cannons have claimed in two decades. Yes, this is the fourth time they’re featured on this list. And yes, I could’ve easily included Whipsnakes-Chrome (which we haven’t seen since 2019) or Whipsnakes-Waterdogs (which we haven’t seen… ever) or Whipsnakes-Atlas (Friday Night Lights at Homewood!).
If the reigning back-to-back champs are playing, it’s time to tune in.
10. Cannons-Chrome, August 14th, 7:00PM ET, Albany
Lyle Thompson – the first-ever 400-point scorer in NCAA DI history – will return to his alma mater in Albany.
Like every game this weekend, playoff implications will be on the line. The Road to D.C. goes through Salt Lake City and Philadelphia – but the onramp is in Albany.
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 next week!