If you recall, on Friday I mentioned that Long Island was playing Chicago at Soldier Field. The game held the Lizards final chance to make the playoffs. A loss sent Washington ahead as the fourth team and would give the Bayhawks home field advantage.
Luckily for me and the other Lizards fans out there, Long Island managed to leave Chicago with a 13-11 victory. Because MLL has a couple of different rules than college and high school lacrosse, the final two points came off of a lone shot by Sean Lindsay. Lindsay was named the game's MVP after nailing the shot from behind the two point arc in the game's final minutes.
The Lizards will join the Boston Cannons, Toronto Nationals, and Denver Outlaws in Annapolis, MD for the MLL Championship Weekend. Despite being the last team to qualify, Long Island has been given the third season over Boston. The Lizards defeated the Cannons in all three of their games this season; both teams have a 6-6 record.
Despite my love for Long Island and the scoring prowess of former Duke standout Matt Danowski, I doubt the Lizards will win the championship. My pick to win it all is Denver; many of their players were inherited from folded San Fransisco and LA (2009), making Denver a kind of western US All Star team. The Outlaws finished the season as the best team overall with a 9-3 record. Toronto (7-5) is favored by many with its great selection of Canadian and Iroquois players, including Gary Gait, but the Nationals did not look very strong against Boston in the game aired by ESPN earlier this week. The Cannons are another dark horse, but their roster is solid. Paul Rabil seems to be improving every game. He has become an unstoppable force in Major League Lacrosse; even more so than he was at Johns Hopkins. There is no doubt that he can change the course of a game by himself.Semi Game 1: Outlaws vs Cannons. Denver should win this one, but it will be a close battle for most of the game. Still, expect a tight finish should Rabil step his game up another notch. I would say that three points, at the most, separate the teams at the final whistle. Regardless, the winner of this game will win the MLL Championship. This game will be aired live on ESPN 2 at 11:00 AM (Iowa time) on Saturday, August 22.
Semi Game 2: Nationals vs Lizards. As much as I want the boys in green and black to win, I think this game will go north. Toronto has way too many established superstars. Gait's leadership and presence will prove to be intimidating for Danowski and crew. The teams split their regular season meetings, but Toronto won their July 18 game pretty handily (19-9). Despite putting forth a strong effort, expect the Lizards to lose by five. This game will not be televised.
Championship Game: Based on my predictions, we will see the Outlaws face the Nationals. This should be an epic battle as the two stacked rosters fight for supremacy. In the end, Denver's youth and well conditioned players will topple Toronto's old guard. It will come down to the final quarter, but Denver will turn up the heat in the closing minutes as Gait and his men gasp for air. Denver by two. Regardless of who is playing, this game will be aired live on ESPN at noon (Iowa time) on Sunday, August 23.