Rapid Reaction: Analyzing the U.S. Tryout Pool of 98
|Who will the Team USA offense run
through in 2014? Rob Pannell (above)? Steele Stanwick? Ryan Boyle?
© Peyton Williams
And away we go.
The 98-player tryout pool for the 2014 U.S. men's national team was announced Saturday afternoon at halftime of the Denver Outlaws-Chesapeake Bayhawks game on ESPN2. Click here to see the full list of players that made the pool from the 156 that applied.
These 98 players are invited to tryouts Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Goucher College in Baltimore. After that, a 40-man training roster will be named and that group will gather at the Play for Parkinson's fall ball event in October and at least one additional training weekend through the end of the calendar year. Final cuts down to a 23-player roster will be made after Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event, in January. The 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Men's Championship is July 10-19 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver.
Here are some thoughts and observations on the list of 98, which were selected by a committee that included current and past U.S. men's national team coaches and players, as well as current college and professional coaches. Former Navy and current Furman coach Richie Meade is Team USA's head coach. He is assisted by Kevin Cassese (Lehigh), Jeff Tambroni (Penn State) and Dave Pietramala (Johns Hopkins).
The LaxMagazine.com staff will weigh in with more in-depth breakdowns of each position group as next week rolls along. This is my take for now.
This team will be built for a year from now
Let's start with the obvious. The 2014 games in Denver begin 348 days from today. It's important to consider this fact when analyzing the names and projecting who may or may not be in the running for one of the final 23 roster spots. And it's probably too early to even start making sense of that roster until this list of 98 goes to 40 after Labor Day weekend.
This team will be created to beat Canada and the Iroquois
You can't just show up and win. Canada and the Iroquois are the United States' biggest competition. Remember, we are just one championship cycle removed from Canada taking the 2006 title and just a year removed from the Iroquois under-19 team's win over Team USA last summer -- a sign that the Iroquois' field presence has strengthened exponentially since 2006, the last time the Iroquois competed in a men's world championship. They didn't play in 2010 in England because of a dispute over their Haudenosaunee-issued passports.
There are 10 returners in the tryout pool from Team USA's 2010 gold medal team, and 90 of the tryout invitees are out of college. The group is decidedly veteran, and even includes 37-year-old Casey Powell, who burst back onto the Major League Lacrosse scene just last week. There are only eight current college players in the pool, one at each position group aside from faceoffs where two collegians, Duke's Brendan Fowler and Bryant's Kevin Massa, earned bids.
Who is the quarterback?
There are enough feeders, finishers and dodgers in the group of 21 attackmen to make up probably three or four lines that any team would be happy with a year from now. But in the end, only two lines are needed, and probably only five or six attackmen will make the final roster. In the meantime, the combinations are endless, and viewing the various trios during tryouts is sure to be entertaining.
My biggest question is, who is going to be the quarterback of this team? Will it be Steele Stanwick? Ryan Boyle? Rob Pannell? A combination of them and/or others? Or are we looking for an offense similar to what the Denver Outlaws run with Brendan Mundorf as the centerpiece? At last fall's Duel in Denver loss to Canada, Team USA relied too much on isolation dodging and outside shooting and was unable to create quality scoring chances in close.
Midfield mix and match
There are 27 offensive midfielders in the tryout pool, and likely only six will make the team to fill two lines. There are big-time dodgers like Paul Rabil, Tom Schreiber and Max Seibald and shooters like Drew Snider, Stephen Peyser and yes, the 114 mile-per-hour man, Mike Sawyer, listed as a midfielder. Again, the coaching staff will be looking at who are the best and which combinations play the best together.
Compared to the other position groups, defense may have the most question marks, which is concerning when probably the biggest goal for next year will be stopping Canada's offense. There are 16 defensemen in the tryout pool, and only one (Kyle Sweeney) played on Team USA in 2010.
Outside of Lee Zink, a 2010 alternate, Michael Evans and maybe Tucker Durkin, I don't see anyone as a frontrunner to make the final roster. Dave Pietramala, a Team USA assistant, probably would not mind coaching a unit with Blue Jay alums Evans and Durkin. Related, there are 12 representatives from Johns Hopkins in the tryout pool, the most of any school. Maryland is second with nine.
Goaltending free for all
|Drew Adams, who has competed with
the U.S. at Champion Challenge, is in the running with six other
MLL goalies and one current collegian to be Team USA's starter in
2014 in Denver.
© John Strohsacker
Goalie is a position that is seemingly wide open, based on the fact that the 2010 goalie, Brian Dougherty, is long retired, and the backup from that team, Adam Fullerton, isn't in the tryout pool. The number of goalies and variety of styles picked for tryouts reflects that.
There are the top seven goalies in Major League Lacrosse and the reigning collegiate national goalie of the year, Austin Kaut, whose coach at Penn State, Tambroni, is one of the Team USA assistants. Coaches likely will look for consistency throughout tryouts from Kaut, Drew Adams, Jordan Burke, John Galloway, Adam Ghitelman, Brett Queener, Jesse Schwartzman and Kip Turner.
The specialist groups are special
This list is a specialist-lovers dream. It's like a stacked fantasy draft of faceoff guys, short-stick defensive midfielders and long-stick midfielders. Color me crazy, but I'm most excited about these groups, particularly the 10 short-stick defensive middies invited to Goucher. These are guys that are typically overlooked, but play one of the toughest positions in the game. Matt Abbott, Steve DeNapoli and Dan Burns are only three of the 10, and that's enough for any tryout pool. One surprise: John Ranagan is listed in this group, not as an offensive middie. The long-stick and faceoff groups are just as great.
Who will be the new faceoff man?
There will be a new primary faceoff man in 2014 as Alex Smith, who hasn't played a game yet in the MLL this year, didn't apply for tryouts. Chris Eck, Greg Gurenlian and Anthony Kelly should be considered the veteran frontrunners, but Fowler and Massa are quite prolific for college kids, both setting multiple records this spring. This is a huge position to determine.
Who will be team leaders?
Leadership is a big thing for Team USA coach Richie Meade. Who from this group will either step up or be asked to be leaders? And will a wily veteran, say Matt Striebel or Chris Schiller, help their cause to make it through cuts because of their leadership skills? Striebel and Boyle are seeking to become four-time Team USA members.
Those college guys...
With all of MLL and the six LXM Pro Tour players dominating the tryout pool, the eight current college players selected ought to be giddy about being picked to swim in the deep end. As if they needed more of a confidence boost, just being around this much talent will benefit Fowler, Massa, Schreiber, Kaut, Duke attackman Jordan Wolf, Loyola defenseman Joe Fletcher, Virginia fifth-year midfielder Chris LaPierre and Villanova long-stick midfielder John LoCascio. LoCascio is the Villanova protégé of sorts to long-stick sensation Brian Karalunas of the New York Lizards.
MLL team success isn't necessarily reflected
|Invitees by MLL team||MLL standings (before Saturday)|
Who's not on the list?
Some of the most notable, like Kyle Dixon, Alex Smith and Mike Leveille, did not apply.
In all, there are 26 players that participated in at least one Team USA evaluation event since last fall's Duel in Denver that did not make the list of 98. They are: Dixon, Smith, Leveille, Greg Bice, Grant Catalino, Jimmy Connolly, Joe Cinosky, Ian Dingman, Tyler Fiorito, Tim Henderson, Roy Lang, Brendan Porter, P.T. Ricci, Kevin Ridgway, Brad Ross, Rob Rotanz, Stephen Robarge, Scott Rodgers, Matt Russell, Max Schmidt, Mike Skudin, Justin Turri, Steve Waldeck, Joe Walters, Julian Watts and Joel White.
Check back to LaxMagazine.com throughout the week
for more analysis of the 98-member Team USA tryout pool. Tickets
are available to the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse
World Championships at worldlacrosse2014.com.