July 23, 2010

MLL: Outlaws' Depth Tested by World Games

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Denver attackman Matt Brown will be without line mates Brendan Mundorf and Drew Westervelt when the Outlaws' season resumes Saturday against the Machine.

One is the loneliest number, so the song goes.

Matt Brown jokingly agrees.

The Denver Outlaws’ attackman will be minus his usual attack mates, Brendon Mundorf and Drew Westervelt, when the Outlaws resume Major League Lacrosse play on Saturday against the Machine at Invesco Field at Mile High.

Mundorf and Westervelt, along with midfielder Max Seibald, defender Eric Martin and goaltender Adam Fullerton, are playing for Team USA in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships in Manchester, England.

Following a 20-5 victory over Japan on Thursday, including a hat trick by Westervelt, the U.S. meets defending champion Canada in the title game on Saturday.

The Outlaws (6-3), co-leaders of the MLL with the Boston Cannons, are arguably most affected by the world championships.

“You can’t really make up for any of those guys," Brown said of his fellow starting attackmen. “We’re missing a lot. I feel a little lonely without them. We’ve been playing together for four years."

Midfielders Dan Hardy and Steve Giannone will spend time at attack and rookie Connor Martin, a recent Chapman graduate, will get a golden opportunity to show his stuff.

“I’ve seen him play now in practice and he’s a very solid player," Brown said. “He adds value to our lineup, so we’re going to be fine.

“The beauty of the MLL is that there are so many good players. A lot of guys would be playing, but there’s just a logjam. Now they have an opportunity with the World Team guys gone."

In Fullerton’s absence, 2009 Whittier College graduate Ben Brown, will dress as backup goaltender behind starter Jesse Schwartzman.

Ryan McFadyen or Sean McCarthy will gain more time on defense in Martin’s absence, along with rookie Dillon Roy, a University of Denver graduate who will dress for the second time.

“He played against Chesapeake on July 4 and he played great," said head coach and general manager Brian Reese. “He did what we needed him to do. He was great on faceoff wing on ground balls and he played tough defense. I think you’ll see a lot more of him as the season goes on. I expect him to get better and more comfortable as he makes the adjustment to the speed of the game."

Former Syracuse midfielder Brendan Loftus is expected to play a large role in the midfield with Hardy at attack and Seibald in England. Loftus played well the first two games of the season, and then was sidelined by injury.

“We’ve been rotating guys in and out of the lineup a lot, so pretty much everyone will have played in two, three, or four games this season," said Reese. “One reason I wanted to do it is this way, giving guys experience, is so that when this opportunity came up it wouldn’t be like putting five new guys in the lineup for one game.

“Chicago is missing guys. We’re missing guys. It is all about our depth. I think one of the strongest assets of our team this year is the team concept. Everybody is very unselfish and is okay with sitting out a game, letting another guy get in there and get a chance. Hopefully, it will help in the long run and in this game."

Midfielder Alex Hopmann, a 2009 graduate of UMBC, is among those making the best of opportunity. Hopmann has appeared in five games and is coming off a career best hat trick in a 15-13 playoff-clinching win at Toronto.

“It is all about getting comfortable at this level with the increased speed compared to the college game," Hopmann said.

Like his coach, he highly rates the Outlaws’ cohesion.

“This year has been kind of crazy with the world championship practices and now the event itself, with people getting in and out of the lineup," he said. “But we tend to keep good team chemistry. I think that is a very important part. You know, we’re all good friends off the field. I think that’s a huge reason that when people come in and replace other people, we’re not missing a beat."

Hopmann, Giannone, Hardy and veteran Brian Langtry are all expected to make plays and score goals minus Mundorf’s production (18 goals and 15 assists) and that of Westervelt (16g, 7a) and Seibald (16g, 7a).

“It is their chance to step up and lead the offense," Reese said.

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