The PLL Cash App Championship game will be played on Sunday September 24 in Philadelphia PA at Subaru Park live on ABC at 3pm. You can also watch the game on ESPN+. Chris Cotter, Ryan Boyle, Paul Carcaterra, Katie George and I will be on-site for ABC. Please join us.
Let’s start with some thoughts on the Archers.
Head coach Chris Bates has done wonderful work with this group. DC Tony Resch is the best in the business without a doubt.
Mike Sisselberger projects to win 85% of the face-offs but will be hounded by Waterdogs do-it-all midfielder Zach Currier. How efficient can the Archers be during the initial :32 second shot clock? How do they position Tom Schreiber for face-offs?
The big question is whether or not Connor Fields plays. He injured his shoulder against the Redwoods. He is going to try to practice ahead of the game. Can he play at less than 100%? This is a tricky decision for player, coach, and medical staff. With smaller dress rosters, a mistake here could be a massive swing of the pendulum.
Fields leads the league in unassisted goals (20) and has scored 11 of them with less than :10 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He shoots 38% off the dodge as he creates from the lefty wing.
Can Fields absorb contact? He can produce when less than 100% but he’s been critical for the Archers in late shot clock scenarios. If Fields cant play, Archers will dress Connor DeSimone or lefty Reid Bowering. Bowering gives them field balance, although he hasn’t played a second in 2023.
Future Hall of Famer and league MVP Tom Schreiber is the primary catalyst. He’s a special talent, a passing midfielder with eyes, hands and a brain like no other I’ve ever encountered. He’s an all timer. And this is the biggest stage. What more can you ask for?
Playmaker Grant Ament stepped up in the semifinals, as the SSDM’s set effective picks for him and he turned the corner and buried the rock. Ament must push to pay dirt with or without Fields. Don’t expect the Dogs to slide to him.
Lefty shooter Mac O’Keefe is always floating in and out of the slot area, popping out to space to unleash his lefty howitzer. When he can set his feet, look out. Two-pointers aren’t out of the question. It’ll be interesting to see how Waterdogs goalie Dillon Ward plays OKeefe. Ward’s arc is the highest in the sport, often encroaching shooters to the top of the crease and even further from mid-range wing shots.
Archer attackman Matt Moore is an X factor, as is Tre LeClaire. The Archers will need to score in transition off of clean saves by goalie Brent Dobson and face-off wins by Mike Sisselberger. Their sub game is clean and they often burn opponents who are sloppy or tardy coming out of the box.
Defensively, Archers shorties Challen Rogers, and rookies Connor Maher and Piper Bond must stand strong against isolations from Waterdog midfielders Jack Hannah, Connor Kelly and Ryan Conrad. All three are surging at the right time and Conrad had a big final game in 2022. The Archers don’t want to slide. The angles that these midfield shots are released from is a major nuance. The Archers are the league’s best in defending the doorstep.
Archers will dress four rookies, Waterdogs none.
Both teams have to manage the bye week. The archers had a bye prior to the semifinals. How much rust do we see? Archers catch a break here though, the extra time perhaps beneficial for getting Connor Fields more healthy and in the lineup. The week off can only cool off the Dogs.
Transition defense is key 1 for the Archers. They can’t get greedy late in the shot clock and take bad shots. Throw the ball into the crowd and retreat and sub to play defense on their own terms.
Goalie Brent Dobson leans on close defenders Graeme Hossack and Warren Jeffrey down low. If they can handle Michael Sowers and Kieran McArdle, then the game comes down to the Waterdog midfielders beating Dobson on the run. The Archers, under DC Tony Resch, do not want to slide and try to maintain matchup integrity during two-man games. But if Hossack and Jeffrey get smoked by Sowers, then the Archers will have to slide, and that could get ugly.
Hossack is a gentle giant who doesn’t tie his shoes in practice as a reminder not to dismember or decapitate his teammates.
Let’s take a look at the Waterdogs, the 2022 champions.
Early this summer, they quickly evolved into a team without a FOGO, basically conceding draws to create turnovers and force bad shots, logically preferring to operate with :52 as opposed to :32 on the shot clock. Coach Andy Copelan was innovative and the first to recognize the loophole in the new rules. They have massaged their strategy into a winning formula in the face of a major draw control differential.
Waterdogs will try to get Sowers and McArdle involved early, get their touch count up.
Zach Currier is the key piece of this strategy, a true unicorn in an era of specialization, who can take draws, scrap and claw for turnovers, play offense and defense with ease. He’s a throwback type who’s impact on this game May be enormous.
When your SSDM’s set great picks after carrying the ball into the offense, you swing the matchup pendulum in your advantage. Dogs do this exceptionally well. Their middies also cut and move attracting feeds from Kieran McArdle and Michael Sowers. Can archers Graeme Hossack and Warren Jeffrey keep up with Sowers? Speed is a weapon and a commodity at every level.
Meanwhile, Connor Kelly and Jack Hannah are threats to bomb from outside the arc if given too much real estate. Packing it in comes with a price. Ryan Conrad can toast a shorty and take over a big game, having watched him do that since his days at Loyola HS in Baltimore.
Ethan Walker, often forgotten, benefits from hovering in space and has astute off-ball skills. His lefty catch and release is world class.
The purple clad Dogs lead the league in defensive efficiency. The Archers finished as #2. That’s why goals may be hard to come by.
The Waterdogs were favored by 1.5 goals and Vegas has set the total goals for 25.5, which quite honestly feels too high. The books have reacted swiftly and have maybe been overcorrected.
In a gorgeous stadium, on a pristine grass field, on national television…You need to get eyes on this game. The last meaningful field game of 2023. A forever game in the PLL.
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