June 6, 2010

Missing Chemistry, Players, Team USA Loses

by Michael Fornabaio | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | MLL Draft Blog

U.S. team defenseman Joe Cinosky obstructs an opponent's shot Sunday in Team USA's 12-11 loss to the MLL College All-Stars.

© Richard Orr

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Thankfully, the U.S. men's national team doesn't leave for the world lacrosse championships for another month.

That doesn't mean Team USA head coach Mike Pressler doesn't see some good signs, though, despite Sunday's 12-11 loss to the MLL College All-Stars -- a team of recent college graduates making their pro lacrosse auditions. The game ended with over nine minutes remaining on the clock due to lightning.

"We're making progress," Pressler said. "Maybe not as fast as some people would like, but elite teams are not made overnight."

The U.S. team had moments in which it moved the ball quickly and sharply, finding the open man, like it did in the third quarter on a Paul Rabil pass to Brendan Mundorf for one of his five goals.

Other times, Team USA was not as sharp.

"The more we play as a team, the better we're going to get," said faceoff specialist Alex Smith. "We're just working hard as a team."

The collegians spread out their scoring. Johns Hopkins' Michael Kimmel scored a couple of impressive goals, and Jim Connolly of UMass scored three goals.

"It's all about Manchester five weeks from now, not about winning a game against the MLL's young guys," Pressler said. "We're headed in the right direction."

This was the first of three exhibitions the team will play together. Team USA faces the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association All-Stars at Lehigh on June 18. On July 8 comes the MLL All-Star team at Harvard.

After that, the first game in England, against Australia, will be only eight days away.

"We've really only played together a couple of times," Smith said.

"Just about everybody on the team had a game last night," added Smith, a Chesapeake Bayhawk. "We played four quarters of MLL, traveled here and played against these young college players."

While U.S. players are familiar with each other, but they haven't yet congealed as a team.

"Getting these guys out here together -- we're on different teams, even last night," said defenseman Lee Zink, one of four U.S. team alternates. "A lot of us are on different teams, playing different systems. It's a learning experience for all of us."

Team USA led 4-2 after one quarter and 5-3 before the youngsters rattled off five in a row. The U.S. tied it twice, but the collegians ran off three more in a row for a 12-9 lead.

A couple of fourth-quarter goals made it close before Team USA attackman Ryan Powell took a hard hit in front of the net. He remained down for a few minutes. There was no immediate update on his condition.

As Powell went to the bench, the teams left the field: The game was called due to lightning in the area with the national team down a goal and 9:13 to play.

"We certainly had a better performance than the Champion Challenge in Orlando," Pressler said, referring to a US Lacrosse event in January in which the U.S. lost to eventual NCAA champion Duke. "I thought we were more excited to play, more ready to play, and that's certainly a positive thing."

But all the little things, all the cohesiveness, that will take time.

"Our team, we need training camp. We need training camp now," Pressler said. "I'm looking forward to July 5 and camp at Bryant."

The good news is that's not quite a month away, and there's time to get everyone on the same page.

"The guys we have playing together, they want to succeed together," Zink said. "It's going to be an exciting couple of months."

Take a knee

Shawn Nadelen, recovering from wintertime surgery on his right ACL, warmed up with the team, wearing a brace. He took it off at gametime -- but he took his helmet, too.

Nadelen did not play.

"He's making progress," Pressler said. "If anybody can come back from an ACL in five weeks, it's Shawn. He's a determined guy. We're going to give him every opportunity to play with the team he made."

Were Nadelen to miss the tournament, that would leave a spot open on the 23-man roster. Defensemen Lee Zink and Parker McKee are with the team as alternates. But Zink said he isn't focused on making an impression in these exhibitions.

"I really kind of take it as, out here, what I most want is to help these guys get better," said Zink, who grew up nearby in Darien, Conn. "If they need me, I'll be ready to play. It's a big commitment."

Pressler said Zink impressed him Sunday, and alternate Matt Abbott made some good plays, too.

"I like our guys. I like the character," Pressler said. "We need to get more guys to be at the top of their game."

Machine players MIA after emergency flight landing

Four Team USA members were diverted to a small town in upstate New York when their plane had to make an emergency landing Sunday morning.

The players were flying from Toronto to New York's LaGuardia Airport when an engine shut down, forcing the American Eagle flight to land at Elmira Corning Regional Airport, the Star-Gazette reported.

D.J. Driscoll, Matt Striebel and Mike Leveille were among those aboard, Machine player-personnel manager Scott Hiller said. Kevin Leveille was also on the plane, according to reports.

"They were pretty shook up," Hiller said, but no one was hurt.

The Machine played in Toronto on Saturday, defeating the Nationals 14-13 on a buzzer-beating, two-point goal.

Lightning strikes

The second lightning delay was enough to delay the game for good. It was called with 9:13 remaining because of a second warning that lightning was in the area. It was already after 4 p.m., and the MLL draft was fast approaching.

The game had been delayed for about a half-hour in the first quarter because of lightning, accompanied by a 10-minute rainstorm

Devil of a time

Duke is the NCAA champion. Its former coach appeared thrilled for the Blue Devils.

"I'm very happy for those players. I'm very happy for the alums," said Pressler, who coached Duke for 16 years before his forced resignation in the 2006 false rape case against three former players.

The program had put up many top performances in recent years, Pressler noted, and he was glad to see Duke get over the top.

"I'm so happy for the coaching staff, the entire program," he said.

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