Dox Aitken

Film study: How Dox Aitken is helping fix one of Atlas' biggest problems

By Lauren Merola | Jun 13, 2024

These Bulls might not have wings, but they’ve sure been owning them.

The most noticeable difference from the 2023 New York Atlas squad to the one this season is its productivity after faceoff wins. New York struggled last season to adapt to the introduction of the shorter shot-clock rule, which gave teams 32 seconds instead of 52 after a won faceoff. This year’s efficiency couldn’t be more different.


The Atlas’ wing play, for starters. Running players like midfielder Dox Aitken on the wing has allowed New York to transition more quickly into opponents’ zones – with fewer players needing to sub off – and therefore get into offensive sets sooner.

In Week 2 against the Carolina Chaos, Aitken scored twice and took three shots immediately after won faceoffs. If he wasn’t looking to dodge downhill, he acted as a quarterback in transition, with faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste frequently dumping the ball off to him to bring upfield. (And Baptiste often stayed on offense, setting on-ball picks: a 2024 development in the short-clock scheme.)

Besides Aitken, the Atlas mostly employed Danny Logan, Tyler Carpenter and Koby Smith on the wings against the Chaos, but we’ve also seen mixes of Ronan Jacoby, Reid Bowering, Myles Jones and Payton Rezanka. If Bryan Costabile was fully healthy, he’d line up there, too.

The wide net of wing players shows coach Mike Pressler’s trust in Baptiste, who’s won a resounding 84.4% of faceoffs so far this season. That confidence allows Pressler to dress wings whose focus isn’t to eat ground balls, but create offense in transition.

"Our wings are really, really good,” Baptiste said after the Atlas' 15-12 victory over the Chaos. "They play a big role in the faceoff every time. 

"Specifically on Dox, he’s a beast. He’s so great in between the lines. He can pick up the ground ball. He can run back, play defense and he can score goals. He can dodge and kick-start our offense. When you have a guy like that that can do it all at a really high level, [having him on the] faceoff wings [is] great.”

Let’s look at how Aitken is used as a facilitator and scorer on the wing, and how it’s setting him up to shatter his career highs in points, goals and ground balls:

1. Scoop and score

A faceoff between Baptiste and Carolina's Nick Rowlett becomes a short ground-ball battle, and a check to Baptiste’s stick sends the ball flying. Aitken grabs it and heads downfield, taking short-stick defensive midfielder Ian MacKay one-on-one at the top of the arc. He drives downhill and rips a bouncer a step in from the arc, beating goalie Austin Kaut

If Aitken has the shot, he also has the green light to take it.

2. Quarterback in transition

Baptiste wins the clamp, but the ball breaks free and Baptiste boxes out Rowlett, allowing Carpenter to grab it uncontested. The Atlas long-stick midfielder passes it off to Aitken, who carries the ball into the Chaos zone leisurely to allow the Atlas to sub on their offensive players. But a Baptiste pick on LSM Troy Reh enables Aitken to dodge right, separate from his defender and rip another long-range shot.

Aitken lets the play unfold for him, thanks in part to Baptiste’s new role in the pick game.

3. Got it, take it

Baptiste wins it and Aitken sets a pick on Rowlett to give Baptiste space to pass the ball off to him. Aitken brings it downfield as he’s picked up by Rowlett, and Aitken takes advantage of the mismatch. 

He dodges right past Rowlett and shoots a toe-on-the-line bomb, which bounces off the post. 

Aitken leads all midfielders in the league with seven goals, adding seven ground balls so far this season. He’s one goal from tying his career high in one-pointers (eight) and two ground balls away from a new high in that category (nine), too.

Keep him on the wing, and he’s bound to fly away with both personal bests.