Have we reached the point where the good and bad teams begin to sort themselves out? Is it already time to separate the pros from the cons, the platinum from the bronze (that might make sense in a moment)? The schedule says no, but some of these results argue otherwise.
In case you missed anything, here’s what went down in week 6. In honor of the first MLL game in New York City, each matchup gets with an appropriate Jay-Z line. Only seemed right.
Chesapeake Bayhawks 21, New York Lizards 8
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
In their first game on Randall’s Island, the New York Lizards played Drew Westervelt to an 8-8 tie. Unfortunately for the Lizards, several other people play for the Chesapeake Bayhawks, many of whom scored goals as well.
Connor was at the game, and has already done a solid recap of both the game and the live experience, so I won’t do the same here. I will, however, say this:
Be it against the New York Lizards, the lacrosse world as a whole, or just to their own excellence, the Chesapeake Bayhawks clearly had something to prove Thursday night. Between Matt Abott running through double and triple teams (on his way to the most non-linear clears known to man) and John Grant Jr double swim-dodging Kevin Unterstein before his third goal of the night (and don’t even get me started on that backhanded BTB), they didn’t just beat the Lizards, they made an example of them.
Why’d they do it? Who knows, maybe it was the back to back overtime heartbreakers, or the increasingly chippy nature of the game? All that matters is that Cottle and co. were out there playing chess, not checkers (off-ball screens, well-timed first and second slides, hyperactive ball movement, etc), which is exactly what you’d expect from a championship team that returned with their 2012 lineup almost entirely intact.
Meanwhile, the Lizards’s offensive troubles continued, with Pannell, Berger, Seibald, Earl, and Marasco shooting a combined 0-20. There’s both credit and blame for most stats like these, and while Kip Turner had a series of tremendous point-blank saves throughout the night, the Lizards’ shot percentage has camped out near the bottom of the rankings for quite a while now. However, we’re still a few weeks away from full-fledged panic mode, meaning New York still has time for their whole to at least equal the sum of their parts, and not just a little bit less.
Boston Cannons 14, Rochester Rattlers 16
Roc Boys (and the winner is..)
“I think John Ranagan’s a stud”
Rochester head coach Tim Soudan said the above last week regarding the rookie midfielder from Johns Hopkins, which helps explain why he was perfectly comfortable handing him the ball against Kyle Sweeney with one minute left and a one-goal lead. Not only did Ranagan protect the ball, he went the cage and helped seal Rochester’s win in front of 4,440 + at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. He also made Evan Washburn eat his words, after Washburn said he counted Ranagan’s ability to score in the MLL.
Rochester took an interesting approach to defending Paul Rabil, sending d-middies like Dan Groot or Michael Lazore out to cover him instead of specifically giving LSM Joel White the assignment. It’s not entirely unheard of (Denver, for example, does this all the time); the thought may be to focus a team’s defensive efforts elsewhere, concentrating more on secondary scorers. Rabil finished with two goals and two assists on the evening.
After a fairly even first half which saw Boston as the slightly better team, the Rattlers scored 10 of the final 13 goals, including the first three of Ranagan’s career. Jordan Macintosh led all scorers with four goals, and Ned Crotty (alternating between attack and midfield) finished with a goal and three assists.
The game featured a fairly strange ending, where Rabil and John Galloway were given holding and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, respectively, with 20 seconds left (no clue what Galloway did to get that call, but he must have gotten his money’s worth when speaking to the refs). With Galloway serving his penalty during the potential game-tying possession, enter Rochester backup Joe Banno, who’d been just hanging out and minding his business since the week 4 blowout against Denver. Fortunately for Galloway and the Rattlers, Boston couldn’t put a shot on cage, and they left Atlanta with the victiory.
In addition to that poorly-timed (but ultimately harmless) penalty, Galloway finished with 23 saves (including seven in the fourth quarter) and a team-high nine ground balls, earning him defensive player of the week honors for the second consecutive week. Well deserved, and he clearly delivered on his promise to play better. And then some!
We’ve beaten this point into the ground, so unless the pattern changes, this is the last time I’m saying this: when Boyle scores, the Cannons win. The Cannons haven’t been doing much winning, so clearly, Boyle hasn’t been doing much scoring. One shot was the lone mark on an otherwise goose-egg laden stat line. Was Boyle content to look for Matt Poskay (he did put 10 shots on goal) or defer to Will Manny? Does moving Rabil in and out of the attack position make Boyle change his game? You get the benefit of the doubt when you have 400 points on your resume, but there’s clearly an issue somewhere with Boston’s offensive chemistry.
Ohio Machine 7, Charlotte Hounds 13
If you haven’t already, make sure you check Lance Antoine’s column on Saturday’s Ohio-Charlotte game. Since he handled the Hounds, I’ll talk Machine for a bit. Even without a win, there is a LOT to talk about.
We don’t really have time for 99 of them, so let’s go with a few major problems currently hindering the Ohio Machine in their quest for double-digit scoring: shot selection, turnovers, and offensive identity.
Shot Selection: So many forced shots and poor angles. Maybe it’s a matter of the rookies learning to adapt to the MLL shot clock, but knowing when and where to shoot are clearly still a work in progress for many on the team.
Turnovers: Here’s all I’m saying: if I coach a winless team that hasn’t scored in double-digits all season, and I see someone throwing a one-handed pass to nobody in particular, he and I are going to have a serious problem.
Offensive Identity: Seriously, does Steele Stanwick he have the keys to the offense or not? He had two solid assists in the first quarter, and though he tried calling his own number a few times, the offense seemd to stop running through him the further along the game went.
Is Steele going to regularly move to the wing and let Jake Bernhardt or Marcus Holman run the offense? What do you think (currently at home with a hamstring injury), Chazz Woodson?
Interesting. You know, I think he might be onto something. Let’s give that a try.
Hamilton Nationals 9, Denver Outlaws 22
On to the Next One
With four different Outlaws players putting up four goals each, the line “I got a million ways to get it. Choose one.” may never ring more appropriate than when applied to this game. Denver scored on 38% of their shots (matching their league-leading average; only two teams shoot above 30%), led the game for 59:13, and quite simply, plain-ol’ steamrolled the Hamilton Nationals in what we thought had the makings of the weekend’s main event.
The Outlaws got things started early with two Zack Greer goals in the first minute and a half. And not just any goals, goals scored off a screen and a pick & roll, respectively. When the Outlaws started the game by using Hamilton’s bread and butter offense to perfection, it was, in hindsight, a pretty good indicator of what was about to take place.
From that point on, Denver never looked back. “What do you mean ‘from that point on,’ you’ve only described a minute and a half.” Yeah, I know. Doesn’t matter. Anthony Kelly won 11 of the first 12 faceoffs, and by the time Matt Dolente won his second, the score was 9-2. And that, my friends, is how a game gets really ugly, really fast.
As if the Outlaws don’t have enough weapons as is, attackman Eric Law arrived from the University of Denver (literally – he graduated that morning), suited up, and dropped four goals (on four shots) in his MLL debut. Even when things didn’t work out for Law (he dropped a pass while wide open on the crease), they still worked out for him (picked it up and tossed it in behind the back) – it was just that kind of day.
Lee Zink and the Denver defense were solid as usual, holding Stephen Keogh, Kevin Cunningham and Cody Jamieson (14 combined points in week 5 at Chesapeake) to just one assist each. Kevin Crowley had four goals, and Garrett Thul scored three in his debut, but it was nowhere near enough to keep things close.
Not everything went well for the Outlaws, however, as Jesse Schwartzmann was forced to leave the game early in the third quarter with an apparent hamstring injury. We’ll most likely get an update on the severity later this week, but Denver needs him as close to 100% as possible as they take on the Bayhawks this weekend.
And then there was one. The Denver Outlaws stand alone atop the MLL standings, with the Bayhawks next in line to take their shot. With several teams making moves this week, your current kings of the league. Week 7 kicks off with another Thursday night Lizards game, so check back soon for the preview. In the meantime, make sure you check out our additional MLL coverage.