The Chaos will look to respond this weekend from a tough 13-9 loss to the Redwoods, falling to 2-2 and out of first place.
It’s still very early and as the Chaos have shown, early season woes do not indicate postseason success.
They’re set to take on the Atlas at 8:30pm on ESPN+ Saturday night in Fairfield, Connecticut.
This is a big matchup for the ‘Os boys who want to get back to their winning ways. They have a great opportunity to do so against an extremely capable Atlas team who has struggled of late.
Here’s three keys to victory that, and if executed, will get them the win.
Fast, Mean, and Loud.
Jarrod Neumann used those three words to describe the defense when I spoke to him at camp.
They have become a big part of the unit’s identity.
In the first three weeks, their physical brand was on full display. Sliding hard, big hits, and taking a piece off with every slash.
It led Chaos to boasting the league’s best goals against average, but after a lackluster performance against the Redwoods last week they’ve now fallen to second.
Getting back to that will lead to success against Atlas.
Chaos don’t slide often, but when they do you feel it.
This brand of physicality takes up space, making teams earn every step, and wears down opponents throughout games.
Their starting defense of Neumann, Jack Rocklett, and rookie sensation Will Bowen have neutralized matchups.
When opponents are covered by one of these three, they’ve shot a combined 14%:
Neumann: 3-for-29 (10.3%)
Rowlett: 1-for-15 (6.7%)
Bowen: 3-for-16 (18.8%)
Rowlett will most likely draw Jeff Teat, the PLL’s leader in points.
40% of the Atlas’ offense is initiated from two-man games, which is where Teat is utilized.
Specifically, they’ve converted 67% (7-for-9) when initiating from the leftwing- Teat’s office.
Halting production from there through physicality will be a point of emphasis in stopping their offense.
Even if you get past this trio you’re met by the best goalie in the league – Blaze Riorden – who’s stopping a league high 64.6% of shots faced.
It starts with being physical, winning their matchups, then if you get a sliver of a chance you’re met by a brick wall.
Straight up demoralizing.
With the Atlas boasting the league’s best shooting percentage (29.8%), it’s imperative to stick to their identity.
Team have shot a league worst 24% in 2023 against the Chaos because of their physicality and stellar goalkeeping.
Hopefully the Chaos defense takes some souls this weekend.
Heavy Dose of Right-Wing Initiating
Atlas opponents are shooting an astounding 53% (10-for-19) from the high right-wing. That’s 13% higher than against any other team.
When initiating on the right wing, teams and scoring 43% of the time.
This is their weak spot.
Attacking the Atlas on the right wing will create a plethora of opportunities for Chaos.
Dhane was moved to attack in week three against the Archers. It has put one of their best players on the field at all times and given him more ability to impact the game.
Since teams have had success on the right-wing so far this season and Smith is a proven creator and distributor; this is a perfect storm.
Atlas will have to slide to Dhane, and he will be able to pick them apart. If they don’t… he’ll take it to the net.
Dhane is an efficient goal-scorer even if the stats don’t show it. He’s shooting 40% on 2-for-5 shooting.
Teams have, instead, forced him to be a feeder given his athleticism and high lacrosse IQ. They’d rather take the chance of stopping a shot from one of his teammates rather than letting him walk it to the cage knowing he’ll score.
Going to him and Will Perry, who will be inserted back to the lineup, will be key this weekend.
I expect this game to have a heavy dose of offense given Atlas have scored over 12 goals in every contest this season.
Trevor Baptiste has shown no signs of slowing down this season after winning the Jim Brown MVP Award in 2022. He’s won faceoffs at an alarming rate this year – 78% – and will most likely have another strong contest.
With all this in mind, possessions are going to be earned and when opportunities present themselves, Chaos will have to convert.
It’s as simple as that.
This offense is boasted by arguably the best attack line they’ve ever had. They need to be the drivers that lead this unit to success.
With Kyle Jackson and Will Perry back in the lineup for Chase Fraser and Chris Cloutier, speed on the perimeter has clearly become the focus for Andy Towers and staff.
With these two in, I don’t believe the O-script needs to change. Instead, execution is necessary.
The Chaos offense will need to rebound from their 19% shooting performance against the Redwoods last week.
They’re 4th in the PLL in shooting % (27.6%), and 7th in the league in goals with 44.
Both need to be higher, which is expected out of a group of slick finishers who can score with pressure and in tight space.
Finishing doorstep opportunities is where they’ll start.
With their big three at attack creating chances, Atlas will have to slide. That’s where Ryan Smith and Kyle Jackson will make their presence felt.
They’re off-ball effiancado’s who are two of the league’s best off-ball finishers, both shooting over 50%. Scoring inside is their specialty.
Last week, Josh Byrne had some great chances when sweeping across the middle as a result of the two-man game.
Most likely getting covered by Gavin Adler, he’s in for a test.
Still, he’ll be a big part of what they do and converting off of what the big three at attack creates is critical.