Film Study: Michael Ehrhardt’s fake substitutions
From the 2018 World Games to the 2020 semifinals against the Redwoods, Whipsnakes LC long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt has repeatedly proven his ability to take over in big games. He doesn’t just dominate between the arcs -- he dominates from endline to endline.
Ehrhardt is a complete LSM. On the defensive end his range clogs passing lanes, especially on the penalty kill. He is always ready to help the helper. And in classic Whips fashion, he blindsides rollbacks for opportunistic double teams.
His offensive game is more polished than a pole with a 110mph shot. Ehrhardt can stay and play after “THEY’VE GOT NUMBERS!” situations simmer down. Those 5-on-5s and fleeting 6-on-5s are arguably when he’s at his most dangerous.
Ehrhardt as a picker
When Ehrhardt stays on the offensive side of the field, he’ll hunt for picks. At 6-foot-5, Ehrhradt is an enormous road block. Duck under, and you’ll never recover.
Matt Rambo scores off the pick assist from Michael Ehrhardt.@PLLWhipsnakes @rattmambo @AirHeart12 pic.twitter.com/6D6IgRoezQ— PLL Highlights (@PLLHighlight) August 29, 2021
Those early shot clock picks are defended differently than picks in settled six-on-six sets. Ehrhardt usually has an offensive midfielder trapped -- or, at least, a two-way midfielder tired from back-to-back possessions. Even defenses that tend to switch between SSDMs and poles won’t want to switch between offensive midfielders and poles.
Breakdown coming tomorrow on Ehrhardt’s role staying, playing, picking, subbing, and fake subbing in the Whips O pic.twitter.com/0qpkwJ0d71— Joe Keegan (@joekeegs) August 29, 2021
Because of that confusion -- Are we switching? Fighting through?!?! -- two-man games with :31-:40 remaining on the shot clock produce 38.1% shooting percentages. Way higher than those with :21-:30 remaining (28.5%), :11-:20 (31.9%) or under :10 (28.8%). At their best, two-man games are not tools to change matchups; they are actions to force the defense into second-guessing its scheme.
Ehrhardt is an offensive midfielder’s train ticket to the substitution box. Once he leaves the station, you’re stuck for 52 seconds.
This sub created a 6-on-5 and a 2-point attempt for Chanenchuk pic.twitter.com/lQBj7QOtEW— Joe Keegan (@joekeegs) August 29, 2021
Hedge against those picks, and you’re trailing Ehrhardt by enough space for him to make you pay. He’ll beat you to the midfield line and let John Haus play a give-and-go with Mike Chanenchuk. Or he’ll fake the sub, step back on, and draw in four (!!) defenders with his gravitational pull.
Notice Ehrhardt’s gravity after this fake sub — four Woods move towards him as John Haus pump fakes. pic.twitter.com/eplbOjupud— Joe Keegan (@joekeegs) August 29, 2021
Those fake subs often lead to 2-point shots. Ehrhardt has buried 20.6% of his attempts from beyond the 15-yard arc since 2019 -- not a number you want to leave to chance as an opponent.
Michael Ehrhardt fakes a substitution then buries a 2-point goal.@PLLWhipsnakes @AirHeart12 pic.twitter.com/tNDx5kBcfl— PLL Highlights (@PLLHighlight) August 29, 2021
Faceoff athlete Joe Nardella is comfortable staying on the field, too. Sometimes he and Ehrhardt will both fake a substitution. Only the Archers are able to regain numbers advantages like this after opponents beat them to the hole.
Michael Ehrhardt and Joe Nardella fake a substitution to create a 6-on-5 advantage.@PLLWhipsnakes @AirHeart12 @JNardss pic.twitter.com/7OCUehzlRm— PLL Highlights (@PLLHighlight) August 29, 2021
Ehrhardt as a passer
Most poles will sail a possession shot over the crossbar when they get in trouble. Harmless. Here’s an endline restart.
Not Ehrhardt. He will force slides to commit, and then hit the open man. This skip to Max Tuttle is Schreiberian. Watch the way Ehrhardt waits for this passing lane to open up as defenders converge on him from both sides.
The Whipsnakes create an advantage in the substitution game, then Michael Ehrhardt directs traffic and skips a pass to Max Tuttle.@PLLWhipsnakes @AirHeart12 pic.twitter.com/QQDA3Z2uQU— PLL Highlights (@PLLHighlight) August 29, 2021
Most of Ehrhardt’s offensive plays won’t show up in the box score. His pick assists. His gravity when he pulls an offensive midfielder into the alley, allowing his teammates to play 5-on-5 offense in space. When he does show up in the box score, it’s usually a momentum-swinging 2-point goal. Opponents spend so much time emphasizing the importance of covering Ehrhardt that when he breaks free for a 2-point try, it can be demoralizing.
Ehrhardt and the Whipsnakes will play the top transition defense in the league on Sunday: Waterdogs LC. Opponents have converted on 20% of their fast break possessions against the Waterdogs. Their two-way midfielders and rope unit rarely lose the race to the hole. The Waterdogs won in Colorado Springs by outrunning the Whipsnakes; can they do it again in the playoffs?