July 11, 2014
Team USA's Rob Pannell drives past Canada's Cameron Flint. Pannell had two  goals and an assist in a 10-7 victory Thursday for the U.S. (Scott McCall)
Team USA's Rob Pannell drives past Canada's Cameron Flint. Pannell had two goals and an assist in a 10-7 victory Thursday for the U.S. (Scott McCall)

Rabil, Pannell Show They Can Shine Together

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Paul Rabil and Rob Pannell might be rivals in the race for alpha dog of American lacrosse, but they sure looked good as teammates Thursday, leading Team USA to a 10-7 victory over Canada in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship opener before 11,447 fans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Rabil resumed his 2010 world championship MVP form, igniting a 6-0 run in the second quarter after the U.S. fell behind 3-0. Following a quiet first quarter in which Team USA shot 0-for-12, Rabil got the offense moving as a distributor, twice finding his Boston Cannons teammate Kevin Buchanan for goals in the slot, the first coming on a nifty-over-the-shoulder feed.

"Bucky played great," Rabil said. "He does have a very high-pitched voice when he calls for the ball. For me, a guy who's hard of hearing, it resonates pretty quickly to hear him yelling my name."

During one defining, momentum-shifting sequence, Pannell ended a sloppy and chippy exchange between the teams when he swooped into a crowd of players to emerge with a ground ball.

"That shows his blue-collar mentality for the team," Rabil said.

Rabil nodded toward Pannell in appreciation of the hustle play and signaled to the crowd, which responded with an ovation.

"I'm a big fan of him," Pannell said, adding that he admired what Rabil has accomplished off the field as a pro lacrosse entrepreneur. "It's been great getting to know him beyond saying, 'Hey,' after a game. He's a great teammate."

Two minutes later, Rabil scored the first of his two goals.

"Paul Rabil is better as a player than you think he is," U.S. coach Richie Meade said. "Not just as a guy on the field. As a leader, as a teammate, as a professional, I mean the guy does everything right."

Pannell picked it up from there, factoring in all three third-quarter goals as Team USA pushed its lead to 9-4. He assisted Kevin Leveille on the first goal, scored on a wrap-around off a screen on the second and then scored again while absorbing a punishing hit that knocked him to the turf. A skirmish ensued in front of the goal, and Rabil was the first to Pannell's defense.

"I take a lot of pride and Rob takes a lot of pride in being the consummate teammate," Rabil said. "I would never try to show him up and he would never try to show me up. We're on this team together."

Canada coach Randy Mearns acknowledged both Rabil's and Pannell's game-changing potential.

"They might be the catalysts, and we have to figure out and maybe design some stuff to not let them be the guy," Mearns said. "But you do that, [and then] they got other guys that can make it happen. It's difficult. We have to shore up the defense and try to figure out matchups on what worked tonight and what didn't work tonight and keep adapting."

Notes and Quotes

Twenty-two players saw time for the U.S. Meade emphasized the need to keep "fresh legs" in the game. "There's been a lot made about the Canadian team and how young they are," he said. "We played a lot of young players." Backup goalie Drew Adams was the only U.S. player not to play in the game... While Rabil noted cautiously that the last two pool-play victors in the U.S.-Canada series went on to lose in the championship game, Meade did not downplay the importance of Thursday's win. "This is a big game for us," Meade said. "Everybody felt since the [2012] Duel in Denver that we had to come out here and reestablish our ground and we did..." Team USA outshot Canada 40-20. "We had some great opportunities," said Pannell, who had a team-high eight shots. "Dillon Ward made some great saves. We hit him a couple times. We hit a couple pipes. We've got 23 of the best players in the world. You're not going to tell them not to shoot." Ward finished with 18 saves... Nine first-time entrants highlighted the parade of nations during opening ceremonies preceding Thursday's game. Belgium, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Israel, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and Uganda are playing in their first FIL World Championship. Uganda, the first team from Africa to compete in the event, was a popular draw, with fans and players alike drawn to its tribal chants before entering the stadium. Players from Argentina, which is competing in its second world championship, showed support for fellow South American teams Colombia and Costa Rica with chants of "Olé, Olé, Olé." They playfully jeered Germany, with the Argentinian and German soccer teams set to play Sunday in the FIFA World Cup final. Opening ceremonies also included an opening oath recited by Rabil on behalf of all nations and a Native American blessing.   

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