With the season less than a week away we take a look at MLL's newest team, the Florida Launch.
2013 Record: First year
Key Losses: Joe Walters, Brodie Merrill, Martin Cahill
Key Additions: Casey Powell, PT Ricci, Lee Coppersmith
2013 in Review:
This is the first season for the Launch, who inherit a great number of players from the Hamilton Nationals. Kevin Crowley led the league in scoring with 55 points, while Kevin Cunningham finished second in the league in assists with 22 (trailing only former teammate Joe Walters). Goaltender Brett Queener had a fantastic season in 2013, finishing 6-4 with a .586 save percentage.
The main guy in Florida will be Crowley, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Crowley’s point totals have gone from 20 to 37 to 55 in his three years in the league and he makes all the players around him better. Crowley and Cunningham together for their second full season will lead to some magic down in Boca.
Meanwhile, both Tucker Durkin and Garrett Thul will also have a good deal of the spotlight on them in their new market. Durkin will be called on a bit more without Merrill by his side, while Thul will have the chance to play a full 14-game schedule this year (he played only six games in 2013). Thul has only gotten better over time, as seen by his inclusion in the 30-man roster for the USMNT.
One of the biggest additions to the Launch in 2014 is not on the field, but on the sidelines. Stan Ross became the first head coach of the Florida Launch back in November after two years as an assistant with the Denver Outlaws. In his time with the Outlaws, Ross helped Denver to a 25-3 regular season record and two first place finishes. It was only a matter of time before he became a head coach in this league.
The Launch also had a strong draft, taking high-scoring Kieran McArdle out of St. John’s with their first-ever pick. They also snagged one of the best goalies in college by taking Niko Amato and a late-round gem in Bobby Lawrence from Colgate. Their seven-player 2014 draft class could make a serious impact this season should any of them choose to sign with the Launch.
First-year teams typically struggle out of the gate, but the Launch should be able to weather the storm. Playing in a new stadium with a lacrosse-hungry fanbase in Florida can only help the team in their quest for the postseason. They’re not a top-4 team on paper, but they don’t play the game on paper.
What the Experts Say:
Laxworm – Mike Sportini:
Florida will be in the mix this year Crowley, Keogh, Jamieson, Durkin, Thul and a guy named Powell headline this group. All that happened here was a move from north of the border to the growing market of sunny Florida! We can expect more fans in the seats and the same high-octane offense led by the league MVP Kevin Crowley. Sending ground ball vacuum and legendary defender Brodie Merrill to Boston may affect performance of the defense and at the X. The Launch will be in the mix but not sure they will be able get to Georgia.
LaxDirt.com – Tim Thomas:
This team to me is reminiscent of the Nationals in a sense that they will be the team most affected by the rollover of indoor season. I see a lot of potential on this roster and guys like Grant Kaleikau, Zack Palmer and Billy Eisenreich will have the opportunity to show that they should be everyday starters in the MLL. I don't foresee the Launch in the playoffs year one, but this is a team that could surprise some people.
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Check back tomorrow as we preview the Denver Outlaws