Two games remain in the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship, with both set for Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday.
The USA takes on Canada in the gold medal game at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2 in the United States, TSN in Canada, and around the world via ESPN International.
In the gold medal game, Canada is seeking to prevent the USA from repeating for the first time since 2002 while claiming its third ever title. The United States is on the hunt for its 11th title and third captured on home soil.
The two teams played in the first game of the championship, a 7-5, win for the USA, but both teams were saving their fireworks for the playoffs, and have rounded into full form. The 2018 gold medal game between the two teams delivered on its hype in Netanya, Israel, as the United States eked out a 9-8 thriller with a last second goal.
The teams are the two highest seeds in the tournament, and have rolled through their competition outside of a few battles with the Haudenosaunee. The USA has the third best scoring offense (12.6 goals per game) while Canada is right behind in fourth (11 .0 goals per game). The United States has the second best scoring defense (3.52 goals allowed per game) and Canada is again, right behind in third (4.83 goals per game.)
The United States collectively has the best face-off percentage at 83%, powered by TD Ierlan and Trevor Baptiste while Canada is at 63.2%, the sixth best mark, behind Justin Inacio and Jake Withers. Both teams have two capable goalkeepers, and it will be interesting to see how the coaches deploy them. Canada’s save percentage of 58.6% ranks third – Brett Dobson has a 68% save percentage while Dillon Ward is at 51%. Ward, however, has started five games and was outstanding against the high-powered Haudenosaunee attack in the semifinal, making 11 saves on 18 shots on goal.
The United States team save percentage is at 51%, the seventh best rate in San Diego, and Blaze Riorden and Jack Kelly have come close to an even split of the playing time. Riorden has a 64% save percentage.
Both sides of the ball feature star-studded talent at every turn. The United States’ offense is nominally the gold standard, and is led by the trio of Kieran McArdle, Rob Pannell and Michael Sowers, and rounded out with strong finishers in Brennan O’Neill, Matt Rambo and Ryan Conrad. The Canada defense is spearheaded by Ryland Rees, Brodie Merrill and Graeme Hossack, and overall, opponents are scoring on just 22% of shots against Canada.
Canada’s offense, on the other hand, has made up for its relatively lower scoring volume with the most efficient shooting percentage in the championship at 42%. Canada’s own multidimensional attack, led by Josh Byrne, Jeff Teat and Curtis Dickson, has been excellent at sharing the ball to create high-percentage looks. Dyson William, Connor Field, Dhane Smith and Ryan Lee have all chipped in strong contributions as well. The United States defense, led by Jesse Bernhardt, Jack Rowlett and Michael Ehrhardt, is one of the most proactive and physical in the tournament, causing the fourth most turnovers and allowing just 16 shots per game.
Overall, the statistics paint the picture of two elite teams with the United States operating the slightest bit better so far, but Canada possesses extreme discipline and game control. And ultimately, statistics can only tell so much of the story in what factors to be an extremely charged game in front of a home crowd for the United States. The way the 2018 championship ended has likely been simmering in both teams’ heads for the better part of five years and building up further over the course of the past ten days. Fans of both teams and the sport itself should savor what should be truly be the pinnacle of men’s field international lacrosse.