USA vs Canada – Heritage Cup Recap

USA vs Canada is always good, and last night’s Heritage Cup box lacrosse match up was no exception. You may protest my initial statement since Canada won the game 19-6, but the Heritage Cup was about a lot more than the just the score at the end, and two very important takeaways should be gleaned from this USA vs Canada event.

USA Vs CanadaOne has to do with Canada, and the other has to do with the US. Both have to do with the further expansion of lacrosse. You know what I’m talking about… Grow The Game!

We’ll kick things off with Canada, then get into the nitty gritty on the US Box movement, and then cover some big points from the actual USA vs Canada game itself.

Canada’s Big Takeaway

Ok, so the Canadian box team is REALLY good. They’re balanced, have guys who can fill roles (and do other stuff really well too) and almost every player is a threat to score, no matter where they end up playing. Goaltending is awesome… do I really need to go through all of this?

Canada is REALLY good, but I’m getting sidetracked, because this is NOT the takeaway.

The takeaway is that Canada has seemingly decided that now that there national team program is rock solid (just look at their recent FIL results for proof across all national teams), and should continue to be for some time, they really need to focus on growth.

You could see it in the interview with Dean French, where “Grow The Game” was mentioned profusely. Not only was the phrase mentioned numerous times, but potential parts of an emerging plan seemed to be laid out, and the fact that he specifically called lacrosse out as Canada’s NATIONAL sport, not their summer national sport, spoke volumes.

This game was also made readily available to watch, for FREE, and I don’t think we can look past that. If you want to make lacrosse more popular in Canada, show the national team crushing the USA for free, to everyone and anyone who will watch. In terms of creating new fans, or re-engaging with old ones, this is never a bad strategy for Canada Lacrosse.

Canada Lacrosse seems to realize the potential growth that the game could see in terms of numbers, but only if they push it the right way, and this was a good first step in promoting the game to a new set of potential fans and players.

Obviously, Canada men’s box (and their entire national program) is in a really good place, but that has been true for some time now, and will very likely continue. The big takeaway is that they can now use their international prominence and success to promote the game across the entire country.

USA’s Big Takeaway(s)

Any time an American player puts on the national team uniform, they want to win. That’s simple, plain as day, and settled science. There is also a side to these players that realizes they have a lot of work to do still, and the games that matter aren’t until 2019, but that doesn’t stop a loss like this from being a little crushing. My guess (and it’s a solid one) is that each and every one of the US players will use this loss to motivate them moving forward.

Chris O'Dougherty Team USA Indoor Box Lacrosse USA Vs Canada

The above idea alone makes this game worthwhile. If US players are hungry to be more competitive, they WILL BE more competitive the next time out, because they will work for it. It’s just how these guys operate. So now we know the players are really, truly motivated. I would think they were motivated before, but if you don’t think a 19-6 loss plants some extra seeds of effort and motivation for these guys, I don’t know what to tell you.

A loss like this doesn’t stop with the players though. This loss will give the US coaches additional motivation, and it also supplies a TON of relevant, recent game tape to watch. The coaches were clearly making adjustments and coaching during the USA vs Canada game, so imagine what they can do breaking down the USA vs Canada film. Film don’t lie! And of course, we can bring the film issue back to the players as well.

For a guy like Rob Pannell (who has never played box) or Paul Rabil (who hasn’t played much box since around 2013), this should be invaluable footage to watch over and over. Familiarity can breed success, so having film to watch from where you played against the best in the world will only help the coaches and players. Not only can these guys watch themselves, they can watch Canada too. If a guy like Pannell works on that Shawn Evans over the shoulder short side shot, he can pull it off. He really is that skilled. Inspiration can come from one’s peers!

Rob Pannell Team USA Lacrosse

But back to the coaches… they also got to see what kind of “locker room guys” they currently have. They got to see who deals with adversity well, and who might not. I can guarantee they learned a lot about their potential team from this game, and where they want to take things in the future. The WILC will take place in 2019, so this kind of prep work will really be unprecedented, but only if it continues on with good momentum.

Having coaches fully engaged, motivated, and involved over 2 years out is a really good thing for US box. If it continues, it bodes well for the future of this team in 2019.

For US Lacrosse in general, I view this game as a real success. I’m sure your brain keeps harping on the 19-6 score line, but try to look past that, if you can. The team was organized, had matching gear and helmets, wore the USL logo on their chest, played hard, clean, and fast, and tried to do things the right way at all times, even in the face of the stiffest competition the world can offer. This was an attempt at laying a new foundation for USL, and in my opinion, it was a success for so many reasons.

These guys repped USL to the fullest, USL took care of them, and I was really happy to see US Lacrosse invest in sending a team up to this event, and to take on the world’s finest box team. This was treated like a NATIONAL TEAM EVENT, not just a box event. That’s a big distinction.

So while I think the loss will serve as motivation for the players, coaches, and USL in a more general sense, I do NOT think anyone should be worrying and tearing their hair out over the result. It’s a starting point. Future events will be another chapter, next year will be another book, and hopefully, 2019 will be a totally new and different story. From what I saw last night, I’m willing to give the writers of this story a lot more of my time and attention.

Team USA vs Israel WILC 2015 - US Men's Indoor Head Coach Now Hiring USA Vs Canada

Photo by Jeff Melnik

USA Vs Canada Game Takeaways

  • Canada won, by a lot. Early on, USA Vs Canada was a competitive game, and at 6-4 I think a lot of people were kind of scratching their heads, but the breaks hadn’t evened out yet, and as expected the US came out hard ready to compete. Canada then put up many goals in a row, twice, and extended out to a big 16-5 lead, then more or less coasted the rest of the way, winning 19-6.
  • I was a little surprised the US didn’t put in a couple more late goals. I predicted Canada would go up 13-4 at some point, and then win 18-11, but my late predicted US scoring surge never came. To be fair, Canada really didn’t let up defensively at any point in the contest. They played swarming physical pressure D all night, and did so very effectively. Not a shocker there. It’s what they do!
  • The little things made a big difference. They often do in a USA vs Canada game! Taking a shot late in the power play, giving up transition in the wrong places, slower changes out the D door, not getting out on shooters, not recognizing O door breaks… all of these small edges make a big difference against a team like Canada. Give Dickson too much shooting space? Goal. I don’t care who your goalie is. Pick up Matisz late on the break? Goal. Give up tranny at mid floor against a team that can push it? You get my point. It wasn’t a blowout without these little things, but they clearly matter a lot. All that being said, this is where the US was expected to struggle. 2 years out from 2019 with some guys who weren’t playing a ton of box? It makes perfect sense.

    • The newbies for USA showed promise! Some of the US box guys play NLL, and others have plenty of box experience, but some didn’t, and for those guys to go out and mix it up the way they did speaks volumes. I know a certain “field guy” who played and he just bought a box goal and will be shooting on it until the netting rips, then he’ll be shooting on it some more. I don’t get the feeling this a one and done shot for any of the newer US players. These guys want it, and got after it. Props to them for making the leap!
    • USA Goaltending was… good! I often hear that US goalie play is a huge issue, but you know what? I was pretty impressed by what I saw from all 3 keepers. David Mather started out, played 2.5 quarters, and was solid in net. He faced a lot of great shots, but when he wasn’t starting down Curtis Dickson naked from 7 yards, he really made a lot of the saves he should have, and some he maybe shouldn’t have. Same for Miller, and same for “Young” Joe Evans (my new favorite nickname, thanks Shanny!), who made at least one arm save that made me say “yowzers”.
    • USA face offs got a lot better. Jordan MacIntosh is one of the best at watching a referee and then judging his jump of the whistle on the ref’s face. He was pretty dominant early on, even with the US really scrapping for loose balls. But when the US guys started doing the same thing, everything changed. Face offs could be a real bright spot for the US if they focus not on FoGos, but on guys who are willing to learn and dominate when it comes to FIL box face off rules. They’re very different, so dedicate to these rules, and the US can see a ton of success there for years to come.
    • Americans who play box are good at box. When you look at the best players for the US, they are guys who have gotten a lot of recent reps by playing a lot of box lacrosse. This should not be surprising. Resetarits, Riorden, Manney, O’Dougherty, Schreiber, and a handful of others were all really good for the US. If more guys commit to that same level, the entire program and team will rise similarly. Even playing in a local league, or shooting on a box goal more often, will help guys get better, and stay “in the game”.
    • Warrior face masks (and helmets) on display. The US wore Bauer helmets, but I THINK their masks were the new Warrior masks. Canada was definitely rocking Warrior masks, and it seems the helmet/mask combo. If that’s it, it looks good. I’m a fan. Since the new USL rules for box require a NOCSAE helmet, I’m curious if this Warrior helmet will seek NOCSAE certification. If it does, could players then wear it for field lacrosse too? Woah, I just thought of that right now. Huh.

  • USA vs Canada was really clean. FIL lacrosse (and exhibition matches) will often do that. It was fast, physical, exciting, and clean box lacrosse. I enjoyed watching it immensely. Sure, Rabil took a high shot once, some guys got tangled up, etc, but it wasn’t a dirty game by any means. Good to see in a bit of a blowout, both teams kept it respectful and about the action on the floor.

Overall USA vs Canada was fun to watch, and I’d love to see this become a recurring annual contest between the USA and Canada. It would be good for both countries’ national teams, both countries’ fans, and good for the game in general. It will supply annual motivation for the US players and national program to be a little more focused on box, and that will help the box game grow stateside. I see no drawback to this game being played, assuming the US doesn’t mind a beatdown once in a while (and that will change), and I truly hope they continue on, for the good of box, and for the good of lacrosse.

For now, it’s not a great match up or contest, but that only changes by playing the games, and both programs improving. The US has more work to do, but they are motivated to do it. USA vs Canada…The Heritage Cup is good for the game.

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