Brett Makar Atlas

What’s Going On With the Atlas Defense?

By Lauren Merola

Jul 11, 2023

You don’t need 20/20 vision to see that the Atlas defense has been, for lack of a better term, bad. Through Week 4, the Bulls have given up a league-worst average of 15.5 goals per game, letting in 19 goals the last two contests. They also sit in the gutter of the league with 62 goals against.

So yeah, it’s bad. But it gets worse.

The Bulls have let in 57 goals on 153 possessions, generating a league-lowest defensive efficiency of 37.3 percent (the Whipsnakes’ defense posts the highest efficiency rating with 21.9 percent). Both in transition (41 percent) and on settled defense (37 percent), Atlas’ efficiency is last.

How did Atlas get here? Let’s review what’s gone wrong:

What broke down?

The Atlas defense collapsed in Week 3, blowing a seven-goal lead to lose 19-18 to the Waterdogs. The Bulls had a two-point pad with 1:54 left to play, and knew Waterdogs midfielder Connor Kelly, one of the best 2-point shooters in the league, required lockdown pressure for the remaining minutes. So how did Kelly end up with free hands behind the arc for the game-tying shot? 

Defensive midfielder Jake Richard left Kelly while he and Waterdogs attackman Jake Carraway ran a quick switch up top. Richard thought him and LSM Brett Makar were switching, as was evident by Richard’s pointing to Kelly for Makar to take. But Richards switched and Makar stayed, leaving two defenders on Carraway and none on Kelly, who – surprise, surprise – nailed the 2 for the tie. 

They then lost the game on another blown cover and on another uncontested Kelly goal. From the clear, Charlie Hayes found Kelly on the run for the mid-range, game-winning goal, while three Atlas defenders stood flat-footed around them. 

What broke down: communication.

In Week 4, the Bulls didn’t even have the chance to blow a lead. They went down early in the second quarter and never regained the lead back, trailing by five goals or more the entire fourth quarter.

In short, Atlas’ defense doesn’t move as one. Slides aren’t coherent, communication isn’t steady and it seems frazzled on all fronts.

It is time to switch it up, which brings us to…

Will we ever see Koby Smith?

The low defense and LSM combinations thus far haven’t been working. While Koby Smith isn’t the splashiest player on the field, his game is dynamic. 

He has disciplined footwork and quick stick checks on defense, but also the range to take — and sink — shots from whatever distance.

Smith could provide a boost on both ends of the field, and one thing we won’t know until he’s activated, is if he has more chemistry with the low defense than Makar and Craig Chick, the current LSMs, which Atlas is in desperate need of. 

Atlas should activate Smith and move Makar to his natural landing spot, which means…

It’s time to move Brett Makar from LSM to down low

Makar has never played LSM before his first pro season. He played low defense, and dominated at it, while at Maryland.

He was the No. 3 pick in the 2023 PLL Draft and isn’t being used for what he was – so highly – drafted to do. As the most underperforming defense in the league, it’s time for Atlas to move Makar down low and let him and Gavin Adler grow into the defense together.

Adler, Atlas’ No. 1 pick this draft, is second in the league in caused turnovers and has not been scored on more than once by the same opponent this season. (He’s barely been scored on at all).

Moving Makar down low would likely come at the expense of Tucker Durkin or Michael Rexrode. Coach Mike Pressler might be apprehensive to dethrone the defensive veterans, one of which is a captain (Durkin), but on this team, where faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste wins the ball a league-best 78 percent of the time and the Atlas offense posts a league second-best 13.5 goals a game, the defense is the problem. And change is inevitable.

It’s to be seen Saturday, when Atlas plays Chaos in Fairfield, Conn.

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