Previewing the PLL Cash App Championship battle between Warren Jeffrey and Kieran McArdle

By Grant DelVecchio | Sep 23, 2023

In order for the Archers to prevent the Waterdogs from going back-to-back in Sunday’s Cash App Championship, Tony Resch’s defense is going to have to do more than just slow down Michael Sowers. They’re also going to have to find a way to subdue Kieran McArdle

If Sowers is the straw that stirs the drink for the Waterdogs offense, McArdle is the vessel that cradles it. McArdle led the Dogs in goals and points this season, consistently taking advantage of drawing opposing team’s number two defenders thanks to Sowers. Fortunately for the Archers, they have Warren Jeffrey.

The 6’3”, 210-pound “Moose” from Mimico, Ontario has quietly been a key difference maker on the back end for the Archers this season in his return to action after missing all of last season on the PUP list. Although the headlining matchup on Sunday is between 2023 1st Team All-Pro defensive eraser Graeme Hossack and the explosive 2023 2nd Team All-Pro Sowers, the battle between McArdle and Jeffrey will likely be just as consequential to the final outcome. 

McArdle moved into the top-10 on the all-time scoring list in the Waterdogs win over the Archers in the regular season finale. He scored three goals, all in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with seconds remaining. McArdle also posted a hat trick against the Archers in Dallas in week six. But, only two of those six total came in settled six-on-six possessions with Jeffrey defending McArdle. 

McArdle is lethal on the power play and in transition on account of his ability to exploit small defensive lapses thanks to his exceptional knowledge of timing and spacing. This makes Jeffrey’s defense of McArdle in settled situations that much more important to the Archers success. McArdle is going to get his: he’s been held without a goal just three times over his last 24 games, including the playoffs, since the start of 2022. Still, ensuring that McArdle doesn’t go off for six goals like he did in the quarterfinals against the Whips, gives the Archers a better chance of stymieing one of the league’s most well-balanced offenses.

Hossack’s status as the number one cover guy for the Archers enables Jeffrey to maximize his talent as a help defender off-ball, and Moose is merciless on slides. Jeffrey set the tone early on in the Archers victory over the Redwoods in the Cash App Semifinals, expertly timing his slide before punishing Ryder Garnsey on an attack to the cage and jarring the ball loose.

On-ball, Jeffrey is as strong and stout as defenders come in the PLL. In this clip from the second quarter of the regular season finale matchup, Ryan Conrad comes behind the cage to set a screen for McArdle, but Jeffrey throws some body checks and stays right on McArdle’s hip, effectively eliminating the screen and forcing him to give it up. McArdle eventually gets it back on a loose ball pick up, but yet again Jeffrey is right in his gloves and is able to force a turnover.

But, defending McArdle and his extensive bag of tricks will require patience and poise more than brute force. Here’s a look back at one of McArdle’s goals against the Archers in Dallas. The play is almost identical to the Garnsey one above. It’s a big-little pick on the right wing. But, whereas Rob Pannell was well out of the picture behind the net in the first clip, McArdle stays tight to the crease around GLE and forces Jeffrey to make a decision. Just as he did against the Redwoods, Jeffrey slides to help cover the original dodge to the cage (here, Currier) and McArdle is able to slip behind Jeffrey, get a quick shot off and score. It’s a prime example of McArdle’s timeliness and spatial awareness, as well as the tall task Jeffrey has ahead of him.

Jeffrey and McArdle both have championship experience. As a rookie in 2019, Jeffrey played a significant role in helping the Chesapeake Bayhawks capture the franchise’s fourth championship. McArdle led the way for the Waterdogs in last year’s championship win over Chaos with two goals and two assists. I’d also argue that both are silent assassins in the way they somehow seem to fly under the radar despite consistently performing at an elite level. At 3:00PM on Sunday, we’ll see who makes the most noise