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PSP LA Open
Los Angeles Ironmen - First Place NXL
The Los Angeles Open marks the start of Paintball Sports Promotion's annual pro/am series. In past years the season started with the Las Vegas Open, which was relocated to Los Angeles with the opening of the SC Arenas, and it has grown from there, moving to progressively larger venues as the league expands. This year the event was placed in the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
This massive sports oriented facility has both practice fields and full stadiums for professional tennis and soccer. The center is home not only to the US Soccer Federation's national training program, but two major league professional soccer teams, including the LA Galaxy which recently signed soccer legend David Beckham (formerly of Manchester United and currently playing for Real Madrid) to a 5 year contract reportedly worth over 250 million dollars. For the weekend of March 1st through 4th, however, the Home Depot Center would be all about paintball. This tournament also marked a first for Paintball Sports Promotions - spectators were charged admission to the tournament, even just to walk through the vendor areas.
Sixteen NXL teams gathered to play X-Ball at the highest level available. These included last year's champion team Boston Red Legion, Dynasty, the Philly Americans, Los Angeles Iornmen, Detroit Strange, Sacramento XSV, Jacksonville Raiders, Portland Naughty Dogs, San Diego Legacy, Chicago Aftershock, New York Hurricanes, X-Factor, Ultimate, Las Vegas LTZ, Oakland Assassins and last year's Intercontinental Cup winners Baltimore Trauma.
The Open X-Ball division – open to Division I teams, as well as pro and semi-pro ranked teams that haven't been brought into the NXL saw fifteen teams competing including the long standing Bushwackers and Jax-Warriors. With 40 teams, Division 2 had the largest draw of the tournament. As an X-Ball competition, where each game has a lengthy clock, a division this large meant a lot of game time. Division III, the entry level for X-Ball saw 24 teams. Not to be forgotten, the new 5-man X-Ball format, a stepping stone for newer teams which don't yet have the players and resources to compete in X-Ball scheduled 15 D-III and 20 D-IV teams.
Not only was the stadium a new venue for PSP, but so were the fields. New, long pile artificial turf was the surface of choice for LA. While the Divisional teams kicked off the action on Thursday, the pros started out with Boston Red Legion facing off against X-Factor on the NXL field. This match pitted a team that worked its way up through Divisional X-Ball from DII through D-I and into the pros against a team that built up as a powerhouse in Europe before coming to the states and winning as pros. The two teams traded points, tying at 8 when the game clock ran out. In sudden-death overtime X-Factor got the point they needed to win the game 9 to 8.
Dynasty took down Ultimate with a 7 to 5 finish, followed by the Philly Americans beating Las Vegas LTZ with the same score. The Oakland Assassins took down the LA Ironmen with a two-point lead 8 to 6. Chicago Aftershock was defeated by Jacksonville Raiders 8 to 5. In the afternoon Portland Naughty Dogs and Detroit Strange matched that score, with the victory going to the Dogs. The New York Hurricanes, saw a changeup in the off-season with NE Hurricanes owner Jeff Stein taking a leadership role and bringing some roster additions from the Hurricanes and Raiders into the NYX franchise. At least in the opening round for LA, the changed looked good as the team defeated Baltimore Trauma with the day's strongest game – 12 to 3. Another notable team change - the Jacksonville Raiders had played as an NXL franchise team over the 2006 season. With changes in sponsorship, the Raiders are now using the Jacksonville name again, and the Naughty Dogs are claiming Seattle as their home city playing in that franchised position.
Friday saw continued divisional and pro X-Ball games starting with Dynasty going up against San Diego Legacy. That game went to a 7-7 tie, broken by Legacy in sudden-death for a final score of 7 to 8. Chicago Aftershock then beat the Philly Americans 7 to 6. The Los Angeles Iormen got up to speed for their game against the New York Hurricanes, delivering a 13 to 3 victory. Detroit Strange toppled X-Factor 6 to 5. Sacramento XSV took out Ultimate 8 to 5. Jacksonville Raiders fell to Las Vegs LTZ 6 to 7. The Oakland Assassins beat Baltimore Trauma 10 to 5. In Friday's last NXL game Boston Red Legion took a solid 14-4 victory over the Portland Naughty Dogs. Heading only two pro teams had earned a pair of full wins (not counting ties won in overtime) – the Oakland Assassins and Sacramento XSV.
Saturday, while the NXL games continued the 5-man X-Ball teams also started taking to the field, playing through their preliminary rounds in a single day. The 5-man teams played in groups of 5, with each team going up against the other four teams in its group for 3 center-flag five man games. Each team was able to keep the best two out of three scores from each match-up, for a total of 12 game scores in the round. Teams were then ranked by total scores for advancement into Sunday's rounds.
Divisional X-Ball teams played the remainder of their preliminary round games as well. In D-III Splat Kids finished at the top of the heap, by playing their four games undefeated. DBSKidz, Hershey Heat, Speedin' Dirty, Central Florida Paintball – Justice, and TPA Revolution also made it through the round without a scratch, but it was Splat Kids' average margin of 4.25 points (they only gave up three points in four games) that ranked them in the lead.
In D-II It was Vicious that was ranked first, with an average point spread of 5.25, dominating on the field. TX-Justice League, CDR and notorious also made extremely strong showings in the prelims.
In the smaller Open Class division Team Impact finished the prelims leadin with an average 5.75 point margin. San Diego Aftermath was hot on their heels with a 5.25 average point lead, but the point leads stretched after that with third ranked Jax-Warriors averaging 0.5 points with three wins – their point spread damaged by a 4 to 9 loss from Team Impact.
Owing to the number of teams playing, the divisional X-Ball teams started their next rounds on Saturday. D-II played an ochofinals round here eight teams each played a single game as a knockout round to determine who would fill the last spots in the quarterfinals. Swatpaintball.com beat the Rodents 4 to 2. Shockwave Canada beat Drama Paintball 3 to 2. Naughty Leprechauns took out Team Spray Paint 6 to 3, and Denver Altitude shut down the Hackers with a 7 to 0 game.
In the Quarterfinals Division III played two games per team in four groups of three, to select their four semifinalists. These were Gridlock Black, Splat Kids, DBS Kidz and TPA revolution all of which won both of their games.
D-III ran straight into semifinals on Saturday, where the top four remaining teams battled to determine their positions in the finals. DBS Kidz beat Splat Kids 4 to 3, and Gridlock Black beat TPA Reolution 4 to 0.
Saturday's NXL games opened up with the Los Angeles Ironmen defeating Baltimore Trauma. In the next game Oakland defeated New York 9 to 3. Jacksonville Raiders took out the Philly Americans 8 to 4, and Las Vegas beat Aftershock 7 to 6. Dynasty pushed hard against XSV winning 13 to 5. Legacy handed ultimate their third straight loss of the tournament 11 to 5. Boston Red Legion was able to best Detroit Strange 7 to 6, and the last NXL prelim game saw X-Factor beating the Naughty Dogs 9 to 5.
The top eight teams each from D-III and D-IV 5-man moved into the competition's quarterfinal round. Each division split their eight team into two groups of four to play three games each – the top two teams from each group went on to the semifinals where the first ranked played the fourth ranked and the second played the third. The losers from the semifinal round played each other for third place, and the winners played each other for first place. The semfinals and finals remained in the 5-man best two out of three format. Looseballs lost their first game against Warbirds, but won the next two, finishing in third place for Division 4. Ballistic posted two straight wins against Keebler Soldiers and was the tournament's 5-Man D-IV winner. In 5-man D-III Team Encounter beat Viper Kids, but the Kids turned it around and won the next game, finishing in third place for the division. Back to back wins against DVS secured the 5-Man D-III trophy for Stinger Factory.
X-Ball quarterfinals saw D-II and D-I teams competing in four groups of three, to play two games, the top team from each group moving on to semifinals which would rank them into the finals. With the smaller size of the Open division, these teams had a single game between San Diego Aftermath and Jax Warriors to determine who would go into the semifinals in the bottom slot. The remaining top three prelim teams formed the three teams in a single quarterfinals group, fighting for their position in the semifinals, which then ranked the teams for finals.
The divisional X-Ball semifinals ranked the teams for finals as had been done with 5-man. In Division III Splat Kids beat TPA Revolution 4 to 1 for third place. DBS Kids posted a 5 to 2 win over Gridlock Black for first place. Gridlock's 6 to 1 game against swatpaintball.com gave them third place in D-II. Denver Altitude took home the D-II first place trophy with a 6 to 5 victory over CDR.
In the Open division Bushackers finished third by beating Tampa Bay Damage 7 to 5. Team Impact finished first by beating out San diego Aftermath 8 to 7.
On the NXL field the quarterfinals started the day. In this round the top eight teams each played a single win or go home game. XSV knocked out the Assassins 9 to 5. Red Legion beat X-Factor 12 to 4. Dynasty defeated the Jacksonville Raiders 10 to 4 and the Ironmen rolled through LTZ 11 to 1. This left Boston Red Legion to play against Sacramento XSV in the semifinals. Legion came out on top 10 to 2. The Los Angeles Ironmen took it to Dynasty with a solid 13 to 3 victory. Prior round ranking gave Dynasty third place for the tournament and XSV 4th. The final game between Boston Red Legion and the Los Angeles Ironmen came to a head with a score of 6 to 6 when the clock ran out. The overtime victory went to the Ironmenin a 3 on 3 gun battle.
The final NXL rankings for the tournament were Baltimore Trauma in 16th, Ultimate in 15th, Seattle Naughty Dogs in 14th, New York Hurricanes in 13th, Detroit Strange in 12th, Chicago Aftershock in 11th, Philly Americans in 10th, San Diego Legacy in 9th, X-Factor in 8th, Jacksonville Raiders in 7th, Less Than Zero in 6th, Oakland Assassins in 5th, Sacramento XSV in 4th, Dynasty in 3rd, Boston Red Legion in second and the Los Angeles Ironmen in first.
While the Ironmen have had a very lengthy history of wins back through the 90s, and were one of the most widely recognized professional teams of that era, the winners circle had so far eluded them in the NXL. The team has seen numerous roster changes since the formation of the league including old-school Aftershock players Ryan Williams and Todd Adamson. Last year's pick ups of Oliver Lang and Pete Utschig as well as recent arrival Nicky Cuba have blended with the leadership of long-standing Ironmen Bryon Benini and Shane Pestana to put one more win on the books for the Ironmen. SKW.