As the MLL season winds down, awards have been announced, the playoffs have been set and the action is just getting interesting! To wrap up this season’s the action at Noon on Saturday, the 22nd of August, the 4th seed Boston Cannons (6-6) will take on the top seeded Denver Outlaws (9-3) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. At 3pm, following the first semifinal, the #2 seeded Toronto Nationals (7-5) will battle with the #3 seeded Long Island Lizards (6-6) for the second spot in the Championship game, which will be played the following day at 1pm.
The games should be really exciting and will feature most of the top talent in the country. Paul Rabil really impressed this year from the midfield by leading the league in scoring with 53 points for the Cannons. Merrick Thomson was only 3 points behind Rabil and put up an insane 44 goals for the Toronto Nationals withmidfielder Joe Walters “chipping in” with a solid 42 points while both Drew Westervelt and Brendan Mundorf put up over 40 points for Denver. Watching those two play together is a real pleasure and the fact that they BOTH went to UMBC never seems to get enough hype.
The Leveille brothers each put up over 40 points as well but the Chicago Machine was unable to make the playoffs as they finished up in last place at 3-9 during the regular season. The Bayhawks of Washington [for now, at least!] just barely missed out on the playoffs after finishing up at 5-7. Kyle Dixon put up 41 points and dropped an unreal TEN long range, 2 point BOMBS on the competition. I saw some highlights of Dixon from the Ocean City Classic last weekend and he can straight up rip rope with the best in history like Jesse Hubbard, Mike Springer and Roy Colsey were known to do in the earlier days of the MLL.
It came as little surprise to everyone who knows anything about the MLL that Paul Rabil was named the Offensive Player of the Year. He dominated from the midfield and was consistently a game changer. His flow and #99 were the topics that younger fans gravitated towards and had the majority of the fans saying, “Powell who?”
Brodie Merrill was named Defensive Player of the Year and again, there was very little surprise to this one. Merrill is big, fast and athletic. He can take your best player out of a game or dominate lesser skilled guys. His matchups with Rabil when Boston and Toronto met were a top notch example of excellent 1 on 1 play for the both of them and really solidified their respective positions at the top of the lacrosse heap.
Jesse Schwartzman was the Goalie of the Year and even if you’re the biggest Queener fan in the world, you just have to admit that when it comes to stopping the ball and loving lax, few can rival Schwartzman’s skill or passion. The kid was instrumental in Hopkins’ success when he was there and has been leading Denver to the holy land all year.
Brian Reese took home Coach of Year for Denver as well, and seeing as they only lost 3 games with a less heralded roster than Boston, no one can say he didn’t really deserve the honor. Chris Eck was great at face offs all year and won the Most Improved award. Dan Hardy, who just signed with Maverik, was named Rookie of the Year while Old Schooler and Tim Goettelmann was named Sportsman of the Year. TG has been at it in the pros for what seems like forever and provides a really good role model for younger players.
Denver will have its hands full with Boston in the first semifinal. Rabil will be tough to contain and Morris and Boyle can both put the biscuit in the basket. Boston’s D is big and physical but Denver has the polished offensive weapons to weather the storm. I don’t expect Jesse Schwartzman will have an off day as he always seems to rise to the occassion, especially on the biggest stages. Boston will need to contain Denver’s O and will need Eck to keep possessions to a maximum. Denver will rely on their goalie and speed along with ball movement and a good team offense. While the Outlaws can all create on their own, when they play together and get rolling, their offense is really dangerous.
The Long Island-Toronto game should be a good one as well. Long Island doesn’t have the 40 points scorers that some others teams do but they still manageto find a way to get it done. They play scrappy and hard but lack consistency at times. The Lizards have also been battling the injury bug all year. Berger and Fioreare both dangerous players from the midfield and if Polancois 100%, their D will answer withintensity at the very least. Toronto has some silky smooth defenders but overall they seem to lack footspeedat times. Either that or they play too much D with their sticks andnot enough with their feet. Merrill is great andSid Smith is a pleasure to watch but takeaway just isn’t the same in the MLL as it is in college. Walters creates great looks for himself and has emerged as more of a feeder as he rounds out his game. Thomson can finish but the Natsneed a solid team effort to beat Long Island because the Lizards will push back til the end.
The first semifinal game, between Denver and Boston, will be televised on ESPN2. The second game will be televised as well but on a range of channels depending on your cable carrier. Click here for more info. The Championship game at 1pm on Sunday will also be broadcast on ESPN2.
The only real question mark is the weather. Will it be hot and humid as is the usual weather for the Mid-Atlantic region in August or will it be rainy and windy as Hurricane Bill makes its way through the Atlantic Ocean? I can’t tell you the answer to this one, but I can say that regardless of weather, the action on the field is going to be exciting!