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Major League Lacrosse Week 5 Preview

“It’s time to walk the walk.”

This quote came a few days ago from Lizards head coach Joe Spallina, and while referring to his team, nothing provides a more accurate summary of week 5 in the MLL, than the above. Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, these teams (which the exception of a few NCAA players taking some hard-earned time off) essentially are who they are. No more waiting for NLL guys, no more waiting for rookies to finish school, no more excuses.

After you read this post, check out The Most Interesting MLL Games Of The Year.

Charlotte Hounds at New York Lizards

The wait is over. After a twelve month, two continent, 102-point wait, 2012’s first overall draft pick (and 2013 Tewaaraton Award winner) Rob Pannell is finally suiting up for the Lizards. Not only is he joining the team this Friday, but head coach Joe Spallina has handed him the keys, and Pannell will be quarterbacking the offense right away.

The way he’s been playing Berger, Palasek and Gibson, Spallina’s steadily blurring the lines between midfield and attack; it’s often just guys who stay on one side of the field versus guys who don’t, which must be an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses to game plan against. Jojo Marasco may play as well, and Max Seibald could be back the next week.

Speaking of which, Charlotte Hounds head coach Mike Cerino is deeply concerned with his team’s defense (particularly in the restart and transition game), and he’s stressed that the Hounds are only going to go as far as their poles will allow them. In order to address these problems, the Hounds have activated Bryant LSM Mason Poli and D Michael McCormack, who (being a Yale grad) probably has as good a scouting report on Pannell as anyone possibly can.

Poli and McCormack are talented defensemen, and it certainly appears that there are available positions to be filled, but New York is a tricky roster to face in your MLL debut. On the other hand, Charlotte isn’t the only defense with cause for concern heading into this matchup; while the Lizards have allowed only 38 goals this season (second-fewest in the league), the Hounds have scored 51, good for third in the league, and have demonstrated the ability to put up big numbers from either attack or midfield. With Charlotte’s full roster in attendance, a shootout is certainly not out of the question.

Boston Cannons at Denver Outlaws

The Boston Cannons are a perfect 5-0 in Denver. The Denver Outlaws have won 10 straight regular season games. Clearly, something has got to give.

Not only are the Cannons coming off of a win against Chesapeake (with Chris Eck, Ryan Boyle and Paul Rabil all turning in their best performances of the year), but they get Jordan Burke back in goal. Meanwhile, the Outlaws already beat the Cannons once this year, with Drew Snider and Zack Greer combining for nine of Denver’s 14 goals. If Anthony Kelly can win a majority of his faceoffs (he went 16-27 when the teams met earlier this season), there should be more than enough opportunity to spread the scoring around this weekend.

Was moving Rabil to attack a temporary (albeit brilliant) adjustment for the Chesapeake defense, or a wave of the future? If you’re head coach Steve Duffy, do you keep him on half the field for all of the game, or all of the field for half of it? The activation of Will Manny and Cameron Flint could help make Duffy’s decision a bit easier.  Former Loyola LSM Scott Ratliff has been activated for the Cannons as well, just in time to help contain midfield threats like Jeremy Sieverts or Terry Kimener, who’s one of only four players to register a goal in every game this season.

Hamilton Nationals at Chesapeake Bayhawks

I’m not going to lie to you: I honestly have no clue what’s going to happen in this game, let alone who is going to win.

It’s potentially the most intriguing matchup of the week. Both teams employ offensive midfielders who are skilled scorers and distributors, short-stick defensive midfielders who aren’t afraid to shoot, and physical defenders who rarely shy from contact (I assume you saw that Tucker Durkin video).

Hamilton is undefeated, and Chesapeake’s lone blemish is an overtime loss in Boston. Are Brett Queener and Brodie Merrill going to turn it into a track meet, or will Drew Westervelt and John Grant Jr control the tempo from the wing and x, respectively? Seriously, I can offer no clues here.

A Chesapeake win will likely come down to how well they handle Hamilton’s two-man and off-ball play. If the Bayhawks can fight through Hamilton’s constant picks and screens, they’ll have a much better chance at stopping Joe Walters, and as a result, Kevin Crowley (Walters has already assisted on four Crowley goals despite having played in only two games).

By the way, I know the Bayhawks run a well-balanced offense, and everyone gets their turn, but has anyone seen Kyle Dixon’s shot lately? He scored three two-pointers in the first game of the season and hasn’t scored a single goal since. Seems like he’s about due.

Ohio Machine at Rochester Rattlers

Provided they turned it off at halftime, the Ohio Machine can look at their tape from last week and see a team fully capable of going toe to toe with the undefeated Nationals. Add that to the fact that their opponent is coming off of a 20-7 loss to Denver and there’s a chance the Machine are feeling pretty good about their chances this weekend.

Steele Stanwick is coming off of a career-high five point performance, their rookies (especially Marcus Holman, who scored four points in his debut) looked comfortable with the MLL’s accelerated pace and difficulty and they’ve activated Chase Carraro to improve upon their league-low 37% faceoff percentage.

Aside from Crotty’s award-winning week 3 performance, the Rochester attack hasn’t quite produced as expected, with Mark Millon and the Leveille brothers accounting for four points each this season. Ohio’s Brian Phipps is slated to start in goal for the first time this season, and a rusty goalie could be just what Rochester’s attack needs to get their production on par with their lofty expectations, something especially important if Kyle Hartzell can take Jordan Macintosh or Matt Striebel out of the equation.

With two games tonight, one tomorrow and another on Sunday, make sure you check out our TV schedule on the homepage so you don’t miss anything. Enjoy the games and we’ll see you next week for the recap.