via PLL press release email
The boys are back in town. Yes, the PLL hits Homewood Field in Baltimore this weekend, which is notorious for its 2019 sellout crowd. But more importantly, a few PLL teams will be arriving to the land of crabcakes and Old Bay seasoning armed with some scoring reinforcements.
2020 Championship Series MVP Zed Williams is expected to return to the Whipsnakes. The defending champion Chaos, which started this season 0-3, will bring back Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith, Chase Fraser, and Ian Mackay.
The combination of Byrne and Smith alone should completely change the Chaos offense. Byrne posted 29 points across nine games last season while Smith tallied 20. Both will be solid players in the Player Royale until they’re moved up from Tier 3.
Here’s my Player Royale team this week:
Redwoods LC vs. Whipsnakes LC
Friday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2
All-time series: Whipsnakes lead 6-2
Stat to know: 12
The Redwoods limited themselves to 12 turnovers in their first win of the season. The ball control against Chaos came just a week after a sloppy offensive outing in Week 2, which resulted in the Redwoods averaging a turnover on 60% of their possessions. Star offensive players, like Rob Pannell, Jules Heningburg and Ryder Garnsey found a groove last week. Now, the Woods are left to prove the offensive turnaround is a trend not an outlier in the downtrend.
Player Royale to consider: Zed Williams, A, Whipsnakes LC
This is probably the only time in Player Royale you can get one of the PLL’s top scorers over the last several season as a Tier 3 player. It’s really just about whether you like his or Josh Byrne’s matchup more. Williams led the league in goals with 22 during the 2021 season. As a physical presence, he can bully his way into a goal against anyone and that will likely be on display during his return against Redwoods.
Why the Whipsnakes: The Whipsnakes are the pick here because they’re the Whipsnakes. Despite a contentious rivalry through the first three seasons, the Whipsnakes have largely dominated the final score. At times the Whips defense has made the Redwoods defense look sparse.When the game has come down to the final possession, the Whips have found ways to finish when the Woods can’t. A quick look at this year’s paints a similar story. The Whips have the best defense thus far in the PLL, allowing just eight goals per game. That’s not a great matchup for a Redwoods offense that’s only put together one complete performance this year.
Why the Redwoods: While we’re still waiting for consistency, it’s hard not to like the fight the ‘Woods showed last week. They flashed what their offense can be and that’s a potent scoring machine with several all-star level scoring options. Garrett Epple and the Redwoods defense have won the battle against Matt Rambo and the Whipsnakes offense in the best. If TD Ierlan can parlay last week’s performance with another dominant showing at the stripe, Redwoods will be in a position to win at the end of the game.
The pick: Based on what we’ve seen through three games, too much has to go right for the Redwoods to win this game. It’s the Whipsnakes until the Redwoods prove they can be consistent.
Chaos LC vs. Waterdogs LC
Friday, June 24 at 9:15 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Waterdogs lead, 2-0
Stat to know: 34.1%
The Waterdogs have the worst defense in the league. They’ve allowed goals on 34.1% of possessions. They’re the worst defense in transition and the worst defense in a settled situation. If they don’t clamp down on Friday, there will be fireworks for the Chaos offense’s return.
Player Royale to consider: Josh Byrne, A, Chaos LC
And again, I repeat: When you can get one of the world’s best attack at a tier 3 level, you have to take it. Of course, you can’t have Williams and Byrne, so you have to pick your favorite matchup here. I like Byrne against Waterdogs more. Redwoods has more experience against Williams than the Waterdogs have against Byrne. Look for one of the PLL’s finest to come out strong in his first game of the season.
Why the Waterdogs: Waterdogs have been generally solid through the first three weeks despite not picking up a win. They led Chrome by three goals with less than seven minutes left last Friday. Considering the amount of turnover on Chaos’ roster this week, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Waterdogs take a lead again this week. The question will be if they can hold on, and that starts at the stripe where they essentially lost the game to Connor Farrell last week. A Jake Withers return would be huge. If that doesn’t happen, look for the Waterdogs to make faceoffs into a scrappy groundball better with additional long poles or another alternative.
Why Chaos: While some players are still out and others might not be fully adjusted to the field game after a long NLL season, the Chaos championship roster the closest to back as it’s been all season. The defense held serve the first few weeks, limiting opponent to roughly 11 goals per week. But scoring less than 10 goals a game won’t get it done in the PLL. Inset Byrne and Dhane Smith back into this lineup, along with a slew of other contributors, and this offense should look totally different.
The pick: I like Chaos here. They’ll be excited to be back on the field together and could pick up right where they left last year.
Cannons LC vs. Chrome LC
Saturday, June 25 at 6 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Cannons lead, 1-0
Stat to know: 42.3%
You’ll hear a lot of talk about the Chaos strictly playing two-man games and being the on-field version of box lacrosse. But through three games Chrome has the best two-man game offense with goals on 42.3% of their two-man game initiations.
Player Royale to consider: Ryan Terefenko, SSDM, Chrome LC
Full disclosure, I needed a tier 3 player and wanted to test out finding value at the goalie position. But against a Cannons offense that’s been OK, not great, I think Ghitleman can tally some saves and hold the offense to a relatively low total. Maybe he’ll score!
Why the Cannons: The Cannons left a lot to be desired last week. But faceoff specialist Stephen Kelly did have a breakthrough performance with a 21-30 day at the stripe and two goals. Kelly’s emergence could be crucial for the Cannons as long as other parts of the game, namely penalties (Archers scored on 4 of 5 opportunities last week) and turnovers (the Cannons coughed it up 21 times last week). Between Asher Nolting and Lyle Thompson, this offense has the one-man fire power. But who steps up when those two are being doubled or can’t get the ball? The answer to that question could decided the Cannons season.
Why Chrome: To put it in simple lacrosse terms, Chrome has been a wagon through three games. Rookies Brendan Nichtern and Logan Wisnauskas have provided an instant spark to the offense. The defense is allowing 8.7 goals per game, tied for the second best mark in the league. At 8.3 caused turnover, Chrome leads the league in the category. With Farrell clicking at the stripe and goalie Sean Sconone replacing the retired John Galloway, this team is hard to pick against.
The pick: Can’t pick against the chalk here. The Chromeback continues for at least another week.
Archers LC vs. Atlas LC
Saturday, June 25 at 8:45 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Archers lead, 5-1
Stat to know: 48.6%
After an offensive explosion last week, the Archers offense is now scoring on nearly every other possession. With 48.6% of possessions ending in goals, Archers offense has reached the point where it’s hard to decide how to stop them and that problem will become more puzzling when Grant Ament returns.
Player Royale to consider: Tom Schreiber, M, Archers LC
This Archers offense is cooking and Schreiber is always at the center of that success. Last week he posted 31 fantasy points. Through three games his 56 points dwarfs the rest of the league. The next closest midfielder, Jules Heningburg, trails Schreiber by 10 points.
Why Atlas: So maybe the Atlas offense isn’t unstoppable. But Jeff Teat isn’t going to post many one point games this season. The defensive matchup doesn’t get much easier this week against Archers but Atlas faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste can likely offset any offensive struggle by providing a possession advantage to the Bulls. Jack Concannon looked like a brick wall at times last week against the Whipsnakes. If he and the Atlas can slow down the Archers offense and prohibit a big early lead, Atlas has the offense to run with the high-flying Archers.
Why the Archers: In a game that could shape up to be an offensive battle, you want to be team coming off a 20-point performance. Archers were clicking at all ends last week and that was without Grant Ament. Archers head coach Chris Bates and players highlighted after last week’s win that the team has done a better job dodging one-on-one this year, particularly against short sticks. Atlas Danny Logan poses a tough matchup there. Watch for how rookie Matt Moore handle Logan’s aggression. If Archers are to be a different team this year and make a deep playoff run, as all the players hope they will be, this is the kind of game they need to win.
The pick: The Archers can pull from some of the Whipsnakes tactics last week and slow down Atlas’ offense just enough to come out on top.