Carolina Chaos attackman Jules Heningberg

Is ‘unselfish’ play the problem for Chaos’ league-worst offense?

By Hayden Lewis | Jul 9, 2024

After Carolina’s 10-6 loss to the Philadelphia Waterdogs in Week 4, veteran midfielder Kyle Jackson told media that he thought the Chaos offense was “too unselfish,” leading to low goal totals from the squad. 

There is not one data point or metric that can showcase how unselfish a team is in simple form. But there are multiple stats that can combine to depict unselfishness. 

Carolina averages the fewest scores per game in the PLL (10.6) and has relied on stout defense and world-class goaltending from Blaze Riorden to stay in games. 

There is ample talent on the Chaos roster that can provide scoring, led by Josh Byrne, who’s been their most consistent threat on offense. Byrne is tied for 11th in the league with 15 points (6G, 9A) and has proven to be a better passer than he showed in previous years, though his goal-scoring is down after consecutive 15-goal seasons in 2022 and ‘23.

Team stats display a better picture of what’s going on. 

The Chaos have had 1,136 touches through five games and have made 915 passes. That means 80.5% of their touches have been used for passing, the highest rate in the league. The league average sits around 77.7%. 

The numbers tell us that the Chaos are passing a bit more than other teams, but not significantly more, meaning that can’t be used as an excuse for low-scoring games. 

With 915 of Carolina's 1,136 touches being used for passing, 248 touches remain. Those have been used for shooting (160 shot attempts; fewest in the PLL) and turnovers (88; fifth-most). 

Turnovers are bound to happen during a game and don’t affect the team’s low scoring as much as infrequent shooting does. In simpler terms, turnovers aren’t the biggest issue for the Chaos – it’s the lack of shot attempts.

When the Chaos shoot, they do a great job of hitting the target and lead the league with a 70% shot-on-goal percentage. Jules Heningburg has put all 14 of his shots on target, scoring seven goals and shooting 50%. Heningburg's shooting percentage is third-best out of all attackmen and tied for sixth-best league-wide.

It’s not like the Chaos are struggling to beat goalies right now. The major issue is that they have attempted 31 fewer shots than Western Conference rival Utah Archers and have scored 10 fewer goals, but they only have five fewer shots on goal. 

More shot attempts mean more chances to score, leading to more goals – especially when you’re shooting the ball as accurately as Carolina has.

Sergio Perkovic can be a catalyst in shot creation. Perkovic leads all Chaos midfielders with six points (2G, 2T) but hasn’t played since getting injured against the New York Atlas in Week 2. When Perkovic was on the field, teams had to respect his range, which opened up more opportunities for the other five players around him. 

One specific player who could benefit if Perkovic returns to the lineup is rookie midfielder Eric Dobson. Dobson is built like a Mack truck and can barrel past opposing defenders with ease. But after a down final year at Notre Dame and injury issues to start the season, he hasn’t fully blossomed into a set-in-stone role with the Chaos.

When Dobson dodges, teams have to be ready to slide early because he’s a matchup nightmare for short-stick defensive midfielders. Working around the alley closest to Perkovic frees him up as a catch-and-shoot option if the adjacent slide comes from Perkovic’s man, opening up Dobson’s passing game.

If a defense starts to slide too many times on Dobson and Perkovic cashes in with goals, they’ll either have to pole Dobson or stop sliding and hope man defense can get the job done. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Dobson can feast against a man defense that doesn’t slide. Getting Perkovic back would be a major boost to this group.

The stats also display that the Chaos are scoring more effectively when players are more selfish with their takes, and the team could open up more collective offense if isolation offense improves. Despite all of their passing, just 45% of the Chaos' goals this season have been assisted (second-lowest in the league). 

Jackson said passing up open shots to make one extra pass has been an issue for the offense. Toning down the passing (by 5-10 passes a game) and amplifying shot volume need to be priorities for the Chaos after this week's All-Star break. 

Currently sitting second in the Western Conference and fourth in the league, the 2-3 Chaos will likely need to reach five wins to secure a spot in the playoffs based on prior years and the current standings. Three of their five remaining games are against conference opponents. 

Carolina is still working to find its identity on offense with all of the new faces on the team, and the squad can benefit from more shots to open up the offense and take a load off Byrne’s and Heningburg’s shoulders.