MLL All-Stars Stage Epic Comeback to Beat Team USA


The Major League Lacrosse All-Stars rallied from a six-goal deficit late in the fourth quarter to beat Team USA 15-14.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The storyline when Team USA plays in the Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game every four years doesn't change. The U.S. team faces a talented, hungry squad of players that were often bypassed in the Team USA process.

That played out again on Thursday night before a crowd of 6,589 fans at Harvard Stadium when the MLL All-Stars staged a stunning comeback on the backs of players that participated in the U.S. tryouts to win 15-14 in overtime.

The MLL All-Stars led 8-7 at halftime, but then went scoreless for the first 24 minutes of the second half as the U.S. scored seven straight goals to open up a 14-8 lead.

The comeback began innocently enough. Defenseman Michael Manley, who played under U.S. team head coach John Danowski at Duke and for the U.S. training team, picked up the ball and went the length of the field under tremendous pressure and a string of checks from U.S. midfielder Paul Rabil, but still found the back of the net while drawing a slashing penalty with 5:55 to play.

Connor Buczek, a former U.S. U19 gold medal winner who was on the final U.S. training team roster, made the U.S. pay, burying an outside shot on the extra man to cut it to 14-10 with 5:23 left.

Things began to get interesting a minute later. U.S. defenseman Jesse Bernhardt made a nice interception, but the U.S. turned it over on the clear and the MLL's Mike Chanenchuk, another U.S. training team member, picked up the loose ball and ripped home a 2-pointer to cut the lead to 14-12 with 4:04 left.

Joe Nardella won the next faceoff for the MLL All-Stars and Kevin Rice connected on an outside shot for his third goal of the game to trim the lead to 14-13 with 2:54 left.

Trevor Baptiste won the ensuing faceoff for the U.S. and Matt Kavanagh got a good look inside, but Kyle Bernlohr came up with a big save, his 10th of the half. However, the U.S. maintained possession off of the save with about 1:25 to play and a fresh 60-second shot clock.

As the shot clock wound down, the U.S. committed a turnover to give the MLL All-Stars a final chance with 23.6 seconds left.

Buczek was up to the challenge, getting past his man on the dodge and slipping inside the sliding defender to tie the game and send it to overtime.

"I was just glad to see it hit the back of the net," Buczek said. "If that hits a foot or a shoulder whatever, you're going home on the wrong side of things."

Stephen Kelly won the faceoff to start the overtime for the MLL, but a double team from the U.S. defense forced a turnover and the U.S. called a timeout to retain possession.

Coming out of the timeout, things went wild as the teams combined for three turnovers in a span of just over a minute. After the MLL team ended up with the ball, the U.S. defense got mixed up on a screen and Will Manny was left with room on the right side and scored the game-winner from what he called his "money spot."

"Those guys are great," said U.S. attackman Jordan Wolf, who had two goals and an assist. "Any one of them could have made this team as well. This will be good for us in the end."

Manny had a game-high four points on three goals and one assist to earn MVP honors. Not only did he have the game-winner, he had a highlight reel goal late in the first half that gave the MLL All-Stars the 8-7 lead.

"Never done that before in my life," Manny said. "Pretty cool. Guys have done that before in the league. Marcus Holman, my roommate and good friend does that all the time. I stole that from his book."

It was certainly a frustrating finish for the U.S. team as it gets ready to leave for Israel and the world championship in a little over a week. But the U.S. gained a lot in a week that included a training camp and a high-level game to cap it off.

"The other team was playing hard, I get it, I was there four years ago," said long-stick midfielder Joel White, who played for the MLL All-Stars against Team USA in 2014. "Obviously it sucks to lose. We're all bitter. But we're better for it. We'll bond over it and figure it out. I think that's what we can kind of build off of. This week was awesome to mesh a little bit and add a little bit of chemistry."

With such a competitive game, things got a little chippy at times, but there's a lot of respect between these players.

"It's an opportunity to play on the field with the best players in the world, both on the MLL All-Star team and the USA team," Buczek said. "They're all guys that are really high-caliber lacrosse players. For me as a competitor, regardless of the jersey I'm wearing, I want to come out and win."

NOTES: John Haus led the U.S. offense with three goals while Wolf, Rob Pannell and Tom Schreiber each scored twice... Faceoffs were relatively even with the U.S. holding a slight 16-15 advantage... The U.S. played without injured defenseman Joe Fletcher...the next U.S. team game will be against the Iroquois Nationals following the opening ceremonies of the 2018 FIL Men's World Championship on July 12.

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