Welcome to the 10 Man Ride - a weekly Monday recap hitting on the 10 best stats, plays and moments of the PLL weekend.
1. Matt Dunn fighting through picks
Bryce Young was featured in this space last week for turning his man into a slide, peeling off, and collapsing to the crease with a yard sale check. The Whipsnakes LC’s recoveries are airtight when they need to support the on-ball defender; this week, they hardly had to slide to one matchup: Matt Dunn versus Jordan Wolf.
The Chrome LC offense is at its best picking for Wolf at X. Dunn fought through those picks and beat Wolf to his spot all game long. Credit the Whips’ short-sticks for getting physical with the pickers. Tyler Warner’s aggressive play here makes it possible for Dunn to fight through and get a chunk of Wolf as he attempts his patented shot.
Wolf is an elite passer out of the pick-and-roll. The Archers LC defense switched picks and forced Wolf to re-initiate in an isolation last week; the Whips got physical upfront and trusted Dunn to fight through. Dunn was a monster all game long. He repeatedly fought through picks to get back on Wolf’s hands and alter shots or put the ball on the turf.
The Whips dared Wolf to beat Dunn. Wolf attempted 11 shots; inside finisher Ty Thompson only attempted one. Allowing unassisted shots by Wolf rather than quick catch-and-release dunks on the doorstep by Thompson is the way to beat the Chrome – if you have an on-ball defender like Dunn.
2. Chrome LC too slow to slide
While the Whips only shot 23.4%, this wasn’t an impressive day for the Chrome LC defense. Goalie John Galloway (17 saves) bailed out a unit that was not ready to slide to John Haus (2G, 1T, 1A) from the midfield or to Ben Reeves (1G, 2A) when a pick at X led to a short-stick mismatch. Even Matt Rambo (2G, 3A) dodging against a pole is a slide situation. Rambo had made a career for his ability to bully defenders; then he spent last offseason playing indoors and learning how to use his body even better. It’s going to take two defenders to stop this man.
Galloway’s teams have been notoriously slow to slide to X over the years. When Mike Manley was in his prime and a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, that gameplan made sense. The way they saw it, you had to beat two people – Manley and Galloway – by yourself to score. They might need to reevaluate that strategy.
Chrome faceoff athlete Connor Farrell (13-for-17, 76.4%) – a.k.a. Thor – didn’t plan on playing lacrosse at LIU Post. He was a middle linebacker on the football team until one of his classmates convinced him to play lacrosse. Farrell earned a spot on head coach Dom Starsia’s draft board after winning 34 of 37 faceoffs with a single-game DII record 30 groundballs against the eventual national champions. Next week, Farrell faces the league’s best: Trevor Baptiste, who has won 64.7% of faceoffs this summer.
4. Tucked-in jerseys
I’m all in on the jersey tuck. Some players have gone with a half tuck; Redwoods LC attackman Joey Sankey and Archers LC attackman Kevin Rice have committed to the full tuck.
Rice’s fundamentals are sound; the full tuck suits him perfectly. Tucked-in jerseys are reminiscent of that one older guy who jumps in pickup basketball games at the gym and boxes out relentlessly, kisses mid-range jumpers off the glass, and throws strictly bounce passes.
5. Tom Schreiber playing the left-hand side in Archers LC twins sets
The Archers LC offense often operates in “pairs” or “twins.” Pairs offenses borrow box lacrosse concepts. They initiate with two-man games – either pick-and-rolls or shallow cuts. And shooters almost always have their sticks to the middle of the field to improve their shooting angle. That’s a hard-and-fast rule indoors; shots on the wrong side are a huge no-no. It’s not as frowned upon outdoors.
Against the Redwoods LC, Tom Schreiber spent some time on the left-hand side of their twins set. Most right-handed players in that situation would drive down the alley and look for a strong-hand, low-angle shot or a throwback to their twin. Schreiber is not like most right-handed players. He continued to attack the middle of the field and sling no-look passes to expose two-slides.
Schreiber’s third quarter assist to Marcus Holman was perfect. Holman’s man is sinking into the hole so that the crease defender could slide to Schreiber. The Redwoods don’t send a slide to Schreiber’s left hand, but since their backside defense is on the wall, Holman is open in stepdown range. Schreiber slings it with his “weak” hand without looking, and Holman releases the shot before the camera can catch up.
6. Redwoods’ green helmets
The Redwoods had the cleanest kits in Foxboro in Week 1. The white-and-brown vertically striped uniforms initially reminded me of referee tops, but I’ve grown to like them. What really separates that uniform from others is the white helmet with the bear logo. Those are the second-best helmets in the league, behind only the Redwoods’ green lids with the forest logo.
(Sidenote: A full Mount Rushmore of PLL helmets will come after the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals.)
7. Flat fast breaks
With 10 yards removed between the cages, fast breaks are sneaking up on the point man in a hurry. We’re seeing more flat fast break sets – as opposed to a traditional L-shape – than ever, and I love it. The flat fast break lends itself to secondary transition actions like pass down pick downs. More importantly, flat fast breaks stretch slides and make it easier for longpoles to let two-pointers fly.
8. Chaos LC’s transition two-point shooters
Following training camp, people were buzzing about Matt Rees’ two-point range. Yesterday, a national audience witnessed as Rees unleashed 102- and 99-mph goals from downtown.
Jake Froccaro also buried a two-pointer (his second of the season) as a trailer on a fast break. While Froccaro won’t play as much defense as Rees, having threats like that on the field makes this Chaos one of the best defense-to-offense transition teams in the PLL. Three two-pointers in a quarter is insane. Falling down 8-1 out of the gates is deflating.
9. Connor Fields’ BTB fake
Having a full-strength Fields (2G, 2A) back on the field is an absolute joy for everyone except the players defending him. His postup game is pretty; he won’t overpower his defender like Rambo, but he is savvy in tight spaces. Fields often uses stick fakes or his “chicken wing” move – using his right arm to pin his opponent’s stick under his armpit – to take topside. He has embarrassed many on-ball defenders with behind-the-back fakes. His latest victim: Callum Robinson, who was spun around searching for the ball after Fields threw an Internet-breaking fake.
10. Atlas LC’s sloppy switches
The Atlas defense has been brutal in any situation that forces them to communicate. Off-ball or in pick-and-rolls, this defense falls apart. They have bulls on their backline who are too focused on laying the big hit. Their shorties throw one-handed wrap-checks rather than punching hips. They switch pick-and-rolls, then inexplicably try to switch back seconds later! There are defensive plans that aim to squeeze a double-team off pick-and-rolls or to switch them completely; this does not look planned at all.
Count how many palms you see raised both during and after this Miles Thompson goal. The Atlas misplay a Myles Jones-Jake Froccaro pick-and-roll (which should be the best way for the Chaos to unlock six-on-six two-point shots going forward) and have to send reactionary slides. Nothing about this defense screams, “A force to be reckoned with.”