U.S. enters World Cup minus many veterans

Experience edge goes to Canada in best-of-3 series

July 14, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Few consider it a rematch. But nobody believes it's a mismatch.

A year after the United States' 15-14 overtime victory over Canada in the World Championships, the first World Cup of Lacrosse has ambitiously attempted to re-create the magic of what many consider the greatest lacrosse game ever played. A best-of-three championship series between the two countries begins tonight at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field.

However, most of the United States' World Cup team remember that game as spectators in the stands. Usually an overwhelming favorite in every competition, the United States returns only a third of last year's national team and will dress 15 players who were playing in college less than four years ago.

Its traditional rival, Canada, is expected to have 16 of its national team members back -- doubling the United States' returnees -- and is poised for its first victory over the United States since the 1978 World Games final.

"That's what makes it fun," said U.S. attackman Darren Lowe, the only American back who was named to the last year's All-World team. "We're inexperienced, very inexperienced. It brings it even, if not making us an underdog."

The Canadians will follow the lead of All-World performers Gary Gait, John Tavares and Chris Sanderson, who were part of the most impressive comeback in international history. Down 12-2 to the United States in last year's championship game, Canada stormed back with 10-1 run, scoring nine goals in the final 15 minutes of regulation before the Americans prevailed in overtime.

It was the United States' 26th consecutive win in World Championships competition, raising the Americans' all-time World Games record to 35-1.

That loss kept the Canadians in the shadow of the United States on the field lacrosse scene. But with Major League Lacrosse beginning next summer, many of the Canadians will try to use the World Cup as a springboard to get noticed.

"With outdoors, we're always behind [the United States]," Sanderson said. "We don't have any edge because of our lack of playing experience outdoors."

Still, the Americans won't be able to rely on the same stars from last year's World Championships.

Their best attackman, Mark Millon, strained a hamstring at the Vail Shootout and pulled out of the event. Their best defenseman, Brian Voelker, removed himself from the roster because the games conflicted with a wedding. And the World Games MVP, midfielder Ryan Wade, never involved himself with the series.

Many factions inside US Lacrosse have criticized the World Cup, which was created by the Gazelle Group, a sports-marketing firm, even though it will be the most widely televised lacrosse event, reaching more than 70 million homes in 45 countries. The national governing body for lacrosse refused to sponsor the World Cup because its club lacrosse officials weren't involved in the team selection process and its women's division board did not like the use of "World Cup" because that name is associated with the women's world lacrosse championship.

Other members of last year's U.S. World Championship team have also complained that the U.S. World Cup players did not have to go through grueling tryouts and were instead hand-picked. They also voiced displeasure over having to go through a monthlong training period in order to wear Team USA uniforms, while the World Cup players will practice only a couple of times before playing tonight.

But other former national team members say that line of thinking is short-sighted.

"The World Cup is a great idea," Lowe said.

That's the same reason attackman Michael Watson, a St. Paul's School graduate, took a cross-country red-eye flight two days ago from his San Diego home.

"Bottom line, this is a great platform for lacrosse," said Watson, who played in his first World Games last summer.

World Cup

United States vs. Canada

Site: Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field


Game 1: Today, 8 p.m.

Game 2: Friday, 8 p.m.

Game 3: Saturday, 5 p.m.* *--If necessary

Tickets: Call 410-481-7328.

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