Chaos Factor: Josh Byrne Leads Defending Champs into PLL Semis

PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

Josh Byrne led the Chaos with six points in an 11-3 win over the Chrome in the PLL quarterfinals on Saturday in Foxborough, Mass.


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The 2021 Premier Lacrosse League champions kept their hopes of repeating alive thanks to an 11-3 victory over the second-seeded Chrome on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

The Chaos were led by Josh Byrne, who recorded six points. It was the second time that the Chaos defeated the Chrome in an elimination game, knocking off Tim Soudan’s squad in the PLL Championship Series during the shortened 2020 season.

“We’ve been here before,” Byrne said. “We’ve had a tough regular season before, and I think we understand that at the end of the day, it’s what you do in the playoffs that counts. And I think we brought that today.”

The Chaos started the last regular season 0-3 before becoming the first team other than the Whipsnakes to win a PLL title. They finished 2-8 during this regular season, limping into the playoffs. The fans voted and gave them a 2.8 percent chance of winning the title — plenty of fuel for a team that needs little motivation.

“The funny part is, they’re even doubting us more this year than last year,” Towers told Jack Goods this week.

The PLL playoffs kicked off with Byrne assisting Mac O’Keefe on a power play goal following an offside penalty by the Chrome. The Chaos then scored the next four goals for a 5-0 lead early in the second quarter. Brendan Nichtern found Logan Wisnauskas on the crease for a power play goal for the Chrome’s first and only score of the first half.

The Chrome were plagued by poor shooting, failing to get nearly half their shots (19-for-35) on cage and giving Blaze Riorden (15 saves, 83 percent) easy save opportunities when they did get them on net. Their struggles were amplified on the power play, scoring on only 1 of 4 power play opportunities in the first half.

“We didn’t get our hands free a lot, and when we did, we didn’t take shots that could beat Blaze,” Chrome coach Tim Soudan said. “It was disappointing to see us struggle offensively.”

In addition to the Riorden’s performance, the typically slow-to-go Chaos defense disrupted the Chrome offense all afternoon with quick slides and suffocating double teams.

“We really wanted to make sure that we weren’t creating offense for them,” Chaos coach Andy Towers said. “I thought our defense played well up front and allowed Blaze to see shots that he could save.”







“One of our areas of emphasis was not only being smart in transition but limiting what we call ‘reverse transition’ or substituting so that way we can prevent transition opportunities for them,” Byrne added.

The one silver lining was Sean Sconone, who stopped 15 of 27 shots on net for a 58 percent save percentage.

“If you told me that they were only going to score 11 goals going into this game, I would have thought we would have won the game,” Soudan said. “We just could not get the offense going. Kudos to the Chaos coaching staff and defense on the field, as well as the faceoff unit.

“I’m going to reflect heavily on my preparation for this game. I lead this team, and I’m going to take the blame for this.”

Jordan MacIntosh was happy with the strides the Chrome made this season, going from a bottom feeder to a playoff team, but he stressed that he and his teammates are not satisfied with simply making the postseason.

“Coming from where we were last season on the outside looking in, it was a great step [to make the playoffs],” MacIntosh said. “But learning how to execute in the playoffs is a hump we still have to get over.”

Max Adler was excellent at the stripe, going 10-for-17 and neutralizing Connor Farrell for most of the day. Aided by solid wing play, Adler was able to turn any slight advantage Farrell gained into a 50-50 ground ball scramble.

“I don’t think we had a lot of pressure on us given the season that we had,” Towers said. “It wasn’t lost on us that this was a really tough team. We knew we had to come out and make a concentrated effort to win the ground ball battle and that was the difference in the game, in my opinion. Like every team in the league, our goal is to win the championship.”

The Chaos will play the Redwoods-Archers winner next Saturday at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

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