Atlas Transition Defense

Film study: Atlas defense’s indecision, lack of two-way midfielders detrimental in transition

By Lauren Merola

Aug 18, 2023

Through the PLL’s Denver weekend, Atlas turned the ball over league second-worst 158 times, only one turnover less than the league-worst Redwoods (159). To make matters worse, opponents score on the Bulls a league-worst 42.9 percent of the time in transition. 

Watching plays like these, it’s not hard to see why.

Atlas needs to be more decisive

Cue The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” because it seems to be a question that hangs over Atlas in transition.

After Waterdogs SSDM Jake Higgins intercepted an Atlas feed, two Atlas and one Waterdogs player immediately ran to the substitution box, leaving the Waterdogs in a man-up situation in the midfield (which is a problem worth pointing out and in need of fixing, but not why the Waterdogs scored here).

Higgins, who was guarding Atlas offensive-midfielder Xander Dickson, didn’t sub off en route to the Atlas zone, giving Dickson two options: mark up Higgins on defense or leave Higgins unattended in transition while subbing out for a SSDM replacement. Dickson chose the former, but not soon enough. Higgins had a full step on Dickson sprinting through Atlas’ half, which led to a wide-open shot on Jack Concannon on the doorstep.

While it’s an offseason project at this point in the season, Atlas needs to add more true two-way midfielders to limit man-down situations and better the coverage in transition.

Turnovers-to-transition is Atlas’ Achilles heel

It’s the one-two punch that continues to rob Atlas of any substantial lead.

Ben Randall intercepted an Eric Law pass down in the Waterdogs zone and ran the ball downfield. At one point, Randall was completely alone in the midfield, while Atlas players reacted to the turnover and subbed off. The transition set up a four-on-three advantage for the Waterdogs. 

If Randall was a 2-point shooter, Atlas would have been in more trouble, leaving him alone at the top of the arc with his hands free. But Tucker Durkin haphazardly picked up the defenseman, causing Randall to dish it off to Ethan Walker, who quickly passed it to Kieran McArdle. Michael Rexrode was too slow to slide across the crease to McArdle, who shot and scored by the time Rexrode matched up.

The same problems – lack of reaction time and true two-way midfielders – is the culprit here. With two games left in the season, Atlas needs to try and keep the field as even as possible, subbing the same number of players as its opponent. The biggest difference would be seen if Atlas can cut its turnover rate – nearly 20 per game – in half.

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