September 6, 2013

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Questions Answered, Questions Remain After Team USA Tryouts

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

While the structure was laid back, the action on the field was anything but over the weekend at Goucher.
©John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

Last week, we previewed the Team USA tryouts by taking a look at some key questions that the team had to answer – both for the tryout itself, and for the tournament next summer if it hopes to retain the gold it recaptured from Canada in 2010 in Manchester.

A week later, the tryout is done and the team has been trimmed to its 52-man training roster for the next few months. Some of the questions had answers, others are still yet to be determined, but it's certain that there's a very formidable team being formed by coach Richie Meade and Co.

What will the mood of the tryout be?

Right from the jump, the mood at the tryout was a mixture of some of the most intense action you'll see on any field anywhere with the laid-back nature that comes with what were essentially pick-up games. Guys were leaving it on the field – we saw this by the numerous posts of ice-baths and other post-tryout remedies to keep fresh between sessions – but ultimately it was good lacrosse that let the coaches evaluate the players as lacrosse players rather than on things like their 40-yard time or whatever else some other evaluation methods would glean.

Will the LXM guys be harmed in a grueling tryout process?

I don't know if 'harmed' is the right word. The question stressed whether or not they would be able to rise to a multi-day event after participating in a league that was as infrequent and as 'exhibition'-ish as the LXM pro tour is. But Kyle Harrison made the cut and Sam Bradman was frequently mentioned as surprising for not having made the 52-man roster. Though only one of the six who were present over the weekend made it to the next round, they definitely seemed up for the challenge.

Will it be an all-star team, or a functional team?

When I was chatting with Coach Meade following Friday evening's session, he was quick to squash my suggestion that the talent level was such that he could pretty much select anybody he wanted. Obviously an all-star team isn't what he or his staff want, which makes sense given his coaching background. Obviously any Team USA roster is going to stocked with talent, but Meade and Co. have made it clear that they want role guys to fill the roles, not just stars shoehorned into roles they've never been forced to do before.

How will the face-off battle be settled?

The veterans performance spoke volumes, as Greg Gurenlian, Anthony Kelly, Chris Eck made it through the weekend, besting Duke's Brendan Fowler and Bryant's Adam Rand. Mike Poppleton – a 2013 Hopkins grad who played in his first season with the Toronto Nationals this summer – was the lone youngster to make it through. We had wondered if the staff would go with some fresh blood to try to attack Team Canada specialist Geoff Snider from a new angle, but the vets got it done during camp.

Will the walking wounded find their way onto the squad?

Other Tryout Coverage

A resounding yes on this one, as several players who were hobbled before and during the tryouts still made the final round. Ned Crotty and Brendan Mundorf didn't play at all (Crotty was out with pneumonia, Mundorf tweaked a bum knee before his opening session) but made it, while Paul Rabil sat out all but his first session. All moved on. Mike Simon, who missed the MLL finals after tweaking an injury, was able to perform well enough to make the LSM final cut as well, even though he originally came in as a close defender.

What will the offensive complexion be?

Tough to say at this point until the final roster comes out. Right now there are plenty of big dodging middie types (Ben Hunt, Rabil), plenty of shooters and finishers on attack (Mundorf, Eric Law) and everything in between. We'll revisit this after the Champion Challenge.

Who will take the leadership roles?

Another one that will be more about the final roster. I did spy returning All-World player Kyle Sweeney taking some extra time to give some tips to a fellow defensive hopeful on Friday night on the turf, but the real positions of leadership will be earned in the next few months rather than given out.

Will any college stars make the cut?

Just one made it through, as Joe Fletcher of Loyola survived the weekend and kept his hopes alive for being this Team USA's Ned Crotty.

Who will be the quarterback?

Another 'wait until January' question. There are plenty of potential players from Steele Stanwick to Mundorf to Ryan Young. Nobody has earned the spot just yet.

Who replaces Doc?

It's hard not to think that the goalies (and defensemen) are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to a tryout like this – playing behind defenses they don't really know that well against some of the best shooters in the world – but three did outstanding, as John Galloway (66% saves), Drew Adams (60%) and Kip Turner (56%) all made it through. Jesse Schwartzman had a rougher outing (39%) but is the reigning goalie of the year for the MLL and had two MOP performances in Johns Hopkins championships.

Jury's definitely still out. But there are four good candidates making it to the next round.


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