United States vs. Canada - Gold Medal Predictions
It's been an amazing tournament so far here in Colorado - great finishes, spectacular goals, the spectacle of the Uganda team winning two games amid crazy fan support - but it all comes to a close with tonight's United States-Canada gold medal contest. The teams have dueled for gold in nearly every world championship event and traded the medal in 2006 and 2010, with Canada taking the hardware eight years ago and the United States taking it back in Manchester, England the last time.
Who does LM staff like to walk off the field as FIL World Champion for 2014?
Corey McLaughlin: United States 13, Canada 8
On paper, Team USA is the favorite as it has taken care of opponents with ease throughout the previous nine days, and seems to be really clicking with great chemistry heading into tonight's final. The mood at practice Friday afternoon was one of confidence and preparedness and excitement for what was to come. Why not? They've been dominant across the board. The U.S. and Canada's results against a common opponent in the Iroquois Nationals provides another reason to pick Team USA. The U.S. handled the Iroquois with ease, 18-5, while Canada wasn't as dominant in either pool play, a one-goal win, or the semifinals, where it eventually pulled away against a team that ran out of gas. Team USA coach Richie Meade said, "Two years has led up to this," referring to the tryout process that landed 23 of the game's best on the final roster. There is some pressure to perform -- if you count the "Duel in Denver" exhibition game between these two teams -- the U.S. has not won two in a row against Canada since 2002, and the gold medal has alternated between the nations the last three world championships. That intangible is the only thing lingering in my mind. Canada will be a different team than they were in the opener after having more time together to gel and work an offense without John Grant Jr., with Jeremy Noble and Wesley Berg serving as distributors, Curtis Dickson finding a groove. If Canada can get ahead early and control at least some faceoffs and test the U.S. defense consistently early, it could do a different way, but I think that's less likely than a Team USA win.
MVP: Chris Eck and Greg Gurenlian, FOs, Team USA
Going with co-winners here at the faceoff X with Team USA's Chris Eck and Greg Gurenlian, who have torn through this tournament to win a combined 80 percent of draws (118 of 147), including 12-of-21 against Canada's Geoff Snider in the tournament opener, a 10-7 win. Snider has won two-third of his faceoffs (78 of 117) in the tourney. If Eck and Gurenlian can perform similar or better this time around, it will be hard for Canada to win, just based on not having enough possessions. I don't see Team USA making sloppy turnovers. The good thing about having the top two faceoff guys in the game is that if one slows down for a little, or another stays hot, assistant coach Kevin Cassese has great options. Gurenlian is as healthy as he's ever been after getting cortisone shot in his shoulder to help ease the pain of a torn labrum. Eck, Gurenlian and Snider are all familiar with each other. There is respect all around, but no love lost, and it will be a battle from opening whistle worth following closely.
Lane Errington: United States 13, Canada 8
|Can Rob Pannell continue his torrid tournament, which has him nearing the top of Team USA history for a single event? (Scott McCall)|
MVP: Rob Pannell
I went with him in the opener, and I'm going with him again: Rob Pannell. Through six games, his 28 points in the tournament are tied with Ryan Powell (2006) for fifth all-time. If Pannell's current scoring pace holds, he'll pass Darren Lowe (30, 2002), Mike Morrill (31, 1994) and Mikey Powell (32, 2006), trailing only Mark Million's 41-point outburst in 1994 for the all-time U.S. record. It helps to be surrounded by an all-time great finisher in Kevin Leveille and returning All-World linemate in Brendan Mundorf, but Pannell has been the fire-starter for the American attack.
Don't think that Canada can simply focus on Pannell and expect to shut down the U.S. offense. Team USA's first midfield group has brutalized opposing defenses. Reigning MVP Paul Rabil (15g, 8a) has been tremendous off the alley dodge both right- and left-handed, as well as a noted vocal leader. Kevin Buchanan has been deadly as a wing shooter, thriving off the attention drawn by Rabil, Pannell and others. Lawson (13g, 6a), who coach Richie Meade calls "perhaps our most athletic player," has been the surprise of the tournament for the U.S., cementing himself on the first line with the two longtime Boston Cannons teammates.
According to Meade, the U.S. "haven't even shown anything offensively." While both teams are sure to have a few tricks up their sleeve in terms of scheme, I think talent will win out in this one, with the U.S. pulling away late to claim a record 10th gold medal.
Sean Burns: Canada 12, United States 11
I will totally be that guy on this one. I think the United States is a ridiculous team, and they showed in the opener they can beat Canada. But I feel like Canada is a much different squad than it was a week ago, and has found its rhythem after losing John Grant, Jr. prior to the tournament. Curtis Dickson has been a force, as has Mark Matthews and Adam Jones. And the defense, backstopped by goalie Dillon Ward, has held all opponents to an average of less than five goals since the United States hung ten on them in the opener.
MVP: Dillon Ward
Speaking of, I feel like against the United States offense, he'll have to shine if they want any chance of winning this game. They'll get some on the other end, but if Team USA hangs a crooked number on them early, Canada will have a tough time in a horse race. But he made a whopping 18 saves in the opening game, and if he comes up big again, I think they're better equipped to challenge the U.S. defense and come out on top. If they do, he'll be the key to it all.
Matt DaSilva: United States 12, Canada 11
I came into this event thinking Canada and Iroquois had officially bridged the gap—that with all things being equal, there's no real difference between the top 23 players in the U.S. when stacked against the top 23 players from north of the border or the Six Nations. I was wrong. You could still say the skill level is even across the board, but Team USA has distinguished itself with unparalleled conditioning and athleticism. Fresh legs and incredible depth carries the U.S. to a 12-10 victory and gold medal repeat.
MVP: Paul Rabil
Paul Rabil has nothing to prove. And yet, he's playing in this FIL World Championship like he has everything to prove. He's hustling between the lines, distributing, shooting, defending and leading like his lacrosse life depends on it. Brodie Merrill clearly has lost a step, and Canada's defense is too slow, especially with Rabil and Pannell mirroring each other up top and behind the goal, respectively. The Canadians made some nice adjustments to slow Lyle and Miles Thompson. But Team USA has too many options to stretch the defense.
Megan Schneider: United States 13, Canada 10
It will likely be another close game, ending the world championships right back where they started. Canada will be looking to rebound after its loss following opening ceremonies, but I'm still going with the powerhouse of Team USA to win 13-10. I'm predicting MVP to be leading goal scorer Rob Pannell, but keep an eye on the world favorite Paul Rabil to be an unstoppable force.
Paul Ohanian: United States 15, Canada 8
In the tournament opener last week, Team USA started slowly by falling behind 3-0 before rallying for the 10-7 win. They have figured things out much better since that game and have not been truly tested in the past week. While this is the championship match-up just about everybody predicted, I don't think it will be as close as last week's game. Fueled by the patriotism of the home crowd, the team with the better depth and athleticism wins going away. Team USA 15, Canada 8.
MVP: Paul Rabil. He's the best player on the field.
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