When you’re battling for only four playoff spots, teams can not afford to take a single game for granted. There’s no way around it: every game is important.
Having said the above, certain games do possess more drama, a deeper backstory, a little something extra behind them. These are the kinds of games you circle on your calendar the day the league schedule is announced. These, in chronological order, are six of the most interesting games of the 2013 Major League Lacrosse season.
June 6, 2013
Chesapeake Bayhawks vs. New York Lizards
We’re banking on a lot of uncertainty here, but this game demands a spot on the list based on potential alone. Rob Pannell’s long-awaited Lizards debut is likely to take place the week before. Coach Joe Spallina says Max Seibald will return from his injury after Memorial Day, so this might be the day he joins the team as well. Considering Matt Gibson, Mark Matthews and David Earl have already seen their NLL seasons come to an end, maybe, just maybe, this is the day the superstar pieces of the New York Lizards organization finally come together to go full Voltron on their opponents, in this case the defending champion Bayhawks.
After scoring just three goals against Chesapeake (or as Spallina put it, “kicking a field goal”) in their first meeting, the Lizards will need all the help they can get. Even if all the roster variables don’t fall into place for this game, it’s still the first of two times the Lizards will play at Icahn Stadium, out on Randall’s Island in Manhattan. Depending on how the fans turn out, we may see an increased Lizards presence in NYC and less of one in Long Island, where average attendance last year was down 36% from 2011’s numbers.
June 7, 2013
Boston Cannons vs. Rochester Rattlers
The Cannons and Rattlers meet in Atlanta for the first MLL game ever played in Georgia, and one that could play a major role in the growth of the league. Commissioner David Gross called it a “Test game,” and said that if it goes well, the league intends to bring a team to Atlanta, maybe as early as next season.
When you get an opportunity like this, you want to do it right, so Liam Banks and his Atlanta-based LB3 crew have put together a huge lineup of events leading up to the game: Syracuse University Team Camp (featuring counselors Joel White and John Galloway), Summer Jam Tournament with over 6,000 participants, pre-game skills clinics and an Outkast reunion at halftime (note: I made one of those things up).
In addition to seeing the Rabils, Boyles, Crottys and, umm… Leveilleses that fans usually line up for, it’s a homecoming for Loyola’s Scott Ratliff, who was drafted by the Cannons and hails from Marietta, GA, just about twenty miles outside of Atlanta.
June 8, 2013
Ohio Machine vs. Charlotte Hounds
When two similar products enter the market at the same time, we’ve come to learn that ultimately, history will favor only one (Transformers vs. Gobots, Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty, “Whoomp! There it is” vs. “Whoot there it is,” etc). As a result, there’s always going to be some form of inherent comparison between the Charlotte Hounds and Ohio Machine, the two franchises currently enjoying their sophomore seasons in the MLL.
Which team will enjoy a winning season or a trip to the playoffs first? Most important, who will be the first to get their hands on that Steinfeld Cup? The Hounds won both matchups in 2012, but this is a new season, and Ohio has new faces all over the field, including some potential superstars on their way in from the collegiate ranks. Can the Machine settle the score in 2013?
June 15, 2013
Boston Cannons vs. Charlotte Hounds
A few months back, a group of die-hard Charlotte fans known as The Royal Legion of the Hound spent a considerable amount of time twitter-beefing with their Boston counterparts, the CannonBall Busters. I’m not sure if they’ve worked out some sort of wager on this game, but I fully expect them to, especially now that someone has butted in and started instigating. You’re welcome.
Regardless, fan club chirping is just the undercard in this marquee matchup; so here’s the main event: during the offseason, Sam Adams became the official beer of the Charlotte Hounds. That’s right: Sam Adams, the Boston-based beer named after the Boston-born patriot, is now rolling with the Hounds. That seems like a major coup, but in all likelihood, it’s just a coincidence. People all over the country drink Sam Adams, I’m sure nobody even thought about the Cannons. Oh wait, what’s this? They’re having a Sam Adams look-alike contest at the game? That’s just cold-blooded. Unless the Cannons can lock down pulled pork and sweet tea endorsement deals, this game is advantage Charlotte right out the gate.
Connor tells me Boston is a city of pride, so you can bet Jon Hayes and crew (Waltham’s finest) won’t take kindly to this Boston bashing.
June 22, 2013
Rochester Rattlers vs. Hamilton Nationals
I can’t say for sure how MLL and Boca Raton, Florida got together. I heard Casey Powell fixed them up. Anyway, last summer MLL visited for the All Star game; pretty casual, no pressure, you know, just for fun. They hit it off, and it turns out they’re interested in seeing each other again, so Rochester and Hamilton are coming to check things out.
If there’s still a connection, things might be getting serious. They’re talking about making it official and even getting a place down there, but a lot depends on how things go this time around. Now, this sort of thing takes a big show of faith, so don’t front like you’re interested if you’re not ready for a serious commitment, Boca; MLL’s been hurt in the past.
July 4, 2013
New York Lizards vs. Denver Outlaws
It’s become one of Major League Lacrosse’s great traditions, and attendance-wise, the biggest game of the year. Every year since joining the league, the Denver Outlaws have hosted a game on Independence Day weekend, and every year they’ve broken their previous attendance record, from almost 16,000 fans in 2007 to 30,128 last season. When you consider it’s the only game on the schedule that day, and many of us will be couch-bound and nursing a cookout coma by the time it starts up, you’ve got a perfect storm that results in what’s often one of the most talked-about games of the season.
Need something more? How about this: it’s the return of University of Denver product (and former Outlaw) Mark Matthews, making his first trip back since being traded to the Lizards the night of the MLL draft. Mark Matthews vs. Lee Zink (or former Pioneer teammate Dillon Roy)? Even if you’re still grilling, I’d grab a to-go plate and get in front of a television if I were you.
Budding rivalries. Superstar teams. Expanding the league to new, promising markets. There’s so much drama in the MLL, and while some games come complete with their own subplots, the new stories will continue to write themselves as the season rolls on. So watch and enjoy, it’s going to be an interesting summer.