Pro outdoor lacrosse season is nearly upon us. Major League Lacrosse will be kicking off training camp and their tournament event in Annapolis in less than a week, and that will conclude with an MLL Championship game on July 25. Lacrosse will be on live TV for the first time since March with games for MLL on ESPN+ and ESPN2. All of those new fans tuning in probably have a team or two in the big four sports, and the good news is that that fandom can help us figure you out who your team should be!
In the MLL, you may just pick geography. With teams in six large markets already, you may decide to be a Barrage fan just because you live in Philly, or a Lizards fan because you’re a New Yorker, etc. But in today’s world, geography makes less and less difference for fans, particularly of a younger generation who just want to see their favorite stars play. So if you’re new to lacrosse, here’s a handy look at each pro team and who they resemble in the sports you may be a bit more familiar with.
Just going to lean right into it, the Cannons have a ton of firepower. They made a ton of moves in the offseason, absolutely loading up on offensive talent. This offense lost Zed Williams to the PLL, but still will send out Bryce Wasserman, Mark Cockerton, Bryan Cole, Randy Staats, Kyle Jackson—the list goes on. They also have the best SSDM in the league in Zach Goodrich.
They did lose Ryland Rees to the PLL, and PT Ricci via trade, but this defensive group in front of Nick Marrocco can still hold its own. Jason Brewster is a solid addition from UMBC, Matt Gilray comes over from Denver and can be an impact LSM, and Scott Hooper is athletic enough to push transition. On paper the defense may not sound all that sexy, but they’ll more than get the job done. To be honest, they can probably play just slightly above average and have no problem consistently winning games 16-13 or something like that.
They have to be in the title picture just based on the strength of their roster alone, and the additions they made took an excellent offense and bolstered it.
This is your team if you like: Golden State Warriors, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Red Sox
All Bayhawks discussion really begins by acknowledging that Lyle Thompson continues to exist and be the best player in MLL, if not in the world. Thompson’s college career is the stuff of legend, with a Barry-Sanders-at-Oklahoma-State level of production. Thompson had 400 points in his four years at Albany. When someone has a 100 point season in college, that’s considered a serious achievement for the most elite of players. Lyle averaged that.
The rest of this team is not to be overlooked though. Callum Crawford and star in the making Andrew Kew join Lyle on attack, and Colin Heacock gives them the opportunity to make some matchup nightmares for defenses. This is a team with a player who is so decidedly the best in the league, other very excellent players don’t get the press they should. This group is a blend of veterans who are still excellent players (CJ Costabile), young players breaking out in a serious way (Kew), and the best player, by far, in the league (Lyle).
This is lacrosse’s version of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani for the LA Angels.
This is your team if you like: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Lakers, Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning Era)
The new(?) kids on the block, the former Dallas Rattlers now reside in Connecticut. The Hammerheads made quite a few moves in the offseason, acquiring Will Sands from Boston being the big one. Sands is one of the best feeding attackmen in pro lacrosse, regardless of league. His presence has the potential to elevate Bradley Voigt’s production tremendously. Joining those two is Michael Kraus, hometown hero and second overall pick. This is an offense that can do some special things.
The defense got absolutely torn up, as Craig Chick, Jake Pulver, Donny Moss and Eli Salama all headed to the PLL. They keep one of the best goalies in the league in Sean Sconone, but this group will need to figure out how they’re replacing three outstanding defenders, and they’ll need to do it fast. In the meantime, might as well run and gun with your fancy new toys on offense, like you just acquired DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona Cardinals fans, here’s your squad.
This is your team if you like: Arizona Cardinals, Portland Trailblazers, Washington Nationals
The Denver Outlaws are one of those teams that’s always going to be in the race. They’re a well run organization, draft well, and this year’s team is really no different. The challenge is of course replacing the two world beaters this team had in Zach Currier and Dillon Ward, both off to the PLL, as are defensemen Eli Gobrecht and Finn Sullivan.
Max Adler is still the best faceoff specialist in the league, and John Grant Jr will be playing this year (he says it’s his last) and surely wowing us despite being 45-years-old. It seems like the Outlaws have never really been bad. There are solid players all over the field, but none that will really blow you away with highlight reel plays (fully prepared to eat my words on this when Daniel Bucaro suits up).
This is a steady organization, with a large and loyal fanbase, quietly marching on towards the next title which never seems all that far away. Cheeseheads, go west.
This is your team if you like: Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Antonio Spurs
New York Lizards
The New York Lizards are in a rebuild. It’s totally fair to say it. The launch of the PLL was particularly harsh on the Lizards roster as a number of stars left for the new league. The Lizards biggest star that stayed, Rob Pannell, made the jump this past offseason. Dylan Molloy is with the Lizards after initially leaving and then coming back, but this is a team that has a lot of roster work to do. They unfortunately missed a bit in the draft, selecting TD Ierlan first overall, who returned to school, Colin Burke third overall, who is on the roster, and Charlie Trense 7th overall, who isn’t on the roster for this summer, nor is Sean New who opted for the PLL. They stole Andrew Pettit late, but this is still the team that looks most likely to be drafting first overall again next spring.
At one time, this team was as loaded as loaded could be, with MVP players like Paul Rabil, Pannell, Greg Gurenlian and others making them a perennial contender at worst, championship winner at best. Now, they’re in the midst of trying to get back to those days with some solid pieces to build on for the future. Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Kukoc and company may be gone, but better days are coming.
This is your team if you like: Chicago Bulls, Montreal Canadiens, Las Vegas Raiders
Oh the offensive power. What a monster. Last summer this team (then the Blaze), was a juggernaut. Tommy Palasek had as many points as Rob Pannell. Shayne Jackson just won MVP in the NLL. Brendan Sunday has a howitzer. Mark Matthews is still bullying past people with remarkable stickwork and finishing ability. And that’s just some of the guys back this year. They will, once again, pile up the points this summer.
The other end of the field was inconsistent to say the least. Chris Madalon is an all-star goalie and Liam Byrnes was Defensive Player of the Year, but those two can only do so much in a 6-on-6 game. The Barrage drafted Mark Evanchick which should help, but the defensive end is going to be the big question mark for this team. On the offensive end, it’s James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the Houston Rockets just scoring like crazy. On the defensive end, well, I guess we’ll see.
The franchise is returning for the first time since 2008 to satisfy a fan base that has been starving for a title since 2007, which is an eternity in pro lacrosse terms. Do they have enough to claim the title this season?
This is your team if you like: Houston Rockets, Chicago Cubs, Dallas Mavericks