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National Teams
| Jul 10, 2022

Ghitelman, Goodrich Prove Defense Matters in Sixes Discipline

By Kenny DeJohn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Adam Ghitelman’s voice carries — far.

It’s not hard to hear the gruff echoes of his instructions as he calls out cutters. He does it on the field, in the goal and on the sideline. It doesn’t matter if he’s involved in the play or observing from a distance. When it comes to defense, he’s the U.S. men’s Sixes team’s eyes and ears.

Ghitelman didn’t score a goal Sunday against Australia, but coach Bobby Benson said he might have been the team’s MVP. The 33-year-old was, of course, a vocal leader, but he was also a physical one, asserting himself as a pest on defense.

In proving that defense is very much a key part of the Sixes discipline, Ghitelman led the U.S. to a 19-10 win over Australia at PNC Field. The U.S. concluded Group A play with a 3-0 record and will play Japan on Monday at 2 p.m. Central in the first of two semifinals. Canada plays Great Britain in the other semifinal at 3:30 p.m.

“Defense equals offense in this game,” Ghitelman said. “If you can make stop, you get transition opportunities. For our team, having the extra runner down there, gives us an extra spark.”

A rowdy first quarter during which three yellow cards were issued set the stage for a physical 32 minutes in which each team was assessed five yellow cards. The U.S. was issued two yellows in the period, but it scored on both man-down situations and led 6-3 heading into the second quarter.

The defense shined in the next eight minutes, as Ghitelman gutsy performance, coupled with Jack Kelly (eight saves) having a second straight strong outing, kept Australia at bay. Ghitelman absorbed shots with his body, left his feet to contest shots and wasn’t afraid to deal a few body blows with his stick.

It was 12-3 in favor of the U.S. at halftime.

“My favorite part about it is that if a guy’s lining up to shoot, I’m not afraid to get into my goalie stance, and they almost have to get it through two of us,” Ghitelman said.

Tensions rose in the third quarter. Australia’s Caleb Hall was expelled from the contest after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but it briefly brought his side to life. Australia scored three straight, cutting the deficit to 13-7 with 2:10 left in the third quarter.

Ryan Tierney (three goals) ended the spurt, and the U.S. went into the final stanza ahead 15-8. Tierney was one of two U.S. players with a hat trick (Colin Heacock), and Connor Kirst led the way with six goals on six shots. Ryan Conrad scored twice.

Zach Goodrich, who helped anchor the defense alongside Ghitelman, picked off a pass midway through the fourth quarter and immediately found Tierney streaking up the middle of the field. Tierney buried the chance for a 17-8 lead.

“Defense is a huge part of this because it can be a two-goal swing if we go down there and score and then come back and stop it,” said Goodrich, Major League Lacrosse’s defensive player of the year in 2020. “If we can steal a couple of possessions, it puts us in a much better spot.”

Relentless defense from Goodrich frustrated Australia, which will play the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in the fifth-place game on Monday at 12 p.m.

“It’s a careful art, and I think you see that even in the pro game,” Ghitelman said of playing physical defense. “When you look at a guy like Zach Goodrich, he’s imposing will on defense sometimes and still gets a penalty called, but it’s just absolutely phenomenal defense, because he’s a step above the guy he’s covering.”

If the U.S. is to beat Japan and advance to the gold-medal game against the winner of Canada and Great Britain, its defense will need to continue its dominance. Canada has scored 73 goals in three games, and Great Britain was locked in a 4-4 halftime tie with the U.S. on Saturday before falling behind in the second half.

“We probably have more defense-type personnel than a lot of teams here, and hopefully that can pay off for us.

“[Ghitelman] is valuable in so many ways. Any time you have a goalie who can run around and play the field, it’s invaluable. We only get 12 guys. He’s the MVP in a lot of ways. He’s saving us runs and contributing in a positive way.”

It’s just another day at the office for Ghitelman.

“From my perspective, if I can give three or four guys 30 seconds of extra rest and then they can go back on offense, it’s going to help our team,” he said. “When I’m out there, I’ve been coaching lacrosse and defense a long time, I just try to stick to those principles the best that my body allows.”


Group A

Great Britain 22, Germany 10
United States 19, Australia 10

Group B

Japan 20, Haudenosaunee 16
Canada 26, Israel 7


7th-Place Game

Germany (0-3) vs. Israel (1-2), 10:30 a.m.

5th-Place Game

Australia (1-2) vs. Haudenosaunee (1-2), 12 p.m.


United States (3-0) vs. Japan (2-1), 2 p.m.
Great Britain (2-1) vs. Canada (3-0), 3:30 p.m.

Semifinals streamed at: