As the Rockies’ recent struggles leave fans to wonder what to make of their Coors Field inconsistencies and the Rapids keep searching for last year’s form in Commerce City, certainty reigns at Sports Authority Field at Mile High over the defending Major League Lacrosse champion Outlaws.
The first-place Outlaws (8-2) know how to win the close games against elite teams, as evidenced by Saturday’s 13-11 victory over the Columbus Machine — the team they beat in last season’s dramatic title game.
And the Outlaws, who are looking capable of cementing their field lacrosse dynasty with a third title in four seasons, have proved they also possess the depth to win in a variety of ways.
“We had six rookies in the lineup Saturday and three veterans out due to injuries, so to be able to come out and put up a win against the other top-ranked team showed our balance,” said attackman Eric Law, who netted his fourth hat trick of the season in the win. “It wasn’t a pretty game or a highlight-tape game, and it was sloppy, but the best part is we were gritty and we found a way to win even though a lot of things weren’t working for us.”
Law and fellow attackman Drew Snider pace the Outlaws, while seven others have racked up double-digit point totals. And with four regular-season games remaining, the team is padding its depth with the emergence of several rookies picked up in May’s collegiate draft.
Midfielder Romar Dennis headlines the grouping of first-year pros with three goals and five points through three games played, including the winning two-pointer in the fourth quarter against the Machine. The Loyola (Md.) product, along with midfielders Zach Currier (Princeton) and Larken Kemp (Brown), have made the immediate transition from college stars to effective pros look easy largely thanks to the culture of winning within the franchise.
There is no room for selfishness in the Outlaws’ locker room, and the veterans are willing to adapt their roles to bring more help aboard.
“You can tell by how the coaches and veterans carry themselves that they’re not used to losing, and they don’t like it at all,” Dennis said. “But behind that culture of competitiveness is a lot of humble guys on this roster, so you don’t have egos clashing and it’s easy to fit in and just embrace your role because everyone else is doing it too.”
No Outlaws player ranks in the top 10 in the MLL in total points, yet sixth-year general manager Tony Seaman again has constructed a roster full of players who can break out at any time — creating a nightmare scenario for opponents.
“They’ve built an entire organization around a team, and not just one player,” Law said. “You see around the league how other teams have tried to build around one star just like in other sports, but with the Outlaws, we’ve always gone the team route. We put the whole above the sum of a few flashy parts.”
And unlike last season’s run to the Steinfeld Trophy — when they started 2-6 before catching fire heading into the playoffs — the Outlaws realize a target is squarely on their back as they seek to clinch a playoff berth and home-field advantage Thursday at Rochester.
“Last year we were kind of out of it and had a pretty amazing comeback with the season overall and in the championship game to end up winning it,” said attackman Wes Berg. “But this year I think we’re the front-runners, so we need to stay focused on locking up that home playoff spot and then win two games from there.”
Denver Outlaws remaining schedule
Thursday, July 20: Denver Outlaws at Rochester Rattlers — 5:30 p.m., Capelli Sport Stadium
Sunday, July 23: Denver Outlaws vs Ohio Machine, 6 p.m., Sports Authority Field
Thursday, July 27: Denver Outlaws vs. Chesapeake Bayhawks — 12 p.m., Sports Authority Field
Thursday, Aug. 3: Denver Outlaws at Chesapeake Bayhawks — 5 p.m., Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Playoffs: Semifinals August 12; Championship August 19, Frisco, Texas