U.S. lacrosse team to beat

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

As six-time defending gold medallist, the United States hasn't lost at the world field lacrosse championships since 1978.

That streak is bound to end sometime, but don't expect any added nervousness in the American camp about living up to the past this week in London.

"We look at it more as a duty than we look at it as pressure," veteran U.S. defender John Gagliardi said. "We were picked for this team by the coaches and it's our job to represent the country the way it's supposed to be in field lacrosse."

With an improved defence and always deadly strikers, Canada could knock the U.S. from the top spot. There are whispers the Canadians will knock off the rough stuff and dirty play and focus on winning with speed and skill.

"I think they can play that way if they really want to. We'll see if it happens," U.S. midfielder Matt Striebel said. "The difference is they have world-class defenders like Brodie Merrill and Taylor Wray playing field now.

"They used to take guys from the box game and put them in the same spot on the field and it's a different game. It takes time to adjust. In the U.S., we've been playing the field game since we were 12 years old, so we don't need that adjustment period."

Gagliardi, a 32-year-old New York native and former indoor stalwart who will be part of the National Lacrosse League's first foray into the Big Apple next season, is playing field for the first time in Canada.

"There's really no easy games here and we always have a good one with Canada," he said. "Playing against a guy like Gary Gait, he's the one I grew up watching and once the awe wears off, it's a lot of fun trying to defend him."

The U.S. boasts a bevy of indoor and outdoor lacrosse talent, including the always-dangerous veteran attacker Casey Powell.

"It means a lot to be a part of this program. It's an honour," said Striebel, a Connecticut native. "Everybody on our team goes through the NCAA system and then most of us play in the National Lacrosse League or the Major Lacrosse League or both."

NCAA lacrosse was dealt a blow recently with wide-spread media coverage of a court case featuring an exotic dancer's claims against members of the Duke University men's team in North Carolina.

"I don't think lacrosse was hurt by that," Gagliardi said. "I think the truth will come out in the end. Everyone in the lacrosse community has rallied around those players."

But the story certainly made many lacrosse players, known for their fun-loving ways and approachability, reflect on how to handle post-game situations.

"There's more attention on the sport. Everyone's watching now and it never used to be that way," Striebel said. "We want the game to grow and it has to grow the right way. You have to be careful."


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