August 28, 2013

Attack Selections Could Define Team USA Offense

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Gallery: Team USA Tryout Invitees - Attack

Some of the best feeders and finishers in the game will be vying for a spot on Team USA for the 2014 FIL World Championship - here's who made the first cut.

After the announcement of the Team USA Tryout Invitees (Analysis) earlier this month, LaxMagazine.com took an in-depth look at each position and the players vying for spots on the 2014 edition of Team USA. We will be running updated versions of each leading into this weekend's tryout at Goucher college.

See Also: Attack | Defense | SSDM | Face-Off | LSM | Midfield | Goalies

What will be the identity of the U.S. men's national team's offense in 2014? In 2010, it unmistakably ran through Paul Rabil, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship MVP, up top and Brendan Mundorf behind. But Team USA also benefitted from versatile swingmen like Mike Leveille and Ned Crotty—midfielders who could invert as attackmen to exploit Canada's short sticks.

But the game has changed over the last four years, especially at the attack position. Dynamic 1-on-1 dodgers have given way to more wily types, players who can camp behind the cage and engineer an offense out of two-man games, picks and screens. Specialized roles have evolved out of that, and the 21 attackmen selected to try out for the 2014 U.S. team reflect that trend. You've got quarterbacks, playmakers, finishers and outside shooters.

Here's a closer look at the field.

Quarterbacks

  • Ned Crotty, Rochester Rattlers (Duke)
  • Marcus Holman, Ohio Machine (North Carolina)
  • Rob Pannell, New York Lizards (Cornell)
  • Steele Stanwick, Ohio Machine (Virginia)
  • Kevin Cunningham, Hamilton Nationals (Villanova)

Analysis: This group will draw the most attention if only for its sheer star power, including three Tewaaraton Award winners in Crotty (2010), Stanwick (2011) and Pannell (2013). But you can only have so many cooks in the kitchen... The MLL's all-time leading scorer, Ryan Boyle, retired from international play after being announced for the tryout roster, leaving Matt Striebel alone in the attempt to become a four-time Team USA member. Only National Hall of Famers Vinnie Sombrotto and John DeTommaso have accomplished that feat... The team does still have the NCAA's all-time leading scorer in Pannell... Stanwick is a younger version of Boyle, with his ability to facilitate others and keen field vision, and the two have struck up a kinship in recent years... Crotty, Holman and Pannell can create their own shots in addition to feeding... Cunningham is one of four Villanova products trying out for Team USA, a strikingly high number for a program that will only recently has become relevant in NCAA Division I. His 22 assists this summer for the MLL semifinalist Hamilton Nationals ranked second in the league...Crotty and Holman can double as midfielders. Crotty's versatility paid big dividends for Team USA in the 2010 gold medal game, when he scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals after seeing limited time in the tournament. He, however, will not participate in tryouts this weekend because of pneumonia, but will still be considered for the final roster.

Playmakers

  • Billy Bitter, LXM Pro Tour (North Carolina)
  • Matt Danowski, Charlotte Hounds (Duke)
  • Matt Gibson, New York Lizards (Yale)
  • Brendan Mundorf, Denver Outlaws (UMBC)
  • Chazz Woodson, Ohio Machine (Brown)
  • Ryan Young, Charlotte Hounds (Maryland)

Consider these guys throwbacks. They are the dodging and slashing types that used to define the attack position. Put the ball in any on of their sticks, and something special will happen... Danowski, the 2007 Tewaaraton Award winner, might the hungriest player in these tryouts after barely missing the cut in 2006 and 2010. He had his best MLL season (career-high 33 goals) while elevating the second-year Charlotte Hounds into the playoffs for the first time, running all the way to the league finals... Mundorf, the reigning MLL MVP, has recovered nicely from offseason ankle surgery. He had 23 goals and 18 assists for the Denver Outlaws, who had a perfect 14-0 regular season before falling to Charlotte in the league semifinals. Considering that and his All-World performance in 2010, it's hard to see him not making the 40-man training team. He can dodge from behind or the wing with multiple combinations and uses his body to create favorable shooting angles. He's tough as nails, too... Bitter played two seasons in the MLL before defecting for the LXM Pro Tour. Overall, there are six LXM players vying for roster spots. Considering the Pro Tour's irregular schedule and emphasis on entertainment over competition, how sharp will these guys be? Can they handle a heated three-day tryout?... Woodson's high-flying moves have made for some highlight-reel goals in recent U.S. team competitions. But he was not much of a factor for the Ohio Machine this summer with just six goals.

Note: Matt Gibson (New York Lizards) and Jordan Wolf (Duke) withdrew from tryouts due to injury concerns.

Finishers

  • Chris Bocklet, Denver Outlaws (Virginia)
  • Jeremy Boltus, Denver Outlaws (Army)
  • Eric Law, Denver Outlaws (Denver)
  • Kevin Leveille, Rochester Rattlers (UMass)
  • Jack Rice, Glenelg (Australia) Golden Eagles (Villanova)
  • Ben Rubeor, Chesapeake Bayhawks (Virginia)

These six players have one job: Put the ball in the back of the net. They can handle the rock in traffic and put themselves in the right place at the right time. They are the quintessential opportunists. Quick sticks and garbage goals, style points optional... Bocklet has shown he doesn't need Stanwick, his college cohort, to be a prime-time scorer—although it's certainly feasible for them to be reunited with Team USA. Bocklet, whose brother and Outlaws teammate Matt Bocklet also will try out for the U.S. as a long-stick midfielder, led the MLL with 42 goals... Rubeor is the only true lefty in this group, and he's enjoying the best season (30 goals) of his six-year MLL career. That bodes well for him... Law, the one-time Salisbury player who transferred to Denver and became a Tewaaraton Award finalist, took the MLL by storm by scoring nine goals on his first nine shots as rookie this summer. He leads the league in shooting percentage (63.2) and had a monster nine goal game in the Outlaws' first-round MLL playoff loss to Charlotte. Boltus, his Outlaws teammate who had 30 points in each of his first two MLL seasons, is not far behind at 58.8 percent... Prior to the 2013 Champion Challenge, ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich called Leveille the best American-born crease finisher in MLL history. After rooting on his brother Mike as a U.S. team alternate in 2010, Leveille will look to make the 2014 roster by backing up that reputation. Leveille, who turns 32 in August, is the oldest attackman trying out.

Outside Shooters

  • Garrett Thul, Hamilton Nationals (Army)
  • Drew Westervelt, Chesapeake Bayhawks (UMBC)

These are the big boppers. Thul, who set an Army record with 163 career goals in college, is 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds. Westervelt, a 2010 U.S. team member, is 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds... Both guys can bring the heat from 10-15 yards out. Thul is a righty. Westervelt is a lefty... Due to military commitments and the Nationals' shuffling of personnel, Thul has not had many opportunities to showcase his shooting ability in his rookie MLL season—until July 27th, when his five-goal performance keyed Hamilton's playoff-clinching win over Boston and earned him MLL Offensive Player of the Week honors... Westervelt, a seven-year MLL pro, led Chesapeake with a career-high 36 goals this summer for the MLL champions.


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