U.S. Men's Training Weekend: Blue-White Game Another Step in Building Culture

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

The Blue team offense, led by a hat trick from Ned Crotty (1), started slow but fueled a 16-13 comeback win in the U.S. Blue-White game on Sunday.


BOX SCORE

SPARKS, Md. — Coach John Danowski stood in the middle of the U.S. national training team, sorted by players in white jerseys on the right side of the huddle of blue on the left side. The Blue-White intrasquad game had just wrapped up — the Blue team came away with the 16-13 comeback win — and it was the last time Danowski could address his team before players headed their separate ways until October.

Danowski, however, let his team speak for itself. 

“What are your thoughts?” he asked the team, welcoming discussion.

One-by-one, players reflected on the U.S. national training team’s first weekend together. Some learned more about international rules. Others praised the resiliency of the team. As the open session came to a close, Ned Crotty, a two-time FIL World Championship veteran, gave his brief take.

“We’re really good,” Crotty said. “When we’re all together and playing as a group, we can be very good.”

There’s no denying the talent that stepped onto the field for the Blue-White game Sunday afternoon, but Danowski and his staff weren’t focused on individual displays. The goal of this weekend, the first time players met as a whole squad, was to start to develop chemistry with one another and build what Danowski labels as a “culture.”

Although the training team will be further cut in October, and later in January, Danowski made it clear that he’s focused on all of his current players.

“There’s always this elephant in the room of making the top 23, but in the coaching staff’s mind, it’s all 47 guys that suited up today, they’re all part of the team,” he said. “This is the team.”

Danowski’s sincerity and trust in his players didn’t go unnoticed. He encouraged his players to spend time with as many different teammates as possible, in an effort to get to know one another more closely. Goalie John Galloway called it “no fluff,” meaning teammates needed to get by the normal pleasantries and develop a rapport. 

“We’re just more comfortable with each other,” Galloway said. “You always come in on eggshells in the tryout process. This time, guys were coming out calm and comfortable and flying. Every time we get together it gets a little better.”

This weekend may have been a feeling-out stage for the U.S. team, but the product on the field, on a number occasions, had the look of a team that had been playing together for years. 

After the White team jumped out to a early three-goal lead, the game settled into a back-and-forth battle. The Blue team picked up a majority of the fourth-quarter faceoffs and pulled away late for the three-goal win.







Veterans vs. The New Guys

Although there were a few exceptions, the Blue roster was made up of veterans, while the White team displayed much of the youth of the training team. The age discrepancy was evident early on in the Blue-White game.

The Blue offense, with a number of returning players including Crotty, Paul Rabil, and Rob Pannell, went with a slow approach out of the gates. With 20-minute quarters in the FIL game, Crotty and his fellow veterans opted to save energy.

That wasn’t the case for the White team, with many of college lacrosse’s recent stars. Led by Marquette alums Liam Byrnes and B.J. Grill, as well as veterans like Scott Ratliff and C.J. Costabile, the White team defense made a handful of early stops that led to quick transition opportunities.

Often times, those opportunities ended on the stick of former Johns Hopkins star Ryan Brown, who finished with four goals. Brown, the White team defense and a few big saves from Galloway helped maintain the lead through halftime.

“We were doing a pretty good job of communicating all game,” Byrnes said of the defense. “I was happy with the unit I played on. Especially when we had six defensive guys in there, two short-stick d-middies and four long poles. … When we had six defensive-minded guys out there, we were all on the same page and things were clicking.”

“There were opportunities when we made some clean saves and clean ground balls, we were able to get it up right away,” Galloway said. “That attack was dangerous. Ryan Brown, when his shooting is on,  it’s almost automatic.”

However, that speed in transition may have caught up to the White team by the fourth quarter. That’s when the Blue team began to dodge more aggressively toward the cage. Crotty led the charge with a hat trick, and Pannell, Drew Snider and Marcus Holman each chipped in two goals to help fuel the comeback.

“We were trying to really slow it down,” Crotty said of the first half. “It was the international game and we didn’t have to rush. The White squad was running out in transition and scoring goals. … Our experience held us back a little bit. In the second half, we got out and ran a little more.”

Although the Blue team ultimately came out on top, Danowski was quick to note that the younger players on his team were “way ahead of the curve.”

“We’re looking at those guys going forward, to see how they do together against a really good opponent,” he said. “We got our answers there.”

Schreiber vs. Fowler

Brendan Fowler spent the weekend in a walking boot. Tom Schreiber was injured in the second practice on Saturday. Neither was available for the Blue-White game Sunday.

That didn’t mean they wouldd not have an impact on the results, however. Danowski enlisted Fowler as the White team coach and Schreiber to lead the Blue team. Each was in charge of calling timeouts, while players coordinated substitutions.

It was all part of Danowski’s plan for Sunday. He said he wanted to be a “fan” and merely observe the actions of his players. He trusted Fowler and Schreiber to make the right decisions on the sidelines.

“We want players to call timeout,” Danowski said. “We wanted our guys to talk to each other and listen to each other. They start to build a rapport and a chemistry not just on the field, but off of it as well.”

Players had fun with their new coaches, as well. Schreiber called a timeout in the fourth quarter and, immediately, the Blue bench broke into a chorus of, “Great timeout. Awesome timeout, Coach Schreiber.”

It was fun and games at times, but players on each team rallied around their coaches. Another step in building Danowski’s culture.

News and Notes

  • Three players were missing from the training squad for Sunday's Blue-White game. Joe Nardella, Drew Adams and Ben Reeves were all absent from this weekend’s activities. 

  • In a pretty even faceoff battle Sunday, Greg Gurenlian went 11-for-19, Trevor Baptiste 12-for-21 and Tom Kelly 9-for-22.

  • Danowski on the versatility needed for the final 23-man roster: “When you’re playing lacrosse, you can’t just have just attackmen. You need attackmen that can play midfield. You need some short-stick d-middies who can play offense or some offensive middies who can play defense. You need some LSMs that can play close and so on. You’re going to need athletes.”

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