Lacrosse sticks will double as luggage in Los Angeles this weekend for the San Francisco Dragons, as the players have converged from around the country for Major League Lacrosse’s championship weekend.
The fourth-seeded Dragons
(7-5) qualified for the playoffs in their inaugural season after a beating Chicago 16-15 in overtime in their final regular-season game and will face top-seeded Denver (10-2) today at 5:30 p.m. at the Home Depot Center. The victor will face the winner of the Philadelphia-Boston game Sunday at 2 p.m. in the nationally televised championship on ESPN2.
The Outlaws have won six straight games heading into the playoffs, but both of their regular-season losses came at the hands of San Francisco.
"[Those wins] give us confidence, but make me a little nervous too because we know we’ll have to play really well to beat them a third time," Dragons coach Brian Silcott said. "But we know if we play a hard, clean game we’ll win."
Regardless of the outcome, the San Francisco-Denver game promises to be exciting.
Denver went on the road and won 15-11 in San Francisco’s first game as a franchise, but the Dragons bounced back with a 25-20 win June 10 and a 20-19 victory June 24 (both in Denver), two of the higher-scoring games all year.
Ryan Powell — named Thursday as MLL MVP — had a huge impact in both Dragons wins, putting up a combined 13 goals and seven assists.
Just reaching the postseason must be viewed as a success for the expansion Dragons, whose mostly East Coast-based players had one of the longest commutes in the league when flying out for home games.
The Dragons were fifth out of 10 MLL teams in attendance, drawing a total of 20,286 fans to their six home games at Kezar Stadium (an average of 3,381 per contest), more than franchises in lacrosse hotbeds Baltimore, Long Island, N.Y., and New Jersey.
"We’re really pleased with how the first season went, from the players to the staff to the fans," Dragons general manager Doug Locker said. "The fans who came out were always loud and enthusiastic and we’ll be working hard to get even more people out next year."
Success on the field is always guaranteed to spark excitement and San Francisco could certainly create even more momentum for next season with a strong showing this weekend.
"The guys are definitely fired up," Silcott said. "For lacrosse players, just getting to play another game with a bunch of guys you really like is exciting enough. And being down here in L.A. playing at the highest level — we can’t wait."