BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jack Kelly wasn’t necessarily surprised by much during the first game of Group A play during The World Games.
Germany, the opponent of the U.S. men’s Sixes team, provided little challenge, as the U.S. poured in 27 goals in a 27-10 win. Eleven of the 12 players on the roster scored, and that includes goalie Adam Ghitelman, who played the field in the first half. Connor Kirst (pictured) led the U.S. with five goals and Matt Brandau added four.
Kelly was the only player not to score, but he did his part. He made five stops and allowed just two goals in the first half and helped spark transition opportunities given the up-and-down nature of Sixes.
To that end, Kelly was just playing his game. He loves to play fast, and he’s always looking to make plays up the field — even if goalies don’t do much outside of the crease in this small-sided format.
In playing its first large-scale Sixes event, the U.S. team is learning on the fly. It’s what coach Bobby Benson said on Thursday, and the sentiment was still relevant Friday. So, while nothing surprised Kelly, there were certainly a few things that he and his teammates picked up on over the course of the game.
“There are some things on the margins,” Kelly said. “You can catch teams subbing. We did that a little bit. You can catch teams sleeping if they send one guy to the box for sub.”
Similar to hockey, line changes were among the most illuminating things to dissect during the opening day of group play. Sure, the 100-plus-degree “real feel” temperature required more maintenance and water breaks than normal, but the breakneck pace of lacrosse’s newest discipline means that players get gassed quickly.
Goalies, obviously, aren’t running nearly as much, but the speed of the game means something to them, too. Because goalies are facing so many shots in a condensed time period, they can’t dwell on the previous play. Turn. Rake. Move on.
“You’ve got to have a short memory, for sure,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to expect that you’re going to see way more shots than ever before in one game. You’ve got to expect to play not outside of the crease too much. But when you do get scored on, you have an opportunity for an assist and to push transition.”
Arguably the best goalie in the world when he went to the world championship in Netanya, Israel with the U.S. men's senior team in 2018, Kelly’s devastating knee injury suffered in the second game of the tournament temporarily knocked him out of lacrosse. The goal, he said, was always to return to the USA team.
Kelly’s first game back on the field last summer in the Premier Lacrosse League was an emotional moment. Friday’s game lacked the joyous tears captured by the PLL’s content team, but it was a moment just as prideful. Maybe more so.
“It was one of the goals that I had set for myself when I was thinking about coming back,” Kelly said. “It’s always amazing to represent Team USA and the red, white and blue, but more importantly, it was a good team win.”
The U.S. men’s Sixes team continues its quest for a gold medal on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Central against Great Britain.
FRIDAY’S WORLD GAMES SCORES
USA 27, Germany 10
Great Britain 13, Australia 11
Canada 21, Haudenosaunee 9
Israel 21, Japan 20 (OT)
SATURDAY’S WORLD GAMES SCHEDULE
ALL TIMES CENTRAL
Australia vs. Germany, 10:30 a.m.
Japan vs. Canada, 12 p.m.
Haudenosaunee vs. Israel, 2 p.m.
Great Britain vs. USA, 3:30 p.m.