For some reason The Faceless Men of Ohio have been overlooked for years. The Machine defense is regularly among the best in defensive rating; this season, opponents are scoring a league-low 10.2 points per 45 possessions against the Machine.
From Brian Karalunas and the rope unit pressuring during substitutions to Dominique Alexander playing on-ball defense like a fifth pole to Steven Waldeck bringing a physical edge, this defense does everything – and it allows offenses to do nothing. In 2015 Jackson Place emerged as one of the top cover defenders in the league back; this spring Matt McMahon is emerging as a complement to Place.
Through five games, McMahon has nearly as many caused turnovers (13) as he had in 11 games last season (14). He’s second in MLL in rebounds (8) and tied for second in end line run outs (2). Whether he’s on-ball, sliding, filling the crease or rotating on the carousel, McMahon is making plays.
Teams in the NBA are looking to build defenses with length and versatility; McMahon (6-4, 225lb.) brings both to the table. He can cover up top and behind the cage. Switched onto a straight-line speedster like Jordan Wolf or closing out to a physical dodger like JoJo Marasco, McMahon can hold his own on an island – then land a timely trail check.
That on-ball defense alone is enough to get you on the field for most MLL defenses. In Ohio, you need to be a cerebral off-ball defender. They’re called The Faceless Men partly because they’re a collection of non-ACC, non-B1G defenders, but mostly because they’re a guild of assassins always two steps ahead of their opponents.
The amount of ground McMahon covers on some of these second slides is absurd. He’s either arriving on hands and dislodging the ball, or he’s flat out beating the ball to the spot.
Rotating off-ball is key to any defense, but it’s even more crucial to the Machine’s aggressive slide package. Sometimes it’s McMahon himself who gets to be the aggressor as the first slide. Show him your back on a dodge, and he’ll creep up behind you in a hurry.
Dressing both McMahon and Place provides the Machine with flexibility and versatility in their matchups. They can put the left-handed McMahon on a right-handed attackman and the right-handed Place on a left-handed attackman like they did against Atlanta’s Kevin Rice and Dylan Donahue. They can throw multiple looks at the same attackman. And most importantly, they can switch picks and survive defending the other’s man after slides and recoveries cause the defense to lose their original matchups.