Toronto reeling after second straight blowout loss
After a demoralizing 25-12 loss to the Chesapeake Bayhawks at home, the Toronto Nationals are suddenly reeling and looking for answers. Toronto, the defending Major League Lacrosse champions, are now 0-2 and have been on the losing end of two blowouts, after falling to the Chicago Machine by a score of 16-9 last weekend.
The Nationals knew they were in for a long day when Bayhawks All-Star midfielder Kyle Dixon scored a mere 36 seconds into the contest. Making matters worse for Toronto was the fact that their faceoff specialist Geoff Snider was out with injuries on the day the MLL’s best faceoff man in Alex Smith came to town. Smith absolutely dominated on draws the entire game as the Nationals tried several different players in an attempt to somehow slow him down. Coming off his Defensive Player of the Week performance Smith continued to shine. After going 17-of-25 on faceoffs last week against the Long Island Lizards, Smith went a ridiculous 34-of 39 against the Nationals. As ESPN2 cameras showed in its close-ups, Smith was winning nearly every draw cleanly. It was a no contest at some points as the Nationals only chance at gaining possession was to fight for ground balls after Smith swept it out. Smith was the Cascade 2007 Rookie of the Year, which is quite impressive considering he plays almost exclusively on faceoffs. He has been the best faceoff man in the game since then, leading the league in faceoffs wins and faceoff win percentage in 2009. Smith also set the record for faceoffs won in a season with 249 in 2008.
With Smith owning the faceoff circle the Nationals were on their heels for most of the game as the Bayhawks had one possession after the next. The Nats style of play seemed to hurt them on Saturday as they relied too much on their indoor lacrosse style featuring little cuts and quick-stick goals. Whereas the Bayhawks were unloading from everywhere, especially shots from downtown past the arc. The Bayhawks had three two point goals and several others where the shooters foot was barely over the line. Chesapeake didn’t seem to be fazed by shooting from any distance, especially midfielder Kyle Dixon who led the league in two pointers least season with 10.
Toronto was also victimized by the coming out party know as Peet Poillon. Playing in only his fourth career MLL game, Poillon had four goals to add to his league leading 14 points. Poillon had five goals and two assists in the season opener against Long Island. One of the league’s up and coming premiere scorers seemingly came out of nowhere. Last season Poillon only played in two games for the Bayhawks, putting up seven points.
Poillon played his college ball at Ohio State before transferring to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Poillon had a solid college career and was drafted by the Boston Cannons in the 2009 Collegiate Draft, but was unable to make the roster. Poillon was eventually released by the Cannons and the midfielder was quickly picked up by the Bayhawks. Two games into his MLL career he had seven goals, including a game winner against Boston, and a bright future in the league.
In the end the Nationals couldn’t keep up with the Bayhawks’ balanced scoring attack, which featured six different players with multiple goals, including Brian Vetter’s four tallies. Toronto showed it still has the talent to compete, but just hasn’t put it all together yet this season. Attackman John Grant Jr. and midfielder Dan Dawson got on the board for the Nationals, but it was again All-MLL defenseman Brodie Merrill putting on a clinic. Besides just playing defense, Merrill led many of the fast breaks and even took his turn in the faceoff circle. Merrill had a couple of assists and his second goal of the season, but it wasn’t enough for Toronto who now must go back to the drawing board to try and replicate their success from 2009.