I was excited to have found this game on Youtube, the 1990 world lax championship final, arguably one of the top 3 greatest games of lacrosse fought in history (my choice for no.1 would be the 1998 final game). It challenges the age-old question: what’s better? a great defense or a great offense? Which trumps over the other? no better to answer that then this game— which features 7 hall-of-fame players together featuring the sport’s 2 greatest players ever of the modern day: Gary Gait & Dave Pietramala. This game was our sport’s closest event to basketball’s The Dream Team (1992 olympics).
As a young teenager discovering the game, everyone in my team knew who Gary Gait was. I had come across an old VHS tape with this game and was introduced to David Pietramala for the first time that day, I remember it well—during one point in the 2nd quarter Gary Gait had the ball from a clear and was streaking down the field to create a fast break with excellent speed. Then all of the sudden, this hulking figure comes into the TV screen meeting Gary’s speed for speed and throws a one-handed poke-check (while they were running full-pace), rips the ball out of his stick by breaking up Gary’s power-2-handed cradle like he was taking off a bottle cap from a beer. Wow, who was hell was THAT? Piertro. I became a fan ever since. Anyone who’s ever held a long-stick will tell you that this is ridiculously hard to execute.
Background on the 2 teams
It’s worth noting that Canada had a tough challenge as most players are indoor players and had to adjust to playing the outdoor-field game while team USA were native field lax players. It was a clear advantage to USA as it used every inch of the full-field, building up opportunities especially from behind the goal, a big difference to the indoor game where the play from X is not a big factor. The Coach for Canada brings up controversy as well with the his feeling bias of referees in favor of USA —post-game interview at the end. It’s hard to tell if there was bias but the game was so crazy fast at the last quarter…
Also worth noting that it was from this tournament’s results, Canada focused on getting more elite defenders with field lax experience to cultivate great field teams in the following years. Canada would eventually win the gold in the year 2006 with a 38-year-old Gary Gait scoring 5 goals in the last 5 minutes of the match, capping off his lax resume with every single possible accolades possible—becoming the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) as an offensive player. Pietro would get the nod for the defensive side.
Contrast in styles: Freelance/creativity Vs. Organized & Balanced Team
Team Canada can be described as individualists, wizards with the stx, mavericks, un-orthodox, free-rollers, you name it. The creativity and awesome individual brilliance were striking with this team, spear-headed by the great Gary & Paul Gait. The indoor game is played 95% of the time in front of the goal (contrary to the full-field game) and it was clear that they’ll be no pass made from behind the goals to a cutting midfielder. The power game of bullying into the middle and shooting was demonstrated here with some elite players with Tom & Bill Maracheck. Canada’s defense was even anarchist for the most part —frequently playing daredevil by clearing the ball into its own middle and provoking danger, freelancing around the field without any kind of structure—it wasn’t intentional but it was simply foreign to them to have so much space–they were indoor lax players adjusting to using the long-stick just for the tournament. It was fun to watch how their sheer athleticism & craftiness would bail them out of tightest jams.
Team USA was the text-book example of a team-orientated offense with disciplined & well organized defense led by Larry Quinn in goals & David Pietramala. The offense was patient, building up tempo and constantly created opportunities for each other by moving the ball, making isolation plays once it detected the weakest defender to exploit over and over. It was quick to exploit the blind-side & disorganization of the Canadian defense whenever the ball was played from X. Pietramala was simply outstanding dominating the game with the long-stick and even taking face-offs to stifle a dominant face-off man for Canada, Kevin Alexander.
Well, so what’s better? A great defense or a great offense? Team USA had an elite offense but it dwarfs in talent compared to Canada’s star-studded side. The Canadian defense were excellent athletes but were not in the same class of Pietramala, Detamasso. Watch the game and you decide:
In 2014, the world lacrosse featured the friendly foes of Canada vs USA in the finals once again, with USA being heavy favorites to win it all, trouncing opposition throughout the tournament un-defeated with a 112-34 goals in favor/against. Team Canada would trump USA in the final game with a suffocating defense— a unique defensive set that they had tried in the first quarter against USA in the round-robin game. Coach Meade saw that it worked (held the opponent to no goals) and decided to throw different arrays of defensive sets for the remainder of the game and for the whole the tournament—Canada ending up losing that game. Why would you do that? Not use your best & efficient defensive set until 6 days later, the last game of the tournament? Talk about holding your best cards until you need it! Incredibly the plan worked as team USA was unprepared for it, by the time it can even adjust, the game was well out of reach. The Canadian offense also had a decent day in scoring when they needed to as well. Throughout the game, you’d see glimpses of some familiar faces in the coaching staff in both camps— a silver-haired Gary Gait as the offensive coordinator, and on the other side in his familiar coaching cap—David petromala (who took the responsibility in defensive coordination) in the US sidelines. He was sullen in the end but intense, obviously blood boiling inside, competitive fire only shown through his hard artery from the side his neck, tense as ever. I imagine he is already cooking up a better strategy, to build a better team than the one he had that year. The next world games is going to be very very interesting.