1. John Crawley inverting at X
Heading into their Friday night matchup with the Archers, the Atlas’ ball movement had been nonexistent. Their offense was settling for the first shot too often. Part of that is a byproduct of dodging from the midfield too much.
Top-down feeds are tough. The passer often has to yank the ball across his body and across the field -- or roll back and reward the defense with extra time to recover. The shooter has to turn and find the cage before the second slide decapitates him. Head coach John Paul wants his team to initiate from X more often, giving his midfielders a chance to step into shots or make plays in space.
John Crawley (2G) is a hybrid midfielder-attackman. Running him out of the box gives the Atlas an opportunity to “invert” -- a.k.a. drag a short-stick defensive midfielder behind the cage and out of his comfort zone. Inverts are automatic slide situations. Professional defenses rarely have trouble sending help and recovering to single inverts. By keeping another player at X with Crawley, the Atlas stretched the defense a little bit thinner in their recoveries. Connor Buczek (1A) and Paul Rabil (2G, 1A) each make a ridiculous pass during this sequence to keep the ball one step ahead of the recovery at all times. As the defense scurries to the perimeter, Ryan Brown (3G) cuts to the open space on the inside for a goal.
In crunchtime, the Atlas went back to this action. This time, the Archers didn’t slide -- and Crawley, who was a healthy scratch last week, made them pay.
2. Joel Tinney’s shovel pump fake
Wherever you put Joel Tinney (2G, 1A) on the field, he is going to hustle nonstop. His speed makes it tempting to use him on faceoff wings and as a two-way midfielder. He’s too slick as an initiator to pigeonhole into a Swiss Army knife role, though. After taking zero shots last week at Homewood against the Whipsnakes, Tinney capitalized in an increased offensive role in Atlanta.
Both of Tinney’s goals came in the fourth quarter off underneath dodges on the wing. For most players, that’s a dead end dodge; there’s no way to feed out of it. Tinney can shovel passes out of trouble when double teams arrive; he faked a shovel to Brown off this dodge earlier in the game, before reconsidering and rolling back for the assist. Defenders know that pass is in Tinney’s arsenal. He’s often able to freeze help defenders with that fake shovel pass for long enough to get to the island and finish from inside the hash marks. Beware of the sample size, but Tinney shot 8-for-18 (44.4%) unassisted during his rookie season -- and most shots were identical to his fourth quarter finishes from Friday.
3. Chrome’s sloppy slides and recoveries
Life isn’t easy for a short-stick defender in this league. Every offense features five or six players who can dodge. There’s nowhere to hide. Even the best short-sticks need support, and the Chrome defense could not support their shorties against the Chaos midfield.
The Chaos jumped out to a 7-1 lead largely thanks to five goals against short-stick matchups. Greyson Torain beat a short-stick down the alley, drew a slight hedge from Eric Scott’s defender, and fed Scott for a stepdown goal. Dhane Smith (1G, 1A) and Jake Froccaro (2G) put a pair of short-sticks in the pick-and-roll for an easy goal. Froccaro and Myles Jones (1G, 3A) each buried unassisted goals against short-sticks. Even when the Chrome slid to their short-sticks, they couldn’t recover -- like on this Myles Jones-to-Miles Thompson goal.
This slide is sloppy. The only contact made is between the on-ball defender and the sliding defender. Jones is never touched -- even worse, he’s allowed to roll back to his strong hand towards the middle of the field! As the on-ball defender (Will Haus) peels off the matchup, Jones is scanning the field for the open man.
Jones locates his target before the Chrome can mark up. It looks like Ryan Flanagan expected Haus to recover to Thompson on the crease, so he released back to Torain. Instead, Haus peeled to Josh Byrne on the pipe, which sent Joel White to the inside. The defense spent too much time passing the baton, leaving Thompson open in the process.
4. The Mark Glicini Blocked Shot of the Week
Mark Glicini is a mad man. He’s been throwing himself in front of time-and-room shots all season long. He’s the goalie before the goalie -- except he has no pads on. When Paul Burmeister asked him in-game about eating Matt Danowski’s stepdown rocket, he couldn’t contain a villainous grin. Not only is Glicini unafraid of blocking shots; he enjoys it! Through five weeks, Glicini has become synonymous with blocking shots. From now on, I’m referring to blocks as “Glicks.”
5. “Nations” cut clears space for Whipsnakes
Nations looks are so hot right now, and there’s a good reason for that. Out of open sets, those two-pass pick-and-rolls force the weakside defense to identify the roller in a hurry. We’ve seen the Chaos score by hitting the roller in these actions. This week, the Whipsnakes created space for a skip pass with a Nations concept.
Jay Carlson (1G) plays lacrosse like a rim-rolling center. Lob him the ball in the paint, and he’ll finish. The Whips used him as a picker for Drew Snider here. When he rolled to the cage, Mike Chanenchuk’s man (Matt Landis) sank deep into the hole -- unlocking this skip from Matt Rambo (4G, 4A) to Chanenchuk (2G, 1T).
The Whips wanted to generate a goal off that initial three-man game. The Redwoods smothered the crease, but left the skip lane open in the process.
6. Mike Chanenchuk’s curveball
Lacrosse balls can move like this? This is a freaking breaking ball. Chanenchuk does it without pine tar or laces. When the ball hits the turf, it changes directions like the old computer game, ‘Curveball.’ I need John Brenkus to explain how this happened.
7. Jordan Wolf passing out of pick-and-rolls
Jordan Wolf (2G, 2A) does not need a pick to gain a step on his defender. He can -- and will -- do that on his own. Picks drag a defender out of the middle of the field, though; when the Chrome brings a pick to X, defenses are minus-one defender during their recoveries.
It doesn’t matter if defenses switch picks, fight through, or send a third defender; the Chrome has had success against all types of defenses. During his pro career, Wolf’s teammates have shot significantly higher when he feeds them out of pick-and-rolls than when he feeds them out of isolations. This particular pick-and-roll doesn’t even draw a slide -- just a slight hedge -- but look at how much space Danowski has to cut into!
8. Sergio Perkovic’s left hand
Two-handedness is no longer a prerequisite at every position. Some of the best off-ball scorers never switch hands. Box lacrosse players have proven their ability to dodge on the wings and get to their strong hand on underneath moves. For downhill dodging midfielders, however, the threat of an off-hand can make you exponentially more dangerous.
Prior to this season, Perkovic had shot 2-for-20 (10.0%) as a pro with his left hand. At the college level, he was able to overpower players to get to his dominant right. He can still do that as a pro at times, but not nearly as regularly. By improving his left-handed shooting, Perkovic can make it easier to get to his right hand. It looks like he’s on his way; during the third quarter on Saturday, Perkovic buried two clutch, unassisted, left-handed goals. Keep an eye on how this added threat helps him get to better spots on the field.
9. Greg Gurenlian battling through a hamstring injury for 48 minutes
Greg Gurenlian retired from professional lacrosse as the greatest faceoff athlete of all-time to focus on one final career achievement: Winning a gold medal. He won that gold medal. Then he came back.
Gurenlian didn’t need to prove anything to his peers or to his fans. We already know that he’s the GOAT. Yet, he’s still leaving everything -- and then some -- on the field each week.
Joe Nardella won most of the draws, but none were easy. Beast scratched and clawed to turn everything into a three-on-three faceoff. You could feel his pain while watching every journey from the box to the X and back. His teammates took to social media after the game to show their appreciation for his fight.
The level of competition in PLL hits a new high each week. The stakes have never been higher. Players are emptying the tank every game to secure a gameday roster spot for the following week. They are launching their bodies in front of 100 mph shots, diving to endlines, and playing through injuries.
Gurenlian is one of the greatest competitors that this sport has ever seen. It’s only right that he’s on the field for the most competitive professional lacrosse of all-time.
10. Kyle Harrison’s game-winning goal
Speaking of GOATs, Kyle Harrison’s first PLL goal could not have come at a better time. His right-to-right split into a jump shot down the alley was the eventual game-winner for the Redwoods over the undefeated Whipsnakes.
Harrison is to the split dodge as Gurenlian is to the faceoff. They inspired and taught a generation of players how to master their craft. There are dozens of K18 split dodging tutorials on YouTube, some with over 100,000 views. I’d bet two players on the field for this goal -- Jules Heningburg and Sergio Salcido -- accounted for a few hundred of those views.