10 Man Ride: Who is the next Ian MacKay?
CLEAR! The ride is on. After seeing Ian MacKay’s impact moving from offensive to defensive midfield, it’s time to look at other players who should test out or return to a two-way role.
Defensive midfielders who can stay and play have tremendous value. They turn unsettled-but-even scenarios like 4-on-4s and 5-on-5s into advantages for the offense. They allow you to play more offense by maximizing the :52 clock. And they trap opposing offensive midfielders to create mismatches.
True SSDMs will always have a role. But not every defense dressed Dominique Alexander, Danny Logan, and Zach Goodrich. Some other short-sticks were ran by regularly; it might not hurt to see what one of these 10 could do instead.
1. John Crawley (Atlas LC)
John Crawley is the invert king. He has shot 34.4% off the dodge in his PLL career; teammates have buried 47.1% of his feeds. Can you imagine if he’s inverting against an offensive midfielder?
Atlas LC has a lot of two-way potential in Bryan Costabile, Dox Aitken, Brent Adams, and Crawley. They also have the 2021 George Boiardi Hard Hat SSDM of the Year Danny Logan, Jake Richard, and Peter Dearth. I doubt they’ll experiment with Crawley on defense, but after seeing his performance for Team USA in Super Sixes last weekend, a few teams should be calling Ben Rubeor with that role in mind.
This is Dhane Smith. The same Dhane Smith who averaged six points per game in the playoffs. The same Dhane Smith who creates acres of separation with his right-to-right split. And he can’t shake Crawley on an island.
2. Jake Froccaro (Chaos LC)
Jake Froccaro last dressed for Chaos LC on August 1st. Since then, Andy Towers’ club went 4-1 and won a Championship, while Froccaro was a healthy scratch.
The 2019 All-Pro midfielder will likely be on the move when the trade window opens. Wherever he lands, he’ll bring one of the league’s fastest shots and 20-yard range -- especially lethal when transitioning from defense to offense.
3. Ryan Conrad (Waterdogs LC)
Ryan Conrad has already made the move from offensive midfielder to SSDM. Now, he needs to limit the turnovers.
The Waterdogs ran a lot -- only Atlas and Chaos used more possessions in transition. But their transition efficiency was low. Conrad turned the ball over 11 times -- more than Mikie Schlosser, Connor Kelly, Ethan Walker, and Ryan Brown.
Conrad’s carelessness early in the clock is costly. On average during his pro career, his turnovers have been committed with 39.3 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Only Patrick Resch and Mark Glicini (who play at a … chaotic tempo) toss away more time.
At his best Conrad is difficult to contain as a downhill dodger. Moving from defense to offense, he’s often attacking four-on-fours...
...or five-on-fives. Slides are stretched (and unprepared) in these scenarios. Offenses are at an advantage; these should be low-risk dodges. For Conrad to make a MacKay-esque impact, these dodges need to result in a goal, wide shot backed up, or pass down pick down for a switch and sub. No more turnovers before Kelly and Schlosser sub onto the field.
4. Christian Mazzone (Waterdogs LC)
Mazzone is one of the savviest decision-makers on the break. He’s a career 51.7% (!!!) shooter. His head (and helmet) is always up, scanning the field for the open man. This seal-and-roll is so slick -- and reminiscent of those razor picks Mazzone set for Jules Heningburg at Rutgers.
5. Justin Anderson (Chrome LC)
Injuries forced Justin Anderson into SSDM reps in 2021. He has dominated in the Sixes format. Bet on him taking occasional reps (or at the very least, not hurting Chrome LC when he’s “trapped” on defense) but with Will Haus and Ryan Terefenko, Chrome isn’t searching for SSDM help.
6. Connor Kirst (Whipsnakes LC)
The seventh overall pick was in and out of the lineup as a rookie. The Whipsnakes midfield -- Brad Smith, John Haus, Mike Chanenchuk, Justin Guterding -- is loaded. Kirst could carve out a larger role by taking SSDM reps.
And the Whips could use him there. Opponents shot a league-high 30% off the dodge against the two-time champs, who missed Tyler Warner severely.
7. Sergio Perkovic (Redwoods LC)
With Sergio Perkovic in a two-way role late in 2019, the ‘Woods averaged 7.0 fast break shots per game. Since? 4.5.
Fast breaks are all about volume. The best way to defend them is to prevent them. The best way to score on them is to create them. League-wide shooting percentage on fast breaks -- 32.22% in 2019, 32.26% in 2020, 32.12% in 2021 -- is as close to a constant as any stat we track.
The Woods scored less than a goal per game on fast breaks in 2021. Running Perkovic at SSDM and/or on faceoff wings -- where TD Ierlan is nearly automatic no matter who’s on the wing (a league-high 68.7% of his wins were to himself) -- could change that. Perkovic attempted one fast break shot in 2021 (below); he needs more in 2022.
8. Clarke Petterson (Player Pool)
A crease attackman at Cornell, Petterson running SSDM might sound shocking to some. He rarely left the field in Super Sixes for Team Canada. In 2020, he was the Redwoods’ emergency LSM thanks to his penalty kill reps in high school.
9. Challen Rogers (Chaos LC)
Rogers spent 2021 north of the border. If he’s able to play for Chaos LC in 2022, then he won’t just be the next Ian MacKay -- he’ll be running alongside Ian MacKay, burying dodgers into the turf before leaking upfield for outlets from Blaze Riorden.
10. The 2022 College Draft Class
Rookies rarely make a two-way impact. Chemistry matters more on the defensive side of the field. Those who play late into May miss out on valuable training camp reps.
Whether it's in 2022 or down the road, there are a few versatile midfielders in this class: Nakeie Montgomery (Duke), Jack Hannah (Denver), and Brendan Curry (Syracuse).