We’re back, baby!
After months of playing wall ball, rewatching old highlights, and desperately trying to get any possible hit of lacrosse possible, pro lacrosse has blessed us with not one, not two, but three weeks of around-the-clock content. This weekend brings the beginning of the PLL Championship Series, a World Cup style tournament crammed in less than two weeks to crown the 2020 champs.
“But who are the teams in contention,” the new fan asks themselves. “Who should I root for?”
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If you’re new to the pros luckily you’re safe here at Lacrosse All Stars. With no judgement, we’re here to help you get initiated on PLL teams, their players, and who you should root for. After what we are about to walk through, maybe Chaos LC, the PLL’s premier box lacrosse team, will be the squad for you.
Who are the Chaos?
Chaos LC is one of the six founding teams from the PLL. Their logo is a scorpion and they go with a predominantly black scheme with red (maroonish) and white accents. One of the more bad boy looks of pro lacrosse.
They’re coached by a pair of late-80s, early 90s NCAA lacrosse legends that would have been running the table in the PLL, should it have existed back then. Andy Towers is back in charge, with right hand man Matt Panetta at his hip. They share the responsibility for former Vermont head coach and multi-time pro lacrosse all-star Ryan Curtis. If there’s one team led by guys that have been there as players and coaches, it’s the Chaos.
— Chaos Lacrosse Club (@PLLChaos) July 21, 2020
Should I root for Chaos?
If any of the following statements speak to you, then yes, you should become a Chaos fan.
You might be Chaos fan if:
- You don’t believe in seeing the shot clock ever hit single digits.
- You believe that a 2-pointer is always better than a 1-pointer.
- You only listen to weird indie bands.
- You’re a box lacrosse sleeper agent.
- You accidentally say “eh” often.
What happened with Chaos last season?
The start of 2019 was a little sketchy, but at the All-Star Game break they sat pretty at 4-2, regardless of how they got there. The Chaos had two overtime wins, an overtime loss and a one goal win over the Archers in the first leg.
Chaos found its groove as the season went along by adapting, arguably even trend-setting, a style built towards the PLL rulebook.
They became a quick-firing, transition-pushing force to be reckoned with. Jarrod Neumann exploded into stardom as a two-point bomber. Connor Fields, back on two working legs for the first time since his freshman season at Albany, became an MVP finalist as the catalyst of the Bomb Squad offense. Blaze Riorden, a fellow former Great Dane, went from playing as a solid starter during his MLL days to winning Goalie of the Year.
They stormed through to a 7-3 record, taking the #1 seed in the postseason. Then, just as Chaos took over as the favorite to win it all, it all came crashing down. They were upset twice in a row, dropping games to Whipsnakes, 15-7, and Redwoods, 10-7, as they burned out fast in the playoffs.
What changed this offseason?
The most prominent change was the high-profile trade of Myles Jones, whom Chaos flipped to Redwoods in exchange for Sergio Salcido and a draft pick. While Jones is (literally) the bigger star, and many reacted with shock at seeing the former Duke icon on the move again so early in his career, on paper this move makes plenty of sense. Salcido, himself an All-Star in 2019, outscored Jones in 2019, putting up 20 points to Jones’ 18. He also shot at a higher clip than Jones (23% to 16%). Salcido personally took offense to the backlash on the trade, and it’s hard to argue with him once you dive into actual on-field impact. The former Syracuse star should fit in wonderfully with Chaos, and give them yet another speedy dodging threat.
As for the PLL newcomers, Chaos brought in All-World goalie and Team Canada anchor Dillon Ward to pair with reigning Goalie of the Year Riorden. Also, returning from injury after missing the inaugural season, is young stunner Austin Staats. The NLL star should fit in rather nicely playing alongside his Seals teammate Fields on the attack line.
Who is the face of the franchise?
With all love to Blaze Riorden and Jarrod Neumann, two smaller school guys who have become huge stars in the PLL, the Chaos remain Connor Fields’ team entering 2020. The 2019 MVP runner-up is practically a SportsCenter lock every single time he steps onto the field. The Albany all-time great is a fascinating player to watch, equally dangerous as both a scorer and a feeder. Assuming Fields stays healthy, he’ll likely be a top five points-getter in the PLL once again in 2020.
Fields could very realistically end up heading home with an MVP trophy in hand. You heard it right here.
Key injuries: Deemer Class announced on Twitter earlier this week that, due to a lingering injury issue, he would have to miss the 2020 Championship Series.
Are their jerseys cool?
Exactly 50% of Chaos’ jerseys are cool. The other 50% should be burned.
Are their helmets cool?
Yes, both options for Chaos are extremely quality helmet choices. You can’t go wrong here.
PUT YOUR HANDS UP IN THE AIR IF YOU’RE READY TO BE IN SALT LAKE CITY ALREADY 🙌 pic.twitter.com/TmEjgBH154
— Chaos Lacrosse Club (@PLLChaos) June 28, 2020
What’s interesting about them now?
These guys have done this before. And by this, I mean play in a World Cup style tournament with a bunch of games over the course of two weeks.
“One thing you just can’t teach is experience,” said goalie Dillon Ward, himself a veteran of multiple World Games. “All over the field, every position has experience with (World Games). Half the roster has played in an event like this.”
For a lot of players, this will be the first time playing more than one game a week since their youth days, or maybe back in college, but Chaos is stacked to the brim with guys who bring experience in this sort of situation from Netanya, or from Denver before it. Roughly half the roster for Chaos has played in the World Games, and, as Ward describes it,
“You just can’t know what to expect with a game format like this until you’ve lived it.”
Does Chaos has a secret weapon?
With so much focus on the Entry Draft and College Draft guys, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Chaos, with little fanfare, is bringing in the 2019 NLL Rookie of the Year.
Yes, Austin Staats is back from injury and ready to make his PLL debut.
“Without a doubt, he’s gonna turn heads,” Ward said of his teammate. “We saw it in Netanya. He’s in that generational talent category.”
The former OCC star isn’t yet a household name, at least in those households where field lacrosse is still king, but he was a First Team All-American while playing for Onondaga, and his 2018-19 NLL season saw him become a megastar for the Seals while taking home ROTY. Staats joins a stacked attack group already featuring Connor Fields, Josh Byrne, Curtis Dickson, and Miles Thompson, but Staats should add a new wrinkle as a bigger, bulkier bull-dodger. Given the format of the tournament, and the fact that every one of those dudes is a box player, we could see the Chaos’ attackmen rotating in through the midfield too, giving them a potential leg up against teams who don’t have the same depth. The ability to rotate attackmen through the midfield could be huge as these teams start to get gassed later in the tournament. Staats is more than capable of dominating at either position. He might not be getting the same hype as guys like Rob Pannell or Zach Currier, but expect the Iroquois National to have a breakout summer of his own.
Do they have any MORE secret weapons?
Follow along here. Looking over their potential offensive weapons, you might not even notice a certain someone. Sure, he put up 40 points in the COVID-shortened NLL season. Yes, he scored in the PLL All-Star game in 2019. But, nobody would point at the 2019 Goalie of the Year and say, “hey, there’s your offensive weapon.”
Nobody, that is, except a team looking to introduce a little anarchy.
With a ton of games coming in a short amount of time, teams are going to have to do some funky things. Short sticks will be handed poles. Poles might be handed short sticks. No other team in the league can say that their goalie can go play attack and possibly be the difference maker. Blaze Riorden is a legit threat as a short stick, an NLL forward with 43 career goals and 70 career assists. At Albany, he was known to grab a pair of arm pads, swap sticks and go play man-up for the Danes. Last season, his only field time came as a gimmick in the All-Star Game, but there’s a massive change coming for 2020. A 6’5”, 200lb change, to be specific.
You see, Chaos took Dillon Ward in the Entry Draft, and it could make all the difference. Say Chaos suffers an injury on offense, or simply starts running out of gas. Riorden can be a real threat on offense, and one can argue they won’t even sacrifice a thing on defense. Ward is a former Goalie of the Year himself, back in his MLL days, and has led Canada to a world title as MVP in cage to boot. If any team is going to make the sort of out-of-the-box, light-Twitter-on-fire type move that could mean the difference between glory and defeat, Chaos moving Riorden to the offensive side of the ball is where I’d put my money.
“I’d say it would take a very extreme situation,” said his fellow goalie Ward. “Never say never.”
Did you say the box lacrosse revolution is here?
As one of the Chaos players described their offense, it’s an American-Canadian hybrid, and that’s exactly what we saw from Chaos in 2019 before adding more box hybrids like Staats, Noble, and Ward to the deep pack of Curtis Dickson, Myles Thompson, Josh Byrne, and so on. In all, out of the 25 guys going to PLL Island, 12 of them are also stars of the NLL.
Driven a lot by the two-man game and small field sets, the Chaos offense found a way to use the staggering number of PLL-NLL dual threats on their roster last season to create a unique offense, and one that, once it was implemented, brought them to the #1 overall seed.
The difference this time around, or at least Chaos hopes so, is the ability of their Americans to beat their man when the team offense breaks down. Sergio Salcido and Jake Frocarro are two of the best 1v1 midfield threats in the league, and should have plenty of space and opportunity dodging high while the rest of the offense screens and cuts. Additionally, as previously mentioned, the box experience this team has should allow for a more positionless brand of lacrosse. The extra skill set allows the Chaos to move their chess pieces around the field to highlight favorable matchups, and hopefully keep them fresh as the games go by.
Having so many different styles of players should be huge for the Chaos in a tournament like this, where roster size is so limited. When assessing what will make the Chaos the team to beat this summer, the wide array of backgrounds they’ve collected stands out.
“We’ve got guys from all walks of life,” Ward shared. “Big time DI, guys who played JuCO, guys who didn’t play NCAA. We’re a melting pot of lacrosse players, and that gives us different styles of play to be dynamic and diverse.”
If all goes right for Chaos, they could not only be a great team, but an extremely entertaining one to boot.
What’s the worst case scenario for Chaos in 2020?
The defense, lacking shutdown poles after focusing a bit more on the transition capabilities of its guys, falters.
Similar to last season, opponents figure out the rapid-fire transition game that Chaos prefers and take steps to prevent it. Lacking midfield stars after the loss of Jones (trade) and Class (injury), Chaos is forced to rely on its attack unit, which is relatively injury-prone.
Sergio Salcido could fail to make a worthwhile impact, while Myles Jones becomes the face of the Redwoods.
Chaos could manage to remain in the top half due to the power of their offense, but, as they did in 2019, they stumble when it matters most, once again falling to Redwoods in their final game, as Myles Jones has a revenge game similar to Jules Heningberg in 2019.
Chaos could finish fourth in the Championship Series, preventing them from securing a high draft pick but also failing to win a title. Matt Gaudet, whom Chaos traded after selecting him fifth overall, has a monster season for Chrome, while 2020 second round pick Jeff Teat decides not to play in the PLL after his final season at Cornell. Chaos exits 2020 with nothing to show for it.
Spooky, isn’t it?
Best case scenario for Chaos in 2020
The positionless nature of Chaos’s roster works wonders in the new format, and their offense continues to build on its fast-paced, two-pointer-heavy strategy from 2019.
Sergio Salcido is an instant-impact midfielder for Chaos, slotting in perfectly into the role vacated by Deemer Class. The goaltending combo of Riorden and Ward proves itself to be the best in the PLL, helping shore up the defense. Connor Fields, surrounded by even more talent in 2020 than he was in 2019, continues his rise to power, and takes home the MVP as he leads the PLL in total points. Jarrod Neumann scores his spinning backhander in a real game, instantly becoming a household name and establishing Chaos as the go-to team for smaller school guys.
Chaos enter the knockout stage once again the #1 seed, and gets revenge against Whipsnakes. They storm into the final looking unbeatable, and run the Redwoods off the field in an offensive explosion. Blaze Riorden scores coming out of cage, a la his NCAA Playoffs goal against Cornell. Chaos exit the Championship Series as the 2020 PLL Champions, with MVP, Goalie of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, and Attackman of the Year trophies in their bags to boot. The second the 2021 college season ends, Jeff Teat announces that he’s coming to the PLL, and gets drafted by the Seals in the NLL Draft, giving Chaos a trio of Fields-Staats-Teat that will play together year round.
That sounds better, doesn’t it?
If it does, you might be a Chaos fan.
Chrome LC 2020 Schedule
All Times Eastern
- Game 1: Saturday 7/25 vs Chrome 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network
- Game 2: Monday 7/27 vs Redwoods 7:00 p.m. NBC Sports Network
- Game 3: Friday 7/31 vs Whipsnakes 7:00 p.m. NBC Sports Network
- Game 4: Saturday 8/1 vs Waterdogs 3:30 p.m. NBC Gold
- Elimination Round: Tuesday 8/4