June 28, 2010

Boyle-ing It Down: Ryan Boyle's Player-by-Player Skinny on Team USA

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

America, this is your Redeem Team.

Twenty-three players will journey to Manchester, England, in July hoping to replace the albatross around their necks with gold medals.

Ryan Boyle, a three-time member of the U.S. team — including in 2006, when Team Canada ended Team USA’s 28-year reign of international lacrosse supremacy — knows the burden all too well.

Boyle also knows the players around him, probably better than anyone else on the planet. So we gave the smartest player in the game a blank canvas for his brilliance, and learned some interesting things about those plotting the U.S. team’s path to redemption.

This article appears in the June issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

ATTACK

Team USA attackman Drew Westervelt can shoot from long range or dodge. "This day and age, you don't see that at the attack position," teammate Ryan Boyle says.

Brendan Mundorf and Drew Westervelt have great chemistry that goes back to their UMBC days. Ryan Powell played with both with the Outlaws in 2008. That built-in familiarity should benefit Team USA up front. Ryan Boyle and Powell like to coordinate the offense from behind. Mundorf brings an array of wing and crease dodges to the table as a ball carrier. Mike Leveille and Westervelt are strong off-ball finishers.

Boyle on Boyle: “Let’s skip that one.”

Boyle on Leveille: “For being such a ho-hum guy, when he brings it, he brings it. It almost catches you off guard. He’s so laid back, but when he shoots, it’s so freaking hard. Was that really Mike Leveille?”

Boyle on Mundorf: “Ah, Mundy. He’s just a scorer. Once he gets in front of the cage, look out. I think the best word for him is fearless. When he’s going to the cage, he’s going to the cage hard.”

Boyle on Powell: “The first day of tryouts, we were like, ‘Who is that old man? Oh, it’s RP.’ He’s got the calf-high socks, hasn’t shaved in a couple of days, and the next thing you know he’s scored three goals and two assists. Then you’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s how RP does it.’ He has done it forever.”

Boyle on Westervelt: “He provides an incredible amount of range with his shot, but he’s also a very adept dodger. This day and age, you don’t see that at the attack position. You see good dodgers and good shooters. Drew combines the two of them, and that is rare.”

ATTACK/MIDFIELD

Ned Crotty, fresh off a decorated Duke career and at 23 the youngest of the group, has shifty north-south moves and feeding abilities that offer Team USA some versatility in this swing role.

Boyle on Crotty: “I remember watching him play midfield. He looks like such a classic, dodge-and-shoot midfielder with feeding capabilities. When they moved him to attack, I was like, ‘Really?’ But he’s a fantastic feeder and very quick. Solid guy, too. I’m a huge Ned Crotty fan.”

MIDFIELD

Team USA midfielder Paul Rabil "is deadly, because you just never know when he's going to blow up," Boyle says.

Chris Schiller and Matt Zash are primarily d-mids, though Zash can make sub-happy opponents pay in transition. Add Kevin Cassese and Stephen Peyser to the mix, and you’ve got guys who can hold their own defensively to limit slides. Not a bad idea considering the Canadians’ prowess around the crease. A midfield line combining any three of Kyle Dixon, Paul Rabil, Max Seibald and Matt Striebel would be downright scary.

Boyle on Cassese: “Versatile. He’s got a great left-handed alley dodge. You’ve got to be conscious of his fake flip going off the field, which is one of my favorite things to watch from behind the goal.”

Boyle on Dixon: “He just makes the right play and at the end of the day you think, ‘What has this guy done?’ Oh I don’t know, maybe not made a mistake the entire day… He led the MLL last year in two-pointers, but you don’t think of him as this bomber. He doesn’t play with this huge bag or with huge whip, which allows him to be so consistent.”

Boyle on Peyser: “He’s mentally adrift. I must have yelled at him about five times about drifting in front when I’m dodging from behind. Then, the last day of tryouts, he actually does it. He catches and shoots, and looks at me like, “Oh yeah, I’m glad we were able to get through.” He’s so skilled. He can face off, play defense, dodge — but it’s always funny. I’d love to know what’s going on in his head.”

Boyle on Rabil: “Rabil is deadly, because you just never know when he’s going to blow up. People do not give him enough credit for his feeding ability. He has great vision. Being a beneficiary of a lot of his feeds, I can tell you firsthand he’s very good.”

Boyle on Seibald: “Dear God, the kid’s an athlete. Strong. Fast. I feel like he’s still trying to figure out how to use it. I think he’s still getting better, which is kind of scary, because he is just an animal out there — a thoroughbred.”

Boyle on Schiller: “People kind of sleep on Schiller, but he’s pretty damn fast. He knows what he’s doing from a defensive standpoint. He’s tough, crafty and knows the indoor game well. He knows the Canadian personnel. He’s going to be a great resource.”

Boyle on Striebel: “He can dodge and shoot. He can shoot time-and-room. He’s got range. He can play inside, dodge up the wings, invert and play the two-man game... From a personal standpoint, he’s one of my best friends. I value his opinion on everything from the social commentary on ‘Avatar’ to the latest Hot Chicks album to what’s going on in my personal life and real issues.”

Boyle on Zash: “Zasher — he’s from a different generation. From style and his play, he’s very old school. He picks up loose balls, plays the wings, can play defense and plays offense. He did a give-and-go against Duke and scored. Who does give-and-go anymore? Zash does. He’s a throwback in every sense of the word.”

DEFENSE

"His tattoo on his arm says it all. He's a rare bird," Boyle says of Team USA defenseman Eric Martin. "He'll do anything at any time. He's just nasty."

This has the look of a defense that will body up on Canada’s big guns and play physical. Shawn Nadelen, a question mark with his knee rehab, has had success against John Grant Jr. Joe Cinosky, another right-handed defenseman that plays lefties well, could also fill that role.  Eric Martin and DJ Driscoll do the dirty work. Ryan McClay is his own redemption story. He nearly hung up his cleats after failing to qualify for the 2006 team. Now he's back for what could be his swan song. Kyle Sweeney will most likely be relegated almost exclusively to long-stick midfield duties, although we could see Martin in that role, too.

Boyle on Cinosky: “Solid. It’s almost rare that a defenseman that plays his style actually gets the recognition from the media. He has got some takeaway checks, but knows when to use them... I played against him in the All-Star Game, but I was recovering from a mild concussion. I think he took it easy on me.”

Boyle on Driscoll: “Real rangy. Incredibly athletic. He’s long. That’s the thing that gets you. He’s got a great can opener. You’ve really got to watch his poke-and-lift check. That’s his go-to check. Start your dodge even farther away than normal, because he’s going to get you with that.”

Boyle on Martin: “His tattoo on his arm says it all. He’s a rare bird. He’ll do anything at any time. He’s just nasty. He’s not afraid to mix it up. He’s such a loose cannon, that you’ve got to keep that emotion in check. Like against Duke, when he went around the world when we were down a goal with six minutes left. You know, maybe save that.”

Boyle on McClay: “At this point, McClay is a crafty veteran. He’s got an unbelievable stick. He’s great at picking off passes, great on loose balls and real heady in transition. He understands the flow from defense to offense.”

Boyle on Nadelen: “You just don’t really see Nads ever make a mistake. He’s just a brick house. He can cover both on-ball and off-ball, which is a rare trait for a defenseman. I’m really hoping the best for him to get back.”

Boyle on Sweeney: “Oh, Sweeney. What I love about Sweeney is he will complain about God only knows, but I know deep down inside there’s no place he’d rather be than on a field. He hates the other team, and he hates specific people on the other team. He wants nothing more than to embarrass them. I don’t know another defenseman that literally outscores the guy he’s covering.”

GOALKEEPER

Adam Fullerton was a dark horse all along. It raised eyebrows when he was invited to Team USA tryouts; then he actually made the team. Fullerton makes the saves he should and offers crisp outlet passes in the clearing game. The experience comes from Brian Dougherty, a three-time MLL Goalkeeper of the Year, as do the flair for a big save and the ability to bait shooters.

Boyle on Fullerton: “Kind of the wild card. He’s real crafty. He’ll bait you, get the ground ball, flip it up, and then throws tons of pump fakes and face dodges. His prowess out of the goal is unbelievable.”

Boyle on Dougherty: “Haha. If you’re at a team function, sitting down at breakfast, lunch or dinner, you want to be at Doc’s table. He was my goalie in Philly for all those years. He took care of one end and I took care of the other. He’s the best ever, isn’t he? He jumps to his offside so if they shoot it that way, it hits him. And if they shoot it to his stick, he’s got quick hands and just finds it. Even though I’ve seen it, he still gets me on it when I play against him.”

FACEOFF

Alex Smith won 70 percent of faceoffs against Canada’s Geoff Snider during the 2009 MLL season. Peyser can spell him in a high-scoring affair. After what Snider did to Team USA in 2006, this will be the most-watched unit in the World Championship.

Boyle on Smith: “Every faceoff is like a life-or-death situation. Even if he doesn’t win the initial draw, he will fight to the death and argue on his way off. It’s always encouraging to see your faceoff guy care that much about one loose ball, because that’s his job. The guy has made a living of it."


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