With the World Championships just over a month away, it’s high time to start looking at some of the top contenders a lot deeper. While the US and Canada are still the clear cut favorites, and Australia has had a lock on the bronze (or silver) since the WLC inception in 1967, the Iroquois Lacrosse program seems to be putting forth a really competitive team for 2014, and we’re all curious to see if they can do better than a 4th place finish, which is their best finish ever at a world field lacrosse championship.
Also check out Iroquois National Team Update with Coach Cam Bomberry.
The Iroquois didn’t play in the 2010 FIL World Championships, but finished 4th in 2006, 2002, and 1998. In 1994 and 1990, the Nationals finished 5th. Before 1990, the Iroquois did not play in the WLC.
So what makes this team different than years past? Why can this Iroquois team compete the US and Canada? Can they actually compete with the US and Canada? Let’s get into it.
Potentially Different Team in 2014
The Iroquois still have a 44-man roster, but with tryouts and training camps over the next two weekends we can expect to see a lot of cuts, and a lot of movement, in the coming 2-3 weeks. And just by looking at the 44-man squad, you can see a difference already.
The players on the list are generally younger than they have been in the past. Many of the players on the list are current or recently graduated college players. These aren’t box guys playing field. They’re accomplished field players playing field, who also happen to be really good at box. That right there is a difference maker, and if the coaching staff goes the way many are thinking, we could see a team stacked with players who have D1 college experience.
Here is one potential attack line: Cody Jamieson, Miles Thompson, and Brett Bucktooth. Cuse, Albany, Cuse. Not bad! Let’s move to the midfield shall we? Lyle Thompson, Jeremy Thompson, Randy Staats. Albany, Cuse, Cuse. Again, not too shabby! A potential second group of Zed Williams, Zach Miller, and Vaughn Harris gets you Virginia, Denver, and Onondaga. How about Kyle Jackson from Michigan? Again, lots of college experience! Even on D the Iroquois have plenty of top flight college experience. Sid Smith and Marshall Abrams are well known Syracuse products and Bill O’Brien played at Sacred Heart and is a name you should remember! More D1 talent? You know it. In goal, how about Warren Hill? He’s been starring at OCC and is headed to Cuse for 2015. More high level college experience!
Even if all of these guys don’t make the team, the fact that they are all trying out potentially means a lot. The fact that there is college experience all over (and much more than we noted above) simply changes the game, and it changes expectations. Everyone needs to be in top shape. Everyone needs to play team ball. The experience of different players and systems all combines to create a possibly superb atmosphere. The added fact that all these guys are young and hungry adds to the fire. It’s not just different names, it’s a different type of player, and that could mean a different team than we’ve seen before.
Can The Iroquois Compete For A Medal?
Many people assume that the Iroquois have won a medal in field lacrosse at some point, but they have not. So the question is a fair one, even if it seems like it’s not, because of all the talent, and growing expectations. But let’s face facts here: the US and Canada are still loaded up with the vast majority of the proven stars of the modern game.
When it comes to Australia, I actually think the Iroquois can play straight up and go one on one, but that doesn’t mean they will. It should be a great contest, and I’d take the Nationals run-n-gun elements over the Aussie’s athleticism and hard-nosed play at this point. Face offs could be big in this one, and if the Iroquois dominate, they could even win the game by a big margin. If face offs don’t go there way, it could be a solid struggle.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Aussies have not played against the Thompsons, at least not on this type of stage, and haven’t seen a lot of them either. Tape only does so much! It’s hard to prepare for a team like the Iroquois, and if this group really gels, the Iroquois could be looking at their first bronze medal… or better.
Can The Iroquois Compete For Gold?
Lyle Thompson is an amazing player, but is he ready to dethrone Paul Rabil as the best in the game? Does he even have to? If the Iroquois will compete against the established top two, how will they do it?
To beat the US and Canada, the Iroquois are going to have to play some serious team ball. They can certainly score with anyone, but can they cut off fast breaks, and play team defense? Can they figure out a way to go up early, and then rag the ball, forcing penalties? What will their offense look like? Will we see a lot of two-man games? Cutters? Both? I know, that’s a lot more questions than answers, but without knowing the final roster, it’s hard to say.
I do think we can expect to see a couple of things:
1) International lacrosse has no shot clock, and no stall warning. A 3 or 4 goal lead early on in the game can change everything. I expect to see Lyle Thompson with the ball in his stick a lot, especially when the Nationals are up. He showed great patience late in the NCAA tournament this year, and if that manifests, the Iroquois could become a black hole of possession ball when they’re up by a couple goals. Sleep and don’t play out, and they’ll make you pay. Basically, look for changes of pace, from incredibly slow to torrid, and they’ ll happen in an instant.
2) The Iroquois Defense is still a step behind. While this is probably the best group of potential defenders that the Iroquois have assembled, the other top teams are realistically still a step or two ahead. It’s not a knock on the Iroquois, but some of the US and Canada poles are total difference makers. The advantage for the Iroquois could be their youth though. A mobile group allows the Nationals to push out, and dictate, more on defense. Some veteran leadership also provides structure. If Warren Hill is the goalie, neither the US or Canada have seen a lot of him, and he’s quite good! This is probably the portion of the team I am most interested in.
3) Possible Thompson Family Reunion. If you look down the list of 44 guys, there is the potential for a LOT of Thompsons to make the team. Lyle, Miles, Jeremy, Hiana, and Ty are all on the list. Bill O’Brien is their cousin. Jerome Thompson, Lyle, Miles, Jeremy, and Hiana’s father, is an assistant coach for the team. Remember how well those guys played together at Albany? Oh yeah, we could see a lot more of that.
At the end of the day, there is still a lot up in the air for the Iroquois Nationals, but we will know more soon. One thing we can all agree on, everyone is excited to see the Nationals in Denver, and for good reason.
We will take another look at the Iroquois once their 23-man roster is released! For more great international coverage, check out our Denver 2014 section, brought to you by Brine Lacrosse!