Schwartzman Making Most of Team USA Shot
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Five years ago, Jesse Schwartzman wasn't invited to the Team USA tryouts, despite having been named the Major League Lacrosse Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009. He made no bones about his displeasure.
This summer, the two-time NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and newly-minted MLL all-time wins leader has channeled that energy into a stellar performance for the United States, leading the way on a defensive unit that has allowed just over four goals a game in rolling to a 6-0 record through the semifinals, where it dismantled Australia in a 22-3 rout.
With the gold medal game Saturday at 7 p.m. local time against Canada, he has a chance to take it one step further, leading his country on the lacrosse field with the hope of taking a second straight gold medal and tenth since the first international tournament in 1967.
"Ever since I played lacrosse, probably starting back in like 1990, my dream was to wear the red, white and blue," he says. "Obviously things didn't work out [in 2010, when the United States took Brian Dougherty and Adam Fullerton as its goalkeeping pair]... but that just made me work harder and realize how special it was."
Through the start of action on Friday, Schwartzman had allowed a tournament-low 3.7 goals per game, the backstop of a United States defensive unit that has throttled every opponent it has faced, with only Canada and Australia's seven goals in pool play coming close to double-digits in the team's dominant run so far.
While he has no chance of approaching the tournament lead in saves per game that his one-time protégé at Johns Hopkins Mike Gvozden has racked up (16.29 through Thursday's games for 36th place finisher Argentina), his 16 goals against in 259 minutes against the best the world has to offer has left him and Canada's Dillon Ward (31 in 409) atop the heap in terms of keeping the ball out of the net, particularly when you consider the level of competition faced.
"I think for Jesse, he's appreciated being here, and along with the rest of the guys, he's gelled and found his place, not only on the field, but off," Team USA head coach Richie Meade said. "He's been a good team guy, both on the field, and off."
With just one game left, Team USA is focused entirely on Canada, which took the 2006 title behind MVP Geoff Snider's dominance at the faceoff X. Alex Smith helped neutralize that advantage in 2010, and the two-headed monster of Chris Eck (61-for-81, .761) and Greg Gurenlian (57-for-67, .861) has shown it can help a game of make it-take it develop if teams can't answer in the faceoff circle.
In the first meeting, a 10-7 United States win on July 10 on the same stadium field at Dick's Sporting Goods Park they will be playing on tonight, Schwartzman played all 80 minutes and made seven stops, including several key ones after Canada took an early 3-0 lead and the United States team was searching for a response.
Between a combination of Eck and Gurenlian winning draws, the defense forcing turnovers and Schwartzman making stops when the Canadians were able to get off a good look, Team USA went on an 8-0 run to put the game away, leading by as much as 9-4 before Canada used a late 3-1 run to close the gap without ever really getting close.
But the gold medal game is another animal entirely. The losing team in pool play between the United States and Canada has come back to win the final in the past two tournaments: Canada in 2006 and Team USA four years ago in Manchester, England.
"Tomorrow is going to be a big challenge," Schwartzman said on Friday afternoon back at the United States dorms. "They're a different team than they were when we first faced them, but we're different too. We just hope the result is the same.
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