With just under two weeks to go until the NXL Mid Atlantic Major, professional and amateur players around the country are preparing to travel to Royersford, PA for the next stop of the NXL season. The 2022 professional paintball season continues to be one of constant change and uncertainty, with many top franchises making major changes all off-season and through the first two events. Here are all the major storylines heading into the Mid Atlantic Major.
1) Will Goldman and RaBackoff Put Impact Back on Top?
Coming off the exodus of the Latin Saints core roster of American players after just one event, two of the leagues brightest stars, utility player Justin Rabackoff and snake player Alex Goldman, are returning back to Edmonton Impact where they spent the previous 7 seasons. Impact is a team that rebuilt a deep and talented roster after multiple players left for the Saints in the 2022 preseason. Now with the return of the elite duo, this may be the best Impact roster we have seen since their dominant run from 2015-2019.
Goldman will immediately bring the best snake player in NXL history back to Impact, and in his absence French superstar Axel Gaudin has played lights out for Edmonton. The pairing of Gaudin and Goldman will instantly become the leagues premiere snake duo, and the potential of the more patient and calculated Goldman playing a slower style behind the ultra-aggressive Gaudin will be difficult to stop. Gaudin is hard enough on his own to get off the field, and teams that manage to do so will still need to dig out Goldman, a task that has eluded the entirety of the league for nearly a decade.
Rabackoff also adds a much needed commanding presence to the back line of Edmonton; he is one of the leagues highest IQ players, and the precision in which he controls the field from the back line is elite. This roster provides arguably the most weapons that Rabackoff has ever had, and his familiarity with Impacts core players and offensive/defensive schemes will be critical.
This is a team that should be an instant threat to win the event, and we may once again see a season dominated by Impact if they can rapidly regain the synergy we have seen in the past from this core.
2) Is Jacob Edwards a Superstar Caliber Player?
After a few seasons of erratic play, fans finally saw Tampa Bay Damage win the NXL Lonestar Open in Dallas last month and the depth the roster showed was impressive. Every single player on the roster made significant contributions on the field the entire weekend, and maybe none made a bigger impact than Jacob Edwards. The younger brother of one of the leagues longest tenured players, Jason Edwards, Jacob has refined his game over the last two seasons to become a versatile offensive threat known for his elite gun-skills.
At the Lonestar Open, Jacob was a critical piece for the team, with his one versus one win in the overtime final clinching Tampa Bay’s first event win in nearly a decade. His offensive adaptability has been a revelation for a team that has struggled to find a reliable attack outside of Keith Brown, and he is beginning to show the signs of a bona fide superstar.
It’s uncanny in how similar Jacob currently plays in comparison to his brother Jason during the early portion of his career. His gun off the break is elite and his tendency to bully opponents from an offensive position, although sometimes a bit over zealously, is something that few players can do in the current NXL.
Jacob will certainly be a top player to watch at the Mid Atlantic Major, and if Tampa Bay can have another strong showing the case for stardom becomes that much clearer.
3) Will Dynasty Recover from Outlier Event in Dallas?
After one of the most dominant stretches in recent memory where they won four of the last six major events, Dynasty had a bit of an outlier performance at the NXL Lonestar Open, going 2-2 in the prelims and missing their first Sunday playoffs since 2017. Rumors circulated with fans on why the stumble occurred, but in this case the answer seems simple; it’s very hard to win pro paintball events, and a blind layout added to that complexity.
After the addition of former Dynasty star Kyle Spicka last weekend, Dynasty enters the third event of the NXL season with arguably the best roster in the league. I mean, where does one even start when trying to dissect and defeat this franchise?
Reigning Icon and Defensive Player of the Year Marcello Margott, 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Blake Yarber, Ryan Greenspan, and Archie Montemayor all can make a case for being one of the leagues top 5 players. Dalton Vanderbyl is playing some of the best paintball of his career as one of the leagues top dorito attackers, and he is backed up by Yosh Rau, an undisputed top 10 player of all-time. The counterpunch veracity of Alex Fraige mixed into this lineup adds further complexity to defeating the dragon and the snake side for this team is quickly developing.
Mike Urena tends to be the smash and crash option and he does this job with incredible tenacity; adding in the ultra-poised and analytical Kyle Spicka creates an interesting dichotomy of styles that should keep teams guessing on how Dynasty will play the snake on this layout.
I fully expect another finals visit from this roster.
4) Is LVL a Contender or PretEnder?
Consistency is a fickle thing in professional paintball, and for a still green roster like LVL, it can even more chaotic to find a channel and groove in it. Over the last season LVL has went from one of the leagues lowest ranked programs, to a team that has made multiple Sunday playoffs and has looked generally competitive at every event.
This is a team has lived and died through Dany Schonauer over the last season, and his play in the snake has been a revelation for Columbus. He is a relentless attacker with high discipline and the rest of the roster seems to be adopting that style as well.
A large amount of credit needs to be given to Head Coach Robbie Goldsmith, he has gotten this team to buy in to his game plans, and he creates simple and effective strategies that the team has become adept at running. We cannot ignore their level of inconsistency over the last year though; although we have seen success from LVL at the 2021 Windy City Major and the 2022 Sunshine State Major, they have also had a few events where they struggled to find their footing.
Will we see LVL able to continue to mature into an effective franchise, or will they find consistency eluding them? A solid showing at the Mid Atlantic Major will continue to help instill a winning mindset, and the addition of veteran Carl Markowski, whether on the field or off the field, will provide a much needed guide to winning an event for this young team.
5) Is It Now AfterMaths Time To Win?
I will be the first to admit I was wrong about Aftermath in 2022; it seemed they were on track for another Top 8-10 year in the standings, but this team is legit and on pace to win a season title.
In hindsight, the signing of Frank Antetemaso may be the best decision of the season. Antetemaso and Thomas Kim have become a superstar pairing on the Dorito side, and veteran snake side attacker Mike Mesa has helped bring a much needed guiding presence and aggression on that side of the field.
Joe Barrett’s maturation as a defensive star has helped ground the new found attack for SDA, and with an emerging center attack from Barrett, this team is very balanced at all positions.
It has been more than a decade since Aftermath has hoisted a first place trophy in the professional division, and now could truly be the time they are ready to win an event again. They are complete at all levels of the field, and Head Coach Mike Hinman is undoubtedly one of the leagues best minds. Is it time for SDA to once again reign supreme?
All Questions Answered Soon Enough.
In just 11 days, fans and players will be able to watch all these major storylines unfold, and see the live tale of new stories being written. Don’t miss any of the action and watch the event live all weekend long on GoSports.com
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