Joe Walters Popping to Space

By Joe Keegan | Apr 20, 2020

Think of an offense as a jazz ensemble. The dodging brass draws the crowd’s attention; off-ball drummers keep the team on the same tempo. Rushing or dragging that tempo by even the slightest beat can prevent a shot and lead to a turnover. More cutting is not the answer; smart, on-tempo cutting is. Popping the slide and cutting the fill at the right times can create some sweet music.

Nobody pops the slide as well as Joe Walters. He never brings an easy double to the dodger. There's a balance between becoming available as an outlet while also remaining in his shooting range – Walters feels the defense and finds that perfect spot. When he catches, he is ready to attack a five-on-four advantage – and that’s when the Redwoods offense feasts.

Walters’ teammates are the perfect partners for these midfield actions. Kyle Harrison, Brent Adams, Sergio Perkovic, and the unit's latest addition, Myles Jones, all have two-way go’s. When they dodge, Walters pops in the opposite direction. If Walters’ defender drops to help, then his teammate will hit him with a throwback. From there, he has an approach he can beat. He’ll hitch and use the defender’s momentum against him.

That is a perfect cut. Any higher, and Walters would’ve been out of shooting range. Any lower, and Glicini could’ve arrived with a calmer approach. Remember: Recovering defenses are four-on-five zones. You wouldn’t cut furiously and aimlessly through a zone; you find the seams and sit in them.

Defenses are prepared to help to the inside. There’s a reason why “two slide” and “fill” have become interchangeable terms. When the offense pops to the perimeter during the dodge, the two slide is no longer filling – he should be extending. The problem? Michael Ehrhardt can’t extend to Walters here without leaving the crease vulnerable.

That inside-out help is tricky. It requires the defense to be thinking two steps ahead of the offense. If Ehrhardt has relief from X earlier, then it works. The Whips were able to anticipate this action and sniff it out in advance a couple times earlier in this game – but even the best defenses get beat when spacing stretches them thin.

Walters sits in spots that make the two slide ambiguous. Should the help come from that third midfielder? Or from down low? A split second of indecisiveness by the defense will lead to a time-and-room bullseye from Walters. Sending two defenders turns him into a passer.

Walters downloads the field’s data in hyperspeed. Expect more assists from him in 2020. Teammates only finished 28.9% (11-for-38) off passes from him. The poise on this pass – stepping in and staring down both sliding defenders to allow Jules Heningburg’s cut to unfold – is absurd.

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