The Chesapeake Bayhawks came in to New York City to take on the New York Lizards, and they absolutely dominated the rain-soaked game, which was the first ever pro field lacrosse contest played at the iconic and historic Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island.
For a preview on the rest of this weekend’s excellent MLL action, check out Chris Rosenthall’s Week 6 MLL Preview!
The Bayhawks started out hot, and went up early by a couple goals, but New York made a little run to catch up, and at 6-4, with NY dominating face offs, it looked like we could see an epic battle between two teams sitting near each other in the standings. However, Chesapeake’s offense was far to fluid, and created too many chances inside and out, for NY to handle.
Drew Westervelt led all players in scoring, and he may have put up the eight easiest goals of his career. I’m not saying Westy wasn’t working hard, but the Chesapeake offense created some many great chances, and DW just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He had a couple of goals where the ball was barely even in his stick and he went untouched. Easy goals in the rain? Gotta love ’em.
Basically, the Chesapeake shooters (Hunt, Kimmel, Dixon, etc) pulled the NY defense up all night long exposing a weaker backside defense. Guys like Mackrides, Grant Jr. and Goettleman pushed the ball from X and the wings effectively with dodges, and Westervelt looked for room, found it, and put the biscuit in the basket, time and time again. It was fun to watch such a precise offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Lizards offense looked disastrous. Pannell, Palasek, and Matthews have clearly not gelled enough, and all three struggled against the resounding toughness of Evans, Spallina, and Polanco. I thought Spallina and Polanco were DONE two years ago when they played for the Lizards. Shows you what I know. These guys still have “it”, and it showed as they dominated a top level attack line filled with younger stars.
As this NY team plays together more, I think they will improve, but chemistry was definitely lacking on Thursday night. I also think/hope we will see Matt Gibson back in the line up next week, and I believe his calming presence was sorely missed. Max Seibald and JoJo Marasco both made their debuts, and while both looked athletic, it was clear they were still settling in to their new look team, as those fluid bang-bang passes just were not there.
Defensively, the Lizards were doing ok early on. The constant risk with Chesapeake though is that they can start bombing away from long-range at any time, and in the second quarter, that time came on HARD. When Kyle Dixon hit a low to far low corner snipe (that during his wind up I thought would be an overhand shot. I was tricked too) from distance, I started feeling like it was going to be a total shooting gallery. Sometimes you’re on, and the Bayhawks were on!
Overall, Chesapeake looked like a more disciplined team offensively, and defensively, and they really packed it in tight, to offset NY’s lack of multiple pure outside shooters. Rand got better and better against NY’s Gurenlian at the face off X as the game went on, and Kip Turner was really solid all night long.
– Ben Rubeor took a Kyle Dixon shot to the head. He was down for a bit, but got up eventually and made his way to the bench. A Dixon shot to the head is terrifying to see in person.
– John Grant Jr. scored a most ridiculous around the world goal on Jack Reid. He almost scored another similar goal later but just missed.
– Tim Goettelman is back, and he scored a goal for the first time in the MLL since retiring in 2011.
– The field was grass, and considering it was raining, it was in great shape. Looked awesome to be playing out there. The stadium seating is also covered, so fans were bone dry all night long.
– A Doc’s NYC youth team took on New Canaan in a game beforehand, and won. Power shift for the youth lacrosse scene? The kids there were pretty pumped to see pro lacrosse in NYC.
– There were other pros in attendance: I spoke with JJ Gilbane a bit, and saw a couple other guys just taking in the action in the City. Armando Polanco wins the award for best dressed former professional player.
– Nicky Polanco and Unterstein were both ejected for a fracas later in the game, which involved Berger, Turner, Spallina, Matthews, Unterstein, and Polanco. It all started when Turner left the cage, and Berger ran by and slashed him off ball. Turner then pulled a diving soccer player move and crumpled to the ground, only to get up and jog back to the crease seconds later. Spallina took exception to Berger’s slash, Matthews to exception to Spallina’s action, and Polanco too exception with that. It was 17-5 at that point, so you knew something was coming. Unterstein and Polanco were tossed for grabbing each other’s face masks and throwing some quick jabs. Nothing too serious though.