Pro outdoor lacrosse season is nearly upon us. On July 25, the Premier Lacrosse League will fire up the PLL Championship Series in Utah; a world cup style event featuring a grueling schedule of group play and playoffs that runs through mid-August. The entire PLL event will be on NBC networks, with NBC carrying four games including the title game, NBCSN showing others, and every game available on NBC Sports Gold. That’s a lot of eyes on the sport, and some of them are more than likely watching for the first time. All those new fans probably have a team or two in the big four sports, and the good news is that that fandom can help us figure you out who your team should be!
The PLL tours and has no geographic ties, perhaps making an exception for particular college affiliations on some rosters (Maryland on the Whipsnakes, Notre Dame on the Redwoods, etc). But in today’s world, geography makes less and less difference for fans, particularly of a younger generation. So if you’re new to lacrosse, here’s a handy look at each pro team and who they resemble in the sports you may be a bit more familiar with.
Everywhere you look, stars. This team has six players that have won gold in 2018 at the World Lacrosse Championship in Netanya, Israel. They had nine all-stars. They added Rob Pannell, an at worst top-two attackman on the planet. They added the most athletic midfielder in the draft with the second overall pick in the college draft, Bryan Costabile.
On paper, this team is outstanding everywhere. This was the thinking leading into last season as well. But the Atlas never really got the stampede moving, and finished the season 5-5 with the league’s second worst goal differential. It’s tough to really nail down exactly what held the Atlas back. When they were in sync, they were a juggernaut. Trevor Baptiste playing make it take it for an offense totally loaded with dynamic players like Eric Law, Ryan Brown, Connor Buczek, and Paul Rabil. All of a sudden the season was over and the Atlas….just weren’t contenders.
A coaching change in the offseason hopefully provides this team the identity and flow it lacked in year one. Really, the Atlas look like the Dallas Cowboys to me. They need new head coach Ben Rubeor to be Jimmy Johnson, managing a roster of stars to dominance, rather than Jason Garrett, managing a roster of stars to another .500 record. If you think a few more stars and a new coach were the key to the
Super Bowl PLL Championship, this is your squad.
This is your team if you like: Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United (since 2013), Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angles Dodgers
An offense fit for a king. Or a Chief (more on that later). The Archers had two of the league’s top goal scorers in Will Manny and Marcus Holman. Both had 21 one-point goals, just one behind league leader Connor Fields. Holman also had a pair of twos, and Manny had one as well. Shooters this lethal on the same attack line is almost unfair. The only thing that might make it really unfair is adding a generational talent when it comes to passing. What? They did? Well that’s insane.
Grant Ament has been called by some experts the second best passer in the game already. The best in the game also happens to play for the Archers, and is arguably the best player in the world, Tom Schreiber. This team has an offense that has the potential to be absolutely punishing, and a team that tries to win shootouts with them may regret that strategy.
The defense is solid, perhaps underappreciated, with quality players that manage to quietly stand out. Scott Ratliff was second in the league in caused turnovers, Matt McMahon is an outstanding on ball defender, and they added Eli Gobrecht in the PLL Entry Draft. This is the Kansas City Chiefs. Tune in, and you’ll see passes get thrown that make your jaw hit the floor. You’ll see athletes in the midfield with speed and athleticism that will have you googling the NFL combine results to compare. The defense won’t do much in the way of highlights, but they’ll more than get the job done. They don’t have a title win, but that may change in a couple months.
This is your team if you like: Kansas City Chiefs, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Twins
Defense, offense, it’s really all just one big flowing blob of Chaos. They want to play aggressively on the defensive end to try and force a mistake or a weak shot (when you have the best goalie tandem in the sport, lots of shots are weak shots), and then take that mistake and turn it into a two ball or high percentage transition shot. They’ll play mean, take some penalties, and look to make you play as uncomfortable as possible. On offense, they’ll dazzle you with individual scorers like Connor Fields and Curtis Dickson. This team doesn’t just want to beat you, they want to demoralize you. Connor Fields is going to make SportsCenter almost every time he takes the field, the goal is to not be the guy guarding him when he does. Jarrod Neumann wants to turn and yell at you after he hits a two pointer in transition. Even their head coach, Andy Towers, is larger than life. This team is the Legion of Boom come to lacrosse, with some Pat Bev thrown in.
This is your team if you like: Seattle Seahawks, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Clippers
The Chrome had a tough go of it in year one. It took them north of a month to get their first win, falling a few times in OT. When they break through, they REALLY break through. The offensive group here is, on paper, more than capable of piling up the goals. Wolf, Guterding, and Gaudet can be a nightmare attack group to guard. Guterding and Wolf can get their own shot consistently. They can also feed Gaudet, who needs the just the smallest slivers of daylight to catch and finish as without the season being cancelled, he had a solid chance of exiting Yale as the all time leader in goals scored.
They are undergoing a rebuild, rebrand, reimagining, whatever you want to call it. An offseason full of roster moves and a defense that is almost entirely a new group has hopes high for this Chrome team and new coach Tim Soudan. The offense has plenty of stars; they just need some guidance and consistency to erase the memory of a rough start. The Browns’ history is a whole lot longer, but it’s on theme here. Baker Mayfield/Odell Beckham fans, here’s your squad.
This is your team if you like: Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Sabres
An overtime goal away from the title, and brings back some of the most versatile midfielders in the league. Sergio Perkovic blossomed into a legit two way threat late last year after a slow start, finding his groove shooting from distance in transition after developing into a contributor on the defensive end. They added Myles Jones, who could be exactly that this year. They still have Brent Adams, Jack Near, Pat Harbeson, the list goes on. Coach Nat St. Laurent even said middie Tyler Dunn may play a little LSM this summer, that’s the level of skill the Redwoods have on the roster. As if that’s not enough, they bring back almost their entire defense, including a popular DPOY pick in Garrett Epple. Matt Landis is unavailable this summer while he heads to SEAL training, but they added Finn Sullivan via the entry draft.
The offense loses Jules Heningburg due to health risks from COVID-19, but still keeps Ryder Garnsey, Matt Kavanagh and Clarke Petterson to form a dangerous dodging group. The Woods went off at 9/2 odds to win the title, and that baffles me. This team will bruise you up and let you know about it while they do. They make the right moves for the roster at the right time, and their coach is an energetic, charismatic leader. They’re good everywhere, and it’s tough to imagine them being anything other than a contender. Steeler Nation, here’s your team.
This is your team if you like: Pittsburgh Steelers, Bad Boy Detroit Pistons, Houston Astros (but without the cheating)
The new kids. The Waterdogs are the new team in the new league, and have to mesh in a hurry. Assembled of players who went unprotected via expansion, this is a roster of guys who may or may not feel mildly slighted or considered to be expendable by their year one club. Their coach, Andy Copelan, used the Expansion, Entry, and College drafts to build one of the most versatile rosters in the league, with guys like Zach Currier who never needs to sub off, Connor Kelly who can play anywhere on offense, Ryland Rees who’s quietly one of the top poles in the world, and others. This team has players who may be castoffs, but in a league with 7 teams and this much talent, castoffs are good enough to start for most any club. In year one, this is a team that, if everything breaks right and they really find their stride, can shock some people. Long odds, but the talent and the heart is undeniable. The Vegas Golden Knights almost pulled this off by going to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year, the Waterdogs will try to see it through to a title.
This is your team if you like: Vegas Golden Knights, Oakland A’s, Toronto Raptors
The defending champs. But that’s not a reason to root for someone, so let’s dig deeper. The Whips are more than solid at every spot on the field. They have the MVP of the league, Matt Rambo, back to QB the offense, but the rest of the offensive firepower isn’t necessarily a household name yet. You’ve got a serious home run hitter in Mike Chanenchuk, but a big chunk of this offensive production was taken by the Waterdogs in expansion. But just because the names aren’t huge, don’t think they are somehow liabilities. They’re all dangerous enough to really hurt you if you don’t respect them, and at times, it seems like maybe they WANT you to disrespect them. The defense is bruising and one of, if not the best in the league. Michael Ehrhardt remains arguably the best LSM in the game, and Muller/Young/Dunn down low led this to be the second stingiest defense in the PLL, giving up under 12 goals per game. They can grind you down and beat you, or they can come out of the games like an inferno and run right past you. The only difference between this team and the Baltimore Ravens is the Whips won it all.
This is your team if you like: Baltimore Ravens, Milwaukee Bucks, Pittsburgh Penguins