July 23, 2010

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All Bets Off When U.S., Canada Throw Down

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

MANCHESTER, England -- To see the difference between the U.S. and Canadian lacrosse teams is to see Mac Allen with his party-in-the-back, mullet-Mohawk hybrid, slugging a Red Bull and rocking huge headphones before a game.

Or to see head coach Dave Huntley hobnob in flip-flops.

Or to see John Grant Jr. and company in the beer garden following a big win.

Each sight offers a sharp contrast to what most observers have noted about Team USA at these Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships. While Team Canada is loose as ever, the U.S. has been wound tightly under head coach Mike Pressler’s watch.

The teams meet Saturday at 4 p.m. local (11 a.m. Eastern) in the gold medal game. Canada defeated the U.S., 15-10, to win gold in 2006. The Canadians then handed Team USA its first-ever defeat in preliminaries with a 10-9 victory last Saturday.

“We have a different mentality. You’ve got to enjoy this whole experience,” said midfielder Shawn Williams, a three-time member of the Canadian national team. “Talking to guys I know on the American side, they do miss that a little bit. You get a little cabin fever in there.”

With off days Wednesday and Friday breaking up the schedule, Team USA has found ways to unwind and get back to its winning ways. But the daily regimen, including meals, training room treatment, meetings and film review, remains in place.

Co-captain Ryan Powell said it’s important that the U.S. players stay on schedule, but not to psych themselves out to the point of self-destruction.

“We’re having a good time right now. We’ve really bonded as a team. We’re trying not to get too tightened up here,” Powell said after Team USA’s 20-5 win over Japan in Thursday’s semifinal. “We’re playing the biggest game of our lives Saturday. We want to keep this flow going, stay loose. We’re in a pretty good routine with what time we’re eating, hanging out with each other, coming to shoot-arounds, getting work done during the day, being prepared and ready to go out there when it’s time to battle.”

U.S. defensive midfielder Chris Schiller is familiar with the Canadian way. As a member of the Rochester Rattlers in 2008, he won a Major League Lacrosse championship playing alongside many of those players. He’s also a veteran of the Canadian-laden National Lacrosse League with the Rochester Knighthawks.

“Last time we just got too amped for the game. We were very tight,” Schiller said of Team USA’s only loss of the tournament. “We’ve all been in big games, and we all have to act like we’ve been in big games. We’ve just got to play our game.”

There were hints of gamesmanship the first time the U.S. and Canada met, but players on both sides Friday downplayed the element of surprise.

“It’s one of those all-time great rivalries. I get chills right now just talking about it,” Williams said. “We know what they got. They know what we got. It’s mano a mano. Let’s go at it.”

Said Schiller: “You can throw everything out the window when our two teams play.”

The U.S. has made adjustments on the field since the Canada loss. Powell supplanted Drew Westervelt on the starting attack line next to Ryan Boyle and Brendan Mundorf. Swing man Mike Leveille bumped up to the first midfield line to offer a left-handed compliment to Paul Rabil and Max Seibald.

Team USA had a full practice Friday at 3 p.m.


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