Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia will be the site of the 2014 Major League Lacrosse championship, which features the Denver Outlaws taking on the Rochester Rattlers.
After a long and grueling season that began in the spring, the two clubs will put it all on the line for the right to call themselves the kings of MLL.
The game takes place Saturday, August 23 at 7 p.m. ET, and if the playoffs and regular season were any indication, this could be a classic championship game.
The two teams split their regular-season meetings with both clubs prevailing at home. The Outlaws won 14-8 at Sports Authority Field on May 17. On June 29, the Rattlers won a high-scoring affair 19-14 at Sahlen's Stadium.
In the playoffs, Denver and Rochester had to battle past the New York Lizards and Ohio Machine, respectively, to get to this point.
With this year's game being played at a neutral site, the home-field advantage will be gone. Outlaws' head coach B.J. O'Hara talked about that on the team's website:
Well, you know, I think the hope for both teams is that there’s a crowd that is engaged and excited and creates some energy in the stands. I think that’s something that we’re all hoping for. It was nice to have a home game but I think for the Championship game having a neutral site is probably the fair thing to do. We’re hoping we can win some of those fans over that maybe don’t know us so well and I’m sure Rochester feels the same way.
Here's what to watch for in Saturday's finale.
Players to Watch
The Outlaws boast a dynamic trio anchoring their efficient offense. During the regular season, the Outlaws had the highest shot percentage of any team in the MLL.
That's mostly due to the play of John Grant, Eric Law and Jeremy Sieverts. The three of them combined to produce 154 points.
Any of the Outlaws' stars could come up big on Saturday. In the playoffs, it was Sieverts who delivered the game-winning goal to push the team past the Lizards. While the Outlaws don't generate a ton of shots on goal, they have been great at making the most of their opportunities this season.
Those opportunities might be few and far between against Rochester.
The Rattlers do it with defense, thanks in part to MLL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year Mike Manley and Goalie of the Year John Galloway.
When describing what makes the Rattler's defense so tough, Tom Bovee of LAX Dirt wrote: "It’s a group that has mostly played together for the last few seasons. They are able to key off each other’s cues and draw a great deal of emotion from their leaders John Galloway and Mike Manley."
With studs on separate levels of their defense, the Rattlers will not go quietly in Saturday's championship game.
Key to Victory
Getting ahead early would be the best thing that could happen for the Outlaws. The Rattlers don't have the type of offense built to come from behind.
Playing catch-up could force Rochester to press and even make mistakes on the defensive end.
For the Rattlers, keeping the Big Three in check is a must. If Grant, Law and Sieverts get off to a hot start it will spell trouble for the rest of the game. They must keep Denver's three-headed monster from taking over.
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