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Major League Lacrosse Week 7 Preview

0 - Published June 13, 2013 by in Major League Lacrosse, Pro Lacrosse

Good teams tend to win. Great teams tend to beat good teams, and bad teams tend to lose. All seems pretty obvious, if you ask me. I mean, if someone said “I’m a great sprinter, I’m just not very fast,” you’d think they were insane.

Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it? Of course it does, yet sports fans (and writers) tend to say that kind of silly garbage all the time. This team’s great, they just don’t win. Or this team has a great defense, they just give up 18 per game. And while it’s occasionally appropriate for a weird league like the MLL, in which teams in the spring barely resemble their summertime counterparts, it’s the middle of June, people.

 

After this week, no more free passes; you are what your record says you are. Deal? Now, let’s start this week’s preview.

Main Photo Credit: Cecil Copeland

Hamilton Nationals (5-1) vs  New York Lizards (2-4)

Before the start of the season, you probably assumed these teams would have records like the Nationals. You also probably assumed the Lizards would be the 5-1 squad. This year they switched identities, and while New York stole Hamilton’s script (“You’ve got no problem, guys, just relax, chill that fanbase out, and wait for the cavalry, which should be coming directly”), the Nationals jumped out to the early lead.

While I’ve previously mentioned the reduced production from New York’s marquee players (i.e., pretty much all of them), head coach Joe Spallina has specifically stated that he needs more out of Mark Matthews, and for good reason. Granted they all count the same on the scoreboard, but aside from failed clears or fluke GBs that left him alone in front of the net, Matthews hasn’t scored a goal since week four (perhaps coincidentally – but probably not), the week before Rob Pannell arrived.

Sharing the offensive duties hasn’t been a problem for the Hamilton Nationals, who recently crawled away from a 22-9 dismantling at the hands of the Denver Outlaws. A game like that said far less about the Nationals than their opponents, but its always better to bounce back sooner rather than later. Amongst one of the few bright spots to emerge from that game was Garrett Thul’s three-goal Hamilton debut. It remains to be seen how he’ll fit in with the rest of the offense, but a hat trick against the Outlaws is definitely a good start.

Denver Outlaws (6-0) vs. Chesapeake Bayhawks (4-2)

The 2013 Denver Outlaws have scored 109 goals this season, seven more than the Lizards and Machine combined. In the past three games, the Outlaws outscored their opponents by a combined score of 66-30. If you average their point total, it still beats six teams’ highest output of the season.

What I’m trying to say here, is that the Denver Outlaws are a serious problem, and you know that’s the case when Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle says “we’ve got to keep them under 20, and that’s easier said than done.”

The only team other than Denver to score 20 this season? That’s right, the Chesapeake Bayhawks, and it was last week against the Lizards. And maybe that’s the message the Bayhawks were sent last week – not only is their defense airtight (allowing a league-leading nine goals per game), they’re fully capable of lighting up the scoreboard, just like the Outlaws.

Of course just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s easy to be done, and although Chesapeake, not Denver, leads the league in shots and shots on goal, last year’s rule applies this season just the same: you don’t step in the ring and trade punches with the Denver Outlaws.

Limit their possessions, avoid fast breaks. The Bayhawks want this to be a 15-12 game, not 21-20, and the return of Mike Simon (pending a healthy practice) could go a long way in reaching that goal. While last week’s Chesapeake offense was uncharacteristically attack-heavy, Denver’s close defense likely ensures that the midfield will reclaim that role this week.

Boston Cannons (1-5) vs. Charlotte Hounds (3-3)

The Boston Cannons are running out of time. A loss this weekend drops them to 1-6 (a place they haven’t been since 2002) where, based on last year’s standings, they’d have to win out to grab a playoff spot. Connor broke down their issues earlier this week, but for some broad-stroke analysis of the topic, take a look at their offensive and defensive production this year when compared to this point last season:

2013
Goals For: 69
Goals Against: 90
Point Differential, if you don’t feel like doing the math: -21

2012
Goals For: 94
Goals Against: 61
Point Differential, if you don’t feel like doing the math: +33

Yikes. That thing’s just about flip-turned upside down. At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, that might be a problem. Enter new head coach, 2007 MLL coach of the year John Tucker, to save the squad before it’s officially too late.

In addition to being more physical and reducing turnovers, Tucker says he’d like to get the ball up and down and take more shots (Scott Ratliff and Kyle Sweeney’s ears just perked up). He also stated their main issue has been definition of roles, and that he wonders if they have too many players at the same position, so maybe there is a chance Paul Rabil returns to full-time midfield duties?

Meanwhile, we’re currently witnessing the evolution of the Charlotte Hounds; months of talent evaluation and GM savvy potentially coming to fruition. With Matt Danowski essentially the lone holdover from last year’s squad, the well-balanced 2013 Charlotte offense is now averaging 12.8 goals per game, up more than two goals from last year. If John Tucker hasn’t had time to revamp the Cannons’ defensive mindset, look for Peet Poillon or Mike Sawyer to take full advantage of Boston’s free alley access and minimal sliding.

Rochester Rattlers (3-3) vs. Ohio Machine (0-6)

The Ohio Machine haven’t won a home game since their very first one, a 16-10 win over the Rochester Rattlers way back on May 19, 2012. They’re currently in the midst of a nine-game home losing streak, so be it their point total or this streak, something‘s getting to double digits this weekend.

Obviously hoping for the former, Connor Martin has been activated from the Injured Reserve.  If he’s finally healthy (he hasn’t been right all season) Martin could play a major role in getting the team their first win – don’t forget, he scored 32 points last season.

Chazz Woodson’s back as well, and should bring some organization and veteran leadership to the Ohio offense. Sure, Steele Stanwick’s a veteran in the sense that this isn’t his first season, but Woodson has experience, like “I played for two teams that don’t even exist anymore,” experience, and that’s an immeasurable asset for a struggling team.

The return of Woodson and Martin came at the perfect time; while John Galloway is playing some of the best lacrosse of his career, Mike Manley (who held Ryan Boyle scoreless last week) held Steele Stanwick to just one goal in their matchup just two weeks ago. Add emerging midfielder John Ranagan to a lineup that just posted their highest point total in 11 games, and the Ohio defense needs to resolve last week’s communication and sliding problems ASAP.

MLL-05

Photo Credit: Cecil Copeland

Will the Lizards’ offense turn things around against Brodie Merrill and the Nationals defense? Can the Bayhawks snap the Outlaws’ 12-game regular season winning streak? Can the Hounds go above .500 for the first time in franchise history? Good luck to your squad, and check back here next week for the recap.

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