By Paul Ryan | 2/3/14 5:30 PM
The announcement of the 30-man US Lacrosse roster is coming Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST. You can watch the selections on The Lacrosse Network, who also have a great series called "The Road to the Rockies" on the team you can watch here. However, we didn’t want to wait 48 hours for the team to be picked, so here are the guys I think should be on the roster of 30.
There are 10 guys to pick from up front, but the US will realistically take six or seven. Only two of those players made the team in 2010 – Drew Westervelt and Brendan Mundorf – but both of those guys deserve to make the team again.
Westervelt is coming off a 36-goal campaign in 2013, while his 6-foot-5, 205 pound frame will be difficult to defend with other weapons around him. Meanwhile, Mundorf has been Mr. Consistency, scoring 20 goals the past eight MLL seasons. The 29-year-old Mundorf also had two goals and an assist in the 2010 Championship game, so the US knows he can come up big.
One more vet that would add some scoring for the US is Kevin Leveille. The UMASS grad has scored 262 career goals in the MLL, just eight shy of the all-time mark. He was also just left off the final roster in 2010 and watched his brother Mike win gold. There’s no question he’s still hungry for gold.
I have the other spots going to Marcus Holman, Steele Stanwick, Rob Pannell and Garrett Thul. This is where the team gets younger, with two rookies and two second-year players up front. Pannell is basically a no-brainer, while Holman and Thul really showed their worth at the Champion Challenge, scoring two goals each. Additionally, Stanwick showed great chemistry with Pannell and Holman that weekend, the latter being his teammate in Ohio.
Let’s start with the returnees: Paul Rabil is a lock; Max Seibald is pretty close to a lock as well. Ned Crotty offers a great balance with his ability to play attack and midfield and was strong in 2010, so he’s pretty much a sure thing, too. The only returnee that might be on the outside looking in is Matt Striebel. However, his experience in 2010, 2006 and 2002 is nearly impossible to overlook. For veteran leadership, Striebel deserves a spot.
Now there are plenty of young guns up front, but the US looks to be a bit more veteran heavy in the midfield. Jeremy Sieverts has been a stud for Denver the past two years, scoring 25+ goals for the Outlaws. Ben Hunt has proved to be a playoff performer, with 21 points and three titles in seven playoff games for the Bayhawks. Likewise, Matt Mackrides is another guy to look out for from the ‘Hawks, with a breakout season and 21 goals last year.
For short-stick defensive midfielder, look no further than Matt Abbott. Yet another Bayhawk who plays one of the best two-way games in the league and has also won three titles with Chesapeake. Kevin Drew from the Hounds is another SSDM that’s quite young, but helps solidify the midfield.
Lastly, look for guys like Kevin Buchanan, Kyle Harrison and JoJo Marasco to round out the middies. Buchanan has scored 20 goals four straight years, including a 31-goal campaign in 2012.
This defense will be downright scary for the US and it will likely be anchored by reigning Warrior Defensive Player of the Year Lee Zink. The Outlaws shutdown man garnered all 16 first-place votes, and his dominating past two years should carry into 2014. Fellow vet Michael Evans would fit right in next to Zink, as Evans has been winning championships year after year with the Bayhawks and finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
The youngins will play a large influence in the defense as well. Tucker Durkin was simply outstanding for the Nationals last season, going up against opposing teams top offensive players each week. Also, don’t be surprised to see Lizards first-round draft choice Joe Fletcher on the final roster. He wasn’t picked third overall for nothing.
There will likely be three others shoring up the defense for the US and it could very well include a pair of Brian’s. Both Brian Karalunas and Brian Farrell were standouts for the US in the Champion Challenge and both add a different dimension to the field. Karalunas, typically a deep defender, has looked like a natural at LSM. Much like his new Lizards teammate Crotty, Karalunas gives the US versatility and has the ability to play two positions with relative ease.
The final spot should go to Cannons stalwart Mitch Belisle. He’s been solid as a rock for Boston the past five seasons and links up nicely with Farrell. Still, there’s no shortage of great defenders competing for the spots.
There’s really no incorrect choice when going with the guys in goal. All four have been fantastic and have made a strong case for the US. However, this is where the older, more experienced players could pay off, which is why Jesse Schwartzman and Kip Turner should be the guys tending goal.
Schwartzman is coming off a career year, posting a 14-0 record with a record-breaking 9.67 goals against average to go with his .597 save percentage. He has won 58 games in the MLL, which ranks second all-time.
On the other end, Turner has been a brick wall come playoff time, as his .634 save percentage in 2012 and .583 in 2013 speak for itself. While the goalies seem to be neck-and-neck playing-wise right now, the most important thing is winning games, something Turner and Schwartzman do better than anyone else.
With Greg Gurenlian bowing out of contention with an injury, it’s certainly now anyone’s game. It would be in the best interest of the US to take two FOGO’s, in case of injury or some other extenuating circumstance. Chris Eck should be the team’s number one, with a career 57% in the faceoff x, with Anthony Kelly being the other. It’s hard to overlook Kelly’s numbers in the MLL, as he ranks first in both career faceoff wins and faceoff attempts.
There are many tough choices when looking at the Team USA roster, as all 52 guys named to the preliminary roster deserve a shot to compete for gold. However, the roster needs to be cut down and nearly half the players will have their golden hopes dashed tomorrow. This is just a prediction at who the 30 players will be, but the final announcement comes tomorrow night.