Myles Jones Sidelined: Unpacking the Redwoods’ Lineup Decisions
After the performance against the Archers, Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent said that “changes need to be made.” Well, heading into their first game after the All Star break, we’ll get our first look at this iteration of the Redwoods.
From the most buzz-worthy move to the ones around the fringes, here’s a deeper dive into the new-look lineup.
Myles Jones out Against the Cannons
Let's dive into the development making its rounds across #LaxTwitter (or X?): After a rough start to the season, Myles Jones was moved to the reserved roster against the Cannons.
“[Jones] handled it as well as anybody I’ve ever coached,” St. Laurent said about his discussion with the five-time all-star. “I told him we got to change things up… if we’re going to be successful, we’ve got to get point production out of our midfield.”
To St. Laurent’s point, the Redwoods' attack (Rob Pannell, Ryder Garnsey, and Wes Berg) has scored 70% of the Woods’ goals this year. This imbalanced scoring distribution can be a heavy load on the attack, requiring them to consistently win their one-on-one matchups - a strategy that doesn't always pan out, as we saw in the Archers game.
“We’re putting too much pressure on Ryder Garnsey and Rob Pannell to carry this team,” St. Laurent said. “I’m confident we’re not going away from Myles full-time, but we do have to give some different looks.”
Jones, particularly, has been struggling. In five games, he’s scored three goals on 15% shooting, and despite the “Dime Man” moniker, he has zero assists so far this season.
Considering his familiarity with some of the Pairs-based concepts that come with a John Grant Jr.-helmed offense, his underproduction is surprising.
Some of the lack of production can be attributed to his lack of success from distance.
Jones has routinely been a player more than comfortable from behind the arc. Just last year, he racked up three two-pointers (second in the PLL), but this year, he hasn't scored any, which has never happened in his professional career.
According to Jones’ shot chart, two of his three goals this season are from within five yards, and he hasn’t hit a shot further than 10 yards out this year (0-for-9). When he returns, it might be better for him to get further downhill on his scoring opportunities before reverting to his distance shooting.
Like a three-point shooter in basketball who has gone cold, sometimes it's better to get a layup or knock down a free throw to regain some confidence in their outside shot.
To reiterate, it’s not just Jones.
The middies, in totality, haven’t been up to snuff offensively this year. It would be asinine to keep fielding the same lineup without exploring alternatives to see if the unit can find synergy elsewhere.
“It’s a very difficult decision to sit out a guy of his caliber, but it’s not been a great year for him,” St. Laurent said. “We’re trying to figure out the ‘solve’…’ but at the end of the day, we’ve got to give guys chances to play.”
Nakeie Montgomery On Offense
One player expected to see more time is first-time all-star Nakeie Montgomery. Montgomery has spent most of the season playing SSDM and taking faceoff wings, but now St. Laurent and the coaching staff believe it's time to unlock his offensive potential.
Earlier this year, we got a glimpse of how dangerous he can be on offense when he racked up three assists against the Atlas.
“We need to get a little faster, a little quicker, and draw some slides from the midfield, and we think he’ll be able to do that,” St. Laurent said.
Montgomery’s speed is well-documented. He ran a sub-4.5 40-yard dash at Duke’s Pro Day. And after using that speed to keep opposing midfielders in check, the Redwoods will unleash it on the other side of the field, specifically off of faceoffs, where his speed is even more of a premium thanks to the new shot clock rules.
The Redwoods have managed to only score ten times out of their 59 possessions off of faceoff wins, giving them an efficiency rate of 17%, placing them 7th in the league. Montgomery playing more offense will mitigate the time spent on offensive substitutions post-TD Ierlan's faceoff victories, which could be a catalyst for improving their efficiency moving forward.
“The thing that makes Nakeie special is he has the ability to get to top-end speed faster than most people… before you know it, he’s got five yards of separation,” St. Laurent explained.
Montgomery isn’t going to relinquish his other duties, just expect to see him with the ball in his stick more.
“I told him on the phone, you’re a traditional old-school middie; you’ll do it all,” St. Laurent said
Sergio Perkovic on Defense
Conversely, Sergio Perkovic is now listed as an SSDM.
Like Jones, Perkovic has struggled on offense this year, maybe even more. The three-time all-star is 0-for-14 and hasn’t registered a point this season. However, he brings value on the defensive end, evidenced by opposing players shooting 1-for-6 when he’s the closest defender.
Another factor in playing Perkovic on defense is that it opens up opportunities for offensive mismatches when opposing midfielders get caught on the other end of the field. Despite his struggles this season, he quickly becomes one of the top offensive d-mids in the league in situations like that.
“Our defense is very comfortable with him out there,” St. Laurent said. “The hope is that we can get him a couple of easy ones in transition, and once he starts seeing the ball go in the back of the net, we’ll never look back.
Two “New” Additions: John Piatelli and Kevin Rogers
The Redwoods signed Kevin Rogers out of the player pool on Wednesday.
6’4 middie has spent the entirety of his professional career with Chrome, where his peak production came in 2021 with eight goals (7 one-point and 1 two-pointer) and five assists.
Rogers will inject more North-South dodging into the Redwoods offense as they try to get their midfield out of this cold spell.
One thing that has hurt the Redwoods offense this year is the lack of another elite crease finisher to pair with Wes Berg due to Ryan Lee’s season-ending injury. This setback has led to more reliance on the single-crease look than they anticipated at the beginning of the season.
St Laurent brought in John Piatelli to fill that void.
Originally part of the training camp roster, Piatelli missed out on a regular spot due to the influx of players like Lee. Now, the two-time Teewarton finalist, who led the country in goals-per-game (3.56) as a senior, gets to show off his scoring prowess.
Piatelli won’t be dressing this weekend, so we’ll have to wait and see how his addition impacts the 'Woods in the coming weeks.
St. Laurent's decision to shuffle the deck will draw scrutiny from some and praise from others, but we won’t know the immediate impact of these moves until Saturday against the Cannons at 8:30 on ESPN+.