Matt Abbott will be looking to show the United States national team coaching staff they made a mistake by cutting him.
Myles Jones is trying to make one last significant impression in hopes of traveling with Team USA to the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Israel.
Faceoff specialist Stephen Kelly and short stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen will join Abbott on the MLL All-Star squad while attackman Matt Danowski and defenseman Jesse Bernhardt are also playing for Team USA.
“We’re excited to have such a great presence in this year’s All-Star game and wish them the best of luck for their respective teams,” said head coach Dave Cottle, who coached the MLL All-Stars against Team USA in 2014.
Bernhardt and Danowski were named to the 23-player travel roster for the U.S. national team in January and are definitely headed to Netanya, Israel for the FIL World Championship, being held July 12-21.
Bernhardt was a member of Team USA in 2014 when it lost to Canada in the gold medal game. The former University of Maryland standout, who currently works as an assistant coach for his alma mater, is one of eight returning players on the U.S. squad.
This marks the first time since the official travel roster was announced that Team USA will go against an opponent. Bernhardt believes Thursday night’s contest, being held at Harvard Stadium in Boston, will be intense.
“We all know that professional All-Star games can sometimes turn into a showcase and entertainment show,” Bernhardt said. “I think because of the setup and caliber of players involved, this game will be highly competitive.
"I’m sure some of the MLL All-Stars will be playing with a chip on their shoulder while those of us on Team USA are getting ready for the world games so we are definitely taking this game very seriously,” Bernhardt added.
Bernhardt, who was a two-time All-American at Maryland, has been with Chesapeake since being selected fourth overall in the 2013 MLL Collegiate Draft. The 6-foot, 180-pounder is starting on close defense this season, but has played long stick midfield for the Bayhawks.
Danowski was a member of the 2003 United States Under-19 national team that captured a gold medal, earning tournament Most Valuable Player honors after totaling 27 points. This will be the former Duke great’s first appearance with the senior national team and it will be particularly special since his father John is serving as U.S. head coach.
Danowski, who works full-time as an assistant to his father at Duke University, has been part of the national program since his sophomore year in college. He was an alternate for the 2006 team and made the U.S. training rosters in 2010 and 2014, but missed the final cut for all three of those world championships.
Chesapeake acquired Danowski in January, 2015 through a trade with the Charlotte Hounds. The former Tewaaraton Award winner has amassed 398 career points over 11 seasons in Major League Lacrosse.
Jones has been added to the U.S. roster for Thursday night’s exhibition and is an alternate for the world championships. If one of five offensive midfielders gets hurt during training camp, Jones could potentially travel to Israel with Team USA.
Jones was the No. 1 overall selection of the 2016 MLL Collegiate Draft by the Atlanta Blaze, but was traded to the Bayhawks just two games into his rookie season. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder has already piled up 93 points in 2 ½ seasons while evolving into one of the most dynamic midfielders in Major League Lacrosse.
The two-time MacLaughlin Award winner as Division I Midfielder of the Year leads Chesapeake in scoring this season with 26 points on 15 goals (one 2-pointer) and 10 assists.
Abbott, who was a member of the United States national team in 2014 as a two-way midfielder, was hoping for an opportunity to help his country reclaim the world championship. The former Syracuse University star did not make the final cutdown from 48 to 23 players.
“It was definitely disappointing to not make Team USA again, but I understand how difficult it is to do,” Abbott said. “I guess you could say I have a little added incentive for Thursday night’s game because I was left off Team USA.”
This will be the seventh All-Star appearance in 10 seasons of Major League Lacrosse for Abbott, who has spent his entire professional career with Chesapeake. There have been three previous matchups between Team USA and the MLL All-Stars with Abbott participating in the last two.
“There are always great players on both sides so it is very, very competitive,” said Abbott, who played for the MLL All-Stars in 2010 and Team USA in 2014. “Compared to other All-Star games I’ve been part of, the intensity is really ratcheted up. Winning is really important to both sides so this isn’t going to be a highlight-fest.”
In 2014, attackman Rob Pannell scored the game-winning goal in the final seconds as Team USA escaped with a 10-9 victory over the MLL All-Stars.
Davis-Allen and Kelly will be making their debuts as MLL All-Stars and are very much looking forward to the experience. Davis-Allen, a second-round selection in the 2017 MLL Collegiate Draft, has already established himself as one of the league’s top short stick defensive midfielders in just his second season as a pro.
“It’s a really high honor being selected as an MLL All-Star and I want to go out there on Thursday night and represent myself and the Bayhawks in the best way possible,” Davis-Allen said.
Davis-Allen, who leads all Bayhawks field players with 39 ground balls this season, was not invited to try out for the United States national team despite being a two-time, first team All-American at Maryland.
“I think everybody involved is going to take this game pretty seriously. There are some guys who want to prove that maybe they should have made Team USA or even just been invited to tryouts,” he said.
Kelly was drafted by the Bayhawks in the sixth round last year, but did not play in a single game in 2017. The former North Carolina star has suddenly blossomed into the best faceoff specialist in Major League Lacrosse as a rookie this season, winning 57 percent of his draws.
Kelly will have his hands full on Thursday night as Team USA boasts the most dominant faceoff specialist in college lacrosse history in Trevor Baptiste. The former Denver standout is one of only six players in Division I history to earn first team All-American honors all four years.
Baptiste posted a phenomenal .714 career winning percentage over the course of his collegiate career and became the first faceoff specialist selected No. 1 overall in the MLL Collegiate Draft, getting chosen by the Boston Cannons.
Team USA conducted a three-day training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough this week in advance of Thursday’s showdown with the MLL All-Stars. Bernhardt and Danowski will be available to the Bayhawks for next Tuesday night’s game against Boston at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Chesapeake also had three players named to the Canadian national team in attackman Josh Byrne along with midfielders Ian MacKay and Dhane Smith. Also, attackman Lyle Thompson, who has yet to play for the Bayhawks this season, is expected to be a member of the Iroquois national team while close defenseman Goran Murray is playing for Team Jamaica.
It has not been determined whether players participating in the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships will play for the Bayhawks on July 7 versus the New York Lizards. Most of them will likely miss the July 21 home contest versus Charlotte.