Four remaining teams have questions to answer
Will Denver's D be exposed? What's the key ingredient for the Rattlers and why might Philly need Advil when all is said and done?
With the approach of MLL championship weekend in Rochester, N.Y., ESPN lacrosse analyst and frequent IL contributor Quint Kessenich fielded your burning questions about the upcoming playoffs, the MLL regular season and the Rochester phenomenon known as the "garbage plate."
D.B., Annapolis, Md.: Who do you think was silly enough to give a first-place vote in the MLL Rookie of the Year race to Ray Megill?
Quint Kessenich: I would have voted for L.A.'s rookie defender from Cornell, Mitch Belisle. He never quits.
Knabber, Rochester, N.Y.: What are you most looking forward to during your trip to the MLL championship weekend?
QK: First, on the field: When elite talent and emotion coexist, you're going to see great things. I'm eager to see Philadelphia run its offensive/defensive system. This may be the swan song for Roy Colsey, one last chance for him to showcase his Hall of Fame-caliber game. If there's no D in Denver, it'll be an abbreviated weekend. I think that Jeff Sonke and Josh Sims must outscore Matt Striebel and Colsey for the Outlaws to advance. Game No. 2 should be a bit more up-tempo. If Rochester's Brodie Merrill gets double-digit ground balls, the Rattlers win.
Off the field, honestly, I'm just hoping my flights are on time. Summer travel can be torturous. Joe B. usually drives our rental car and we routinely get lost.
Rene Kozarsky: If Philly wins, will the new next-day format affect the older guys (Roy Colsey and Brian Dougherty)?
QK: It will affect everybody. What I have noticed about soreness and stiffness is that as you get older, it takes longer for the pain to set in. I think Colsey, Doc, Spallina and Bobby Horsey will be fine with a little Advil and plenty of water. The turnaround is so quick this year (17 hours for the winner of semifinal Game 2 to the final) that I wouldn't want to be these guys on Monday morning at work after two games in one weekend. But drinking from the Steinfeld Cup will be invigorating.
Renee H., Denver: Hey Q, what do you most enjoy about Major League Lacrosse?
QK: I love the fact that it keeps lacrosse on national TV, in the newspapers, on the Web and on the minds of sports fans for an extra three months.
Expansion to cities like San Francisco, Denver, L.A. and Chicago has been a huge plus for the sport.
I enjoy the up-tempo transition style of play, the dive shots, the two-point shot and only three poles. It's a changeup from the NCAA game -- not necessarily better or worse -- but it's distinctly different. The MLL is a players' game, while NCAA lacrosse is a coaches' game. It's beneficial for the game to have athletes continuing to compete after college.
David: Is the increase in the game-day roster size from 18 to 20 only for the playoffs? Or will each team dress two more athletes per game next regular season?
QK:The owners and GMs will certainly discuss this issue at their winter meetings in Barbados in January. Bigger rosters equal bigger payrolls.
Here's how the roster extras will effect play this weekend:
• Denver will most likely dress more middies. You might even see both Geoff Snider and Lou Braun taking faceoffs. I'm preparing to see Josh Sims, Jeff Sonke, Scott Sowanick, Matt Hanna, Brian Langtry and Mike Law with four defensive middies: Benson Erwin, Casey Cittadino, Trey Whitty and Tom Ethington.
• L.A.'s faceoff man, Anthony Kelly (A-Train), got dinged up on Aug. 11 versus Chicago. Kelly twisted his ankle, so don't be shocked if the Riptide dress Piezconka.
• Philly has a bunch of options. Jay Motta is a capable faceoff alternative and jack-of-all-trades middie who might dress. Brian Kuczma offers some insurance on defense.
• Rochester will probably bring down some Canadian ringers.
Jim Purist, Baltimore: Will more than 12 people show up for the championship game or will it be like last year when the stands were completely empty?
QK: Here are the attendance figures from the first six MLL championships:
2001: 6,745 (Bridgeport)
2002: 5,596 (Columbus)
2003: 6,593 (Villanova)
2004: 8,279 (Boston)
2005: 6,829 (Boston)
2006: 5,374 (L.A.)
Unknown: You said on ESPN.com that Philly will beat Denver in the first game. My question is, how will Brian Dougherty stop the transition offense of Denver? Will Philly's style of play be able to get goals past Denver's defense? In my view, Philly plays like the Virginia Cavaliers of 2006.
QK: I said that I "liked Philly." It is a 1.5-goal favorite. Doc will not have the opportunity to stop Denver's transition game -- the Philadelphia middies will. Here's the weakness of Philly: after a turnover or save, their offensive middies break blindly for the substitution box. If you can get the ball and push it upfield while they are subbing, you can manufacture 4-on-3s, 5-on-4s and 6-on-5s.
Can Philly score on Denver? Yes. Ryan Boyle is surgical, while Striebel and Colsey are two of the best ever. If the Barrage can get production from Jed Prossner and Mike Springer, they'll get to 14 goals.
I would disagree with that comparison. The Cavs in 2006 ran well. This Philadelphia team might be the slowest team in Rochester this weekend.
Unknown: In the Los Angeles-Rochester semifinal game, both teams have two great offensive weapons and defensive stoppers. How will Greg Bice and D.J. Driscoll play against John Grant Jr. and Casey Powell? How will Jack Reid and Brodie Merrill play against Spencer Ford and Terry Riordan? Which team has the better midfielders, L.A. or Rochester?
QK: Great questions. Those are some hardcore matchups. I think Bice and Driscoll can hold their own, but what Rochester does so well is work the two-man game. They use picks to change matchups and create mismatches. Plus, Rochester has guys like Jeff Zywicki, Joe Walters and Gavin Prout who can find the net.
Conversely, I expect Merrill and Reid to erase Gill and Ford. If L.A. is going to win, they have to score transition goals, EMO goals, and Sean Lindsay, Michael Watson, Chazz Woodson and Greg Downing have to penetrate and score.
Rochester's advantages are depth of scoring, faceoffs, ground balls and home-field edge. L.A. may be stronger between the pipes with Mickey Jarboe, and the Riptide have better speed and fitness.
Unknown: Who has the best garbage plate in Rochester?
QK: A garbage plate, for those who don't know, is a central New York delicacy that has loads of stuff like fries and macaroni covered with healthy stuff like melted cheese. It's a Brian Dougherty favorite from his days in Rochester. But Doc seems to be playing better these days on a diet of Philadelphia cheese steaks and diet Cokes.
ESPN announcer Joe Beninati has been known to order out for a garbage plate at halftime. Quite frequently he'll spill grease and oil on his Armani suits. Joe B. prefers the Original Nick Tahou's Garbage Plate on West Main Street downtown. Here's a warning for Beninati: Former Knighthawks' defensemen and Canadian national team rugby player Bucky Stobart gained 20 pounds at Nick Tahou's when he played for the Knighthawks.
All garbage plates are unique. MLL MVP John Grant Jr. is a fan of Mark's Dumpster Plate on Monroe Avenue downtown. Pat Dutton chows down at Empire Hots Trash Plate on Empire Boulevard in Penfield.
Reg Henderson: Will ESPN2 be stepping up its production for the MLL championship? Specifically, will there be more cameras than the games broadcast during the regular season?
QK: Our entire broadcast team is excited, from producer Chris Day and director Chris Lincoln to the guys who drag cable. This game represents the ending of a successful season. Like the players, we want to go out on a high note, to have our best game. So we're preparing for some serious fun. But our core broadcast will remain the same. We'll have two helmet cams, most likely worn by a goalie and a faceoff specialist. We'll also mic two players. We're targeting Brian Dougherty, Brian Langtry, Jack Reid and Greg Bice. The "Doc in a Box" has been a huge technical upgrade and fan favorite. It really gives young players an idea of how much talk goes on between goalie and defender.
J.V., Charlotte, N.C.: I've been out of the loop all summer. What is going on in the lacrosse world?
QK: The summer of 2007 in the MLL was terrific. Denver drew 20,000 fans to a game in July. Rochester won eight straight games. John Grant Jr. set a scoring record and L.A.'s Spencer Ford set an assist mark. Chicago won its first game in franchise history. We televised a 27-26 game in Invesco Field, the highest-scoring game in lacrosse history.
Quint Kessenich is ESPN's lacrosse analyst. He will be covering the MLL finals on Sun., Aug. 26, at 1 p.m. on ESPN2. He will be blogging live from the semifinals on Sat., Aug. 25, at 2 p.m. ET on InsideLacrosse.com.
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