The rosters have been set for the USA Blue and White squads at the ninth annual Champion Challenge, which takes place on January 26th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. US Lacrosse puts on the annual event and the Blue-White scrimmage action will be the final piece of evaluation material for the 2014 men’s national team.
Photo Credit: Craig Chase
The current 51-man squad will be trimmed down to a final team of 23 men for the FIL World Championships this Summer in Denver (July 10-19). Some players may be kept on as alternates in case of injury, but once the first day of competition begins, the 23 man team is set in stone.
The game will be broadcast live on Watch ESPN at 1:30pm. The game will be rebroadcast on ESPNU at 10pm on Sunday night. We’ll run through the rosters for both teams by position, and then tell you who and what to watch for!
Attack: Eric Law, Ryan Young, Ned Crotty, Matt Danowski, Drew Westervelt
Midfield: Kevin Buchanan, Matt Mackrides, Dan Burns, Kevin Drew, Chris Schiller, Steven Brooks, Kyle Harrison, Ben Hunt, Max Seibald, Kevin Unterstein, Mike Poppleton
Defense: Michael Simon, Tucker Durkin, Lee Zink, Brian Karalunas, Brendan Buckley, Mitch Belisle
Goalie: Drew Adams, Jesse Schwartzman
Attack: Kevin Leveille, Marcus Holman, Rob Pannell, Steele Stanwick, Garrett Thul
Midfield: Anthony Kelly, Chris Eck, Stephen Peyser, Matt Abbott, Paul Rabil, David Lawson, Jeff Reynolds, Matt Striebel, Drew Snider, Jeremy Sieverts, JoJo Marasco
Defense: Brett Schmidt, Kyle Sweeney, Michael Evans, Brian Farrell, Joe Fletcher, Kyle Hartzell
Goalie: Kip Turner, John Galloway
Greg Gurenlian is unable to play, and that means Mike Poppleton is going to see a LOT of action taking face offs. That could be a great way for Poppleton to prove his mettle and make the team. It’s worth noting that Kyle Harrison is on that team, and he took some face offs in a recent LXM game where he saw a lot of success. Talk about a change of pace! His technique is very different, and he relies on quick hands. Could we see K18 take some face offs for USA Blue? My gut says that this coaching staff is too conservative to try it, but weirder things have happened, and I’ve been wrong before.
Jesse Bernhardt is also out, and so is Brendan Mundorf. With Mundorf it’s really tough because he is regarded by so many as belonging on Team USA. Having not gone through all the process, it could be hard to have him on the team. Either way it’s a tough decision.
The Rumor Mill
I could tell you who I’ve heard (from reliable sources) is “looking good,” but that would probably be nonsense! The tryout process has been so long this time around, and so many guys have been kept on at such a late stage that everyone who is left has played very well at some point. In all honesty, the USA camp has been pretty quiet and kept the rumors to a vicious minimum. It seems like politics are playing as small a part as is possible, but that sticking to details has been a key priority.
Guys To Watch
The biggest focus for selecting this team has to be on who can do their job and make the right plays. The international game is a thing unto itself, and the differences in rules should definitely factor in to who gets selected. Poles need to be on body more than stick, and avoid big hacking checks (at least compared to the MLL). There is no clearing clock, there are no horns, and teams can hold the ball on offense for long periods of time.
Since possessions are so important, watch the face off guys. All of them. Look for a number of players to find time on the wings, but pay special attention to Kyle Sweeney and the other LSMs. A disruptive and rangy LSM or two is an incredible advantage in international lacrosse.
Offensively you are looking for attackmen who can dictate play and middies who can beat shortsticks and dump the ball. Guys who like to improvise could be in a difficult spot as long possessions favor players who can run complex sets. Watch Kevin Leveille and Eric Law inside. It’s a finisher’s duel. I would also watch Joe Fletcher, the only collegiate player left. He does nothing flashy. He is just rock solid and reminds me of a young Lee Zink. Coach Meade must love him.
My Too Early Team Prediction
Ok, here goes nothing. Let’s knock this great group of 51 down to 23. I can do this.
Attack: Kevin Leveille, Eric Law, Rob Pannell, Ryan Young, Drew Westervelt
Midfield: Kyle Harrison, Max Seibald, Paul Rabil, Matt Abbott, Jeremy Sieverts, Stephen Peyser, Jeff Reynolds, Drew Snider, Matt Striebel, Greg Gurenlian
Defense: Lee Zink, Joe Fletcher, Kyle Sweeney, Brendan Buckley, Michael Simon, Mitch Belisle
Goalie: Drew Adams, John Galloway
Alternates: Ned Crotty, Tucker Durkin, Michael Evans
Well, that was the hardest thing ever. First, I fear I have two many lefty players on attack. Or do I? is it crazy to have Leveille and Law? My midfield has more speed than it knows what to do with, and guys who can go two ways. Striebel is my veteran outside gunner. My defense is rangy, and I somehow left two of the baddest guys out there on my alternate list. That was a really hard group to pick, and I don’t know that I wouldn’t add a seventh pole and remove a midfielder. You could also remove an attackman and drop Crotty in there to run A/M.
Goalies are tough. All four are superb. I went with those two. I went with Gurenlian as my main FO guy with Peyser to help if needed (and also run midfield), but I don’t know the extent of GG’s injury. If he’s hurt, I’m taking Anthony Kelly in his stead.
Do you think I’m wrong? Have a different looking team in mind? Hit up the comments with your thoughts.