The Custodes have arguably the most talented and diverse roster in the European Lacrosse League. Will that be enough to lead them to a playoff victory?The Custodes will be taking on Deutschland Adler this coming Saturday.
Major League Lacrosse, the premier outdoor lacrosse league, announced today that it will place a team in South Florida for the 2014 season. The team will be named the Florida Launch and will be coached by former Denver Outlaws assistant Stan Ross. It will play in Palm Beach County, a location where MLL has enjoyed recent success.
“South Florida has always been a target market for us,” said MLL Commissioner David Gross. “After the 2012 All-Star Game and last year’s exhibition we felt the market was ready for a team and we are confident that bringing the professional game there will help with the continuous growth of the sport.”
MLL used South Florida as a test market in 2012 with the All-Star Game when the Old-School Team defeated the Young Guns in an 18-17 nail-biter at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton. More recently MLL returned to Boca for a Hamilton Nationals home game in which they prevailed over the Rochester Rattlers 17-11 in front of over four thousand fans and paving the way for the first MLL team in South Florida.
A Florida resident, Ross spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Denver Outlaws where he helped the team reach a perfect regular season in 2013.
Before joining the Outlaws’, Ross coached at the United States Naval Academy, where he coordinated both the offense and defense for five years (2007-11). Prior to coaching at Navy, he was the head coach at Butler University from 2004-07 and was an assistant at Towson for seven seasons (98 – 04) under current Outlaws GM Tony Seaman.
“It is an honor to be named the first head coach in Florida Launch history,” said Ross. “I am thankful to the organization and the MLL for allowing me this opportunity to coach a professional team in my home state. Lacrosse is growing rapidly in Florida, and the addition of a local professional team will be a huge catalyst for expansion of our sport in the area. I feel the Florida Launch will be welcomed with open arms by the Florida lacrosse community.”
MLL has also announced that the Hamilton Nationals will not participate in the 2014 season, keeping the league at eight teams for 2014. The club’s 23-man roster will make up the foundation of the Florida Launch.
The Nationals began play in Toronto in 2009 as the first ever Canadian team in the MLL. In its five-year history the club has won a Steinfeld Trophy in 2009 and qualified for Championship Weekend in 2011, falling to the Boston Cannons in the final, and in 2013, losing to the eventual champion Chesapeake Bayhawks in the semifinals.
Ross and the Florida Launch will have a chance to expand its 23-man roster to 40 in the Supplemental Draft to be held December 4, and in the 2014 Collegiate Draft on January 10 at the US Lacrosse National Convention. Fans will be able to follow the Collegiate Draft on the League’s YouTube channel starting at 8:30 p.m.
About Florida Launch
The Florida Launch, Florida’s first Major League Lacrosse team was founded in 2013 and begins its inaugural 2014 season in April. The 2014 MLL regular season runs from April 26 to August 9 with the 2014 MLL Championship August 23. For more information on the Florida Launch, visit www.floridalaunchlacrosse.com, or follow the team on Facebook and Twitter @Florida_Launch.
A lot went right in head coach Joe Spallina’s first year leading the (then) Long Island Lizards. A lot went wrong in his second year with the New York Lizards. Still, the roster (on paper) is littered with MLL All-Stars and difference makers. Another busy off-season of impactful moves saw management address questions at the midfield, bring in another threat on attack, and add some veteran leadership. Here is a unit by unit breakdown of the Lizards roster:
The Rob Pannell-Mark Matthews experiment never panned out during the summer. Both are players that need the ball in their stick to kick start their games. Enter Ned Crotty, the 2011 MLL Rookie of the Year, and one of the more dynamic attackmen in the league. Matthews, meanwhile, was traded to the Rattlers days after the exchange. Pannell & Crotty are similar players, but their ability to share the ball could be more cohesive than the pass and finish combo with Matthews.
Next are the Lizards finishers. The lethal Tommy Palasek is back and should benefit from a second playmaker down low. The Syracuse alum has shown he can create his own opportunities one-on-one against some of the best defenders. Steve Mock will provide a netmouth pressense along with the chemistry he shares with Pannell.
The X-Factor in all of this might be Matt Gibson. He was hampered last season due to injuries, most notably a concussion early in the summer. Losing him hurt New York’s ability to effectively move the ball between the attack and midfield. He can play both positions, but he works best when he is around the goal line extended. His role, like the team, will depend if the roster can become cohesiveness together. If they fall back to isolation offense like last year, then the offense, and the team overall, will struggle to compete.
It was a difficult season for New York’s midfield. Part of the issues stemmed from the lack of a creative middie from up top. Max Seibald was never 100% due to a broken foot suffered in the NLL season followed by a hamstring injury later in the year. Stephen Berger’s second act on Strong Island did not go as planned. Stephen Peyser made his contributions but not enough to cover the loss of Seibald. JoJo Marasco figured out how to play in the pros as New York’s playoff hopes faded. David Earl was the only consistent threat all year, finishing third on the team with 14 goals and five assists.
Twins Kevin and Mike Unterstein were troopers between the lines, sometimes playing without a sub.Both combined for seven goals and 67 ground balls.
But now the midfield has undergone another shake up in the off-season. Gone are Berger and Peyser. Welcome Matt Streibel, John Austin, and Steve DeNapoli.
Streibel has been a concement veteran throughout his time in the pros. He can still provide solid numbers when counted upon, but his leadership could be the best attribute he brings to this young team. Austin, along with Albert Maione, can provide the needed secondary scoring teams are looking for. Chesapeake has shown a deep midfield is a key ingredient for a championship run. Along with a healthy Seibald, and Marasco carries over his strong play from the end of last year, New York should have a stronger offensive presence from up top. It won’t matter though unless the middies can take better care of the ball. While no turnover statistics are kept, New York usually coughed up the ball a lot due to giveaways or shot clock violations.
Meanwhile, Steve DeNapoli’s acquisition could prove to be an underrated move. The Long Island native has quickly emerged as a difference maker at the short stick position. Not only does New York have depth at SSDM, but another speedster that can hastily initiate transition. He joins his Hofstra companions as one of the best rope units in the country.
Greg Gurenlian (three goals, 232-362, 64%) will look to continue his dominance from the face-off dot.
While the offense’s issues did not help the defense, the unit had their own issues they hope to sow up.
LSM Tim Henderson missed 2013 due to his military obligations. His absence impacted the Lizards ability to shutdown opposing midfielders. It also took away depth and toughness from the backfield. The fact that Henderson was on the protected 23-man roster is a good sign he may return this summer. Steve Waldeck bounced back and forth from long stick middie to close defense. He was a hard worker all over the field and even contributed two 2pt-goals. CJ Costabille gave the Lizards a shot in the arm when he jumped into the offense. His four goals and two assists led all long poles in scoring.
It seemed there might have been chemistry issues on defense. Part of that was due to a true #3 defenseman. By seasons’ end, they went through four different players at that position.
Jack Reid may have been one of the bigger disappointments for New York. He never seemed to fit in with the unit. The snarky, tough play he was supposed to bring never stuck with the players. He was not protected on the roster. It is unknown if he will be reacquired.
If there was a bright spot, it was Brian Karalunas. His stellar season earned him a spot in the MLL All-Star Game. He finished with two assists, 33 ground balls, and plenty of caused turnovers. Able to pester the opposition with an active stick, he has developed into a reliable ground ball grabber that can start the transition.
Mike Skudin remains on the roster, but a curious decision to hold onto Dan Hostetler who did not suit up for New York in 2013.
Another factor to New York’s struggles was the mediocre season by goaltender Drew Adams. He had flashes of brilliance but did not have that same flare that we have seen in the past. It did not help he faced so many quality shots inside the arc. His final stat line: 12.34 GAA (seven 2pt goals against) and a .549 save percentage. For New York to bounce back, it all starts in goal with Adams.
Last week I mentioned that lacrosse is often inaccurately referred to as a cousin of hockey. Although the sticks may make for an easy comparison, the motion of the players is completely different. In fact, I’d argue that besides the sticks and their popularity in Canada, lacrosse and hockey have nothing to do with one another.
Hockey players must make split-second decisions with the puck and move it before being dislodged from it. Lacrosse players have the luxury of controlling possession. Hockey’s philosophy is that the quantity of scoring chances matter; throw the puck on net, and something good will happen. In lacrosse you can carefully create quality shots. The strategies used to create these looks are the same strategies used in basketball.
That’s right. The winter sport played on the hardwood – not on the ice – is the closer cousin of lacrosse. Here’s why:
One of the most common offensive formations in basketball is a 1-4 high stack. The point guard is at the top of the arc with two perimeter players on the wing and two big men on the elbows. Here’s what it looks like:
Teams love this formation because it gets the defense on the same plane. From here it is easy to screen for one another and make backdoor cuts. Very often, as described in the image above, the interior players will screen for those on the wing. Lacrosse fans will recognize this as a double mumbo.
The double mumbo is run out of the 1-4-1 set – essentially the same as a 1-4 set. The midfielder at the top of the formation plays the role of the point guard. However, in lacrosse it is more common to see the wing players screen for the men on the crease. Quint Kessenich breaks it down on the whiteboard along with some footage of Duke running it. [The clip is from 2009 – yes, that is Ned Crotty (#22) assisting Justin Turri (#12) on that goal!]
Simple off-ball screens help create open looks in both the high stack and the double mumbo formations. The level nature of the 1-4 and 1-4-1 set makes it difficult for defenses to fight through these screens.
Nobody plays a zone defense better than Syracuse basketball. Jim Boeheim’s squads have had a ton of success with the 2-3 zone throughout the years. Here’s an image from last year’s game between Louisville and Syracuse. Gorgui Dieng is wide open on the elbow – he catches the entry pass and knocks down the jump shot.
Later in this game, the defense collapses on Dieng quicker. Have any idea what happens? Yup. He kicks it to the wing for a wide open three-pointer.
The best way to beat the 2-3 zone is with quick ball movement and a respected high post presence. Oddly enough, that’s the best way to beat lacrosse zones as well. The most common zone defense in lacrosse comes in man-down situations. When the defense is forced to play 5-on-6, everyone needs to move as if they are one unit attached by a string. Here’s an image of Hamilton’s EMO without a man on the crease:
Without a man on the crease, the defense extends out much further. They become more susceptible to cuts to the crease. Offenses will try to bait the defense into extending too far, but here’s a good rule of thumb: If there isn’t a man on the crease now, then there will be soon.
Sometimes extra-man opportunity offenses will put a man on the crease from the start. This opens up the outside shots, just as Dieng’s jump-shooting opened up a three-pointer from the wing against Syracuse. Here’s Hamilton’s EMO with a man on the crease:
Notice how compact the zone is. The defense must account for the man on the crease. Typically, one of the defenders on the weak side will crash down to him. Unless the crease defender is playing man-to-man outside of the zone, this means everyone can potentially defend the crease and must be ready to do so at any time. Basically, everyone is sloughed in – not just the man on the crease. Goaltenders must love seeing Jeremy Sieverts, Mike Sawyer and Steven Brooks with their hands free from 14-yards out…
[Side note: Matt Poskay is the best EMO crease attackman I’ve ever seen. His combination of hands and mid-range shooting make him nearly impossible to defend. Leave him open for a fraction of a second, and he gets a shot off. It’s amazing to watch.]
Pick-and-rolls have always been a huge part of lacrosse. At the collegiate level they are typically run at X. However, Denver enjoyed a lot of success with Zack Greer running side pick-and-rolls this season.
Both as the ball carrier and as the screener, Greer was able to get some great looks in Denver’s offense. In this clip Cannons rookie defenseman Scott Ratliff is unable to get over this screen. Greer gets an easy look from a great shooting area.
Watch Greer here. He is the screener for Terry Kimener. He screens, re-screens and rolls. The end result is another easy look.
In this next clip Greer is the ball-carrier again. Brendan Mundorf sets a hard screen on Josh Hawkins, who looks like he never saw it coming. Hawkins never recovers and Greer scores.
Tucker Durkin (covering Mundorf) is in no position to ‘blue’ or ‘ice’ the screen. No, not this kind of ‘blue.’
This kind of blue. Watch how San Antonio repeatedly denies Chris Paul the opportunity to run a pick-and-roll in this film breakdown by Grantland’s Zach Lowe.
Lacrosse defenses cannot ‘ice’ screens as easily as basketball defenses can, due to the sheer size of the field. Often, screens in lacrosse are intended to create mismatches and put short-stick defensive midfielders on top scorers. It is difficult to deny a screen and keep the matchups you’d like defensively. Major League Lacrosse defenses need to find a way to defend these Greer pick-and-rolls though, even if it means surrendering less-than-favorable matchups. Otherwise, strong shooting midfields will continue to tear them up.
Sometimes the best way to create offense involves no screens or cuts at all. Certain players can put their team on the board via isolation plays. I don’t think I need a video clip to demonstrate isolation basketball; anyone who has ever seen Kobe Bryant play knows what I’m talking about.
Although less frequent than in basketball, isolation plays certainly occur in lacrosse. They come in all shapes and sizes, too. There are the freakishly physical Garrett Thul dodges.
[Side note: Bull-dodge isn’t the correct term for what Thul does here. As a lacrosse community we need to do this man justice and re-name the dodge. Is it a train-dodge? A tank-dodge? (I like the Army implications there!) A truck-dodge? I’m highly skeptical that any animal can display this much power.]
There are also the shifty, nifty, shaky isolation dodges like the one Stephen Berger uses here.
Old-timers might frown upon isolation plays. Yes, it detracts from the ball movement and the flow of the team – but there is no denying that isolation plays can often be a remedy for the stagnant offenses.
Some of the best basketball plays occur when a player like Josh Smith is sleeping on the wing and his man cuts backdoor for an alley-oop. Well, the same happens in lacrosse – except players are even more susceptible to these cuts.
With fifteen yards between the goal line and the end line, offenses have a ton of room to work from in “Gretzky’s office.” Whether the ball is up top, on the wing, in the alley or at X, defenders need to keep their head on a 360-degree swivel.
The size of the field and the rapid circular ball movement open up the backdoor for players like Will Manny…
…and the always-flashy Tim Desko:
I have to mention one major difference: Major League Lacrosse players leave it all on the field every night. Tune into a game, and I promise you won’t see players jogging back on defense. You won’t see Pop benching his three best players because the game has no playoff implications. You won’t hear about Dwight Howard whining. And you definitely won’t see any ticky-tack hand-check fouls. The NBA preaches the ‘ball is life’ mentality; MLL practices it.
Have a question or idea for Joe? E-mail him at email@example.com! Include your first name and hometown. You could be featured in his next mailbag column!
It sure has been a busy couple weeks in the MLL. There have been blockbuster trades and we’re still over a month away from the Collegiate Draft, with the Supplemental Draft just about two weeks out.
Rochester was in the mix of humongous barters with the New York Lizards. Most recently, the Rattlers acquired the big man on attack, Mark Matthews, which sent Steve DeNapoli and a fourth round supplemental pick to the Lizards.
Earlier in the week, the Rochester front office made a deal, with New York, that sent offensive firepowers Ned Crotty and Matt Striebel to dawn the black and green. In trade, the black and gold were reunited with Grant “Big Cat” Catalino.
These were made into two separate transactions. Crotty was exchanged for Catalino, the third overall selection in this years first round collegiate draft and New York’s 2015 first round draft slot. A 2014 fourth round collegiate draft pick and sixth round supplemental draft were in the deal for Striebel, who has played in the league since 2001.
It looks as though the Rattlers are trying to restart the system, picking up multiple draft picks. Sending out two of their best offensive weapons and one of the hardest working d-kids in the game gives off a feeling of reestablishment. The Rats have been in the playoff hunt for a while no, missing the post season over the last two years by the skin of their teeth. The last time Rochester saw the MLL playoffs was back in 2008 when they won the title.
These trades may work in favor of the Rattlers, giving them fresh faces and new blood. Charlotte made it to the MLL championship game in only their second year in the league. Rochester may be following in their footsteps with bringing in fresh out of college guys that will be in great shape and ready to go.
Last years rookie class was a work of art. Mason Poli, Josh Hawkins, Rob Pannell, John Ranagan, Tucker Durkin, Jesse Bernhardt, Mike Sawyer, Logan Schuss, Will Manny, Eric Law and others, made a huge impact for their teams. The senior class heading into this season will have great talent as well. Miles and Ty Thompson (Albany), Jordan Wolf (Duke), Josh Dionne (Duke), Mark Cockerton (Virginia), Alex Love (Hobart), Thomas DeNapoli (Towson), Brandon Mangan (Yale), Kieran Mcardle (Saint John’s), Justin Ward (Loyola), and Tom Schreiber (Princeton) are just a few offensive weapons that Rochester could pick up.
Overall, Rochester looks to be in a good position to get some major picks come January. What they do in the Supplemental draft will give a bit of a better picture of where the organization wants to go heading into the 2014 season.