The Charlotte Hounds and Boston Cannons square off in the battle for MLL fourth place.
In what could be the biggest game of the season so far for both teams, the Charlotte Hounds travel to Boston to take on the Cannons in week 10. The Hounds (4-5) are tied in the 4th and final playoff position with Boston (4-5) and Boston holds the tiebreaker after the Cannons’ 15-13 win over Charlotte less than a month ago. This matchup will be tremendous for the winning team as it will not only put them a game ahead in the standings, but probably give them the advantage of having an edge in the tiebreaker battle. Considering how this season has progressed with so many teams vying for a playoff spot, having both of those things will be invaluable for a franchise. Since hiring John Tucker the Cannons have reeled of 3 straight victories, a streak that started with the win over the Hounds. They have seen increased production from a variety of players since the arrival of Tucker, most notably their rookies. Last week alone Cam Flint and Will Manny accounted for 8 points in a hard-fought 13-10 win over the Ohio Machine. Charlotte has had a little more bumps in the road the past few weeks than Boston. The Hounds have basically traded wins and losses throughout the year, never having a streak of either variety over 2 games. Last week they fell to the Denver Outlaws 17-11 in a game that saw Charlotte lose their composure during a brutal stretch during the 2nd quarter that saw Denver outscore the Hounds 6-0. Both teams are hoping to secure the momentum that would come from having a stronger position heading into the stretch run of the season.
Players to Watch
Eric Lusby – Lusby has 4 points in the 5 Charlotte losses and 13 in the 4 wins. His play is an indicator of the Charlotte offense in general, and it is a detriment to the Hounds that he has been largely absent from the past 3 games (1 point, 0 goals). For Charlotte to be a threat to the Cannons Lusby will have to be a major factor.
Ryan Flanagan – Flanagan did a masterful job on Paul Rabil in the teams’ first meeting yet the rest of the defense could not contain the rest of the attack. Flanagan will have to limit the opportunities of Rabil again as he tries to become the all time points leader in Boston history and also hope that the rest of the defense can put together a better game.
Will Manny – Manny has improved in each game he has appeared in for Boston. The rookie has been instrumental in the increased ball movement that has seen Boston go on their current winning streak. If he has a big game it will go a long way in a Boston win.
Jordan Burke – Burke has played on higher level the past 3 games, allowing 11 goals per game. This is a far cry from how the keeper fared in the early season when he had 3 games allowing 15 or more goals per 60 minutes played. The Charlotte attack has not been held to single digits all year and if Burke can limit the scoring early Boston should be able to open a large lead.
Key to the Game
Playing a Full 60 Minutes
Both of these teams have struggled to put together a complete game. Boston has faced early deficits throughout the course of the season, including the current 3-game winning streak. At some point those early struggles will come back to haunt them if they aren’t careful. For Charlotte, the 2nd quarter has been a menace to the Hounds as they have gotten destroyed in the past few weeks. This was extremely evident in the matchup against Boston as the Cannons were able to erase a 6-2 1st quarter hole by outscoring Charlotte 6-0 in the 2nd period. The team that plays the more complete game will likely emerge with a win in this contest.
Boston has looked like a team on a mission since the hiring of Tucker, pulling off 3 straight wins. The team has shown nothing to think that they will slow down and stumble. However, I have a feeling Charlotte will rebound from the ugly loss in Denver and make this playoff race more interesting. Call it a homer pick, call it wishful thinking, or call it a reach if you want to but I see the Hounds playing their best game of the year in this one. Charlotte 16, Boston 13.