The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: Boston Riot

Keeper Tyler Trudeau is at the heart of a stalwart Boston Riot defense. Credit: Emily Oliver

Keeper Tyler Trudeau is at the heart of a stalwart Boston Riot defense.

In the months leading up to World Cup VI, the Eighth Man will be publishing a daily scouting report for one of the 60 teams that will be competing to become World Cup Champions. A full list of reports can be found here.

In a nod to the depth and talent of the Massachusetts teams, the Boston Riot entered Northeast Regionals with a 2-6 record, just two months of experience as a team, and few people believing in them. But they turned it around, making the Round of 16 with a 2-2 performance in a tough group. Executing their gameplan to perfection, they kept Rochester close with tough defense before a snitch grab earned them a 50*-40 win and a spot in the World Cup. But can they sustain their Regionals’ form at the World Cup, or will they struggle against higher quality sides. Let’s take a look.

Best Wins: vs. Univeristy of Rochester (50*-40,  Nov. 18),  vs. University of Massachusetts (120*-70, Oct. 13)

Worst Losses: vs. Harvard University x2 (100*-40, Nov. 3, 100*-80, Oct. 13)

Key Players: It has often been said that Bobby O’Neill is playing for the wrong Emerson team. A mobile beater who prefers to close the gap between himself and an opposing chaser before making his beat, he is a key part of the Riot’s top-tier defense. He plays higher up the pitch than most of the team’s other beaters, and engages the ball-carrier early. O’Neill is always patient, content to pump fake three, four, or five times before throwing in an attempt to force a mistake out of the opposing chaser. He’s not the biggest male beater, but is still adept at fighting for control, including an impressive stretch of contested control early in the Riot’s match against Boston University at Northeast Regionals

Any top defensive team needs a stopper, and keeper Tyler Trudeau executes that role to perfection. Trudeau is a strong tackler and good enough at reading and getting in front of long passes, but his best asset is his ability to defend at close range. Many teams that play the Riot will come away from the match feeling like they missed a lot of easy chances that they usually put away with regularity. But much of that is due to Trudeau, who uses his large frame to get in front of a charging chaser, close off his angles, and force him to alter his shot. On the offensive side, Trudeau isn’t much of a passer, but is more than apt at charging through a defense when the opportunity presents itself. To top it all off, he excelled at Regionals after suffering a leg injury just two weeks prior. Expect him to be 100 percent for the World Cup.

Player to Watch: If the Boston Riot can improve their offensive chemistry and passing over the course of the semester, Denver Stoddard will be by far the biggest beneficiary. Stoddard is quick and tall, with an impressive vertical that allows him to out-jump most defenders. His bread and butter is making runs behind the hoops, and his catch-and-release moves have improved rapidly, especially when he has a decent distributor to get him the ball. Stoddard’s abilities are not to be overlooked, and any gameplan for taking on the Riot should include careful marking of him on defense.

Strategy: The Riot are a defense-first, pound it out side. They keep both bludgers back when on offense with bludger control, and their keepers rarely cross into the opponent’s end unless given a clear opportunity. Defensively, they play a man-zone combo, with the keeper staying near the hoops and each chaser picking up the player that comes down nearest. With bludger control, they play their male beater up and their female beater back, with the male beater often serving as the point defender. Without it, the beater with the ball usually moves around the middle of the defense, adjusting to the play as is happens. They also bring the one bludger up on offense to try to get back control, leaving them open to many easy fast breaks.

On offense, things get a bit sloppier. The Riot are not a strong passing unit, owing largely to their inexperience as a team. Many of their possessions end in wayward passes that no one can chase down, while most of their goals come from charges from their many sizable chasers and keepers, either in a bludgerless situation or combined with a block of a bludger. Much like Emerson, the Riot set picks at point to free up space with a fair degree of regularity, and usually send someone back behind the hoops.

Strengths: I mentioned Trudeau’s affinity for on-the-spot defense, but the skill truly pervades the side. Ben Wessels, who plays both chaser and keeper, also impresses defending at the hoop, and every last chaser seems to enter each defensive possession with the mentality that they will win any 50/50 ball, cutting many opposing possessions short. Their talented group of beaters also go deeper than just O’Neill, with veteran Todd Mitchell and sophomore Ryan Smythe also serving as potent defenders.

Weaknesses: As mentioned earlier, the Riot aren’t a strong passing side, and their offense suffers from it. Their other flaw is in their seeking game, where they are just 2-3 in games decided by snitch grab in a seeker-weak region like the Northeast. For a team that is better at keeping teams close than blowing them out, poor seeking could be a quick ticket out of the World Cup.

Prediction: The Boston Riot lived up to their potential at the Northeast Regionals, but will be swimming in a pool of sharks with much more experience at the World Cup. There’s no reason they can’t win a game or two, potentially shaking up their pool with an upset, but I don’t see them making Day Two. I have them out after pool play.

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