1. Connor Fields vs. Tim Muller, Round 2
In their Week 1 matchup, the Whips trusted Tim Muller on an island against Connor Fields. They didn’t slide. If Fields beat Muller by himself, then he earned the goal. The Whips would live with that. Sliding to Fields (2G, 1A) leads to much scarier stepdown looks for Deemer Class (3G) and company.
Muller won Week 1. Fields won Week 7.
Basketball fans who miss watching power forwards post up should check out Connor Fields. His bag of postup moves is bottomless. Rocker steps, double rocker steps, between-the-legs shots– there’s nothing he won’t attempt.
By winning his matchup early in the game, Fields set the tone for the day. He drew a couple more slides than he did in Week 1 – enough to make the difference in a one-goal game. This feed to Class was a backbreaker for the Whips defense. Michael Ehrhardt slides to Fields late in the shot clock. Bryce Young picks up Ehrhardt’s man, but there’s still a numbers advantage off-ball for the Chaos. Class slices through the seam in the recovering defense for an alley-oop from Fields.
2. Atlas’ new-look bottom-up offense
The Atlas offense has undergone an Always Sunny Season 8 Mac-esque transformation. They’re not at a Season 13 shredded level (yet), but at least they’re not shoveling trash bags of chimichangas in the form of alley dodges into their mouths.
Since the fourth quarter in Week 5, John Crawley’s role has gradually increased. He’s making all the right decisions in pick-and-rolls with Eric Law. Crawley (1A) and Law (4G, 1A) know when to exploit a switch or when to skip to Paul Rabil (1G, 1T, 3A) and Connor Buczek (5G, 1T, 1A).
By initiating behind the cage, the Atlas draws the defense on the wall. Skip passes give Rabil and Buczek approaches they can attack against defenders whose teammates aren’t prepared to slide to the midfield. Law and Crawley don’t even need to draw a slide for these to work. They have effectively taken away the slide, leaving Buczek on an island with his defender for longer than the defense would like.
When Law and Crawley do draw a slide, it’s almost an automatic goal. You can see the options unfold here. From the moment that Crawley draws and dumps, the ball remains one step ahead of the recovery. Buczek pump fakes to freeze the close-out, and gets to his sweet spot.
3. Eric Law, the chameleon
Eric Law’s (4G, 1A) role on the field is whatever you need him to do on that specific possession. He can play quarterback or he can play off-ball. He shoots north of 50.0% every damn year (61% right now in 2019), but not in the same way most 50.0%+ shooters do it. Law will attack the rim. He has attempted 20+ unassisted shots in each of the past three seasons, but he won’t disrupt the flow of the offense to take them. He waits for the right time, and then he pounces.
In the first quarter with 44 seconds on the shot clock, Law saw an opening. Both teams were substituting. The Redwoods were not ready to slide – a rarity. Law shifted gears and drove for a dunk.
The Denver native and Denver City Lax coach dominated in his homecoming. From the pregame outfit to the final whistle, Law made the Denver crowd proud.
4. Garrett Epple adds to his body count
Garrett Epple puts someone or someones either on or in the turf every single week. Ouch.
5. Atlas running less
There’s really no such thing as a great transition defense. It doesn’t exist. “Bad” fast break shots are better than some of the best six-on-six shots. The best way to improve your transition defense is to avoid allowing fast breaks altogether.
The Atlas have been doing a better job of this. Their first step from offense to defense is sluggish; it likely won’t improve. But if they score like they did against the Redwoods, then it won’t matter.
On Saturday, the Atlas committed 12 turnovers (their lowest mark all season). Only 10 of their shots were saved (their 2nd-lowest mark). By getting the ball lower on the field to Law and Crawley, the few turnovers that they do commit are farther from Jack Concannon’s cage.
Ryan Boyle mentioned that the Atlas is built like a smashmouth football team: Run the ball, move the chains, drain the clock. Trevor Baptiste has been upholding his end of the bargain all summer. Now that the offense is demonstrating patience and taking care of the ball, this team is becoming the best version of itself.
6. Chaos initiating from the wings
The Chaos attacked the Whipsnakes short-sticks on the wing – a really, really difficult area to slide to. Myles Jones (1G, 1A) got them started with a high wing dodge, rollback, and feed to a cutting Kevin Buchanan (2G). Eric Scott (1G, 1A) went underneath and then went airborne on a wing dodge. Deemer Class (3G) attacked the middle of the field, swam, and buried a right-hand off-hip goal late in the game.
The lefty-righty balance on this offense is perfect. Maybe it appears exaggerated because of all the box players who rarely travel to their wrong side. But there’s no team that attacks the middle of the field as repeatedly and relentlessly as Chaos.
7. Crease Collapse of the Week
This week’s Crease Collapse of the Week is not a crease collapse. It’s a different type of two slide: An adjacent rotation.
As Jack Rowlett leaves Ben Reeves to slide upfield, Jarrod Neumann vacates X to pick up Reeves. If Neumann arrives any later, then Reeves is likely looking at a stepdown shot. Instead, Neumann ushers him upfield into a double-team with Rowlett.
What makes this play even better: Neumann followed this up with a two-bomb on the ensuing fast break. Fast breaks are the best times to shoot twos, and the Chaos is the best at creating fast break advantages.
8. Jordan Wolf vs. Matt McMahon, Round 2
The Archers executed their defensive gameplan against Jordan Wolf in Week 1 to perfection. Unlike the Whipsnakes’ plan against Connor Fields, the Archers’ plan worked again in Round 2.
McMahon repeatedly cut the field in half against Jordan Wolf (1-for-7 shooting), forcing him to the left side as often as possible. Wolf mixed in a couple question mark dodges from that side – something we don’t see from him often – to get to his right hand.
Wolf’s shooting splits were not as dramatic as Week 1, when three of his five shots were left-handed. He took every shot right-handed on Sunday, but three of his seven shots were on the “wrong” side of the field where righties have worse angles.
The most frustrating part: The Chrome could draw switches with picks whenever they wanted. At times, they settled for… meh shots. In the second quarter, Wolf found himself with a short-stick matchup and 18 seconds on the shot clock. He took him to the high lefty wing for a dodge that was destined to go down the alley. Wolf and company need to take their time and get to better spots on the field. As a team, the Chrome shot 13.0% -- not great, Bob!
9. Faceoff athletes mic’d up
The only faceoff rule change that I’m on board with is making it required to mic up Trevor Baptiste and Connor Farrell from now on. “Step in, mother$&!?@%” and “You wanna go?” are going to be the two most-used @PLLMICD clips all summer.
10. Tom Schreiber capitalizing against switches
Sometimes the Chrome switched two-man games. Sometimes I don’t really know what they planned to do. Whatever they threw at Schreiber did not slow him down.
Heroball has a role in a high-functioning offense. An unselfish unit like the Archers’ offense cannot click if nobody is drawing slides. And if the defense refuses to slide, then someone needs to step up and win one-on-one matchups. Schreiber (2G) had two timely goals – one to close the first half and then a sick twister to ice the game.
Credit to Christian Cuccinello (2G) for stepping up here, too. In his first start on attack, Cuccinello dodged hard to dirty areas.
This wasn’t the Archers’ best day offensively, but consider this: They got no fast break goals and no power play goals (or opportunities). The former has been an issue all season. Winning on six-on-six offense alone is unsustainable. The Archers need alternative sources of offense to make a serious push.