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Atlanta Blaze at Denver Outlaws MLL Week Seven Preview

July 11, 2019 - Major League Lacrosse (MLL) News Release

Following this week seven contest, both Atlanta and Denver will be officially halfway through their 2019 campaign. Even though the start of the MLL playoffs are over two months away, Thursday's Mile High showdown has large seeding implications.

Denver currently leads MLL at 5-1 while Atlanta sits one back at 4-2. A win on the road for Atlanta would greatly intensify the race for first and leave four teams within a half game back of each other (conditional on the result of Boston New York). Expect this one to be extremely competitive as their team stats are almost identical in goals forced and goals against. Both teams average 14.5 goals per contest while Denver is slightly better in goals against (12.83 per game compared to Atlanta's 13).

The battle in faceoff circle will be epic. Denver's Max Adler is playing his best lacrosse of the season while Alex Woodall leads all FOGOs with 55 ground balls. Adler won a staggering 71% against Chesapeake last week and has been riding high the past two weeks winning consecutive Nick Beati's FOGO of the Week Awards. Atlanta learned how to win Sunday without their All-Star Randy Staats which should help them moving forward as others were forced to chip in. Denver has been about as steady as any team in MLL this season. Four of their five wins, however, have been a one or two goal margin. This winning mentality has been admirable and can be attributed to the veteran leadership on this Outlaws team. In a matchup that includes 15 combined 2019 All-Star selections, this is arguably the most anticipated matchup of the MLL season to date.

Stat of the Week:

Among all players with over 10 shots on goal, Atlanta's attackman Shayne Jackson and midfielder Bryan Cole rank first and second in scoring efficiency. Jackson's 78.3% and Cole's 76.9% are extremely impressive considering their point totals this year (2nd and 3rd, respectively). Through 6 games, this is far from a fluke and is a huge reason why Atlanta is competing for top spot in the MLL.

Note: I calculated scoring efficiency as goals divided by total shots on goal. I felt this is a better predictor of efficiency as compared to shot percentage because shots off goal are often retained by the offensive team. Shots on goal that are saved by the goalie are practically turnovers, so this is an important stat to evaluate attackmen and midfielders.


#24 - Brendan Sunday (Atlanta)

Losing all star Randy Staats midway through Thursday's contest could have been detrimental considering there were approximately 90 minutes left to play on the weekend for the Blaze. However, when Atlanta needed a spark, Sunday stepped up. Sunday racked up 8 points (5 goals & 3 assists) as well as scooping 5 ground balls. With Staats set to return this Thursday, it will be interesting to see how the Blaze use Sunday moving forward. Sunday only had 2 points in the previous 4 games, but proved to be extremely effective this past weekend helping himself earn an all-star nod.

#57 - Chris Aslanian (Denver)

A rookie attackman, Aslanian is really coming into his own. In the past two games, Aslanian has accumulated 9 (5 goals & 4 assists) of 16 total points on the season. He has provided a lethal third or fourth option for a Denver squad that is already loaded offensively. Both wins were decided by a single goal and Aslanian deserves a good amount of credit for this success. Playing alongside three allstars on the offensive side of the ball diverts a lot of the attention from Aslanian. Moving forward, keep an eye on teammate Ryan Lee's status. It will be difficult for both Aslanian and Lee to contribute assuming no injuries or absences.

Score Prediction: 17-15 Denver

Despite Atlanta's potent offense and ridiculous efficiency, I believe Denver's home advantage will ultimately prevail in this one. Denver is the sole remaining undefeated team in their own stadium and I expect this to continue Thursday. Coming off an improbable fourth quarter comeback in their last win, Denver will have momentum and incentive to remain atop in the MLL standings. I expect a high scoring contest, but Dillon Ward will stand on his head and hold off a late rally from Jackson, Staats, and Cole to give the Outlaws another win.

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