Two big takeaways from Chaos’ costly win over Outlaws on Opening Weekend

By Hayden Lewis and Topher Adams | Jun 2, 2024

The Carolina Chaos opened their 2024 season with a 16-11 win over the Denver Outlaws on Saturday -- but lost one of their best players to a potentially serious injury in the process.

Here were our beat writers' top takeaways from the Opening Weekend matchup in Albany, N.Y.:

Hayden Lewis: Second-half run helps Chaos survive Blaze Riorden injury, turnover issues

After switching offensive blueprints in the offseason, the constants heading into Week 1 for Carolina came at defense. Early in the contest, both teams struggled on offense, turning the ball over multiple times each and allowing the defenses to get set.

Blaze Riorden backstopped the Choas defense early and picked up momentum for the squad after an assist early in the second quarter. But shortly after that helper, the four-time Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year went down with a left knee injury and didn’t return to the game. Before exiting, Riorden saved eight of the 11 shots he faced. 

Veteran backup Austin Kaut played solid in relief, stopping eight shots for a 53.3% save percentage. Kaut can’t fill Riorden’s shoes long-term but is a great option in the short term.

The new-look offense sparked late in the third quarter and ignited an eight-goal run to close out the game in the second half. Rookies Shane Knobloch and Ross Scott found their footing by recording their first career goals, with Scott potting two. Although Carolina scored 16 points, it turned the ball over 22 times. 

High turnover numbers won’t lead to victories down the line and need to be cleaned up.

Up next for Carolina: vs. California Redwoods (Friday, June 7, 6 p.m. ET)

Topher Adams: Offense still searching for an identity

The Outlaws had countless questions offensively heading into the first game of the season. More than a half-dozen new players cracked the 25-man roster on that end of the field, and the early results were a mixed bag.

Jack Myers and Josh Zawada started alongside Logan Wisnauskas at attack in the first quarter, while Brennan O’Neill and Cross Ferrara ran out of the box. That flipped in the second quarter. 

The offense never settled into a consistent rhythm.

Even when the offense created good chances, the Outlaws scored on just nine of their 46 shots. Second-year pro Sam Handley did look dynamic against more short-stick matchups alongside O’Neill. The Penn graduate scored two goals and added a two-pointer off an O’Neill assist.

Developing a consistent rhythm and hierarchy offensively -- potentially built around Handley and O’Neill in midfield -- will be essential to Denver building an identity moving forward.

Defensively, the Outlaws played well most of the game, but goalie Sean Sconone had a difficult day between the pipes. The sixth-year pro saved 26.5% of the shots he faced, with Carolina hitting a pair of late two-pointers to put the game away. The Outlaws will need sharper play in goal heading to Charlotte next weekend.

Up next for Denver: vs. Utah Archers (Friday, June 7, 8:30 p.m. ET)