Connor Fields and Mac O'Keefe

Film Study: How Mac O’Keefe and Connor Fields Abuse Defenses

By Zach Carey

Aug 2, 2023

With the score tied at 16 and just over 10 minutes remaining in the first place bout between the Archers and the Waterdogs, Mac O’Keefe and Connor Fields had a quick conversation, identifying that the ‘Dogs defense had elected to guard O’Keefe with a short-stick on recent possessions and deciding to attack that development together. 

After Mike Sisselberger won the ensuing faceoff and Fields got the ball with 19 seconds left on the shot clock, the two lefty attackmen went right into the two-man game that they’ve been developing since training camp back in early June. 

O’Keefe approached his teammate, setting a pin-down screen for Fields who decided to reject the pick and attack under towards goal-line-extended. O’Keefe correctly stayed spaced, leaving his defender in no-man’s land. That meant that when Fields rolled back to his left hand and O’Keefe mirrored him by clearing space high and cutting to the crease, all it took was a gorgeous behind-the-back pass and a quick, tight finish from O’Keefe to put the Archers back up by one.

“That comes with trust,” commented Archers LC Head Coach and General Manager Chris Bates. “As they get a little bit more experience with each other it just continues to develop and build. It’s fun to watch.” 

Both Fields and O’Keefe credited the other for doing the work to create the goal on that play. O’Keefe appreciated Fields’ ability to dodge, re-dodge, and keep his head up while Fields highlighted how O’Keefe moved off-ball, noting that “the defense has to respect how much of a threat he is to shoot the ball.”

Their combination this summer has been a huge part of the Archers’ 5-1 start. Playing both O’Keefe and Fields on attack has opened up new pathways for offensive success for the club, particularly in the two-man game.

“We both know where each other are going to be and we both understand being deceptive in the pick game,” said Fields. “Whether it’s the guy with the ball or setting the pick, just trying to confuse the defense in whatever way possible. Our minds think alike offensively which helps us be successful in the two-man game.”

Fields and O'Keefe hadn’t played together before this summer, but their chemistry is growing quickly on and off the field. “Mac is one of those guys who can get along with everyone,” Fields added. “Him and I have gotten along and hit it off since we met at training camp. It’s been really cool to start meshing with him and I feel like we’ve been growing together with each game.” 

O’Keefe and Fields do have a very different set of strengths. Fields is a powerful dodger who has the strength and stamina to go at his defender repeatedly until he finds the angle he wants to exploit. When he does create the necessary sliver of space, he’s got a deep bag of tricks to pull from to get the ball to hit the back of the net. 

O'Keefe on the other hand is one of the best step-down shooters on the planet. He’s been unleashed with the Archers this season on a much higher volume of 10.1 more touches and 5.7 more shots per game in his third season in the league than in his second. 

Fields’ 11 unassisted goals is first in the league while his insane 35.5% shooting percentage is first among players with 20 or more unassisted shots (he’s taken 31). O’Keefe, meanwhile, is shooting 31% on assisted looks with the third most assisted goals (13) in the PLL on the most assisted shots (41).

It’s those elite abilities that allow the O’Keefe-Fields two-man game to thrive because of the bind that their balance of strengths puts defenses in. In fact, the Archers are tied with the Whipsnakes — who have their own lefty attack duo of Matt Rambo and Will Manny — for the most goals scored from the high lefty wing and are tied for second for the most goals scored off initiations from the lefty wing. 

This action against the Whipsnakes exemplifies the challenge that these two present. O’Keefe, while being guarded by a short stick, sets a hard pick on Fields’ defender and then fades right and low. The quality of his screen forces the Whips to switch, giving Fields a prime opportunity to dodge with space. O’Keefe keeps the defense honest by continuing to move around the crease, and Fields displays what makes him such an elite unassisted shooter.

Fields’ ability to put his defender under significant duress with a whole array of dodges and changes of speed and direction makes giving him such space against a short-stick look foolish. Yet that’s the position the Whipsnakes found themselves in because they were reasonably unwilling to prevent O’Keefe from getting his hands free either off the initial pick or via a slide to Fields. 

This Archers’ possession from the first quarter of Sunday’s game further depicts how O’Keefe and Fields are playing so smoothly off each other and how that fits into the Archers offense. 

Ryan Ambler passes down to Fields and then picks down as well, creating confusion before O’Keefe picks for Fields as well. Seeing Fields’ defender Chris Sabia try to slip under the screen and O’Keefe’s defender refuse to give help, both of the Archers' attackmen identify that Fields should be able to step into a shot. So, O’Keefe holds his pick for a split second longer, Fields pump fakes to pull Sabia further into the pick, and then it’s game over for the Waterdogs defense as Fields rips with his hands free and a slight screen on goalie Matt DeLuca.

Ambler also deserves credit for this play and how the Archers have succeeded on the lefty wing this season. He caused havoc with his initial on-ball pick, eventually leading to the indecision from Sabia and the goal for Fields. His role is underrated but critical within the club’s pick-heavy offense. The play above was a look at a “trips'' offensive set with two three-man games split on either end of the field. The Archers haven’t used a high volume of three-man games this season, but it could be a set they go back to as the season progresses and these players grow more and more comfortable with each other.

The Archers offense is and always has been loaded with talent and individual players who can make any lacrosse fan’s mouth water. But where they’ve been stopped in the past is when opposing defenses — notably Chaos’ in the playoffs the last three years — have shorted an attackman and stunted where the club could rely on initiating its offense. 

With how Fields and O’Keefe are playing and bonding on the lefty wing, the Archers might have found the solution to what has been their offensive kryptonite in the biggest moment. 

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