August 27, 2013

Tracking the Hopefuls: USA Stocks Rise/Fall at MLL Champs

by Sean Burns | | Twitter

Though his team didn't win in the final, Charlotte's Ryan Young showed he has plenty of potential to a big audience in leading the weekend's scorers.
©Kevin P. Tucker 

We're at the crossroads point between two of the summer's biggest lacrosse events – Major League Lacrosse championship weekend and this weekend's Team USA tryouts at Goucher College in north Baltimore.

How are these things related, you ask? Quite a bit, actually.

Just look at Jeff Reynolds, who was offered a spot at the tryout this week after his big performance in helping the Bayhawks take their third championship in four years this past weekend. Casey Powell, himself a late addition to the Team USA tryout pool, also had a solid weekend, showing that he can still run with the top dogs as he tries to make a run at one more national team spot.

Beyond those two obvious upticks, who else saw their stock rise or fall coming out of the action in Philadelphia? Let's take a look, with an eye toward this weekend. Tryouts begin Friday.

Stoking the Fire

Ryan Young, Charlotte
Four goals – including his team's only two of the first half – and three assists in the final capped a big weekend for the former Maryland attackman. He finished with a weekend-best 10 points and also grabbed eight ground balls.

Even more importantly, he got to show a wider audience that he could be the guy Team USA is looking for at the crucial X attackman role.

Eric Law, Denver
If anybody was doubting why the attacker was offered a tryout, this weekend should have quieted that down. The MLL's 2013 leader in shooting percentage (.632) scored nine goals in the semifinal loss to Charlotte, including all but one of his team's seven in the first half.

Justin Pennington, Denver
Though he's trying for a defensive spot in the midfield for Team USA, Pennington reminded everybody that he's got that two-way capability with a goal and an assist for Denver this weekend, scoring on the only shot he took in their 17-14 loss to Charlotte.

Adam Ghitelman, Charlotte
After serving as a backup to Jesse Schwartzman in Denver his first MLL season, Ghitelman has steadily improved in the league since moving to the starting spot in Charlotte, helping the team make the playoffs for the first time ever – though he did stop below 50 percent of the shots he faced (49.9 to be exact) in the regular season. He was solid in Chester though, stopping 17 shots in the semifinal win over Denver and another nine in a losing effort against Chesapeake.

Tucker Durkin, Hamilton
Though the Nationals didn't advance, Durkin did a good job against eventual finals MVP John Grant, Jr. in the semifinals, as much as one can call two goals and an assist being 'held' to anything. He was also announced as the only rookie on the All-MLL team leading into the weekend, joining fellow USA defenseman hopefuls Mike Evans (Bayhawks) and Lee Zink (Denver) on the list along with Canada stalwart Brodie Merrill.

Kip Turner, Chesapeake
You don't hear much about Turner compared to some other goalkeepers, but he's quietly been getting the job done for the Bayhawks and did so again this weekend, backstopping the team to its second straight championship with 14 saves each in the semis and finals. Chesapeake calls him "Mr. August."

Stuck in Neutral

Brendan Mundorf, Denver
Healthy after a tough ankle injury kept him out of most of last championship weekend, Mundorf played well enough in the loss to Charlotte in the semifinals (2G, 1A), but didn't have his first point until an assist on an Eric Law goal that closed out the first half with his team down 13-7. He scored twice in the second half to help his team make a game of it, but it was too little, too late.

Matt Danowski made All-MLL this summer, but didn't quite live up to the billing with only three goals on the weekend.
©Kevin P. Tucker 

Matt Danowski, Charlotte
After making the All-MLL team for helping the Charlotte franchise earn its first playoff spot, Danowski scored just three goals in the semis and finals. Two were 2-point shots, but Danowski himself said his shot selection was a bit off. After the semifinals, when talking about the third quarter when Denver crept back in the game, Danowski said "We took some bad shots. I took a couple myself... I wish I could have had a couple back. I'll try to shoot the ball better tomorrow." Unfortunately for the Hounds, Danowski had just one goal in the finals – a 2-point powerplay goal that hit the back of the net with just one second remaining in the game.

Matt Abbott, Chesapeake
This may be a case of another player's strong showing affecting the perception of how someone looked, but the stalwart d-midfielder was a bit overshadowed by teammate Jeff Reynolds, though Abbott did scoop five ground balls on the weekend and scored twice in the semis against Hamilton.

Took Some Tarnish

Jesse Schwartzman, Denver
I'll admit I was very much on the Schwarty bandwagon going into this weekend after he put up a great regular season, earning All-MLL honors and posting the league's second-ever sub-10 GAA campaign for a starter. But he gave up 15 goals and two 2-pointers against Charlotte – a team which he had beaten twice in 2013 – and broke his stick in frustration at one point, an action that I can't imagine a conservative-type coach like Team USA's Richie Meade liking to see in a player.

Team USA face-off hopefuls
Originally, I was going to single out Anthony Kelly's 4-for-16 performance in the semifinals loss to Charlotte, but nobody on the list for Team USA's draw rotation came out looking good this weekend. Particularly compared to how good Charlotte and Team Canada x-man Geoff Snider (32-for-45) looked in just his third and fourth games of the summer.

Mike Poppleton (Hamilton) looked OK in his one chance, winning 16-of-28 against Adam Rand (Chesapeake) in the semifinals. But Rand went 12-for-28 that game, then was just 5-for-16 against Snider in the finals.

Obviously All-MLL selection Greg Guerenlian's Lizards weren't playing this weekend, nor hopeful Chris Eck's Cannons, nor collegian hopeful Brendan Fowler or Kevin Massa. But the absence of Alex Smith is a big one, and Geoff Snider reminded everybody of that this weekend.

Lacrosse Magazine assistant editor Corey McLaughlin contributed to this article.

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