Last year, the PLL began its inaugural season as expected, with question marks everywhere.
Every single team was unproven and their stories were an open book. As the season progressed, each team started writing new pages with every game. For the Chrome, it started with the makings of an underdog story where they lost four of their first five games by a single goal. Yes, a single goal. Every time.
Their time to break through was coming at any moment.
In week six, they finally did. The Chrome had a huge, 19-11, win over Chaos followed by a, 20-16, takedown of the eventual champion Whipsnakes two weeks later. Things were looking up, but there was no storybook ending for the Chrome. They opened the playoffs with a nine point loss to the Atlas, and a two point loss to the Archers, leaving them at a mere two wins in their opening campaign.
Things needed to change, and things did.
The 2020 version of the Chrome started from the top down with new head coach Tim Soudan and a completely remade roster. The coming season presented plenty of opportunities to change up the group. An added expansion team, shortened collegiate entry draft, an pro player entry draft, and a subsequent waiver/free agency period all came together in a short amount of time. Some of the moves were by choice, others were not.
Soudan’s approach when he took over the team was to first watch film to see where things went wrong. Next step was talking to the team, since he had existing relationships with a number of players there.
“Statistically, we were the worst defense in the league last year,” Soudan said of his group. “We knew that had to be addressed and started watching film and looking at where we needed to get better.”
Just speaking in terms of high-level statistics, the Chrome had the most scores against, and the worst penalty kill. Both goalies also combined for a league-low save percentage at 50%. Soudan also pointed to the transition game, saying it was obvious when watching film that there were issues in their defensive transition, and it was costing them points.
Fixing transition in some ways may actually be one of the easier things based on how he is approaching his 2020 roster, and his coaching picks. His longtime friend and assistant Jacques Monte and Nick Fiorentino will be working the sidelines for the Chrome this year. Monte has been putting in extra effort towards improving their approach to subs and transition defense. On game days, they plan to use Fiorentino as an actual box coach as well. For Soudan, in looking at the Chrome’s results last year he felt the had more in them,
“Losing a lot of games early by a goal means there were a lot of games than they could have won.”
He added that having a smooth transition game can be that difference.
Goalie John Galloway noted back-and-forth play has been a major point of emphasis as the team has been meeting through the spring and early summer.
“We’ve talked about it the most,” Galloway explained. “I love our size at the midfield, but also unselfish players like John Ranagan and Justin Turri. Guys that can get into the hole on defense.”
He also added that they’re not rewriting the book on transition, either. Just mentioning “we’re making small adjustments” to how they bring players on an off.
For the rest of the personnel moves, the underlying theme is having versatile players. What may be a surprise to onlookers, given the sheer number of roster moves made, is that Soudan emphasized that they were actually getting players they wanted, not just settling.
“When I was looking in the player pool and who was not able to play, I was looking at who was the right fit,” Soudan went on. “We added Sam Duggan who I think could be a solid two-way threat, was a great offensive player in high school.”
He also noted some of the more established players with known ability to play in multiple spots,
“Justin Turri can play some defense, Will Haus can play some offense, Donny Moss can play some close at Pole, Eli Salama can play both. James Barclay can play LSM or shorty.”
For Galloway, rebuilding the defense is going to come down to players establishing roles and learning who will step up when they need it.
“The challenge of not having a Joel White or Matt Danowski is you don’t have a set leader,” Galloway reflected. “No Joel White ‘to make the play’, so you need to rely on new faces to play that role. Those guys will have fill roles in the defense.”
He also specifically mentioned a player who he used to coach when he was an assistant at Providence College.
“James Barclay is incredibly underrated,” Galloway insisted. “I don’t think people give him enough credit for what he has done at different positions.”
When it comes to leadership outside of Galloway between the pipes, look to Mike Manley to fill that void. He is a player with the skill and experience that other players will be able to rally around.
All the talk about versatility and the defense should not take away from what the Chrome are gaining on the other side of the field.
There are certainly some new faces, but they are entering a much better situation. Soudan mentioned even though players like Brendan Kavanagh and Jesse King are listed as attackman, they will are planned to mostly run out of the box as middies, unless they find a need to rotate the attackmen off the field. He mentioned Kavanaugh specifically as someone he is planning to exploit other team’s short stick midfielders with and is looking for him to win those dodging matchup. Regarding King, Galloway was a little more succinct: “He’s elite.”
As for the rest of the attack, the duo of Jordan Wolf and Justin Guterding is not going to surprise anyone. Each is a handful in their own right. Matt Gaudet is new to roam the crease, a player Soudan actually traded for following the PLL Collegiate Draft. Going back to Soudan’s Rochester days, he shared how their offense always had an attackman on the inside, roaming the top of the crease. He even compared Gaudet as someone that “will probably lead the league in goals.”
The way this offense operates, there are going to be several two-man game options on the outside. Wolf and Guterding offer that duel attack from the X. Guys like Kavanaugh and Ranagan can start a dodge from the top. In all of these scenarios, it’s going to be Gaudet in the middle trying to peel off a pick, or following a slide to get open. If things go to plan, he is going to be the beneficiary of a spread defense.
In terms of the actual Championship Series format, both Galloway and Soudan were looking forward to what this opportunity presents. Soudan gets a chance to really teach what concepts they want to run and install in their offenses and defenses in the first week in Utah. Then comes a lot of time dedicated to reviewing film and trying to improve without the distractions of a full season.
“I’m excited for it,” Soudan shared. “I look at the schedule and it allows me to create the relationships with the guys I don’t have the background with. That’s why I do this.”
Galloway couldn’t agree with more with how excited he is.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Galloway bragged. “A lot of people look at it a lot of different ways, but for me it’s a three week lacrosse camp.”
While the Chrome offseason was a flurry of changes, there is still some extreme familiarity. Truth is, most of this team has a much stronger history than being the last place team a season ago. There is plenty of reason for optimism with this group.
Galloway’s outlook on their chances reflects the deeper history with the players on his team and his coach that go well beyond last year’s Chrome.
“This is nearly the same team that was in a championship in a different league two years ago,” Galloway ensured. “We have a new voice this year. We needed to make adjustments, but guys aren’t walking on eggshells right now.”
Chrome LC 2020 Schedule
All Times Eastern
- Game 1: Saturday 7/25 vs Chaos 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network
- Game 2: Tuesday 7/28 vs Redwoods 9:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network
- Game 3: Thursday 7/30 vs Archers 9:30 p.m. NBC Gold
- Game 4: Friday 7/31 vs Waterdogs 9:30 p.m. NBC Gold
- Elimination Round: Tuesday 8/4
This is actually a very favorable schedule for the Chrome. The only game that’s tough is with the Redwoods, who have an offense that the Chrome don’t matchup well with. The Archers are definitely going to be a challenge, but that should be a game where the Chrome just play straight-up. Whoever is having the best day should win.
For the Waterdogs and Chaos, those are two teams that will rely on catching Chrome middies back on defense, but that is not something they are going to lose sleep over. Between the transition and the box background/tendencies of players on those teams, the Chrome coaching staff is very well prepared to come up with the right game plan.
The best part about this schedule?
Only one back-to-back game the entire time. The fact that they have two full days to prepare for their toughest game is a major advantage.