Fried Looking to Mold Team USA's Mix of New and Familiar
Team USA head coach Ricky Fried said he is focused on creating "the best team of 18 players," for the 2013 World Cup. That may not neccessarily include the best 18 individual players, but will include those who can work well within the U.S. system.
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The 2013 FIL World Cup is still two years away, but with each passing day, the time the U.S. women's senior team spends together gets more important. Eventually, 18 players will be selected to the team that competes in 2013 in Ontario.
In the meantime, a group of 36 named Sunday to the 2011-12 version of the U.S. team, according to head coach Ricky Fried, must balance flashing their individual skills with, perhaps more importantly, their teamwork ability when the group gets together for events this year, such as Stars & Stripes Weekend in October and Champion Challenge in January.
"The big point we try to emphasize, and this year it will be even bigger, is who plays best with others?" Fried said by phone earlier this week from the Jersey Shore, where he was vacationing with family after the three days of tryouts for the 2011-12 team at UMBC over the weekend. "Who makes others better in all aspects of the game?"
Those are the questions Fried had on his mind during tryouts. Lacrosse Magazine had some others for him after it was all over.
LM: You have 25 players on this year's team that were on last year's team, and 11 new players. What was the approach for tryouts this year, with the 2013 World Cup now two years away?
RF: It was an interesting dynamic. Everybody is trying to make the team themselves, but at the same time, we're trying to figure out who would be the best teammates. The first day is always interesting because the players that have been with the program are a lot more comfortable. Saturday you see the cream rise so to speak. There's going to be a core group of people. Unfortunately you never know how that's going to pan out year-to-year. Kristen Kjellman, for example, decided to retire about three weeks before tryouts. While we do have a core group and there's been people who have been with the program for a number of years, we try to focus on the now because you don't what's going to happen with them year-to-year personally or professionally.
Two new additions to the team are current Northwestern players Shannon Smith and Taylor Thornton. What did you see from them during the weekend?
For Shannon, her ability to score goals is pretty evident from this past season and watching her at tryouts. But she also has the ability to distribute the ball, to lead her teammates and come up with big plays when needed. For example, on draw controls, big ground balls. She's consistently in the right place at the right time. She definitely showed her strengths this weekend. One of things we're going to emphasize with her making sure we get back on the ride. Northwestern plays a little bit different style than we do. Getting her to change her thought process is difficult when you get into a different setting, only playing together three weekends a year.
Taylor, it's pretty obvious, the biggest thing she shows you is her athleticism, and tenacity. She plays at a high pace all the time. She is aggressive in a positive way. She is good on the defensive end and she does a good job transitioning out of the defensive end and spurring some fast breaks.
Three other new players – Ally Carey (Vanderbilt), Kara Cannizzaro (North Carolina) and Danielle Etrasco (Boston) – have at least one more college season to play. What advantages or disadvantages do the players in college have versus the more established players in the U.S. program (such as Acacia Walker, for example)?
The advantage they have is they're already going to be a bit more in shape. They're preparing for their own college season, and they're younger so it's a little bit easier. The challenges are going to be confidence level. Realizing they can play at this level. Hopefully by being selected they can realize that other people think they can play at this level. The other challenge is working within two systems at the same time. They're going to have to focus on what they're doing at the collegiate level and then when we come on the weekends, they're going to re-learn some lingo, different offenses and defenses potentially. That's the biggest jump. The players that are out of school now and have been with the program, understand what we do, but they have challenges as well. A lot of them are coaches with different systems.
Gina Oliver came out of semi-retirement to try out for the team this year. Is it nice to have another World Cup experienced person out there?
The biggest thing she showed us was her intelligence and leadership ability. Clearly, she has the ability to take the ball away from people, and has great feet. All the things you want in a defender, but the leadership on the defensive end – the ability to communicate and direct – showed very well. Her ability to push through things when things weren't the most ideal, as far as weather goes. There are other kids that are faster and more fit than her right now, but she really pushed through. She pushed her peers to push through things too.
Going forward this year, what are some goals for the program, knowing another tryout is coming next year, but using the time wisely you have together now?
The big point we try to emphasize and this year it will be even bigger, is who plays best with others? Who makes others better in all aspects of the game? There's always that paradox of people being continuously being evaluated individually. Because at the end of this we only pick 18 players, and everybody knows that. That's always in the back of people's mind. The more that people can focus on just playing, and playing within the system, are going to be the people that are more effective together. At the end of the day, that is what we're shooting for. Picking the best team of 18 players as opposed the best 18 individuals talent-wise, per say. Not only on the field, but off the field. How people interact with each other. All of those things are going to be evaluated. We are getting ready for the World Cup. Even though it's two years away, in essence it's a year away for preparation purposes.
We're excited about the new team, and looking forward to working to the 2013 World Cup. There's a lot of speed and talent out here. It will be a lot of fun.
You mentioned Kristen Kjellman deciding to retire. Where were Jill Byers and Caroline Cryer at tryouts?
They are both injured. We plan to have them back at some point this year when they're healthy. We have the ability to bring four players in at each event. We'll bring them back to participate, see how they're doing physically. They couldn't physically try out. Instead of showing up and hurting themselves further, they sat out, will hopefully rehab and have the opportunity to tryout next year, and be part of the team to some degree this year, depending on when they're healthy.