The first week of MLL play started with a slate of four games for opening weekend. And while every team played, there were two teams that played twice (New York and Denver), with mixed results. The league opener on Friday saw New York drop a close one at home to Denver 11-9 before traveling up to Boston to lose again 13-12 to the Cannons. On Sunday, the Outlaws were down in Atlanta for a 14-12 loss and the Bayhawks went out to Dallas for a road win, 14-11 in the Star.
It’s also safe to say that there was a mixture of relief and nerves for the MLL going into this weekend. They have never had an offseason full of this much turmoil. Over 150 players left for the PLL, three teams were shuttered, their broadcasting rights were changed, there are two new stadiums, and there was a completely new rebranding effort. I might be missing something, too. But when that first broadcast started in New York and the first faceoff whistle blew, the 2019 season’s focused shifted to the field.
So the big question is what did we learn about the MLL in this weekend? Well with so much talent concentrated on the Lizards squad, we definitely learned that it does not lead to automatic success. With four of the top offensive weapons in the league in Rob Pannell, Mark Matthews, Kevin Crowley, and Dylan Molloy, they produced the fewest goals of the weekend in their opener. But despite their opening losses, this is not a group to get overly pessimistic on. With an entire dodging attack, they just need to figure out how to play off each other and then you’ll see plenty of points on the scoreboard. But they were still trying to do too much solo. Adding Crowley in up top, those are four players that love to have the ball in their stick. But there’s only one ball.
The defending Champs from Denver seemed pretty good in their opener, but still dropped the game to Atlanta. They were one of the more known teams with so many returning pieces, but their breakout star was Ryan Lee out of RIT. Lee was also great this winter for the Colorado Mammoth, and that success is continuing outdoors. He had five goals in the Atlanta loss, but where Denver’s offense is lacking is a certified feeder. Zach Currier led the team in assists on the weekend with four. From the midfield. They have plenty of scorers, but they need someone who can be the distributor going forward.
For Atlanta and Boston, they both had home openers in brand new stadiums to different levels of success. Atlanta moved to Grady Stadium, closer to Metro Atlanta than their previous home in Kennesaw by about 30 minutes. That’s still close enough that most fans could make the drive, but far enough that they will still need a new local base. The result? 1,523 fans, which is definitely a disappointing number compared to other team, but it’s on par with their 2018 average. For Boston, things could not have gone much better in their new home. They opened with the Commonwealth’s Governor in attendance for a pregame ceremony and announced a sellout crowd, and reported a final tally of 5,200. Since their 2018 average was 3,700, breaking 5,000 is definitely a welcome sight since they never broke that mark last season. Adding to this that they were also going head to head with the PLL opener in Gillette which unofficially had single game numbers comparable or even lower than these, it was a major win for the Cannons.
Not to be forgotten are the Rattlers, who are rebuilding more than any of the other five MLL teams. If they want to maintain their culture from previous teams, they need to leverage of all positions the SSDM spot. Donny Moss and Mike Lazore are the only two long term upstate New York centric Rattlers remaining. But now they are also sporting a few native Texans on the team in starting roles, and a host of talented rookies. They pressed the loaded Lyle Thompson-led Bayhawks, but could not come away with a win. The Bayhawks proved just how dangerous they’re going to be going forward as well. Thompson had a strong four goal debut, but Nick Mariano may have been the most welcome surprise with his hat trick.
MLL Week 2 Preview
As the league moves into the second week, it has to continue to make improvements. The opening night jitters are behind them, so every team needs to continue working all these new pieces in together. New York is not going to stay winless long, but they will not get their chance this week. There are just two games on the slate, and neither involves the Lizards or Bayhawks. Saturday is rematch time for Atlanta and Denver, being in Atlanta once again. We’ll see who studied up on more film this week. It’s also a good attendance test to see if a Saturday night game draws better than early Sunday evening. On Sunday is Boston travelling down to Dallas. The Cannons’ defense was actually impressive in Week 1, so they will be looking to continue that rebuild. Their offense has enormous potential and was described by one player as “basically a box lacrosse offense”. If they get that clicking and continue to work on pieces like Shawn Evans who was not on the game day roster, things will be very interesting for Bean Town. Get pumped for MLL’s Week 2.