August 6, 2014
Justin Turri has turned into a major threat, helping Rochester go from the bottom of the league a year ago to its playoff top seed. (Bob Markey)
Justin Turri has turned into a major threat, helping Rochester go from the bottom of the league a year ago to its playoff top seed. (Bob Markey)

MLL Weekly: Turri's Improvement Helps Key Rochester Turnaround

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter 

The Rochester Rattlers are the surprise team of the league. The team clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2008 (when the franchise won the MLL Championship). The Rattlers have exciting young rookies in Jordan Wolf, Mark Cockerton and Miles Thompson. That being said, one of the most underrated players in the league and likely the top candidate for the league's Most Improved Player award is midfielder Justin Turri.

"Turri can dodge from anywhere. He's good with both hands so he's dangerous from anywhere," Rattlers head coach Tim Soudan said.

Despite the strong play of Wolf and the talent and scoring capabilities of Dave Lawson, Kevin Leveille and John Ranagan, Turri leads the Rattlers in scoring with 34 points. In his first two seasons, Turri was more of a two-way midfielder used mainly in transition. He had scored 24 points combined those two seasons. But as Rochester waited for its prized rookies to debut, Turri was a big reason the team was in contention for the playoffs from the start of the season. Despite the team's loss in the first game of the season, Turri set the tone for the year ahead with three goals, one two-point goal, and two assists for a total of six points.

"He's been spectacular as a leader especially early on when we didn't have everyone in," Soudan said. "He's a great downhill dodger. He's strong left but can go to his right if they overplay him. I've really never seen a big guy on our team be able to do what he does in the interior."

Turri earned his first selection to the MLL All-Star team this season. He's gotten a point in all 13 games this season and Soudan calls his line with Lawson and Ranagan "the big boy line".

This season has been a huge success for Turri and should culminate in a Most Improved Player award, but there are other players having break out seasons.

With rookies joining the league midway through the MLL season, it's not surprising when a player's numbers improve from their rookie season to their sophomore campaign. Still, there's been a big difference in the play of New York Lizards midfielder Jo-Jo Marasco in 2014 compared to 2013.

Marasco scored six goals and three assists in eight games last season after he arrived with quite a bit of hype. This season however, he has 20 goals and six assists in 13 games. He was one of the last cuts for Team USA and has stepped up when Max Seibald was absent from the team because of injuries or national duty.

"He's been a difference maker. When you look at the success he's had, he's getting to the tough areas of the field. He's getting between the hash marks and getting there with regularity," Lizards head coach Joe Spallina said. "He hits his stride later in the game. He's a great teammate and someone who works really hard."

While Marasco's teammate Greg Gurenlian will most likely finish the season with the league's best face-off winning percentage, Ohio Machine specialist Bobby Dattilo has helped turn Ohio into a playoff team and is having a career-year.

After playing in only five games with Rochester in 2012 and 2013 combined, Dattilo is third in the league with a 53.2 winning percentage in seven games. He also has four goals and 44 ground balls.

"Bobby's been great. He gets his own ground ball a lot of times," Machine head coach bear Davis said. "He's taken more draws for us this year than he has in his career in the league. He's still a work in the progress. Face-off is like fine wine. It takes time to know what you're doing."

REPLACING PAUL RABIL

The Boston Cannons have a very talented roster, but it's no question their best player is the talented and popular Paul Rabil. As the Cannons go into the final game of the season needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive, they will have to go without the two-time MLL MVP due to a broken foot.

Through the first 13 weeks, Rabil is second in the league in points with 20 goals (one two-pointer) and 33 assists. It does leave a hole for Boston in what is obviously a very important game.

"You can't replace a guy like [Rabil] with one player," Boston head coach John Tucker said. "We have to collectively improve our percentages. We need everyone to step their games up. Sometimes you have guys step in and have the game of their lives. I expect us to play well offensively."

Boston takes on Rochester in the final game of the season. Rochester head coach Tim Soudan talked about the team looking to shut off Ryan Boyle, Kevin Buchanan or Stephen Berger as an important part of their game plan.

That's why Tucker said he needs guys like Brent Adams (12 goals in his last five games) and Owen Blye (eight goals in his last five games) to have big games. He also mentioned players like Mike Stone (five goals in eight games) and Jimmy Connolly (27 goals in 13 games for Ohio in 2012) could play and fill in to help with the void left by Rabil.

FIRST PICK ON THE LINE

While Denver and New York battle for home-field advantage and Ohio and Boston attempt to earn a playoff spot in their respective games, the bottom of the standings Chesapeake Bayhawks and Charlotte Hounds face each other.

The losing team will finish with the worst record in the league this season and 2014 Tewaaraton Trophy co-winner Lyle Thompson is likely to be the first pick, but neither team will be tanking this game. Playing hard and winning is still on the agenda.

"We're going to compete. We're going to fight hard," Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle said. "[We want to see from our guys] a commitment to our fans, a commitment to each other, a great effort, and to end the season professionally."

Charlotte is even less concerned with the top pick because they don't own their 2015 first rounder. The Hounds traded their first round pick in the 2015 collegiate draft to the Florida Launch when they acquired Josh Hawkins at the 2013 MLL trade deadline.

Hounds head coach Mike Cerino looks at the game as a bit of retribution from last year's MLL Championship game, which the Bayhawks won.

"This game is about us beating Chesapeake in August, which we couldn't do last year," Cerino said. "We're going to focus on beating Chesapeake in August and hopefully that leads to some things next year."

JOHN GRANT JR.: MLL'S CAREER GOAL SCORING KING

In the Denver Outlaws 18-16 victory over the Chesapeake Bayhawks, not only did John Grant Jr. put up four goals and four assists, he set the record for most goals scored in an MLL career. Kevin Leveille had broken the record June 5, but said at the time he thought Grant would catch him.

Grant bumped his season tally to 27 goals and 24 assists for 280 career goals. Grant is also five points from passing Casey Powell for the league's All-Time Points record.

"I think what was interesting, I saw the replay when they interviewed John and he had no idea. He's most concerned with leading this team to a championship and that's why we brought him in," Outlaws head coach B.J. O'Hara said. "He's been a mainstay for us. He's really evolved as a team leader and a guy the offense looks to. I'm happy for him."


comments powered by Disqus