The Top MVP Candidates for the Championship Series
By Sarah Griffin
Feb 7, 2023
If there’s one thing all four head coaches can agree on as the Archers, Atlas, Chrome, and Whipsnakes approach the inaugural Championship Series, it’s that versatility matters. I took a look at the top candidates for the Championship Series MVP title from each team and what they bring to the table as a likely hero for their team at The St. James.
Matt Moore, Archers LC
Recruited to UVA as a midfielder, Matt Moore spent most of his storied college career on attack. But when drafted fourth overall by Archers head coach Chris Bates, Moore stepped into an already stacked attack group. An unselfish, well-rounded player with large range as a shooter, Moore moved back to the midfield and emerged as one of the next great young midfielders in the league playing alongside Tom Schreiber.
A silent assassin, Moore produced 20 points in 10 games in 2022, with 15 goals and 5 assists. He might not be the flashiest guy on the field, but his versatile skill set lends itself well to this style of play according to Bates. Moore is equal parts playmaker and goal-scorer. He complemented Marcus Holman, Will Manny, and Grant Ament as a rookie. He might take the keys to the Archers’ offense this February.
Bryan Costabile, Atlas LC
“I believe this style of game is made for midfielders,” remarked Atlas interim head coach Steven Brooks. When you have Bryan Costabile on your side, it certainly seems that way.
“The best players in this game are going to be the ones who can showcase their offensive and defensive capabilities. This style of game is made for midfielders. Look at a two-way guy like Bryan Costabile. He can get up and down the field with speed, and he can play defense. He can have a tremendous amount of success in sixes.”
Looking at Costabile’s numbers alone, his pro career thus far backs up Brooks’ idea pretty well. The Atlas boast the only duo in the Championship Series with the most career goals in the league from 13+ yards. Both Costabile and Romar Dennis have recorded 19 goals from 13+ yards in the PLL. Two-pointers are impactful no matter what version of the game you’re playing. But in the Olympic format with such a high-volume of shots, guys like Costabile and Dennis can rip off even more two-pointers than in the field game.
As Brooks mentioned, Costabile is not only a great long range shooter, but also the Bulls’ best two way player.
Costabile took on a role as a two-player from the get-go in the pros in his rookie season in 2020. He’s a powerful and deceptive shooter, who can capitalize at any second if you give him the opportunity. He has speed on his side that makes it easy for him to transition into playing defense when needed. As someone well-versed on the offensive end of the ball, it gives him greater insight in covering opponents. Costabile’s defensive studies at Notre Dame helped him crack the Atlas lineup in 2020 - and could help Atlas win the Championship Series in 2023.
Justin Anderson, Chrome LC
Dubbed “the Justin Anderson advantage,” defenders will have their hands full trying to control the Chrome offense in the Championship Series.
“I don’t know how you can guard Justin Anderson in this format,” remarked Chrome head coach Tim Soudan. “He’ll have more space and can shoot with both hands.”
In his second professional season this past summer, Anderson broke out at midfield for Chrome. He produced 21 points (14G, 1T, 5A) and shot 38%. In the Olympic format, a high shooting percentage is a huge key for any player to be successful given how often they’ll have chances to capitalize on net. Anderson’s already a short-stick defender’s nightmare; what does that make him to an attackman trapped on defense?
Anderson's also surrounded by weapons on the Chrome offense who can be just as lethal as him. Jackson Morrill, Cole Williams, and Kevin Rogers all can play with both hands as well, giving defenses an even bigger task as to how you cover just about anyone on their offense. Not only do you have a dangerous shooter like Anderson on the floor, you also have a multitude of guys who can feed him from any location with both hands.
Brad Smith, Whipsnakes LC
One name emerged as an early fan favorite for MVP amongst all PLL fans after the release of the 12-man rosters. And though he might be a bit biased, Whipsnakes head coach Jim Stagnitta couldn’t agree more.
“Brad Smith is a guy that jumps right out,” remarked Stagnitta when asked what player on his roster stood out as someone who’s game is well-suited to the Olympic format.
Once called “the greatest lacrosse player you’ve never heard of,” Smith’s become one of the top midfielders in the game over the last few seasons. After making his professional debut in the Championship Series bubble, the Duke alum broke onto the scene.
Smith provides versatility at the midfield that balances out the likes of Matt Rambo, Zed Williams, and Jay Carlson on attack alongside Mike Chanenchuk and Justin Guterding at the midfield. Smith has no one primary role; he can shoot from any area of the field including from a distance. He’s a dodging threat that in the field game will make his opponents regret not putting a pole on him. Now in the Olympic format, opponents will have to strategize even more how you cover Smith with only short-sticks.
Not only can Smith score, he also feeds teammates with his keen vision to read a defense. Smith assisted on 7 goals in 2020 in the Championship Series, 10 goals in 2021, and 7 in 2022 to complement his goal-scoring abilities. He’s a well-balanced player that can both kick-start an offense as well as make the finish.
In a game where versatility is key, Smith’s my personal pick for Championship Series MVP.