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Wilson’s Wheelhouse: Team USA/MLL All-Star Game

It was incredibly exciting to see the US Men’s Lacrosse team take on the MLL All-Stars on ESPN2 tonight.  We got to see all kinds of awesome stuff like an effective zone D, fantastic team goals from both sides (although the US started a bit slow), great individual efforts (Peet Poillon’s effort in the 2nd quarter was unreal), Team USA’s two-tone Brine helmets and their somewhat improved, more traditional uniforms.

Sweet new Brine two-tone helmets? yes, please!

We also got to see some sort of awesome stuff in Bill McGlone rocking mismatching gloves and Brett Queener playing D-middie.  I don’t mind that Queener played D-mid since he does so for the Boston Blazers in the NLL but couldn’t they give the kid a helmet without a throat protector on it?  Someone must have had an extra helmet.

A little more sideline gear action...

If someone wants to bring up the less than awesome stuff, you’ve got to mention the MLL All-Star uniforms.  I LOVE Metrolacrosse out of Boston and the fact that the MLL is donating to them with an auction of the jerseys, but those uniforms were kind of heinous looking.  I’m sure that some people won’t like the US Team’s uniforms either but as our soccer team proved in the World Cup, national team jerseys can be hard to pull off correctly.  Anyway, if your All-Star jersey is the worst of your problems, you’re doing fine.

The MLL jerseys weren't great but the event was awesome and that's all that really matters!

The MLL guys used a zone defense, as I mentioned above, and it was executed very well.  They spread their poles in an arc up top and did a good job of getting in and out while helping to cover the backside.  Excellent communication + athletes + zone defense and you’ve got yourself a winner.  One rogue player and it all falls apart though.  Early on, the US struggled to break the zone as they didn’t move their feet.  Teams that cut through, change formations and replace can get the zone moving and shifting, creating spreads or perceived overloads.  If you stand in one place and just cycle the ball, you won’t get anywhere.

Both defenses looked good and played physical, clean team D for most of the game.  When either the MLL or US had a numbers advantage they were able to generate quality shots.  I still really like the US defender selections for the international game rules.  They all have good foot speed and play position defense.  They’re all capable of throwing checks but they are usually more technical in nature, with the exception of Eric Martin who will throw the kitchen sink at you and then start throwing takeaway checks/slashes.  You need a guy like that.

On the US attack, Ryan Boyle, Ryan Powell and Brendan Mundorf really stood out.  Mundorf proved he’s a real finisher as well as a great dodger.  Powell and Boyle really do it all and look to distribute the ball after creating some havoc.  They play the game the way it used to be played and they can dodge, feed, move off ball and ride.  They run the offense and provide direction to the rest of the players out there and it’s impressive to watch.  The three of them with Leveille and Westervelt mixed in could find a groove.

The midfielders are specialized and not everyone is a two-way player but the athletes they have in Peyser, Schiller, Cassesse, Sweeney and Zash will help.  Smith was excellent on the face offs and Rabil and Dixon will definitely produce at the World Games.  I think Max Seibald has the chance to be the best player on the team and possibly the tournament.  Smith will funnel him balls from the face off and he can create and then score from uneven situations as well as dodge very well.  Seibald is our best two way player and if the US wants to do well, he will have to play a large part.

The rules used tonight had a big impact on the game and its outcome.  The shot clock is a glaring difference between the MLL and the FIL and teams like the US will be much more patient on offense.  Another reason is the level of physical play, which can often be called a lot tighter in the World Games.

Some people say this is because many of the represented countries, the US being one of them, send refs and some of them are not used to the level of play.  The theory is that they call a lot more slashes but will sometimes let more bodychecks go.  I don’t know if any of it is true, but if it is the US team is positioned well to succeed.  They will also play 3 games in rapid succession and this is a team of well-conditioned athletes who won’t wilt in the later contests.

They didn’t look great early on but they showed a lot of fight and put together a string of goals to come back from a 12-9 deficit to win 13-12.  Brian Dougherty came up big in goal when he had to, did a great job of leading the D and clamping down in crunch-time.  He should play every minute of every game that isn’t already in hand (if they even get any of those).  This FIL World Championships is going to be tight and it’s going to be good.  The international rules allow teams to play different styles and they can all work.  The US has put together a great team but the gold medal is by no means theirs; they will have to work for it.

What was the least impressive thing of the entire night?  The two-point competition.  That was just awful.  Either bring out some real shooters or can that event because it was just painful.  Spencer Ford came back for the event (he’s now the GM of the Bayhawks) and he probably didn’t ever score a 2-pointer during his entire MLL career.  Someone else must have backed out last minute… Ford is a great assist guy and could score inside but 2-point contest and he’s retired?  Ok.  The fastest shot competition was better.  PR99 with two 111mph efforts wins it over Max Seibald’s single 111mph shot.  His other was 109.  These guys shoot hard.

Kevin Buchanan climbs the barefoot trick shot ladder to take the crown.

Overall, there were a lot of talented players out there along with a couple guys who fill roles.  The US looked really good and played team lacrosse focused on winning, which hasn’t always been the case.  In the past, sometimes they were just better and that was it.  The MLL All-Stars clearly wanted it, but in a good natured way.  Sure, there was some shoving and a little chip here and there but they had a job to do and that was to give the US a good scrimmage.  Success.

A lot of these guys are right at the top or on the almost made it list so a win would have been gratifying in that sense, but I am pretty sure most of the MLL guys have gotten over their snubs and are back to rooting for the good ol’ USA.  There’s always that desire to prove someone wrong when they pick against you but that’s just healthy competition.  There was emotion and violence but it’s lacrosse.  The game was clean and exciting, most of these guys know each other pretty well, and the fact remains that it was a great televised lacrosse game.  Let’s leave it at that.


Editor’s note: Though to find ASG pics after the event. Got a link? Drop it in the comments.

Other coverage:

– All-Star Game In-Game Blog | Inside Lacrosse

– The Breakdown: Major League Lacrosse All-Stars vs. Team USA | Inside Lacrosse

– Team USA down MLL All-Stars 13-12 in Dramatic Fashion | Major League Lacrosse

– Live MLL All-Star Game Blog and Chat | Major League Lacrosse

About the Author: Connor is a life-long lacrosse player who doesn’t know when to give up on the game. He played and coached at Wesleyan University and now plays for the Southampton LC in NYC. Connor lives with his fiance in Brooklyn and thanks her for allowing him to keep the dream alive.

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