7/21/10 10:51 AM
By: Daniel Kopf
On July 10th 2010, the Chicago Machine walked out of Crew Stadium in Columbus Ohio, with their heads held high. Despite losing another heartbreaking game to the Long Island Lizards, the Machine had finally had their first true home game.
The game against the Lizards marked Chicago’s sixth and final home game in a travel schedule that brought the team to various venues, ranging from Rochester, NY, to Cary, NC. For the first time this season the players could feel the electricity within the stadium despite the small crowd. Ohio native and Chicago Midfielder, Anthony Kelly, sensed a different atmosphere in Columbus than from the team’s first five “home” games. “Columbus was a beautiful venue and the fans were into it. It’s the best facility we’ve played in all year,” Kelly said.
Chicago Machine President John Algie was also impressed by Columbus’ crowd. “Columbus really has had an impressive amount of growth in terms of lacrosse in the area,” Algie said. “Between the crowd we got at our game and the kids in the area, Columbus is the best candidate to get a team.”
Unfortunately for the Machine, Columbus was the lone bright spot on their long travel schedule. According to Machine midfielder Chris Rotelli, the Machine’s lack of a home crowd from week to week proved to be a severe disadvantage to the team. “It hasn’t been a positive. No stadium has been our 11th man on the field,” Rotelli said. “There are teams out there that have fans win games. Not having that advantage, is the sacrifice we make for the good of the league.”
This sacrifice might be a tough choice to make for some players but for Rotelli it’s worth it. “It is worth it for us. We love to play and it gives us more to play for. It’s really nice seeing new fans coming out to their first pro-outdoor lacrosse game,” Rotelli said.
The sacrifice the Machine players make for the growth of the league does however come at a cost. “One main problem of not having a home is that we don’t have a time for practice,” Anthony Kelly said. “And on top of that, game day travel sucks. It’s hard to get ready for the next day’s game when you’re taking red-eye flights the night before.”
Currently the Machine does not have a home for next season and their future is still up for grabs. One thing however is for certain; the MLL’s decision to have Chicago travel again could end the careers of several Machine players. “I know for a fact that a lot of guys won’t play next year if that happens,” Kelly said. “It was too tough for them with their real jobs. It’s too tough to make a career.”
One of the solutions to this problem would be to find a new home for the Machine. According to MLL Commissioner David Gross, expansion could be right around the corner. “A lot of it depends on finding the right ownership group and finding a right venue. It could take no time at all or it could take years, but the odds for expanding in 2011-2012 are very high,” Gross said.
Finding the right market has been difficult for the MLL but Gross believes the success of a market goes beyond the game. “A lot of it is making the game an experience. At the All-Star Game the parking lot was sold out because everyone was tailgating,” Gross said. “For a successful market like Boston it’s not just about the game anymore.”
The possibility for expansion remains strong but travel schedules also look to remain a mainstay. In the meantime, however, Anthony Kelly would like to see a change in how the MLL determines the travel schedules. “I’d like to see the league pick out three cities and play two games in each, Kelly said. “This way each market would have a good test run before it’s considered for a new franchise.”
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com