USA Update: DeNapoli Out, Gurenlian Ready and Canada Roster Reactions

PHOTO BY SCOTT MCCALL

U.S. defensive midfielder Steve DeNapoli tore the ACL in his right knee during an MLL game June 9 and will not participate in the upcoming world championship.


The U.S. national team will start training camp next week without one of its most popular players.

Steve DeNapoli, a defensive midfielder recognized for his selflessness and high-energy approach to the position, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee playing for the New York Lizards in a Major League Lacrosse game June 9 against the Florida Launch.

DeNapoli originally sprained the knee in a May 4 game at Denver. He was cleared to return June 2 at Atlanta, but gave himself an extra week to get back to full strength. DeNapoli made it through the first quarter of the June 9 game at Shuart Stadium without issue, but as he darted from the wing on the opening faceoff of the second quarter, he felt his knee buckle and heard it pop.

“I knew right away,” he said. “And that was it.”

Instead of traveling with Team USA to Boston next week for training camp and the MLL All-Star Game and then to Israel for the FIL World Championship July 12-22, DeNapoli will undergo surgery.

U.S. coach John Danowski has not yet named DeNapoli’s replacement for the world championship. Kevin Unterstein and Jake Bernhardt are the other short-stick defensive midfielders on the 23-man travel roster. Training team members Will Haus and Jake Richard will rejoin the group when camp convenes Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass.

“D-Nap getting hurt is just very, very upsetting,” said U.S. faceoff specialist Greg Gurenlian, DeNapoli’s former teammate with the Lizards. “Obviously he’s a great player, but also such a good person who worked so hard for this. He earned it. … He sent a text to all of us saying, ‘Don’t worry about me. Do what you’ve got to do. I love you guys.’”

“I don’t want them to spend time thinking about me and feeling sorry for me,” DeNapoli said. “At the end of the day, they have to focus on winning a gold medal.”

DeNapoli, who will turn 29 on Sunday, received encouragement from Unterstein, 32, his teammate with the Lizards and previously at Hofstra.

“He’s a smaller-size guy that plays with so much heart and so much energy, that does whatever the team needs to do,” Unterstein said. “I’m telling him, ‘Listen, the stars align and everything goes right, the way you work, in two years when the [U.S.] process starts up again, you’re going to be right back in the mix.’”







UNLEASH THE BEAST

Greg Gurenlian, the 2015 MLL MVP and the only faceoff specialist ever to win the award, retired from the league after the 2017 season to focus exclusively this year on preparing for the world championship.

That doesn’t mean the Beast has been dormant, though.

Gurenlian, 34, hired Todd Giorgi, a nationally renowned strongman and owner of NY Strong in West Chester, N.Y., as his personal strength coach.

Prior to the 2014 world championship in Denver, Gurenlian said, he had a torn labrum in his shoulder and required cortisone shots just to play in the games. He couldn’t weight train and felt he lacked the power and strength that could tilt faceoff battles in his favor.

Moreover, Gurenlian normally would lose muscle mass during MLL season, when he might only be able to lift once a week.

“I’ve been training like it’s been December the whole time,” he said. “I feel like I’m going into [MLL] training camp, like the kind of shape I would be in at the end of April, with no issues and feeling very fresh.”

PHOTO BY MATT FURMAN

Training independently since January, U.S. faceoff specialist Greg Gurenlian is eager to rejoin his teammates at training camp next week in Foxborough, Mass.

As for his craft, Gurenlian occasionally has taken faceoff reps against the elite college players that participate in The Faceoff Academy, which he co-founded in 2013 with Chris Mattes and Jerry Ragonese. But mostly, he trains by himself, obsessing over his technique, using the FOA app that randomizes whistle cadences and records video of how he reacts, and preparing for international rules that allow far more latitude of movement before and after the whistle than do NCAA and MLL rules.

Conveniently for Gurenlian, FOA also has developed a special resistance band — the Rapid Explosion Performance Strap (REPS) — that mimics the tension of facing off against an opponent.

Still, he’s ready for the real deal.

“I miss the camaraderie. I couldn’t watch the Lizards’ Instagram anymore. I was getting total FOMO,” Gurenlian said.

Beware the FOGO with FOMO, or fear of missing out.

“I texted [Kyle] Hartzell a couple days ago. I’m just excited,” Gurenlian said. “I need an excuse to put the eye black on again.”

CANADA ROSTER REACTIONS

Unterstein and Gurenlian both had high praise for the roster reigning world champion Canada unveiled Wednesday.

Canada will carry 24 players, including an extra goalie, to Israel before trimming down to the FIL-mandated 23 when the games begin. Among them are 10 returnees from the 2014 title team, but also 10 players who either are current collegians or have graduated within the last two years.

Unterstein, the associate head coach at Hofstra, knows those younger players too well to underestimate them. Former Pride attackman Josh Byrne, the 2017 MLL Rookie of the Year, made the final roster, and Unterstein texted Byrne to congratulate him.

“That’s an unbelievable roster, an unbelievable team,” Unterstein said.

And while Canada’s most recognizable players are on attack — with vets like Wes Berg, Kevin Crowley, Curtis Dickson and Mark Matthews mixing with younger players like Byrne, Tre Leclaire and Jeff Teat — Unterstein believes the Canadians will also pose a challenge with their formidable defense.

“That’s the one spot you could tell they put some time in,” Unterstein said, specifically pointing out the selections of rising Stony Brook senior Ryland Rees and 2015 Lindenwood graduate Graeme Hossack. “Rees, he’s unbelievable in transition. You feel him on the field. Hossack is a big boy. He’s physical. And then Brodie Merrill brings that poise in his experience.”

Gurenlian wasn’t surprised to see his longtime adversary Geoff Snider and 2017 Ohio State graduate Jake Withers as the faceoff specialists Canada chose to carry. Zach Currier, a do-everything midfielder in the same vein as Unterstein, will also mix things up on the draw.

The U.S. will counter with Gurenlian and Trevor Baptiste, the four-time All-American and two-time Tewaaraton finalist out of Denver who is still adjusting to the pro game as the No. 1 overall draft pick with the Boston Cannons.

“Geoff and I have been rivals for years. We respect each other,” Gurenlian said. “Trevor and Jake are going to take the mantle after this.”

Most Recent

Only One Acceptable Outcome as U.S. U21 Men Prepare for Ireland

“We’re setting up for the toughest challenge this team has ever faced.”

Graham Bundy Jr and Cole Kirst Named as USA U21 Captains

Kirst's younger brother, CJ Kirst, also added to final 23-man roster

NTDP Combine: Cormac Scane Among USA Select U16 Hopefuls

With big sister Izzy in the stands, the 15-year-old from Michigan has plenty of inspiration.

The Players' Preview: An Inside Look at the U.S. U21 Men's Team

We polled the U.S. U21 team on a variety of topics. Here's what we learned.







Twitter Posts