Brendan Nichtern Returns For Chrome

Brendan Nichtern To Make Season Debut for Chrome in Minneapolis

By Nick Zoroya

Jul 7, 2023

The Chrome LC enter week four of the PLL season in last place. So far this season the defense has been the backbone of the squad, often keeping the team in games while the offense finds their groove. This week’s 19 man roster is unique in that the defense will be losing two of its core pieces, while the offense receives their most anticipated addition of the year.

Brendan Nichtern Returns

Last season Brendan Nichtern led the team in points and finished third in the league with 38 (16 goals, 22 assists). His impressive season earned him the title of 2022 Rookie of the Year but prior to this year’s training camp Nichtern was placed on the PLL’s military list. This meant that he would be guaranteed to miss the first three weeks of the season. Luckily, it's week four and he’s been activated, making him eligible for the week four game day roster. 

The offense just hasn’t been the same without Nichtern this season. In 2022 the team was fourth in league scoring and first in passes, in 2023 the Chrome are dead last in scoring and fourth in passing. The ball just moves quicker with Nichtern at X and with ball movement we see more scoring opportunities. These statistics shouldn’t be a surprise either, as anyone who has seen the Chrome play this season has likely noticed how often the ball gets stuck with certain players. This problem is compounded by the shot clock rules which emphasize pace and efficiency, every second counts and the Chrome are losing valuable seconds holding the ball.

Nichtern’s ability to find cutters, attack the cage with both hands, and command the offense have been sorely missed. I’ve often written about how the Chrome struggle to win their individual matchups, something Nichtern thrives in. He has a quick burst that allows him to gain a step on defenders and either free his hands to shoot or use his elite vision to find open teammates. If he gets you hung up on crease, your toast, he’s going to find an open teammate for a dunk. In a year where the offense has lacked quality looks, Nichtern has the ability to manufacture them.

Teammate Jackson Morrill has done well at X but it will be interesting to see how the two mesh together. Presumably Morrill will move to the wing, slotting Nichtern into his normal quarterback position at X, but Nichtern and Morrill haven’t been on the same attack line before so chemistry could also play a factor. One person that will benefit from his return is Logan Wisnauskas who had a clear connection with Nichtern in 2022 and while still productive in 2023 he hasn’t been getting the same clear looks he was accustomed to last season.    

It’s important to note that Nichtern hasn’t played lacrosse since last August and it would be unreasonable to expect him to step on the field and produce immediately. He’s proven he has the ability to perform in this league, but it may take a few quarters to knock off the rust. 

With Nichtern’s return, Dylan Molloy will not be playing this week. Coach Soudan is likely going to try two different lineups: Morrill-Nichtern-Wisnauskas and Molloy-Nichtern-Wisnauskas. With the stellar performances by Morrill this season it’s understandable that Soudan isn’t ready to bench him, instead electing to try two different strategies and see which attack lineup has the best chemistry and production.

Defensive Shuffle: Jesse Bernnhardt and JT Giles Harris out 

Fresh off of their impressive gold medal run, JT Giles-Harris and Jesse Bernhardt have been moved to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. This is a massive blow to the defensive unit. As the reigning PLL defensive player of the year, JT has been lights out on his individual match-ups. His ability to cover the opponents top player is a key piece to the Chrome’s success. Bernhardt on the other hand is known as a coach on the field, directing the defense, playing well on ball but even better off. Without these two, week four is going to be an uphill battle, but with veteran Mike Manley, the elite SSDM group, and an invigorated Sean Sconone, the defense isn’t laying down.

In week three Bernhardt was on maternity leave, which gave us our first glimpse of Nick Grill at close and rookie Troy Hettinger at LSM. We will see the same thing happen this week with one noticeable difference, left handed veteran Greg Weyl steps in for Giles-Harris. Weyl is an excellent and physical on ball defender. 

It also feels appropriate to congratulate JT on his new position as assistant coach at Jacksonville University (alongside former Chrome goalie John Galloway) and Jesse on the birth of his son.

Cheer on the Chrome LC as they take the field Saturday at 6pm on ESPN+ from Minneapolis.

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