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2020 MLL Season Preview: Philadelphia Barrage

Major League Lacrosse is set to descend on Annapolis, Maryland on July 18 to kick off their 20th season in a tournament format. Pro Lacrosse Talk is covering every team and how they’ll measure up in Maryland.

The Philadelphia Barrage might have the most appropriate team name in all sports. This is an offense that is going to relentlessly come at you from opening faceoff to final whistle. They were so loaded on that end last year that they lost Christian Mazzone and TJ Comizio to the PLL, traded away Bryan Cole and Randy Staats, and they still bring back enough weapons to be arguably the best offensive team in the league. They’re that loaded.

Tommy Palasek doesn’t get enough credit in the lacrosse world; he’s been playing a high level for years and had as many points last year as Rob Pannell (63), which was second best in the league. Shayne Jackson, now reigning NLL MVP, returns, as does Brendan Sunday and Mark Matthews. Those trades I mentioned before turned into draft selections, which Philly spent on big athletic midfielders and bolstering the defense. If they can play with consistency on the defensive end, they really don’t have any weaknesses.

Strengths

Offensive Talent

This team will fill the score book, you can count on that. Like noted above, the roster is packed with talent. Tommy Palasek, Shayne Jackson, Mark Matthews, Brendan Sunday, the newly added Kyle Marr, and that’s just the attack. Don’t sleep on Colin Minicus either, a late round pick from Amherst who averaged 85 points his first three years, and was over 20 in just four games before the season ended.

Some of these guys can run at the midfield, joining players like Tim Barber and draftee Jon Mazza. Philly can hurt you from all spots with all sorts of players, and there really isn’t a defense in the league with the 6v6 depth to match up well with them. More than that, they have Alex Woodall, one of the best faceoff specialists in all of lacrosse, taking draws. The Barrage have the ability to score goals in bunches playing make it take it. Philly acquired a ton of draft capital in the last offseason and some of those picks (Mark Evanchick, Jon Mazza in particular) will be in major roles immediately.

Weaknesses

6-on-6 Defense

The organization on defense, particularly in late game scenarios, really stung this team last year. They have an all-star goalie in Chris Madalon, and the Defensive Player of the Year in Liam Byrnes, but still struggled at times last year. They spent their top draft pick on defenseman Mark Evanchick out of Penn, one of the top pro prospects in this year’s class and a physically gifted on ball defender. That should hopefully improve the defense of the Barrage, but they’ll also need newly acquired PT Ricci to have an impact at the LSM spot. If it all comes together for the Barrage on the defensive end, they really will have no weak spots on the field. If not, it could be another summer of absolutely superb offense, but without the postseason results.

Tommy Palasek prepares for 2020 after finishing the 2019 season tied for second in points with 63. (Photo courtesy of MLL)

Player to Watch

James Wittmeyer

The Barrage had the league’s top SSDM last year in TJ Comizio, who is now departed for the PLL. They also lost Christian Mazzone, and Spencer Ford clearly approached the draft looking to shore up his defense and add size and athleticism at midfield.

Wittmeyer is probably not a guy you’ve heard of. He’s a 6’2, 200lb SSDM that’s actually a converted attackman, playing his college ball at Mercyhurst. A freak of an athlete, Wittmeyer could step in and wow people at SSDM. He’s got some very large Comizio sized shoes to fill, and that makes the spot all the more important. Keep an eye on him and other two-way middies like Carlson Miliken, as how they handle the defensive end will be huge for the Barrage. 

Most Intriguing Matchup

Barrage vs Outlaws, July 19

A strong faceoff specialist can at times be the difference between winning and losing. The Barrage and Outlaws have the two best not just in the league, but the sport. Alex Woodall and Max Adler will do battle quite a few times in this game too, as both teams have strong offenses, and games played in such a condensed schedule could get a bit more hectic. The Barrage believe so much in Woodall that they didn’t even roster a backup for the tournament, while the Outlaws list Casey Dowd as a secondary option. Philly is an offense that will thrive when it gets extra opportunities, and the best way for the Outlaws to defend them might really be Max Adler.

Order Major League Life: Why Major League Lacrosse Players, Coaches, and Fans Share a Passion for a League that Often Goes Overlooked

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Dan Arestia is a lacrosse fanatic first, writer second. He is a frequent contributor to Lacrosse Playground and has been published on College Crosse and Inside Lacrosse.

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