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Five Time LSM of the Year Michael Ehrhardt Announces his retirement

After a ten year career as one of the greatest defenders to ever pick up a stick, Michael Ehrhardt has retired. After his All-American career at Maryland, Ehrhardt was the 7th overall pick in the 2014 MLL draft, selected by the Charlotte Hounds.  In his pro career, Ehrhardt won LSM of the Year five years in a row; he took home the award every year since the PLL launched. He’s a two time champion, a six time All-Star missing just one all star game since 2016. He was first team All-Pro each of the last five years. 


Ehrhardt is in a class alone. He is unique. Some of the best players on the offensive side of the field, or defensive side of the field, didn’t impact a game in the same way Ehrhardt did. To appreciate just how big of an impact he had on a game to game basis, consider the scouting report. Anyone who has been around the game at a competitive level knows that as part of game preparation, the opposition's players are studied to understand their impact on the game. Attackmen get a scout on the defensive personnel and the goalie. Defensemen prepare for the opposing attack and midfield. Attackmen rarely have to spend much time preparing for the opposing attack, defenders for the opposing defense.


Ehrhardt changes all that. If you were playing against a team with Ehrhardt at pole, the entire team had to be ready to deal with him.


Your offensive personnel needed to be ready to be matched up against him, because he was so good on the ball he could effectively guard your entire team, at any position on the field. Off ball, he’d be aggressive as a help defender, forcing turnovers either with slides, free doubles, or by picking off passes. Every attackman and offensive midfielder needed to be ready to stand across from him, or to occupy him off the ball. There still aren’t many great metrics for tracking defensive performance and we tend to fall back on GBs and CTs. But even if you just go by those, Ehrhardt was at or near the top of the chart, every year.


Your faceoff unit and your midfield needed to be ready for him. He’d be on every wing, and he’d know where your specialist likes to try and exit, what your wing players’ tendencies are. You just wouldn’t have many clean exits or easy faceoff wins when he was out there. He does not allow that. He’d be there on every loose ball off a faceoff. And if he won the ball, it became clear very quickly if you prepared for the sub patterns that Ehrhardt’s team used. If you sub off with Ehrhardt but get too far ahead, he’d turn around and look for a shot from two point range. If you lag behind him to prevent this from happening, he’d accelerate and sub off, giving his team a few yards of an edge out of the box. 


This is even more critical for your offensive midfield. Any possession that doesn’t end with your team scoring a goal is an opportunity for Ehrhardt, and if you aren’t prepared for it, you will concede a goal. At the pro level, a likely two point chance. All the above notes about subbing particularly hold true while going from end to end. If you sub poorly, Ehrhardt will push the numbers advantage and stay on the field. If you’re an offensive midfielder who gets stuck on, Ehrhardt can dodge you. With the pole. He’ll use his size, his long strides, and his frame to get by you. Stick checks do nothing. Even if you sub well, this all might just happen anyway because, well, it’s Ehrhardt.


And for that reason your defense needed to be ready to defend Michael Ehrhardt. Yes, your scouting report for your defenders needed to have Ehrhardt on it. He’ll run by a midfielder and push for his own shot. You needed to be ready to slide to him, because he’d score if you didn’t. Your goalie needs to know his shooting tendencies. His release points, where he wants to shoot from, and where he goes with it. Both from two point range and on the run as a dodger. If his team chooses too, he could simply stay on the field, away from the play, forcing 5v5 action. Should you cheat away from him, he’ll cut to the ball, or find space around the two point arc. Your defense needed to be ready to defend that situation as well.


In the clearing game, you needed to account for Ehrhardt. He’d find the way to disrupt what your clear was trying to do. Wherever you wanted to get the ball out, that’s where he’d be. The offense late in a shot clock would leak a player early to get Ehrhardt on the field and ready to disrupt you from the midline. 


There just aren’t other players like that. Players who command the attention of every last person on the opposing roster. The very best attackman on a team only impacts his side of the field. Ehrhardt changes the way you have to prepare for a game everywhere. In every phase. Every player on your sideline. Your offensive coordinator, your defensive coordinator, your special teams coaches, whoever was running the box, everyone needed to be aware of Ehrhardt from the moment he stepped onto the field until he stepped off it. And even off it, looming in the sub box, he’d find ways to create an advantage. Even hampered by injuries in recent years, his impact on games was massive. There is no singular player to replace him.


His retirement creates the opportunity for someone else to step into the shoes of “Best LSM in the World”. And someone will this year. But it will be a long time before we see another player like Michael Ehrhardt. Happy retirement to the best LSM to ever play the game.


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