MLL 2014 Preview: No. 2 Denver Outlaws
|The departure of longtime stalwart Brendan Mundorf could mean bigger roles for midfield players like Jeremy Sieverts due to a young attack outside of John Grant, Jr., who arrived via the Mundorf trade. (Kevin P. Tucker)|
2013 Record: 14-0 (semifinalist)
Coach: B.J. O'Hara, 1st season
The Outlaws were MLL's first perfect team in the regular season last year.
Once again, however, all the regular-season success did not translate into shaking the ghosts of playoffs past, as the top-seeded Outlaws fell in the semifinals to Charlotte, and failed to win its first championship in eight seasons.
It is a bit of a sobering feeling for the Denver coaches and players.
"We've gotten ourselves on the doorstep a number of times but haven't been able to close it out," assistant-turned-head coach B.J. O'Hara said. "I think we don't want to lose sight of the fact that we accomplished an awful lot in 2013 but I'd be lying if I said we don't feel a little unfulfilled."
The Outlaws chose not to stand pat with their roster. The biggest change was trading 2012 MLL MVP Brendan Mundorf, an Outlaw since the team's inception in 2006 and the only team he had ever played for.
"It was as tough a decision as I ever made," Denver general manager Tony Seaman said. "Brendan has been banged up a little bit. The travel is tough. ... With John Grant living in Denver it just worked out that way."
As questionable as it may have seemed for the Outlaws to move Mundorf, Denver does have a history of making trades that at first seem lopsided, but turn out to benefit the team long-term.
Before the 2012 season, Denver traded Max Seibald and Drew Westervelt but it still had the best record in the league. Last year they traded big-time scorer Mark Matthews, but finished undefeated.
"It's still a team game. It's not an individual game," Seaman said. "There's only one ball out there so you have to find guys that can fill roles."
The team is hoping the arrival of John Grant Jr. and his championship pedigree can finally help propel the team to its first championship.
"His game hasn't dropped a bit," O'Hara said. "We're going to look to him for some leadership and offensive firepower."
This article originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Start your subscription by joining US Lacrosse today!
M Jeremy Sieverts
The Outlaws are young at attack and traded away its own MVP from 2012, but if they contend again it will be because Sieverts continues his streak of 40-point seasons since arriving in Denver. Not making Team USA for the FIL World Championship may be disappointing, but he'll get more opportunity to build his MVP resume than those that will be in Denver with their respective national teams. "I'm not sure anyone has had a better two years in the MLL," Seaman said of Sieverts.
A Chris Bocklet, D Matt Bocklet, A/M Cam Flint, A John Grant Jr., A Zack Greer, FO Anthony Kelly, A Erik Law, G Jesse Schwartzman, M Drew Snider, D Lee Zink
A/M Cam Flint, A Matt Gibson, A John Grant Jr., M Jeremy Noble, D Michael Simon
Grant Jr. will need to replace the scoring Mundorf leaves behind and will also have to lead an otherwise young group. He's also living in Denver, which will help with practices. The team added even more talented local flavor with Flint, who played at the University of Denver and is a very dynamic midfielder that the Outlaws were lucky to acquire, and Noble, who is a senior at the University of Denver and a solid two-way midfielder who bolsters depth.
Behind Enemy Lines
Opposing coaches thoughts on the Outlaws
"Each year you never look at their roster and seem to be frightened but then they have the best record in the league. They find a way to win. ... Brendan Mundorf wasn't the reason why they lost. He was the reason why they won. That'll be interesting to see how that plays out. ... The question is can they get over the hump? Do they put too much pressure on themselves in the playoffs? ... It will be interesting to see if and how the coaching change affects their style of play."
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