Meet Ronnie Fernando, MLL's Emergency Goalie and Biggest Team Player

PHOTO BY PRETTY INSTANT


Everything about Ronnie Fernando’s Major League Lacrosse bubble experience is unique.

Right down to the fact that he’s allowed to exit the bubble and go home. To be fair, he lives closer to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis than those staying in the hotel. He went through the same COVID-19 testing protocols as everybody else, and he’s still subject to the same restrictions and precautions.

And that’s pretty much where the similarities to his peers stop.

Fernando is MLL’s emergency goalie for the 20th anniversary season, a truncated sprint to crown a champion this Sunday in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Fernando signed up to be called upon when any of the six teams need to dress a backup goalie due to injury or rest.

On Friday, Fernando was needed. Twice.

“I just sit back, relax and wait for the call,” he said Friday night in a phone interview with US Lacrosse Magazine. “I’ll be here at the stadium. If someone goes down during the game, they want to be sure to have guys ready.”

He started the day as a Chesapeake Bayhawk, wearing No. 85 and replacing Brian Phipps on the gameday roster. Sam Lucchesi drew the start in the net, and the Bayhawks ultimately fell to the Connecticut Hammerheads 14-9.

Following the conclusion of the 4 p.m. game, Fernando did a quick costume change — think Clark Kent in a phone booth trading his glasses for a cape. But instead, Fernando traded his Bayhawks No. 85 jersey for a Boston Cannons No. 59.

With Nick Marrocco in need of a night off, Fernando backed up Dom Madonna in a 10-8 loss to the Denver Outlaws.

Despite not seeing the field and playing for the losing team twice in one evening, the smile on Fernando’s face was even evident over the phone.

“That’s what happens when you have such a fast-paced game going,” Fernando said. “They push through so many things throughout the week, they get banged up and they might need a day off. Even in the World Games, you don’t have this much play all day every day.

“I was just sitting back, watching the games. I wasn’t expecting anything. It was definitely an experience.”

Fernando isn’t an MLL outsider. The 31-year-old from Lake Forest, Calif., was a member of the 2017 MLL champion Ohio Machine and has been in and out of the league the past several years.

He said Chesapeake coach Tom Mariano was considering Fernando for a standard roster spot before this summer’s season became the unique format we’ve witnessed over the past five days. After he didn’t make the team, Fernando received a call from MLL’s Lacrosse Operations Manager, Colin Keane, asking if he’d like to be the league’s emergency netminder.

Apparently, several of the league’s coaches had asked about him for the role.







Fernando isn’t averse to bouncing around. He began his college career at Adams State, but took two years off after his sophomore season. He said a coaching carousel there left him feeling “uncomfortable with a lot of what was going on,” so he stepped away.

He then found himself at Concordia-Irvine, where he was offered the chance to earn his MBA while also playing for the school’s MCLA program. He played in the 2015 MCLA championship game — wearing his preferred No. 35.

To stay ready for any situation in the MLL bubble, Fernando tries to keep a routine. He said he wakes up, gets breakfast and then heads to the field to get his reps in. He does a lot of solo work — footwork drills, mostly — and then does what he can to adjust to MLL’s new green ball that it has implemented this season.

His usual training partner is Casey Wasserman, a Towson midfielder, MLL intern and the younger brother of Cannons star Bryce Wasserman.

“Him and I get some reps in,” Fernando said. “Then, whoever comes to the stadium in the afternoon, I just hop in the cage and get some reps with them.”

In some respects, Fernando could be one of the most important players in the league, even without a team affiliation. With above-average temperatures throwing another obstacle at MLL and its players, Fernando could’ve been a savior at some point during this week.

Like the NHL emergency goalies who come out of the stands to save the day, Fernando knows he needs to stay prepared for whatever happens. After all, it’s part of his new job description.

And because he doesn’t have a rooting interest, Fernando might be as good a guy as any for opinions on who’s going to take home the championship. The semifinals begin today, with Denver facing Boston and Connecticut facing Chesapeake.

But Fernando won’t reveal his cards.

“I don’t have an interest in who’s going to take it,” Fernando said. “I just love watching great lacrosse.”

Spoken like a true team player.

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