With the first 2013 LXM PRO event in Orange County, California in the books, professional lacrosse season is now fully underway. The LXM, MLL, and Summer Box in Canada are all going strong, and the best players on the planet are getting paid to play the game. I take a look at the first event of the 2013 LXM season, and so far, things are definitely looking up.
Note: Photo Credits – Main Image: Christy Radecic, Other Images: Anna Scipione. Adrenaline, an LXM sponsor, is a proud partner of LAS.
Good weather, a good crowd, a tight game, and flashy uniforms were the initial calling cards of the LXM PRO event in Orange County this past weekend, and it’s definitely a bright start to the 2013 LXM PRO Tour. I’ll take a look at a number of the big story lines from the weekend, and see how LXM 2013 stacks up to prior incarnations, as well as other pro field lacrosse opportunities.
The Game Itself
The first game pitting Team STX against Maverik United was a close and tightly contested match up. Both teams were able to generate offense, and produce runs of goals, and both teams’ defenses had moments of dominance. The goalies played well, the face offs were quick and exciting for the most part, and we were treated to a couple of huge hits, and highlight worthy goals. Sam Bradman notched five goals, and once again showed his creative and dangerous play. The low to high goal he scored early on was preposterous.
At the end of regulation, STX had escaped with a one-goal win, taking the game 14-13. Both teams led at different portions of the game, and I had a hard time predicting who would emerge victorious, even at later stages in the game. There were definitely some moments of sloppy play, but considering this was the first game of the 2013 Tour, and there were plenty of new faces playing, the mistakes and lack of cohesion were pretty minimal.
The game looked better than last year’s games did, at least on average, and there were more dangerous players on the field, especially on offense. The contest was officiated well, and the refs did a great job of keeping the game moving. The flow was excellent, and the lack of stoppages from timeouts, or TV timeouts, was noticeable.
Peter Baum, Tim Desko, Lantz Carter, Billy Bitter, and one or two others all made their LXM debuts on Saturday. Baum had a goal, as did Bitter, while Desko recorded two goals. All of them seemed pretty comfortable out there, but when you consider that most of these guys were monsters in college, and that none of them “went off” in their first game, it makes an argument for how high the level of play in the LXM actually is.
Now, I wouldn’t say that Billy Bitter struggled out there, but it does make me think that maybe all of these “no name” LXM defenders might actually be pretty darn good if he can only drop one goal in his first game. I’ve actually thought that for a while now, but hopefully this result helps to shed some light to other people out there. The LXM is good lacrosse.
Kyle Harrison, Johnny Christmas, Sam Bradman, Matt Russell, Brian Kelly, Graham Gill, The Brattons, Sean Lindsay, Brendan Porter, and a host of other players we’ve all come to know as the backbone of the LXM came out to play. Harrison was limited to two assists on the day, but his explosive dodging created a lot of chances for Team STX, and he also played a lot more defense, which was vintage K18, and great to see.
Christmas showed he is still lethal, Kelly took a big hit, but was ferocious all night. Lindsay played with passion, in his ultra team heavy role, and Porter bested people left and right, especially when the ball was on the turf. Russell made some electric saves, J-Rod was fun to watch and effective, and the Brattons continued to confuse defenses (and sometimes even themselves) with their unbelievable change of direction, and outside the box play.
First off, you can bet Maverik is not saying, “well, at least we kept it close“. Both teams wanted to win that game, and both teams could have. Maverik will now have a chip on their shoulder, and want to even the series up. That much is obvious. What we won’t really see that much of until next time, is how that happens.
That means that the next game could be a VERY different contest to take in. Teams now have film of each other, and can break down what they are doing wrong out there, or how they can better. Will Baum and Desko spend hours on a Google Hangout discussing their two-man game? Will Bitter and Christmas collude in the Maverik offices, and work on their in-game trickery? To think that none of this stuff will be going is sticking your head in the sand.
It makes me excited to see the next level these guys get to, after all, Week 1 is just the beginning.
TLN mentioned it during the broadcast, and the LXM guys were cryptic about expansion when they were asked during a hangout, but expansion is definitely on the minds of almost everyone watching the LXM right now. It would add legitimacy to the Tour, and create a small league, with a potential champion. It could bring in another sponsor, or elevate a current sponsor to a higher level. It would also show that the LXM is successful, and that it’s not going to dry up at some point.
Expansion is GREAT! So will we see it?
I don’t know that we will see it this year. I can’t say that expansion is even a definite at this point, but I can say that I believe it is going to happen, and that it might happen as early as this year. Why, you may ask? Well if the reasons above weren’t enough, I also know a lot of people in the lacrosse world, and many of them have expressed interest in learning more about the LXM. This is a good sign, and when you consider that the LXM has improved year over year, it only adds momentum to the theory of impending expansion. Add in that there are more “professional level” players out there than spots, and the idea is, at the very least, tenable.
It’s not fact, and it’s not rumor. It’s just a really solid set of reasoning. Of course reason doesn’t always win out, but in this case, I believe that it will.
The Broadcast – Watching the game online, I got a great experience. Multiple camera angles, a bright and sunny day, and great commentary from Chris and Samir of TLN made the viewing experience a pleasure. The next level for that broadcast to shoot for is in-game statistics, and they will quickly be approaching TV level broadcast quality. I also think they could add in a sideline reporter, which could be pretty cool. Overall though, the broadcast is really quite amazing, especially when you consider how far TLN has come in such a short time.
Team Play – There were moments when I felt like the teams out there needed more time together. Of course this is a complaint I have about all pro lacrosse (NLL, MLL, LXM). Open crease looks get overlooked at times, and sometimes skip passes seem misguided. I expect this kind of stuff to improve as the tour moves on, and the individual play was really quite good. Finer points in some elements of team play was lacking here and there, but overall it was still good, and comparable to other high levels of play.
Maverik Coaching – I have nothing against the Maverik coaching staff, or how they coached the game. But if Peter Dante is going to coach Team STX in sublimated shorts, sunglasses, ALL WHILE HOLDING ON TO A STICK, the MU coaches need to step their game up. Put on a neon green suit, get a Maverik poncho, or something! It’s Dante, the youth coach Vs ________. You have 10 days to figure something out here.
The LXM PRO Tour’s 2013 season has definitely started off on the right foot. A great game in front of a solid crowd, good weather, an excellent online broadcast, plenty of goals, and lots of new names (both players and sponsors) making their first appearances. The game was run in conjunction with another event (the Adrenaline All-Star Game), and definitely made an impact in the area. STX and Maverik both came looking good, and the people who went to the game came home happy.
The big question for the next event is, can the LXM keep up the momentum, and IMPROVE on their first event of 2013? To see the answer to that question, we’ll have to wait until San Diego, on June 21st. As with any lacrosse event our tour, there will be road bumps, but if the LXM can keep their current trajectory, they are headed for bigger and better things.