Team USA: Midfield Focus of Philly Game
by Brian Logue | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Brendan Mundorf scored five goals in Team USA's game against the MLL College Stars.
© Richard Orr
Now less than a month away from its first game in the 2010 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship, things are starting to heat up for the U.S. men's national team. Team USA will take on the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association (PLA) All-Stars in an exhibition game on Friday night at Lehigh University beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets will be available for $15 at the gate.
The U.S. team last played on June 6 in New Haven, Conn., against the Major League Lacrosse College All-Stars, losing 12-11 in a game shortened due to lightning midway through the fourth quarter. That was the team's first game since losing to 2010 NCAA champion Duke 9-8 on Jan. 31 at the Champion Challenge in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Team USA head coach Mike Pressler says that he is not concerned about the close losses in the last two exhibition games at this point.
"We never went into these games with a goal of winning," said Pressler, who was an assistant on the 2002 U.S. team that won a gold medal in Perth, Australia. "We're trying to find out what we have, who's going to play and what this is going to look like."
One of the key challenges is putting together the right combination of players in the midfield. The U.S. midfield contingent includes the last three Tewaaraton award winners — Ned Crotty (2010), Mike Leveille (2008) and Max Seibald (2009) — 2009 MLL MVP Paul Rabil, three-time Team USA members Kevin Cassese and Matt Striebel, and a host of other talents.
Pressler doesn't plan any fundamental challenges to his approach from the previous scrimmages, but the midfield will be an area of focus.
"We're going to play everybody and mix up some midfield lines," said Pressler. "We've got some swing guys like Ned Crotty that can play midfield and attack. We'll take a look at some different guys on the pole and have Alex Smith and Stephen Peyser facing off again."
Team USA will face some challenging competition in the PLA All-Stars. The PLA roster features eight All-Americans from the 2010 NCAA season, including first teamers Kevin Crowley (midfield, Stony Brook), John Lade (defense, Syracuse) and Joel White (defense, Syracuse). Among the other notable names on the PLA roster are former first team All-Americans Alex Hewit (goalie, Princeton) and Brett Moyer (defense, Hofstra).
"I'm really impressed with the roster they've put together," said Pressler. "There are a lot of good young players."
Of the three U.S. team scrimmages before they head across the Atlantic, this is the only one that will be played by international rules. Among the biggest differences are quicker restarts after whistles, all subbing on the fly (no sideline horns) and 20 minute running clock quarters.
The U.S. team opens training camp at Bryant University July 4 and will play its final stateside game on July 8 against the MLL All-Stars. That game will be televised live on ESPN2 beginning at 7 p.m. The U.S. team's first game at the world championships in Manchester, England will be on July 16 against Australia.
Pressler's immediate focus, however, is on Friday's exhibition.
"The more we get together, the more we improve and get a better feel for each other," said Pressler. "We're looking to play better, play well and get some momentum heading into training camp."
NOTES: Team USA's Kevin Cassese is the head coach at Lehigh and the PLA roster includes one of his former players — defender Dan Honeywell...Team USA assistant coaches Joe Alberici (Army) and Rick Sowell (Stony Brook) will also be squaring off against some of their players. The PLA roster features Army's Garrett Thul and Rob McCallion and Stony Brook's Kevin Crowley...Team USA was without four players for its last scrimmage. Team USA players D.J. Driscoll, Matt Striebel, Mike Leveille and alternate Kevin Leveille all missed the game after their flight to Connecticut was diverted to New York for an emergency landing.
» Inside September Issue of Lacrosse Magazine » U.S. Indoor Team to Play Iroquois Nationals » World Champs: Team USA's Road to Gold » Photos: Team USA vs. Canada (FIL Final) » Video: Team USA Wins Back World Title » Five Things Team USA Needs to Beat Canada » Video: Sights and Sounds of World Games » Video: U.S. Well-Equipped with John Jez » Crotty Surfaces, Then Rises to the Occasion » Golden Boys: Team USA Rules World Again
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