Old vs new school: Previewing the Archers vs Waterdogs faceoff strategy
The 2023 Cash App Championship will feature two ends of the philosophical spectrum. The Waterdogs have fully reinvented themselves at the faceoff stripe while the Archers represent the more traditional strategy of dressing a prototypical face-off specialist. The beauty of the situation is that both teams have masterfully used two different strategies to reach the championship game, but which strategy will prove to be elite when it matters the most?
The Waterdogs will employ a two-headed monster. Initially using LSM Eli Gobrecht to play a prevent style and conceding the clamp in order to force the Archers to play with a 32-second shot clock. As the game goes on and Archers LC faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger wears down, Waterdogs LC Head Coach and General Manager Andy Copelan will strategically deploy midfielder Zach Currier who has the skill set to create a contested ground ball, or once again force the Archers to use a 32-second shot clock.
Sisselberger has won 86% of his faceoffs against the Waterdogs this year, but that feels irrelevant because the 'Dogs strategy is naturally going to concede the faceoff win. If there's one thing that we’ve learned this year it's that winning the draw loses value if you waste time getting the ball to the offense. Luckily for the Archers, nobody gets the ball to the offense more efficiently than Sisselberger.
Starting FO athletes' average time to first offensive touch:
Sisselberger is one of a handful of old school faceoff specialists that understands the need to win it forward and can execute. He can carry the ball effectively when needed but he’s still prone to the occasional turnover (15% of touches). Of his 15 turnovers, six have come in two games against the Waterdogs.
Sisselberger vs Gobrecht
Gobrecht will take the majority of draws on Sunday. When he’s at the stripe the strategy is to retreat and play “prevent”, making sure that Sisselberger can’t push transition and inviting the Archers to slowly start their 32-second offense. This strategy also allows the Waterdogs to keep both wings on the field and drop directly into the defensive third. The intent is to play settled defense for the entirety of the shortened clock. Gobrecht represents a low risk low reward situation, putting the pressure on the Archers to score quickly or risk giving the Waterdogs a full clock.
Sisselberger vs Currier
Currier is a different animal. For my money he’s the most versatile player in the world and that’s what makes him the perfect complement to Gobrecht. His role is to disrupt the faceoff while still maintaining a defensive posture. This means he’s going to try to swipe, lift, rake, whatever he can to put pressure on Sisselberger without fully committing to a clamp, he’ll always be in position to drop back. This style has resulted in contested ground balls throughout the season and Currier is a vacuum in traffic. The risk is slightly higher but the reward is greater. If Currier can win a ground ball or even better, force a quick turnover, it becomes instant offense. The wings stay on whether he wins or loses because Waterdogs trust their poles in transition. If he loses one of two things will happen: he will match feet and follow Sisselberger off, or if the Archers wing subs early the Waterdogs wing will immediately help Currier by doubling.
Having played twice this season and splitting the series, there are no secrets left on the table. This game features competing ideologies and the winner will be the one that can execute their plan more skillfully.