August 28, 2013

The Dream of Going Out on Top with Team USA

by Matt DaSilva |

Casey Powell hopes to make the Team USA roster for 2014 and make one last run at a world title.
©John Strohsacker/

A version of this article appears in the September 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

I'm a sucker for patriotism.

My first running mix featured Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." Hacksaw Jim Duggan used to be my favorite pro wrestler, because I too could march around in tight blue trunks with a 2x4 chanting "U-S-A!" When I first visited Baltimore's Fort McHenry three years ago, I nearly cried with pride as the video presentation ended and the movie screen receded to reveal a window to the very spot where an American flag with its broad stripes and bright stars inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem.

So I get it.

I get why Casey Powell, arguably the greatest lacrosse player of his generation, feels like his decorated career would be incomplete without another gold medal. I get why Gina Oliver and Megan Huether came out of retirement for another dance with this dominant U.S. World Cup team.

There can't be a better way to go out than on top of the medal stand with "The Star Spangled Banner" blaring and an American flag draped over your shoulders.

Just ask Brian Dougherty, the trash-talking tough guy that oozes Philadelphia like a cheesesteak oozes wiz. After beating Canada for his last hurrah in 2010, the three-time MLL Goalie of the Year wore the stars and stripes like a cape. Tears filled his eyes as Kyle Sweeney hugged him from behind and kissed him on the cheek.

"Now that's how you retire," Dougherty bragged.

Powell wants that feeling. That's why the 37-year-old will make one last run at Team USA when tryouts for the 2014 U.S. men's team commence this weekend at Goucher College.

Powell came out of MLL retirement—"We've got a lot of fighter pilots," Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle told him. "All we need is an aircraft carrier." — and put on a crowd-pleasing, virtuoso performance July 18. Playing on the Bayhawks' second midfield line, he looked 10 years younger as he spun behind-the-back passes and stopped, dropped and rolled his way to the game-tying goal with 5 seconds left in regulation of Chesapeake's 13-12 overtime victory over the Boston Cannons at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.

Trailing 12-11 with less than 30 seconds left, the Bayhawks got the ball back when rookie defenseman Jesse Bernhardt intercepted a pass in the corner. After a timeout, Powell got the ball behind the goal and drew a penalty when Brian Farrell, Boston's 25-year-old defenseman, knocked him to the turf from behind.

Powell got up, rolled without losing possession of the ball, regained his footing and dove in front of the crease as he flipped a shot around Cannons goalie Jordan Burke.

Powell's final line — three goals, one dazzling assist to Ben Rubeor — justified the hype surrounding his return.

"I continue to surprise myself and I think other people," said Powell, whose summer training regimen involved little more than jogging and occasionally stepping in with a U11 team he coaches. "I don't know how I keep maintaining this."

Nine days later, the U.S. tryout pool came out. Powell would get his shot. He wants to go out like his brother Ryan did as co-captain of the 2010 team.

""I feel like I've been training for this moment my whole life. It would be an honor to play for the U.S. national team and put that jersey on. If I continue to play the way I did [Thursday], hopefully they will consider me," said Powell, who was co-captain of the 2006 team that lost to Canada in the FIL final. "I'm still bitter. In 2006, I was prepared physically, but not mentally. I have more experience. Ryan did a great job of leading his team. He wasn't a starter, but he was great in the locker room. I would love the opportunity to help [the U.S.] win a gold medal in any capacity I could."

I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

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