For much of the inaugural 2019 PLL season, Chaos LC, led by head coach Andy Towers, appeared destined for the PLL championship game. An electric offense led by Conner Fields, Josh Byrne and Jake Frocarro carried the Chaos to a league-best 7-3 record. But the Chaos’ championship hopes quickly burned out, as the team lost consecutive games to the Whipsnakes and Redwoods, and went home empty handed.
Coach Andy Towers put plenty of thought in what happened down the stretch of last season.
“Last year I felt like we had a couple of matchups where we struggled to be able to beat short sticks,” said Towers. “I felt that we became a little predictable down the stretch of the season, and because of that I wanted to make sure we were bringing in guys that you had to pole,” Towers added.
Coach Towers has certainly been busy this offseason trying to make changes to the roster that address the issues that caused the Chaos to sputter. In February, Towers pulled off perhaps the biggest trade in PLL history, sending Myles Jones to Redwoods LC in exchange for midfielder Sergio Salcido and a second round pick in this year’s collegiate draft. According to Towers, trading a player like Myles Jones is no easy decision.
“Myles is a first class human being, an awesome teammate, obviously a tremendous player and athlete, and an ambassador for the sport. I’ve got nothing but positives regarding Myles. I look at this trade and makes me sick to lose a guy like Myles.” said Towers.
But for Towers, the opportunity to add the sort of dodging threat that he coveted in Salcido in addition to a pick that he feels will yield a game-day regular, the opportunity was too great to pass up. “I thought at one point last summer (Salcido) was playing like a top four or five offensive midfielder. He is a threat to beat anybody on the field — on the planet, regardless of who’s covering him,” Towers said. “We feel that he’s somebody that can create offense for us,” Towers added.
While this year’s college draft certainly has questions around with current college seniors granted an extra year of eligibility, Coach Andy Towers also felt that the projected depth in this year’s draft makes a second round pick very enticing.
“We also got a second round pick in the deepest college draft, probably in the history of Division I lacrosse,” said Towers. “To have three picks in the top three (rounds), I feel very very confidently that we’ll be able to get another game day player out of that,” said Towers.
Towers feels that adding Salcido to a lineup that already featured Jake Frocarro and Connor Fields, the latter whom finished tied for second in the league in goals with 22 last season, as well as Josh Byrne and Deemer Class, both of whom will be returning from injuries this year, gives the Chaos an offense that will overwhelm defenses with their speed and tempo.
The PLL entry draft, which occurred on March 16, gave Towers the opportunity to add two players that he felt fit the aggressive play style and no drama culture he is building with the Chaos.
To many, the Chaos’ first choice in the entry draft might have come as a bit of a surprise. With reigning goalie of the year Blaze Riorden already on the roster, Towers selected goalie Dillon Ward with the seventh pick in the draft, but insisted that the selection was not a threat to Riorden’s status as starter. Towers also assured fans that the move was not an indication that he was planning on moving Riorden to attack, an idea derived from the fact that Riorden plays on offense as a forward for the Philadelphia Wings in the NLL.
“We’ve got the best goalie in the world in Blaze Riorden. He proved that over the course of the season last summer. He’s our starter,” said Towers. “With that said, I’m sure he could go down and play lefty attack and score a bunch of goals for us. But we feel our best chance at a PLL championship is with Blaze in the goal,” Towers added.
Towers said that he and Riorden had spoken two weeks prior to the draft and that Riorden had enthusiastically welcomed the idea of adding Ward, a former champion in the MLL. “The first thing I wanted to do was get Blaze to sign off on that, and he enthusiastically did that,” said Towers.
For Coach Towers, Dillon Ward’s long list of accolades and experience in both the MLL and NLL, as well as his selfless attitude, made it impossible to pass him up when he was available for the Chaos at pick seven in the entry draft.
“He’s a proven winner on the highest stage. As a Canadian World Team Player, he was the MVP of the 2014 World Games, he’s seen the best shooters in the world which from a general standpoint are the Canadians, he’s seen more of those shots than anyone else,” said Towers. “He’s an egoless spirit, he gives us something that from our standpoint is a non-negotiable. There’s no drama with him, and there’s no drama with our guys and that’s the number one thing we need to get connected as a locker room,” Towers said. “This is a guy that dresses every single game for us,” he added.
In addition to Ward, the Chaos were able to add long pole Jason Noble, another player that Towers feels will perfectly fit his aggressive defense, famously dubbed “The Bomb Squad” last season, due to the threat of their long range shooting.
“We’re gonna be super aggressive in transition,” said Towers. “We’re gonna hunt transition opportunities whether those are ones or twos.” In addition to feeling like Noble will fit in with his aggressive group of transition defenders, Towers feels like Noble has the potential, with a good training camp, to fill the void left by Brodie Merrill, whom the Chaos lost to the Waterdogs in the expansion draft.
“We’ve got a guy that’s unique stylewise as a close defender, in where he’s a savvy veteran thats played on two Canadian world teams, he’s a speed guy, he fills a void in terms of scheme glue that Brodie Merrill was essentially our team leader in last year. He’s essentially going to step in and make up for a lot of what we lost as it relates to connecting our six defenders,” said Towers. “We also get a little bit younger, a little bit longer,” Towers added.
Towers admits that losing a player like Merrill, whom he says is perhaps the greatest defender in lacrosse history, is never easy, but feels that his current group of defenders, that are among the youngest in the league, is ready to fill the void left by Merrill.
The Chaos also lost one of their top short stick defensive midfielders to the Waterdogs in Kyle McClancy, a loss that stung Towers. “We lost McClancy who I love, I think Andy Copelan was brilliant to take him. I was praying he wouldn’t, but he was smart to do it,” said Towers.
But Towers is confident that despite the loss, McClancy’s replacement is already waiting on the roster.
“We’ve got Mark Glicini who I think is the best in the league at that position, frankly. That leaves one more spot that I figure we’ll probably be dressing for us each game with the 18 man rosters now. We’ve got two guys that played for us last year. Pat Resch had a great season for us. He dressed probably 80-90% of the games and did a fantastic job, so he’s very reliable, knows exactly what is expected of him and is somebody that I trust,” said Towers. “Nobody’s tougher than him, nobody bought more into the scheme, nobody’s in better shape,” added Towers.
“In addition to him, we’ve got Dan Coates who is as tough as you need him to be. He is an indoor player that’s a captain of the Colorado Mammoth. From an athletic, a communication, a toughness standpoint, those are two guys I feel great about if we fill the second spot with one of them. I’m pumped,” said Towers. “That said, we’ve also got Tyson Bell, who’s proven again on the highest stage that he’s one of the elite short stick defensive middies in the world,” said Towers.
Bell, a defenseman for the Calgary Roughnecks in the NLL, did not suit up for the Chaos last year due to conflicts that made his availability for practices limited, but Towers feels if he can become a regular face at practices this season he could step into McClancy’s shoes as well.
With COVID-19 causing the NCAA to grant it’s seniors a fifth year of eligibility, the status of the PLL college draft is still a bit cloudy. But Towers feels that with the moves he’s been able to make this offseason, the Chaos can enter next season confident that they’ll be firmly planted in the middle of the PLL’s championship hunt.
“I honestly feel like if we didn’t get one more player, I’d feel great about our current roster,” said Towers. “I feel like we’re dangerous and have depth at every single position on our team.”
What Towers is looking forward to come training camp is making sure that his team is connected in every facet of the game off the bat.
“The sooner that we’re able to do that the more dangerous we’ll be and the closer we’ll be to becoming the best team on the planet. And that’s certainly our goal.”