July 22, 2010

Video: Light's Always Green for USA's Sweeney

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Video by Loud Communications

MANCHESTER, England -- It’s a sequence lacrosse fans have seen countless times here in Manchester and in the last 15 years, since he first brandished a long pole as a hot prospect out of Philadelphia.

Kyle Sweeney strips an opponent or sucks a loose ball off the ground, sprints the length of the field like a gazelle, runs the point, burns the defense and scores.

“You don’t ask what color the light is; you don’t have to worry about it," said the U.S. team long stick midfielder. "I never have to ask if I can go or can’t go…. It’s always green.”

Sweeney’s energetic play has ignited the U.S. time and again. The 29-year-old long stick midfielder had five goals and two assists in five games entering Thursday’s world championship semifinal against Japan.

“It’s hard to say, but he’s playing some of his best lacrosse ever. He’s one of the top players, especially among the defensive long poles in the country and in the world. He’s demonstrated that this week," said U.S. assistant Tony Resch, who coached against Sweeney in high school and coached him with the Philadelphia Barrage. "He really gets the momentum going with those impact-type plays he’s been providing us throughout the tournament.”

Said Sweeney: “I paid Coach Resch to say that. I don’t necessarily know if it’s the best ball I’ve ever played. When you’ve played this much lacrosse it’s tough to remember when you were playing at your best. I know that I’ve been working hard. I don’t want to say I’ve been saving anything up for this, but this is important to me. I was a part of the team in ’06 – obviously didn’t get the outcome we were looking for. So it’s been a long four years thinking about this and working towards it so I’m here to win it and I’m going to play to the best my ability to help our team win. If that translates to me playing the best ball you’ve ever seen me play, then so be it. But all I really care about is USA winning the gold in a couple days.”

Sweeney, one of five players remaining from the team that lost to Canada in 2006, plays with a ferocity that undermines his otherwise cool demeanor.

“I’ve never been a rah-rah bang my head on the locker before the game guy. I’ve never, ever once wanted to hear Metallica or Megadeath in the locker room. I just sit in the locker room and do my own thing," he said.

Comparisons will be drawn again Saturday when Sweeney lines up on one wing and Canadian long pole Brodie Merrill lines up on the other. Both were All-Americans at Georgetown University. When the conversation comes down to the greatest long poles of all time, they’re usually 1 and 1A.

The order depends on whom you talk to.

“Everyone loves to make that story and Brodie and I are really good friends. Do I want to be better than Brodie? I want to be the best player out there," Sweeney said. "If we played badminton right now, I want to be the best badminton player ever. I’m a very competitive person. I always have been that way, sometimes to a huge character fault. I’m very competitive so I want to be the best out there. It just so happens that one of my good buddies is also in the same situation. I don’t care if it’s Brodie, Eric Martin, Matt Bocklet, whoever else is a good pole out there. I want to be the best on the field. It just so happens Brodie is one of my good buddies.”

Sparks fly when Kyle Sweeney is on the lacrosse field. But it will take a team effort, he says, for the underdog U.S. to beat Canada.

Said Sweeney: “My biggest concern is making sure the 23 guys we have come out to play. I know that if each one of those guys in there plays to the best of his ability, there’s no team out there that’s going to beat us.”

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