Philadelphia Waterdogs

Four biggest reasons why the Waterdogs’ offense is struggling

By Wyatt Miller | Jul 10, 2024

The Philadelphia Waterdogs’ offense has been shockingly bad during their 1-4 start. 

The same team that has appeared in the last two Cash App Championship games has the worst scoring rate in the PLL (.040), despite owning the league’s best offensive turnover rate (.041). The Dogs’ 11.2 scores per game ranks sixth in the league and would be their worst mark since their inaugural 2020 season.

A number of things have gone wrong for Philadelphia’s newest team, even while boasting significant star power. The Waterdogs have two of the league’s top five point-scorers at attack and a diverse group of shooters coming out of the box. Still, that hasn’t led to competent offensive production, as Philly has failed to win close games while boasting one of the PLL’s top defenses.

Here are the main culprits behind the Waterdogs’ offensive failures halfway through head coach and general manager Bill Tierney’s first season:

Worst two-point margin in the league

The Waterdogs have a better goal rate than the California Redwoods and the Carolina Chaos but still have the league’s worst scoring rate (scoring points/touches). Abysmal two-point production on both ends of the field is the reason why.

Everyone can see the Waterdogs’ league-worst two-point shot percentage (4.3%) on the PLL stats page. They can also see Philly’s league-worst seven two-pointers allowed. What they won’t see is that the Dogs’ opponents are shooting 26.9% from beyond the arc. So, while the Whipsnakes may lead the league in two-point efficiency (22.7%), the actual leader is whoever is playing the Waterdogs.

Tierney knew adjusting to the two-pointer would be a major part of his transition to the pro game and acknowledged it before the season began. But any changes in strategy he’s made haven’t shown up on the field. Of the Waterdogs’ 23 two-point attempts, only nine were shots on goal (39.1%), and all but one of those were saved. So, not only have the Waterdogs been converting at a poor rate from deep, but they’ve barely given themselves a chance to connect.

In all four losses, the opponent’s two-point production has covered the scoring difference. That means every Philly loss would have been won or tied by taking away opponents’ production from beyond the arc.

Fourth-quarter woes

I crunched the numbers behind the Waterdogs’ fourth quarter and overtime offense through five games – the results were utterly atrocious. 

Philly has shot 9-for-50 with 28 shots on goal in the final period this season, which comes out to a shooting percentage of 18%. If that shooting percentage were stretched over an entire season’s worth of games, it would be the worst in professional lacrosse history, dating back to 2004 when they started tracking the data. Plus, their 56% shot-on-goal rate would be the worst of any team since 2020.

The Waterdogs just aren’t coming through late in games, and it’s led to three one-point losses. Nobody can blame the defense, because Dillon Ward and Matt DeLuca have combined to save 70% of their opportunities in the fourth quarter and overtime this season, which would be the best save rate in the league. And to make matters worse, their faceoff percentage is under 20%, so the offense can’t be salvaged by volume.

Nobody can argue with those numbers. The “Cardiac Dogs” have suddenly fallen victim to the Philadelphia meltdown trope that has plagued countless sports teams in the City of Brotherly Love.

Where is Ethan Walker?

Ethan Walker’s lack of production is a gargantuan issue. Fans clearly don’t realize just how significant his slump has been, or it would be a larger topic of discussion.  

Walker has 155 touches at the halfway point, ranking 10th in the league. Every player with 130 touches or more has at least 10 points, except Walker, who has four. That’s an unthinkable turnaround for someone who scored 30 points a year ago while still ranking 10th in touches.

His volume isn’t down, but his production is miles below what Dogs fans have come to expect from the lefty gunslinger. What’s even more strange is that Walker was a two-time Tewaaraton Award finalist under Tierney at Denver, so one would think his old coach would only improve his production in the pros. The opposite has happened, and it’s hard to say why, but Tierney hasn’t lost faith.

“My advice to guys who shoot like that is to keep shooting,” Tierney said. “There’s nothing wrong with Ethan Walker.”

Walker has only taken 15 shots, making him the only player in the league with 140-plus touches and fewer than 22 shot attempts. Although Kieran McArdle and Michael Sowers are tied for fifth in points in the PLL (21 each), Walker’s lack of aggression has brought the Waterdogs’ attack production down to 5.4 scores per game, which ranks second-to-last. 


All four teams with a first-half bye week have struggled offensively, as they currently own the four worst scoring averages in the league. The new schedule format has clearly disrupted the rhythm of these squads, yet Philly’s issues with momentum have surpassed weekly consistency and seeped into individual game flow. 

Three of the Waterdogs’ four losses have featured extended scoring droughts. Right off the bat, they didn’t score for 11-and-a-half minutes to start the season opener against the Utah Archers and had to play catch-up after trailing 5-0 early, to no avail. They went on to miss six shots in the final five minutes, failing to complete the comeback (again) in the championship rematch.

Their next game featured a similar slump against the Cannons, this time with a scoreless streak lasting 12:27. Ryan Conrad was able to break that and force overtime with one second remaining, only for Zac Tucci to have the last laugh against his former team – the Dogs didn’t even touch the ball in the extra period. And this past week, the Cannons did it again. Boston held the Dogs scoreless for over a quarter, as they went on a 7-0 run in the final 16:33 to beat Philadelphia 14-10. 

It’s hard to say what has caused these drastic changes considering the roster has remained fairly consistent over the past few years. The Waterdogs have been competitive in all these games, but the numbers don’t lie. This team isn’t performing well enough in key aspects of the game to expect to win. 

Connor Kelly brought up an interesting point in his postgame press conference last week, however. He said the Dogs “lucked out” by getting five straight games heading into the postseason. They got the bye week and Homecoming weekend out of the way in this first half and can now use the usual schedule to build back their momentum heading into the playoffs. 

It will be interesting to see if the return to a normal schedule can help the Waterdogs right the ship, because the players certainly think it will.