6/16/10 2:36 PM
Toronto Week 6 Preview
By Redmond Zmudzien
The Toronto Nationals fell victim to a second consecutive one-goal loss on Saturday June 12 at the hands of the Chesapeake Bayhawks. The Nationals are now 0-5 and are slowly fading out of the Major League Lacrosse playoff picture. The Nationals actually played well, holding the first place Bayhawks to a mere 10 goals, but were bested by Chesapeake’s Chris Garrity in the cage, who held Toronto to nine goals. It was another back and forth game with unanswered runs from each side, but again costly turnovers added up and burned Toronto in the end. The Nationals forced the ball inside, not shooting much from outside, which played right into the defense of the Bayhawks.
“When you lose by a goal all mistakes fall in the coulda, shoulda, woulda category,” said Toronto head coach Dave Huntley. “Turnovers, missed loose balls, missed shots, defensive lapses all play a part.”
A silver lining in the loss was a glimpse of the future with Toronto’s first view of its recently drafted players. Syracuse attackman Cody Jamieson was mostly invisible taking three shots, forcing the ball on a couple of plays, resulting in turnovers. On the other end of the field though, rookies shined, especially Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers. Rodgers, coming off a dominating run in the NCAA tourney (which culminated in a 6-5 loss to Duke in the title game) picked up right where he left off. Rodgers turned aside 19 shots and let up a mere six goals in extended time. Rodgers was penciled in to play just the first half, but ended up playing 45 minutes when Brett Queener was removed in the second half due to an injury. Queener was seen getting slashed heavily while carrying the ball up the field at one point. Playing the role of longstick middie was Stony Brook product Steven Waldeck, who did what he does best on the lacrosse field; score in transition. When I spoke with him at the MLL Draft, Waldeck said he would be looking to pop a few goals this season and he did just that in his debut.
Looking ahead to their next test, the Nationals will be taking on the Long Island Lizards (2-3) Saturday June 19. Long Island, like Toronto, is a team with a stifling defense that has had trouble at times finding the back of the net. Long Island comes into the game with the lowest shooting percentage in the league at .232, compared to .266 for Toronto. The Lizards and the Nationals are both at the bottom of the league in terms of goals scored at 51 and 50 respectively.
Long Island, like Toronto, has only one player in the top 20 in the league in points scored and that is attackman Matt Danowski. Danowski is the unquestioned offensive leader of the Lizards with his 17 points on the year, including 11 goals and five assists. Danowski, a former standout scorer at Duke, is a player that can shoot from a distance and also take his defender to the cage. One of the greatest goal scorers in NCAA Division I history, Danowski is never afraid to unload a shot. He says it is just a matter of putting the ball where the goalie least expects it, which has worked out well for him evidenced by his presence on the MLL All-Star team in each of his first two seasons in the league.
Rodgers knows full well how dangerous the Lizards offense can be with the ball in their stick.
“Danowski, they got some deadly shooters, Goettelmann on the crease. They’re a good team,” the rookie goalie said. “What are they 2-3? I think every team in this league has talent, so we’re just going to try and put everything together, offensively and defensively and try and get a W.”
This is one of the few remaining opportunities for the Nationals to get on track as Long Island is a team they match up with well. Both squads have a stout defense with offenses that have yet to hit their stride. The Lizards are coming off a thrilling 13-12 overtime victory over the Chicago Machine though.
“They came out ahead in a one goal game so they should have some momentum coming in. We are going to have to keep digging deep,” Huntley said. “We played better this week than we did the week before for the third straight week so I am encouraged that good things will happen for us if we keep at it.”
Although 0-5, the Nationals have played much better as of late, something that Huntley and his players use for motivation. After a rough start to the season, Toronto has lost its last three games by a collective five goals, one goal apiece in the last two. Huntley says it is a matter of his team retaining possessions, picking up loose balls and finishing easy chances in front of the net before the Nationals get their first win. It’s just a matter of putting everything together all at once.
“Hopefully [I’ll] provide a spark for the boys and [we’ll] try and get into the playoffs. I know were 0-5 but I feel like we’re playing a lot better than we were,” Rodgers said. “I think we’ll be fine if we keep playing the way we are.”
Toronto travels to Hempstead, N.Y. to take on Long Island on Saturday June 19. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. at James M. Shuart Stadium. This contest can be seen live on ESPN3 and the MLL Web site will also have a live blog and chat chronicling the game starting 15 minutes prior to faceoff. The game can also be seen on tape delay June 20 on Cox Sports New Orleans at 12 p.m. CT, and June 21 on BrightHouse Sports at 1 p.m. ET and Universal Sports at 3 p.m. ET.
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com