FOXBOROUGH — In January, the Boston Cannons traded away midfielder Paul Rabil, a two-time league Most Valuable Player. On the eve of the team’s 15th anniversary season, the prevailing question surrounded Boston’s offense, and who would rise up and lead when needed.
At Sunday’s home opener at Gillette Stadium, the answer proved to be the man for whom Rabil was traded.
The Cannons gutted out a 16-13 decision over the Denver Outlaws, the defending MLL champions, Sunday afternoon before a home crowd of 4,285.
Max Seibald, the main chip the Cannons received by parting with Rabil, finished with a hat trick in his debut, including a pair of insurance goals inside the final five minutes after the Outlaws had whittled a six-goal deficit to one.
“Spectacular. What an athlete,” coach John Tucker said of his new superstar. “He’s really thick, a lot bigger than you think he is, very fast, but he is very willing to play any position that you ask him to play. We use him all over the field, and he accepts that role, does it very quietly, and with great work ethic.”
The speed and physicality of the young Cannons flustered the defending champs for the better part of three quarters, but the talent that carried Denver to last season’s title began to emerge late in the third quarter.
Facing a 12-6 deficit, Denver’s Justin Pennington and Drew Snider combined for five of the ensuing six goals. Only Martin Bowes could find the back of the net for Boston, the Outlaws drawing within one midway through the fourth. That’s when the veteran Seibald effectively snuffed Denver’s momentum in the span of two minutes. He first beat his defender to the edge and rifled a shot through the alley that eluded the basket of Jesse Schwartzman (13 saves).
Next time down the field, he muscled his defender off his position as they raced around the net, changed direction, and went high on Schwartzman as the Cannons held a three-goal lead with 2:48 remaining.
“I’ve never been one to think of myself as a goal scorer or a feeder,” Seibald said. “I’m an in-between-the-lines guy, and if I get an opportunity, hopefully I can capitalize on it.”
Seven Cannons found the back of the net. Will Manny, Boston’s leading scorer from a year ago (52 points), capped the Cannons’ scoring with his second of the game.
“The great thing about this group is they don’t care who scores,” Tucker said. “From Max on down, they really just want to win, and that’s pretty clear. There were times in the past that it was more about acquiring points. I think that this group is collectively interested in winning, outside of everything else.”Andrew MacDougall can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Andy_MacDougall.