Coach Soudan’s 4 Keys to the Championship Series

By Sarah Griffin

Jan 24, 2023

In constructing their Championship Series 12-man roster, the Chrome emphasized culture over everything. They’re confident in their ability to win one-on-one matchups, but defense remains a question. I spoke with Chrome head coach Tim Soudan to break down his twelve, and the club’s expectations as they head to D.C. next month.

The big challenge of the Olympic format

For a coach, building a roster for a style of the game so few have experience with presented Soudan and his staff with new challenges they haven’t had to consider before.

“People have different philosophies when it comes to sixes,” explained Soudan. “Some say go with a mix of offensive and defensive guys, others say just load up on all offensive guys and hope you outscore your opponent. For us, I think we’ve got a good mix of both those things.”

An obvious concern in the Olympic format is how you get those typically strictly offensive-minded guys to learn to play defense on the fly. Soudan said their goal isn’t to teach those guys to become shutdown defenders, but rather employ an “on-and-off” style of play.

It’s difficult to take guys like [Dylan] Molloy and [Logan] Wisnauskas, guys that have played attack typically their entire life and ask them to play something completely different,” he said. “We’re going to utilize the substitution game to play an offense, defense, then come off approach to do the best we can to avoid having guys be a liability on defense.”

Soudan said especially given the high volume of shots, having offensive guys play 5-on-5 defense is definitely the most significant change from a coaching standpoint. 

“There’s just so much scoring. I think the most we can ask of them is to make the adjustments needed - move your feet, don’t let them take open shots. Really just do the best you can,” he laughs.

The Justin Anderson advantage

On the offensive end of the ball, there’s a lot for Chrome fans to be excited about. 

“I don’t know how you can guard Justin Anderson in this format,” Soudan remarked. “He’ll have more space and can shoot with both hands.”

Anderson broke out for the Chrome at the midfield this past summer in his second professional season. He produced 21 points (14G, 1T, 5A) on 38% shooting. A jack of all trades, Anderson’s versatility is the exact style of play that can elevate a team’s game in the Olympic format.

Along with Anderson, Colin Heacock brings an edge to this Chrome roster with previous experience playing sixes as a member of the U.S. team in The World Games.

Playing with both hands

Even with the amount of pure talent on the offensive end of the ball, perhaps the biggest advantage for Soudan’s club is one less obvious. 

“There’s a good amount of guys on this roster like [Justin] Anderson who can play with both hands, something that’s going to make us really hard to stop in transition,” said Soudan. “Guys can go on whatever side and just play with that hand. If you try and guard somebody up top, they can go either direction on you.” 

Even with the amount of pure talent on the offensive end of the ball, perhaps the biggest advantage for Soudan’s club is one less obvious. 

Jackson Morrill, Cole Williams, and Kevin Rogers are all guys who can go either direction on their defenders. With defenders only wielding short-sticks, the difficulty of covering a two-handed player multiples. 

Young faces

The Championship Series marks three players' professional debuts with the Chrome, as they welcome one newcomer as well as two players who have yet to play their first professional game.

The Chrome signed SSDM Harrison Bardwell to a Championship Series contract back in late November. 

Bardwell was a mainstay for Cornell’s defense in the midfield for his entire collegiate career. An undrafted free agent, he played a key role in Cornell's deep playoff run last season, helping lead them to the championship. 

Now with the Championship Series, Bardwell will get his first real chance to show what he can bring to a professional roster.

“Being a defensive midfielder, his athleticism speaks for itself,” remarked Chrome head coach Tim Soudan. “He’s tough, he’s got good size, and Coach Kerwick couldn’t say enough good things about him.” 

A two-way guy who combines speed, athleticism, and that defensive-mindset is the perfect fit for the Olympic format.

In addition to Bardwell, SSDM Alex Smith and defenseman Gibson Smith IV will make their professional debut with the Chrome. Both rookies were rostered by the Chrome last season, but did not see playing time. In the Championship Series, youth matters. You want high-energy, motivated guys looking to prove themselves; this tournament will be a good chance to see those young guys’ potential.

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