July 18, 2010
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U.S. Team Tries to Put Canada Loss Behind

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

A leader in the U.S. camp, co-captain Ryan Powell's talents have yet to be seen on the field in these FIL World Championships.

© Kevin P. Tucker

MANCHESTER, England -- The U.S. men’s national team’s reaction to Saturday’s 10-9 loss to Canada -- its first ever in an international preliminary and just its third all-time – followed the script you might expect from a team that has isolated itself on this world championship stage.

You had the it’s-a-marathon-not-a-sprint approach.

“We’ll put this behind us,” defenseman DJ Driscoll said. “They came out and showed their hand. We held a couple of things back.”

The self-blaming approach.

“I have one comment for you,” head coach Mike Pressler said. “We beat ourselves.”

And the self-effacing approach.

“Give Canada a lot of credit,” midfielder and co-captain Kevin Cassese said. “They outplayed us. They deserved to win… We had opportunities. They made the most of them. We didn’t. It’s a very simple game. That was the difference.”

Officiating was called into question too, including an apparent Mike Leveille goal that rang in and out of the cage in the second quarter and a slew of faceoff procedure calls.

The U.S. gets something of a respite Sunday when it meets Germany in a 4:30 p.m. local game and continues pool play Monday against England, which lost in overtime to an Australian team that Team USA trounced 21-5. The U.S. closes preliminaries Tuesday against Japan.

You know the Canada game tape won’t be far from reach. From my field-level view, here’s a unit-by-unit report card.

ATTACK: C

Comments: The U.S. got virtually no production from this unit until the fourth quarter. Where’s Ryan Powell? Sure, he’s not the “RP” of five years ago, but Team USA should have deployed him in the absence of better options Saturday. Instead, the Americans relied too much on initiating offense from up top. The few times they did initiate from behind, it was on inverts by midfielders Ned Crotty and Mike Leveille. The U.S. adjusted to similar offensive woes in the MLL All-Star Game by letting Powell and Ryan Boyle work on a string behind. That might be worth revisiting.

MIDFIELD: A-

Comments: Midfielders accounted for seven of Team USA’s nine goals. Matt Striebel had a strong game with a goal and two assists. Paul Rabil (1g, 1a) was strong early, but faded late. Max Seibald was a non-factor after going off on Australia. The U.S. got good production from its second midfield. Leveille and Matt Zash combined for three goals. Where’s Kyle Dixon? There’s only so much rock to go around, but given its shooting woes late, the U.S. could have used his high-to-high cannon in there.

DEFENSE: B+

Comments: DJ Driscoll and Shawn Nadelen combined to hold John Grant in check until the fourth quarter, when Junior had his way. The defense also kept Zack Greer, who’s been scorching hot here in Manchester, to just one assist. But Team USA can’t sleep on Canada’s midfield. With so much attention being paid to Canada’s big attack, Rhys Duch (three goals) and Kevin Crowley (go-ahead goal in fourth quarter) took advantage. (Wonder if U.S. team assistant Rick Sowell will chime in here. He has coached both Canadians at Stony Brook.)

GOALIE: C

Comments: Brian Dougherty made the stops he should have and let in the goals he should have. Nothing spectacular, but he can’t be blamed for the goals he allowed. He could have done more to organize Team USA’s clearing game, which was a mess.

FACEOFFS: C

Comments: The most watched match-up of the game, Canada’s Geoff Snider and Team USA’s Alex Smith, proved anticlimactic. Each went 10-for-20, with most faceoffs being decided by illegal procedure calls for going early, withholding and other offenses. Smtih has yet to find his rhythm here in Manchester, as officials’ cadences vary and faceoffs are tightly called.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Comments: The U.S. failed to take advantage when it was two-men up late in the second quarter. Its lone extra-man goal came in the third quarter, a pretty around-the-horn play from Rabil to Boyle to Leveille that tied the game at 6 with 3:18 left in the third quarter. The clearing game was suspect, especially when Team USA was man-down. On one man-down possession in the third quarter, Nadelen twice knocked the ball to the ground, but the ensuing clears failed and Duch eventually potted an extra-man goal.

NEWS & NOTES

John Grant Jr. renewed his rivalry with Shawn Nadelen, who has missed this Major League Lacrosse season while undergoing extensive knee rehabilitation to make these world games. Nadelen had ACL surgery five months ago. “Things got a little heated with Nads. After the game I congratulated him on coming back so early. It’s a testament to his tenacity,” said Grant, who has twice come back from knee surgeries and last year overcame a severe knee infection. “He’s a good competitor and I look forward to playing him again….”

Though Team USA looked somewhat over-wound at times Saturday, Cassese said the U.S. will not change its closed-door, game-day approach in the wake of the loss. Canada appeared looser and more willing to improvise. “They are who they are and we are who we are. We’re always going to take our time to prepare, focus in a little on what their team’s doing but more on what we have to do to be successful,” he said. “There’s always a tendency when you lose a game to overanalyze everything. Game’s very simple. They just outplayed us…” 

Driscoll on the unique challenge of guarding Grant: “We all play in the MLL against him and all gone down and marked him. You have little tricks like trying to lift, get one hand on his stick, just be a real pain in his butt. We wanted to mix up where we were picking him up to initiate, get in his head a little bit and try to get him to take himself out of the game. He loves the inside roll, whether it’s behind the back, or he had that goal where he got topside and put it right over Doc’s shoulder. We know he’s capable of that.” Grant twice scored behind-the-back goals when Driscoll denied him angles. “You do everything you can. You’re playing position defense. You lift his hands. And he’s a great player who makes a great play,” he said.


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