2.8 Percent? The Chaos Like Those Odds


Dhane Smith isn't worried about the public's opinion about the Chaos' chances in the playoffs.

Andy Towers has the Premier Lacrosse League right where he wants it, even as Chaos LC enters postseason play as the bottom seed.

After all, he’s been here before and things worked out just fine.

“The funny part is, they’re even doubting us more this year than last year,” Towers said. “There’s no other way to go about it than embrace it. At the end of the day, it’s still noise. Our group has always responded well to doubt. And at 2-8, certainly we have earned the doubt.”

During the PLL Championship Series in 2020, the Chaos exited group play without a win and desperate for an identity. Towers responded by executing a bold adjustment — swapping out Connor Fields for Miles Thompson while running the offense more through Josh Byrne. It unlocked the unit, propelling the Chaos to upsets of the Chrome and the Archers before they ultimately fell in the title bout to the Whipsnakes.

The Chaos sputtered to an 0-3 start last season, sat 2-4 at the All-Star break and possessed the No. 6 seed in the postseason. But Riorden showed why he deserved to be only the second goalie to win MVP in pro field lacrosse history, and Dhane Smith dazzled in backing the group to a stunning championship.

Towers’ main lesson through it all?

“It reinforces what all of the coaches in this league know,” Towers said. “Everybody has enough talent to win the championship. The team that is playing the best and comes together the best will be the team that ultimately wins in the playoffs.”

For the Chaos to orchestrate another late-season turnaround and repeat, it will first have to upset the No. 2 Chrome on Saturday at noon in Foxborough, Mass. Thanks to the PLL’s playoff format accepting seven of the league’s eight teams, there’s a golden opportunity to erase memories of a regular season during which little went right.

“It’s crazy to think that you go through the last three and a half months and there’s been a lot of ups and downs and battling a lot of adversity,” Riorden said. “But this league, it’s who shows up. We’ve proven that we’ve got the guys that have made it to the peak of the mountain. Not every team can say that.”

Even discounting the club’s history, there was little reason for lacrosse pundits or fans to act like the sky was falling as losses piled up early in the summer. The group was heavily depleted given the schedule overlap with the National Lacrosse League and Towers’ proclivity to collect Canadian-born players. Eleven players missed training camp, and the PLL season kicked off with much of the Chaos roster chasing an NLL championship with the Buffalo Bandits.

The replacements did an admirable job, and the Chaos still enjoyed stabilizing forces in Riorden and defenseman Jack Rowlett. But by the time the likes of Smith, Byrne, Chase Fraser, Ian MacKay and Max Adler arrived in late June, the team was already 0-3.

There was a thought that things would turn around as soon as the roster returned to full strength, but Week 4 immediately refuted that claim. The offense struggled mightily in an 18-9 blowout defeat at the hands of the Waterdogs. The Chaos shot just 26 percent while the defense allowed three two-pointers.

Those who suited up for the Bandits had to deal with banged up bodies, having started their indoor season all the way back in December, in addition to the mental strain that comes with falling just short of a championship. Buffalo had its hearts broken in Game 3 of the NLL Finals by Colorado just six days prior to the Waterdogs matchup.

“It was pretty much like training camp out there, getting our feet wet,” Smith said following the loss. “We played a full indoor season, a lot of us have, and it’s tough to get in a rhythm. Field lacrosse is a lot different. The speed is different and obviously the slide packages are different. I know we’re going to click at some point, but it’s just going to take time.”

So far, time back together hasn’t resulted in many victories. The Chaos won just twice with their regular unit, besting the Cannons in Week 5 and the Redwoods in Week 8.

“What happens if the New England Patriots players all show up to practice Week 6?” Towers said. “No training camp, 30 percent of their season is over, and then they show up and they play. We’ve got great players, no doubt. But we’re two practices a day for a week of training camp, as well as essentially four games and four weekly practices that go with those games, film and all that sort of stuff behind everybody else. I honestly thought it would be about now [that we gelled].”

There were promising signs. In Week 9, the Chaos entered the fourth quarter tied with the Chrome before their foes ended the game on a four-goal run. They’ve hung with the Whipsnakes and the Archers, and in the last week of the regular season, they fell to the Atlas by a one.

But at this time of year, moral victories don’t get you anywhere.

“A lot of the games that we lost were pretty close games, and there’s really fixable things that we can change,” Adler said. “I just think playing more games together cause the overlap of the NLL definitely impacted us. We’re definitely starting to put more things together.”

Towers’ rallying cry during the team’s run to the 2021 title was centered around 3.2 percent — the percentage of fans who picked the Chaos to win the championship prior to the playoffs. The fans give them even less of a shot this year. The PLL shared Thursday that only 2.8 percent penciled the Chaos in to repeat in its Cash App Challenge.

That didn’t go over the Chaos’ heads. Towers, Smith, Fraser and Troy Reh all retweeted the PLL’s graphic revealing the fan picks. The team’s boisterous coach added a short commentary: “Perfect.”

His players followed his lead.

“2-8 record 2.8%,” Smith shared. “Some would say that’s good most would say that’s terrible … stay tuned.”

“2.8… at least it’s higher than my GPA,” joked Fraser.

Perhaps MacKay summed it up best on Instagram with a simple, “Lolololol.”

“I can honestly say, going into this game, we are the most confident that we’ve been all season long,” Towers said. “We’re three games from winning the championship, and the pressure isn’t on us.”

The focus is singular for the Chaos. It is time to make history repeat itself.

“People thought we were dead, but it’s a clean slate, an opportunity to come together and string together some good games,” Riorden said. “It starts with Chrome.”


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