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Team USA vs. MLL All-Stars 2014 MLL All-Star Game Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

MLL All-Star Roster Revealed – Process, Snubs & Opportunity

The 2018 MLL All-Star roster dropped, as many impatiently waited. Not just an ordinary team, this squad is testing Team USA!

Late Monday night, the MLL teased that they would be announcing their 2018 MLL All-Star roster Tuesday morning. So, of course many of us were (im)patiently waiting for the press release to drop. After all, this is not just an ordinary all-star team. This is the squad that is testing Team USA!

It just about two weeks, the MLL All-Star team is set to play Team USA on June 28th, and Harvard Stadium. This has become a staple for Team USA in their final prep before heading to the world games. Short of actually playing team Canada, nobody else aside from the MLL has been able to consistently give the US team such top to bottom competition.

It’s important to remember what this game is, though. It is not a John Danowski “here are the 23 MLL players who will test my team the best” roster. It’s not a “let’s prep USA in the best way possible” roster, either. This is an MLL All-Star Roster. And that’s where the rub came once the press release dropped. So, before we dive into it too much, let’s take a look at who made the 30 spot squad:

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Player

MLL Team

Position

Kevin Rice

Atlanta Blaze

Attack

Will Manny

New York Lizards

Attack

Chris Cloutier

Denver Outlaws

Attack

Kieran McArdle

Florida Launch

Attack

Eric Law

Denver Outlaws

Attack

Davey Emala

Ohio Machine

Attack

Ben Reeves

Dallas Rattlers

Attack

Justin Guterding

Ohio Machine

Attack

Will Sands

Boston Cannons

Attack/Midfield

Matt Dunn

Dallas Rattlers

Defense

Brian Karalunas

Ohio Machine

Defense

Matt Landis

New York Lizards

Defense

Michael Manley

Dallas Rattlers

Defense

Brandon Mullins

Boston Cannons

Defense

Scott Ratliff

Atlanta Blaze

Defense

Kyle Bernlohr

Ohio Machine

Goalie

Austin Kaut

Florida Launch

Goalie

Matt Abbott

Chesapeake Bayhawks

Midfield

Connor Buczek

Florida Launch

Midfield

Mike Chanenchuk

Charlotte Hounds

Midfield

Zach Currier

Denver Outlaws

Midfield

Isaiah Davis-Allen

Chesapeake Bayhawks

Midfield

Kyle Harrison

Ohio Machine

Midfield

Sergio Perkovic

Boston Cannons

Midfield

Jeremy Sieverts

Denver Outlaws

Midfield

Austin Sims

Atlanta Blaze

Midfield

Joel Tinney

New York Lizards

Midfield

Joe Walters

New York Lizards

Midfield

Stephen Kelly

Chesapeake Bayhawks

Midfield/FO

Joe Nardella

Atlanta Blaze

Midfield/FO

First of all, that’s a HUGE squad. 30 players at the pro level is going to create some short shifts for these guys that are used to entire games. Especially at attack and defense. The first thing you see when reading down the list are Kevin Rice, Joel Tinney, and then Chris Cloutier. Gut reaction: this is prep for Canada. Actual reaction: it’s not. While Rice is certainly in the running to play for Team Canada and is certainly an All-Star, Cloutier is not on the 34 man roster for Canada. In fact, out of the 30 players on this huge roster, only Rice, Currier, and Tinney are in the Team Canada Pool.

If you were actually prepping for Team Canada based on who has played in MLL games, you’d have:

Rice, Currier, and Tinney, along with Kevin Crowley, Mark Cockerton, Josh Byrne, Wes Berg, Matt Gilray, Jordan MacIntosh, Ian MacKay, Alec Tulett, Dillon Ward, and of course Brodie Merrill. There. 12 names from the Canada pool to fill in a roster around. Going through that list, I could honestly see Byrne as a bit of a head scratcher for why he’s not there. But, that’s a different story.

Not the World Games

The reason it’s important to keep the scope of all of this in mind is to remember that this is an MLL event. It’s not a US Lacrosse event. US Lacrosse has hosted their own scrimmages against MLL players over the past few years. They’ve also played college teams. These events were held in Florida and Baltimore, and they were used to choose the team you’ll see out on the field in the Red, White, and Blue. If this were another US Lacrosse event, it would fit their mold, they’d play FIL rules, and the opposing roster would be all USA cuts, a bunch of Canadian players, or other international players like Callum Robinson, Max Seibald, Max Adler, and Randy Staats. But that isn’t what we have. This is an MLL event, with likely the MLL rules, in the MLL’s back yard.

Team USA vs. MLL All-Stars 2014 MLL All-Star Game Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

When I reached out to the league regarding how this team was selected, they replied with; “We have a voting process with coaches and GMs and that decides the majority of players.” That’s obviously just part of the story, as any All-Star team selection is.

Here’s what we don’t know, which is an unfortunately longer list than we’d like, but it’s the world we live in. Who was on the ballot?

We know the pool was smaller due to Team USA travel team players and their alternates. What was the raw vote total? I’m not aware of any sport where this is ever public, anyway. So we don’t know where individual players stand. How many players from each team make it? We know Ohio leads the way with 5; Atlanta, New York, and Denver have 4; Florida, Dallas, Boston, and Chesapeake with 3; and Charlotte is a single pick. Oddly enough, these numbers are not skewed to be the compliment to the USA squad. For example: Atlanta and New York both have 4 All-Stars. But, Atlanta has a single USA player (Liam Byrnes), while New York has 7.

Conflict of…

The other factor is availability. Through some highly technical analysis (reading Twitter), I noticed Patrick McEwen and Kyle Devitte from Inside Lacrosse were able to reach out to players and see how this factored in. Players like Matt Rambo who seemingly deserved an All-Star nod had a conflict with this date. Whereas Dylan Molloy (League leading goal scorer) had this date open. Then you have Jordan Wolf and Ned Crotty of Team USA elevating Ty Thompson (#2 in the MLL in goals) as someone that should be listed. If we look at this strictly from a team perspective, it seems the Ben Reeves took Ty’s spot despite never playing a game in the MLL and McArdle is in over Molloy? It seems odd. And that’s where the outage was stemming from.

ty thompson

From my perspective, I completely understand and I also agree that the veterans of this league who play from day one and produce at elite levels deserve recognition. That’s why the NFL handles their Pro Bowl nods like they do. The top vote getters are named and recognized, even if they opt not to play for any number of reasons such as recovery from the conference championship, they’re in the Super Bowl, they don’t like Hawaii, injuries, they just don’t want to, etc. They don’t have to even have a good reason. But then other players fill in, they are celebrated by their teams and they have a great week. Both names are remembered as Pro Bowlers.

I’m sure the MLL has their reasoning for this process. And I have to appreciate players like Wolf trying to stand up for a player like Ty Thompson who has spent his entire career producing like few can in the shadows of bigger names. He’s a pure scorer, just like in Albany. He has been grinding away at a career and sits at 25 goals with just a single assist right now. Only one player has more goals, but he has excelled in his role with the Rattlers and is a big reason why they have the team success that they have. Players like that should have some sort of recognition.

Game On

Enough of the snub talk, though. What I really notice when looking at this roster is that it will be an awesome game. The rookies included here like Reeves and Guterding are going to relish this moment. Reeves just had one of the best Mays in recent memory. Being in this game without ever having playing in the MLL is certainly open to criticism, but his skill is not. He was carried deep into USA tryouts and is a known quantity. Guterding put up enormous numbers for Duke under John Danowski, who will not be on the other sideline. Danowski will also be coaching against Mike Manley, whose career with the New York State Police essentially sunk his shot at USA. You also have Joe Nardella facing off against Trevor Baptiste. Nardella has been one of the most consistent FOGOs in the MLL while in the league, but was the collateral damage when the Cannons drafted Baptiste first overall. Nardella was just traded to Atlanta and the two will face off against each other on the same field where Nardella coaches every day.

Kevin Rice Atlanta Blaze MLL
Photo Credit: MLL

You also have Kevin Rice. One of the best examples of “You won’t like me when I’m angry” as you’ll find in lacrosse. Despite huge college numbers, awards, and MLL success where he had an MVP caliber season cut short due to injury, he never had an invite to try out for team USA. That’s fuel to win this game. Matt Abbott is another Syracuse player like Rice who has done nothing but make plays and be an integral part of every team he’s on. I was once told by a coach of his that if he could just clone Abbott and have 10 of him, he’d be fine. Yet, despite his versatility and T-1000 endurance, he was left off the travel USA roster.

I could go on and on for why every player on this MLL roster has a chip on their shoulder. It could be personal, it could be playing for a teammate not selected, or to win a matchup against someone on the other side. But make no mistake, they will be playing hard to win. But, let’s not forget who is on the other side.

Team USA will be two weeks out from the opening ceremonies in Netanya, Israel for the World Championships. For the returning players, their equipment bags had gold face masks on their helmets, but silver medals on the lanyard. Add to this, the reigning gold medal team to the north just announced yesterday that they have reached an agreement and will be sending their planned team over to compete, not using replacement players. This is the first chance this team has to prove they are unquestionably the best field team in the world. Four years ago, it took a last second goal to win by one over the MLL All-Stars, and the results was a silver medal. You can be sure nobody on that team will want to leave anything to chance this time around.

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