Reunited and it feels so good! MLL action is back and after nearly six-straight hours of professional lacrosse we have a lot to digest.
Some guys got their first shot at putting their names on the map, other’s (well, one guy) took the field 20 years after their debut. With such a wide range of talent, backgrounds and experience on display on opening day of the 2020 Major League Lacrosse season, it was truly a refreshing jolt of life into the dormant lacrosse world.
Take the time interpret the first day of MLL competition with us, because this week is only going to get better.
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MLL Standings after Day 1
Big Game Alert
- Andrew Kew (CHE) 6 Goals
- Colin Burke (NY) 3 Goals
- Connor O’Hara (NY) 3 Goals, 1 Assist
- Alex Spring (NY) 11 GBs, 1 Assist
- Randy Staats (BOS) 1 Goal, 4 Assists
- Ryan Lee (DEN) 4 goals, 1 Assist
- Tom Rigney (DEN) 4 Caused Turnovers
- Christian Knight (DEN) Save percentage: 75%, 3GA
Messing with Rubber
One major glaring change that was apparent in all three games was the ball.
No, I’m not talking about the color change away from orange. The change in texture this year had a noticeable affect on the actual game. It was said on the broadcast that players were seeing long passes go “sailing” high with this new Pro S1 ball from Signature Lacrosse in practices.
For the most part, this was not a big deal.
You could see it in offensive sets when making a pass, but it was manageable. Players were routinely jumping or reaching to catch an off-target throw, but that also felt a bit like user error. Where it really showed was in the clearing game. Cross field passes and goalie outlets were going out of bounds at a rate I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. This was common in the first half of every single game. The fact that it improved in the second half suggests it may not be an issue going forward, but it is something to watch.
Chesapeake Bayhawks 16, Philadelphia Barrage 11
Even though star-studded Chesapeake is the reigning champion and they won this game by five, the was not as simple as it seems. Early on, this game was all Philadelphia on both ends of the field. Bandana-clad Tommy Palasek got things rolling for the Barrage, but Mark Evanchick & Co. on defense may have been the story. They were smothering Lyle Thompson, as much as possible by mortal long poles. Evanchick was a blanket, but his support were quick to help and ensure Thompson really wasn’t able to initiate anything.
As the game wore on, Chesapeake learned where their options were. Nate Solomon showed a newfound confidence with a flair for highlight plays. This was present in flashes at Syracuse, but missing in Solomon’s journeyman rookie year in 2019. In contrast, Colin Heacock and Tyson Gibson at the midfield were winning matchups, but did not have quick trigger when they did. Opportunities disappear quickly due to hesitation.
Anything could have gone wrong because the story of the game, Andrew Kew, would have nonchalantly picked up the slack. Earning Player of the Game honors following his six goal effort, he was a player that just could not be contained. Able to win his individual matchup, beat the slide, and finish, he was playing at a different speed. On offense, he was running a clinic on backside rips off the misdirection. His outside game is just as smooth as his ability to finish tight.
Combining Kew’s tear on the offensive end with Brian Phipps‘ aggressive crease presence, the champs were able find their legs and show off the team we thought they were.
Mark Matthews ability to bend time is going to kill or carry any Barrage momentum. His bubbling presence draws a lot of attention, but his second gear speed can catch even the wiliest of veterans sleeping. He’s going to dodge, cut and even sub at his own pace, but at any given game he can go off and make goal scoring seem like throwing beachballs into the ocean.
Philadelphia still looks like a playoff team, but they have a little more work to do first.
Boston Cannons 16, New York Lizards 14
The first half of this game did not open up like I expected at all.
New York absolutely dominated Boston and had the Cannons playing on their heels. The Boston playmakers on offense were just not able to do anything consistently. Early plays and even the eventual game-winner from Mark Cockerton were encouraging, but Bryce Wasserman was the man to turn to when Boston needed something. Boston never stopped looking to make things happen, like Randy Staats forcing a Cockerton quick stick on the crease, but they weren’t always working.
There were still options. Boston has a team built to run deep.\
But even in the second half, Boston never really got their offense moving the way it should be in theory. Last year, with much of the same personnel, they were able to perfect a high-ball movement offense that really allowed players with the box background to thrive. There are glimmers of this, but they need time together. Unfortunately in this event, time is not something you are afforded to rely on.
New York actually had some middies that were showing off. Colin Burke and Nicky Galasso combined for five points in the first half alone. The Lizards were also doing a great job at drawing penalties from the Cannons, giving them multiple man-up opportunities, going two-of-four while man-up early on. The other bright spot for the Lizards was Mark Andrejack‘s performance on face-offs. He was giving New York chance after chance and even scoring off a win in the second frame.
Even though Boston won this game, they shouldn’t be feeling any more comfortable than they were yesterday. This team needs work on offense and their day off on Sunday is not much time to iron out those wrinkles. New York is almost playing with house money and it shows in their edge. They are going to be a threat to every team they play. Do not underestimate the Lizards.
Denver Outlaws 18, Connecticut Hammerheads 6
The nightcap game was also the least competitive of the day.
Denver jumped out to an early lead and just never gave anything back. Connecticut struggled to really figure out just what they were doing this year. Not every play can be “feed Bubba Voigt and see what happens.” They have more talent than that, Cody Redziewicz actually led the team in points, but they really had a tough time getting anything going on offense. The anticipation surrounding the breakout of No. 2 pick Michael Kraus can just keep mounting, because with zero goals or assists from one shot is almost like he never took the field in the first place. Hopefully this is more of a failure to launch in game one as opposed to longterm foreshadowing for Connecticut,
On defense, it was even tougher.
The Outlaws offense of “feed Ryan Lee and see what happens” was actually working to an alarming degree.
John Grant Jr. started at attack before stepping back to the sidelines for the second half. When they show the montage of his old plays, it also made apparent that he has definitely slowed down. He’s not going to run up the wing on an invert, take his guy down the alley and cut inside with the ball. You might not even get him to chase a loose ball after a long run around the goal. What he will do is setup a great pick game behind the net, and when he has the ball, lower his shoulder and give his defender one of the most physical bull dodges they’ll ever deal with.
What Junior lacks in speed he makes up for in vision and accuracy. No defender can take him as a pure passer, but everyone off ball as to make sure absolutely no window exists. He’s still a threat every time the ball is nearby and he doesn’t need to look to see the full picture.
Most impressively with Denver was actually the defensive unit. Michael Rexrode, Andrew Newbold, and Tom Rigney headline the long poles, along with Charlie Hayes at short stick. This unit was terrifying for 60-straight minutes. Not just in individual defense, but they limited options, picked off passes, were ferocious on ground balls, and were excellent in transition. With so much newness in that group, they were outstanding in game one.
Denver rocked two goalies that proved more than reliable to backstop this team for the next week. Connecticut isn’t quite as fortunate. The Hammerheads brought two unproven net-minders and their choice on opening night, Sean Sconone, was lackluster at best. 14 saves would seem notable if 18 balls didn’t find twine. Why they didn’t rip the bandaid off at halftime, down 10-3, is a mystery for now. For their sake, hopefully Kris Alleyne gets the call tomorrow and sees a lot less rubber on national television
Two spicy matchups. Neither New York or Philadelphia wants to, or really can afford to, go 0-2. Denver and Chesapeake looked like the clear two best teams on Day 1.
If the Barrage can play their first half defense for an an entire game against Denver, they have a chance to pull off this win. That’s just a chance. They will also need some serious support from their attack to make a few more plays and hope the Outlaws get complacent after their first run.
New York’s success weighs on the shoulders of the attack group. They will need to step their production up early and take some pressure off the midfield to pull off this win.
MLL Gallery – Day 1