Chaos Focused on Winning the War
By Austin Owens | Jul 18, 2022
Following his team’s 18-9 defeat to the Waterdogs in Baltimore, Chaos head coach Andy Towers was looking at the long game rather than their fourth loss of the campaign.
“I told (the team) after the game that we want to win the war. For us, the war is winning the championship. If we lose a game or two along the way as we start to get connected, I don’t care. The important thing is that we get out of this, ideally healthy, and we get another week for these guys to get accustomed to the field game and build from there,” Towers said. “I’m not concerned with one loss. Yeah, it was frustrating, no double about it. But it’s just one loss at the end of the day.
“I think we have to win four of the next six games, and if we do that, we make the playoffs. And if we make the playoffs, we’re going to be a problem for people.”
Slow starts have become an all-too-familiar narrative for Chaos – and one their players and coaches are undoubtedly tired of speaking on. But they’ve been able to turn the tide on multiple occasions now. Each of the last two years, it took an eyebrow-raising move in the moment to turn things around. What can Towers and Co. do to make another run at the title in 2022?
The Turning Point
It’s taken a drastic move to turn the tides for Chaos over the last two seasons. Back in 2020, Chaos went 0-4 in the round-robin stage. Towers and his staff decided to sit Connor Fields while also employing a “Canadian Line” featuring Dhane Smith and Austin Staats – along with Kevin Buchanan – to give the team a different dynamic than the usual midfield unit of Jake Froccaro, Sergio Salcido, and Eric Scott.
Last season, Chaos opened the year 0-3 through the first two weeks before righting the ship and making the postseason. They found the same chemistry when it mattered most. Once again, a roster change that was questioned in the moment yielded positive results for Chaos. 2019 All-Pro midfielder Jake Froccaro was taken out of the lineup in favour of Ryan Smith as Chaos went full Canadian for a push to get back into the playoffs.
But the major change was the implementation of the Twins offense, utilizing three separate two-man games on offensive sets. This allowed more spacing for the offense while having players re-pick off-ball for one another to open up multiple cuts and passing lanes.
This Time Around
Another 0-4 start was followed by Chaos’ first victory of the season against the Cannons in Minnesota. However, the slow start this time around did come with some caveats. The team was missing a chunk of the 2021 championship core, as the likes of Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith, Ian MacKay, Chris Cloutier, Chase Fraser, and Max Adler all missed the first three weekends of the year.
A majority of that group were back for the fourth game of the year against the Waterdogs, but with minimal reps in field since the 2021 playoffs, it wasn’t the greatest showing.
Adler still remains on the PUP List. But the team is finding its stride with the full complement back in the fold.
Towers brushed off comparisons to this year and previous seasons, explaining that 2022 is a completely unique scenario with the absences. But if this team takes two or three games to get hot like in previous years, will it be too late for the defending champions to get a chance to try for a repeat?
What moves can be made from a personnel standpoint to right the ship? Chaos likes to dress four righties and lefties offensively. There aren’t many changes coming on that end.
Chaos looks to be running with a righty set of Dhane Smith, Fraser, Ryan Smith, and Challen Rogers as of late, with some changes that could be made to that group from week to week.
Wes Berg can also be employed and has been productive with Chaos when in the lineup. Then there’s Tehoka Nanticoke. The former No. 1 nationally ranked recruit has yet to make his long-awaited PLL debut. Chaos had a gift fall into their laps when Nanticoke went undrafted and landed in the Player Pool. It's a question of when we’ll see the former Albany man. He’s a physical force who has incredible hands and creativity. But that big body could prove to be a big asset in games against the likes of the Whipsnakes or Redwoods, who are both physical on the back end.
With Nanticoke and Cloutier on either wing, Chaos would have a scoring threat who could body up their assignment for a full 48 minutes and wear them down.
Needless to say, Towers and Co. have options on a weekly basis.
Rogers is an intriguing piece. With just two goals in as many games, the Coquitlam, BC native hasn’t lit it up offensively. But in that Waterdogs game, he led the way defensively with a caused turnover and three ground balls. Rogers is a freak of an athlete, possessing ridiculous speed and lateral quickness for someone who stands at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He’s utilized as a rover in box, where he plays defense, excels in transition, and then has the green light to stay and play offense.
Put as simply as possible, Rogers is a unicorn. You don’t find players like him very often. He could play a two-way role for Chaos, helping to corral ground balls and using his athleticism to push opposing teams into uncomfortable decisions in reverse transition – which could also free up a spot for Nanticoke up front. He has a rocket of a shot, so he’d force teams into sliding to him, opening up the many offensive threats Chaos has. Also, a rope team consisting of Rogers and Ian MacKay plus a long pole sounds like pure anarchy. Rogers has a lot more to bring to the field game than just offense. If Chaos needs a Swiss-Army knife, he’s the man for the job.
On the lefty side, Byrne, Cloutier, Mac O’Keefe, and Kyle Jackson look to be the current rotation, with Tanner Cook being the first man out. Cloutier will bring even more stability to that unit after a tough start to the year that saw both Andrew Kew and Austin Staats released to the Player Pool after underwhelming showings.
Lastly, the loss of Johnny Surdick can’t be discounted for Chaos. He was pivotal to Chaos’ defense being as efficient as it was in 2021. Brett Kennedy has had his ups and downs – like any rookie. But it’s tough to ask any first-year player to step in and try to fill the shoes of a star defender like Surdick. There have been some growing pains there that’ll hopefully alleviate themselves down the stretch. Matt Rees drew in during the Cannons game, giving the team a different look alongside Jack Rowlett and Jarrod Neumann.
Rees was matched up on Adam Charalambides the majority of the time. He was beaten once by the Rutgers man on a one-on-one matchup. But other than that, Rees looked sound, taking care of his matchup and even working from X on some inverts.
With a winless team, there will always be questions surrounding them. We’ll see how many Chaos can answer as the postseason nears.
The Stretch Run
Towers said, four – or possibly even three – victories could get the job done when it comes to making the playoffs. Following a big win against the Cannons, the road gets even harder in the back stretch of the regular season. Four of their remaining five contests come against the top four teams in the PLL standings – with the fifth being against the 1-4 Redwoods, a tough team to beat in their own regard.
Here’s a quick look at their remaining schedule and the team’s all-time regular-season records against each respective club.
- Week 7 - Whipsnakes: 1-4
- Week 8 - Redwoods: 3-3
- Week 9 - Chrome: 2-2
- Week 10 - Archers: 3-2
- Week 11 - Atlas: 1-2
There are no nights off in the PLL, and after this game against Cannons, Chaos will have the gauntlet to run if they want to make the postseason. The Whips, Archers, and Woods have already handed them losses on the year. With the currently undefeated Chrome also in the backstretch, it’s about as far from easy as it could get for ‘Aos.
But this is what Chaos has done the last two summers. They have gotten out to slow starts and then found their game and gone on a streak when it matters most.
With their full complement back in the fold, are you going to bet against a team that’s defied the odds? Most people did last year. But, as we now know, it was the 3.2 percent who were partying the hardest when the 2021 Championship Game was settled.