Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi

A season-record 4 Waterdogs midfielders hit 2-pointers against Chaos

By Wyatt Miller | Aug 21, 2023

The Waterdogs scored more two-point goals on Saturday than the Redwoods and Chrome have all season. It was also the most long balls by any team in a single game this year, and all four came courtesy of a resurgent midfield unit. 

Head coach Andy Copelan said the offensive midfield had been quieter than expected up to this point in the season, but Saturday was the coming out party. All five midfielders had multiple points, including four apiece from Jack Hannah and Ryan Conrad.

As defenders Jarrod Neumann and Jack Rowlett glued themselves to Kieran McArdle and Michael Sowers, the Waterdogs’ dynamic duo at attack finished with zero points. But Copelan, foreseeing this, had high expectations for the midfield, and they didn’t disappoint. Every Waterdogs midfielder scored in the five-point victory, led by a hefty batch of two-bombs.

“That’s one of the things that we want to be effective with is shooting the 2, but it can’t be an all or nothing thing,” Copelan said. “It has to be shooting the appropriate shots first, and if they happen to be 2s, then terrific.

Before the season, Copelan said winning the 2-point battle puts teams at a “distinct advantage” in the fast pace of the PLL. The Dogs have certainly stuck to that conviction, winning every game with multiple two-point goals. 

Yesterday was another display of the importance of the long ball. Excluding Jarrod Neumann’s own-goal in the first quarter, the Waterdogs scored just once more than the Chaos, but they still won comfortably, 13-8. 

It all started with Hannah. Less than two minutes into the game, Zach Currier took the ball up in transition, slowing his pace as he reached the left wing. That’s when he saw Hannah screaming down the middle unmarked, who caught the pass and stepped into a two to get the scoring started.

The ball zipped past Blaze Riorden’s lunge to the low corner, putting the Waterdogs up 2-0 and galvanizing the early momentum.

Two minutes later, Conrad tacked on another. After the Waterdogs initiated in transition again, Christian Scarpello got his own rebound and tossed it to the top, where Conrad was sprinting in from the box. He stepped into the catch-and-shoot from range, and it rattled in off the left pipe.

Just like that, the Dogs were up 5-0 after scoring just two goals on their own. Doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

After that, they hit a bit of a rut, missing their next 14 shots until Jake Carraway broke the drought with yet another 2-ball. That marked seven points for the Dogs on just three made shots. Again, that seems impossible, but who’s counting? 

Midway through the second quarter, the Waterdogs passed around the arc until Conrad found Carraway on the right wing. As Neumann closed out, Carraway dropped his shot angle to the ground and went low-to-low for the third 2 of the half.

Scoring deep, contested shots is precisely what Copelan brough Carraway in to do, and he hit two such attempts last game. Yet, the most significant part of that play was Conrad’s assist. 

On Saturday, the veteran doubled his point total for the season with two assists and a 2-bomb. In what’s been an up-and-down season so far, Conrad finally hit his stride against Chaos, just in time for the playoffs.

“He’d tell you the same thing, it’s been a little bit of a streaky year for him,” Copelan said. “So really proud of him tonight, just beyond the volume and production, he made plays all over the field and kept it simple and you could certainly feel his presence.”

After all that first-half action, the two-point king sunk the dagger in the fourth. 

On the man-up possession, Ethan Walker set up in his usual spot up top. When the ball swung to him, the Chaos had slid off Connor Kelly, which is the last Waterdogs player who should be left open from range. 

Walker made an easy feed to his left, which Kelly caught in stride before sending it off the turf and into the back of the net. Kelly’s shot all but sealed the game with a five-point lead and six-and-a-half minutes remaining. It also put him back at the top of the 2-point leaderboard this season, despite missing three games to injury.

He now has an equal amount of one and two-point goals this season.

The Waterdogs had a purposeful, “matter of fact” approach to this game, Copelan explained. They leaned on the midfield, shared the ball and found shooters with their hands free, resulting in a record-breaking 4-for-5 performance from deep.