By ROBERT BACAJ (Editor-in-Chief) – After a two-win inaugural season, Ohio was one of the most active teams in the offseason, making moves for a better 2013. With the first game just about two weeks away, let's break down how the team looks entering its second season.
Biggest Area of Concern: Goaltending. Ohio has a big competition in the cage. The Machine recently traded for Scott Rodgers, hoping to fix the issue. He had a rough 2012 with Hamilton, putting up the worst numbers of his career. Rodgers was splitting time with Brett Queener with the Nationals and hasn't been the regular guy in a few years. Ohio's banking on a change of scenery and the chance to be the full-time goalie bringing Rodgers to his full potential everybody noticed when he led Notre Dame within a goal of a college national championship in 2010.
If he's not the answer, the likely remaining options are Stefan Schroeder and Rob Fortunato. Last season, Schroeder was amongst the worst goalies in the league statistically, but is still probably going to be an option this season because of his local presence. He's probably the final choice for this team if Rodgers and Fortunato aren't the answer.
Fortunato was part of a team that won a national championship at Virginia, but hasn't really had a chance to prove himself in Major League Lacrosse. He has the tools to be successful in the pros. His save percentage in college (57%) and clearing percentage (91%) speak to his quick hands, good positioning, and smart play in transition.
Largely the concern is that these guys are unproven in the pros. Ohio's taking a chance with them, but could reap a big reward.
Biggest Strength: Offense, offense, offense. There's no doubting a team with Steele Stanwick, Kyle Hartzell, Chazz Woodson, Jim Connolly, Kiel Matisz, and Connor Martin can put up tons of goals. Add in draft picks like Peter Baum from Colgate, who won the Tewaaraton Trophy last season, and Ohio has few weeknesses on offense. It can shoot from distance to get two-point goals or dodge from X to feed inside scorers.
There are a lot of options for Coach Ted Garber. With a team this talented offensively, he can get creative with a cutting offense with tons of movement, or just rely on good shooting.
Projected Record: 6-8. Another year, another step towards the playoffs. With the talent offensively, I expect a sweep of Hamilton, a split with Charlotte and Rochester, and at least one or two upsets of Denver, Boston, Chesapeake, or Long Island. The X-Factor is goaltending, but adding Chad Wiedmaier on D helps with ground balls and close defense. The tools are in place to surpise some teams, but a front-heavy schedule — opening with Denver, Chesapeake, and Long Island — could give the Machine a rough start before the team has a chance to gel and get going.