June 4, 2009

DaSilva: Ten to Watch at Team USA Tryouts

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Joe Walters, the youngest player on the 2006 U.S. men's team, has seasoned his game in the pro ranks as he attempts to qualify for the 2010 team. The road to Manchester starts Monday with Team USA tryouts at Bryant University.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

The road to redemption for the U.S. men's national team starts Monday in Smithfield, R.I., where the nation's top 84 players will compete in tryouts for a chance to represent Team USA at the 2010 FIL World Championships in Manchester, England.

Reigning world champion Canada defeated the U.S. for the gold medal at the 2006 games in London, Ontario, putting Team USA in the unfamiliar position of underdog four years later. The U.S. will carry a 40-man roster into its exhibition games in the fall before filing down to the FIL-mandated 23 players.

While LMO will be on hand at Bryant University next week to provide daily updates, photos and video from the three-day tryouts -- including two-a-day sessions Monday and Tuesday, plus a morning session Wednesday -- here are 10 things to watch for and to whet your appetite.

1. Faceoff Specialists

Team USA did not select a pure faceoff specialist in 2006 and paid dearly, with Team Canada's Geoff Snider carving up MVP honors by dominating the draw. It's almost a certainty that this U.S. team will carry at least one player strictly for faceoffs. (US Lacrosse has even brought FOGO guru Paul Cantabene aboard as a consultant to head coach Mike Pressler and assistants Joe Alberici, Tony Resch and Rick Sowell.)

Pure FOGOs among the 84 invitees include Chris Eck, Anthony Kelly, Alex Smith and Peter Vlahakis. The other midfielders with faceoff potential -- but who are not specialists, in the strictest sense of the term -- are Kevin Cassese, Stephen Peyser, John Glynn, Max Seibald and Doug Shanahan.

2. Duke Reunion

No need to induce extra motivation from Kevin Cassese, Ned Crotty, Matt Danowski, Tony McDevitt, Parker McKee, Nick O'Hara or Matt Zash. All seven are former or current Duke players connected to the 2006 team derailed by false criminal allegations. (Cassese was an assistant coach there at the time.) All have an opportunity to play for the same coach who was forced to leave them in the incident's wake. Team USA head coach Mike Pressler, now the head coach at Bryant, spent 16 years building Duke's program from ACC also-ran to NCAA final four contender.

3. The Replacements

A slew of injuries and personal or work commitments were announced this week, resulting in some significant alterations to the tryout roster. Nicky Polanco, Kyle Harrison, Greg Peyser, Zac Jungers, Andy Corno, Jed Prossner, Brett Hughes, Matt Poskay, Eric Martin and Tim Goettelmann have pulled out of tryouts, although all remain eligible for the 40-man exhibition roster.

In their place, Doug Shanahan, Ryan Curtis, Blake Miller, Chris Eck, P.T. Ricci, Colin Hulme, Shamel Bratton, Mark Kovler, Adam Crystal and Justin Smith earned tryout nods.

On Thursday, Tom Zummo also reneged his invitation, opening a spot for Sean Lindsay.

Curtis, Miller and Shanahan were members of the 2006 U.S. team, with Miller and Shanahan also playing previously for Team USA in 1998 and 2002, respectively. With the tryout pool decreased from 120 to 84 this year, they were not among the original invitees. Knowing the physical demand of these tryouts can only help their cause, as well as those of 2006 teammates Ryan Boyle, Kevin Cassese, Christian Cook, John Gagliardi, Chris Garrity, Ryan Powell, Matt Striebel, Kyle Sweeney, Scott Urick and Joe Walters -- all of whom return with a chance to qualify for 2010.

Bratton, a rising junior at Virginia, is the youngest of the 84 participants.

4. Last Powell Standing

After much ado four years ago regarding the Team USA triumvirate of Casey, Mikey and Ryan Powell, only Ryan remains in the running for 2010. Even he has to be considered a man without an island at this point. With the MLL's San Francisco Dragons folding and with the NLL's Portland LumberJax seeking relocation, Ryan Powell's future in professional lacrosse is in question. He currently plays for Big Foot Lacrosse Club.

5. We Be Clubbin'

Powell's not the only one playing under the radar these days.

With the MLL contracting back to six teams in the offseason, several standouts have been relegated to the club ranks. In addition to Powell, Pat Heim (GMH), Chris Schiller (Salin Shoe), Doug Shanahan (Fort Lauderdale Flamingos), Christian Cook (Capital), Adam Crystal (Duke/Tobay), Ryan Curtis (Vermont Voyageurs) and Mickey Jarboe (Quicksilver) currently play for post-collegiate club teams.

Heim was the No. 1 pick of the Chicago Machine in the 2007 MLL draft. Jarboe was the 2008 MLL Goalkeeper of the Year as a member of the now-defunct Los Angeles Riptide.

6. Redemption for Boyle

Attackman Ryan Boyle felt snubbed in 2006 when he was benched for most of the second half in Team USA's loss to Canada in the gold medal match. Despite a lingering shoulder injury, he generated plenty of offense during round-robin games, but was passed over by former U.S. head coach John Desko in favor of the Powells late in the game.

Boyle has not slowed a bit, offering plenty of production for the NLL's New York Titans and the MLL's Boston Cannons, and he remains arguably the most savvy player in the game today.

7. Short-Stick D-Middie?

It'll be interesting to see if the selection committee pushes for a short-stick, defensive specialist in the midfield. With Team USA already likely to carry a faceoff specialist, there are precious few midfield slots remaining, especially considering the roster must be pared down to 23 in the fall. Though they're all capable of playing both ways, Benson Erwin, Chris Schiller, Jarrett Park and Matt Zash have been used primarily as defensive middies in the MLL ranks.

They might have to show some offensive versatility during tryouts, especially as they compete against between-the-line threats like Max Seibald -- this year's Tewaaraton Trophy winner with Cornell -- and recent Syracuse grad Matt Abbott.

8. Walters No Longer a Babyface

Joe Walters was the youngest member of the 2006 U.S. team, and his shy demeanor often reflected that. Since then, Walters has blossomed in the professional ranks and even had some of the Canadian style rub off on him. He was a key cog of the Rochester Rattlers' Canadian-laden MLL championship team in 2008 and has since joined many former Rattlers with the new Toronto Nationals franchise. Walters also made his NLL debut this year, earning significant time with the Rochester Knighthawks.

Look for "Joey Dubs," as he was called by 2006 U.S. teammates, to step up in these tryouts.

9. Race Between the Pipes

Similar to the faceoff specialists, goalies trying out have better odds of making the team due to strength in numbers -- or lack thereof.

Eight goalies -- Brian Dougherty, Adam Fullerton, Chris Garrity, Mickey Jarboe, Joey Kemp, Matt McMonagle, Rob Scherr and Kip Turner -- are among the 84 invitees. Team USA will carry at least two, possibly three, goalies into its exhibition season.

Garrity was a member of the 2006 U.S. team. Dougherty, a three-time MLL Goalkeeper of the Year, could not try out for the 2006 team due to injury. Look for plenty of emotion and chatter from Doc in the cage.

10. Turncoat

Brendan Mundorf, fresh out of UMBC when he tried out for the 2006 U.S. team, did not qualify. In turn, he played for Team Australia in the 2006 world games and torched the competition. Mundorf gave Team USA fits in the semifinals.

Like Walters, Mundorf's game has evolved tenfold since then, and he's a key offensive component of the MLL's Denver Outlaws and NLL's New York Titans. If you see a workhorse doing time behind the cage, it's probably Mundorf breaking ankles back there.

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