Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi

Berg’s Brilliance: A Microcosm of the Redwoods’ Improved Offense

By Jerome Taylor | Sep 7, 2023

Wes Berg was a flamethrower in the Redwoods 15-9 quarterfinal win over Chaos on Labor Day. 

Berg tied a PLL playoff record by scoring seven goals in the match, and he did it in typical Berg-esque fashion, with the goals coming on only 18 touches. 

“He was unstoppable shooting the ball [against Chaos]. He probably could have had nine or ten goals. I'm sure there's one or two that he would have liked back,” Rob Pannell said.  

“He gets what he puts in. He never stops moving, never stops hustling. Every time the shot is taken, he's crashing the boards; that's why you see the results in the production he's had during the four-game win streak we're on.”

During the Redwoods’ current streak, Berg’s tallied 16 goals, and he’s been a microcosm of the Redwoods’ offense’s improved fluidity and efficiency that showed up at the tail-end of the regular season and in the first round of the Cash App Playoffs. 

“You have to know where he is at all times and always keep track of him, and that obviously opens up things for other guys in our offense,” Pannell said. “He has a dynamic that we haven't had in the past years, and we're starting to hit our strides on offense in general, and that's in part due to Wes and the way he's been playing lately.”

Offensive coordinator John Grant Jr. thinks that’s because the rest of the team has started to pick up on how frequently Berg can create space between himself and his defender. 

“I think guys saw him more this past game,” Grant Jr. said. “I think [Berg] was open the whole season, it's just took a little while for everyone to recognize it.” 

Slowly but surely, the team has started to recognize him more, but not just him. The team has become more pass-friendly overall as the season progressed. 

If we split the regular season in half throughout the first five games, the ‘Woods averaged 194 passes per game. Over the last five, that number jumped to 246 passes, and in the win against Chaos, they sustained that trend with 236.

It Doesn’t Matter How You Guard Berg

As the team’s passing has trended upward, so has Berg’s scoring, and against Chaos, Berg provided his best performance against multiple looks. To start the game, coach Andy Towers and company elected to double-pole midfield and leave a short stick on Berg. 

But because of Berg’s lacrosse IQ, the initial matchups proved inconsequential.

In the play below, Berg recognizes he has a short stick on him, so he sets a pick for Jules Heningburg, who gets a favorable switch before dodging. Once the ball gets to X, Berg and Pannell take advantage of the quick lapse in concentration from CJ Costabile.

In a similar circumstance, Berg and Heningurg run another pick play, but there’s no switch this time – no problem.  Berg still creates enough space to get one past Ian MacKay and Blaze Riorden

“It doesn't matter If you're guarding him with a short stick or a pole. If you turn your back on him, he's gone,” Grant Jr. said.  “What he does do, though, when he has a short stick, is get other guys open because of his ability to read and react to our offense and the flow and set good seals and good picks.”

Despite Berg’s increased production and subsequent increased attention from opposing defenses, Pannell wants the team to continue its unselfish play that’s led to this win streak and them being a game away from the Cash App Championship, heights the ‘Woods’ haven’t seen since 2019. 

“If all of a sudden we think, ‘Oh, Wes is being guarded a certain way, I can beat my guy and score a goal.’ Then that means we're trying to win our individual matchup and less playing as an offensive group,” Pannell said. “We want to commit to what we're trying to do. I think we did a good job of that, regardless of how they changed and defended Wes over the course of the game. 

Berg and the rest of the ‘Woods will get to prove just how hot their offense is when they take on the #1 seed Archers in the semifinals this Sunday in Long Island.