A look at some of the top -- and most interesting! -- international teams headed to U23 Worlds.
July 12, 2015 by Preston Thompson in Preview with 2 comments
The United States may be the big favorites heading into the 2015 Under-23 World Championships, but there are so many other fantastic teams from around the world (and always the possibility for the biggest of upsets). Gone are the days when the U23 squads show potential talent; now the talent is already here. With 23 countries represented by 41 teams, we touch on some of the notable teams going into the week.
The Canadian Open team is hoping to follow up on a stellar U19 Worlds last summer to again snatch the gold out of the hands of the USA. Canada took gold in the inaugural U23 Worlds in 2010, then took second in 2013 when the USA entered the tournament for the first time. They’re ready to get back on top.
This time can absolutely threaten the United States. Talented and experienced players are all over the roster, including a number with high level club experience with Furious George. Handler Peter Yu is coming off of a 1st Team All-Region selection in the Northwest. Big cutter Gagan Chatha has been one of the brightest young stars in the game. Taylor Kotwa and Fred Lam will lead the defense.
Expect a defensive-minded team (much like the USA) and patience on offense.
Germany captain Nico Muller is one of the most experienced players at this tournament. Ultimate fans will be familiar with his club team Bad Skid, who won the German Championships four times in a row. It’s Muller’s third U23 championships; he also plays on the German National team. Mo Brucklacher, Germany’s other captain, is another of Germany’s top players. After two straight semifinals appearances, the Germans hope to break through that barrier and get their first silver or gold medal in the open division.
The National team — which is filled with players also on the U23 team — played well at the US Open last weekend in the USA. Expect them to be dangerous.
Alex Ladomatos returns to the U23 team as a captain in 2015 and looks to lead the Goannas back to a medal finish at the tournament. Australia fell to the USA 16-10 in the semis in 2013 before defeating Germany by one to take Bronze. Most of the team’s players are already playing high level club in Australia; four players are on the dominant Sydney power, Colony.
Australia will be expecting to get back to the semis this year. Will they have the power to take down one of the top three?
The Netherlands has had a rough start to the tournament, and they haven’t even played a game yet. According to representatives from the Dutch squad, preparations for the tournament have been difficult due to freak accidents taking some of their players out of the competition.
One player tore his meniscus bumping into a table, another broke his ankle jumping down from a truck, and two players had their feet cut open from some glass during a casual throwing session. After all that, they’ll still field a competitive squad.
Co-captain Joe Ricci grew up in the US, but has Dutch citizenship. Now that he’s studying in Europe, he’ll lead the Netherlands into what could be their best U23’s yet.
Austia has finished 10th and 7th in the last two U23 championships; they are aiming higher for this go-round. Many of the U23 players have already been placed on the Austrian Worlds squad for the European Championships in Copenhagen later this year. The club team INNsider has provided the U23 squad most of its players, including captain Tom Mitterer. According to coaches, Austria is poised to take down one of the top teams.
Ireland has slowly made the transition from stacking their Mixed team to stacking their Open team. In 2013, the open squad still managed to give good games to Australia and Germany, who finished 3rd and 4th respectively. Now with a more experienced squad, they’re looking like a possible semifinals contender.
Although they’ve had a glimpse of an international presence in the past, this is the first ever Danish U23 team. Captain Peter Faudel is a premier player in Denmark, having been to multiple national club finals. According to coaches, most of the players have never played together, so their goals are to form a style they can bring back to Denmark. Beyond that they hope that this will improve the youth scene in their home nation, making them a strong competitor in the years to come.
The Canadian Mixed team has one of the most experienced players in the division in captain Laura Hatch. Hatch has played on four different Canada squads (Junior Worlds twice, U23’s twice) in the last five years, and her experience will lead a squad that is hunting for gold. Canada plays with a diverse style that could help them give the US squad a run for their money. Francis Vallee joins the squad with a gold medal already, with a win at U19’s in 2014.
Notably, the team has two different lines: one with a huck-heavy, flashier style; the other with a more patient, small-ball attack. That versatility could prove effective.
Germany comes into the Mixed Division with varied levels of experience. Captains Kevin Raetsch and Lilly Trautman are returning from the 2013 team that competed in Toronto. They are accompanied by Levke Walczak, a professional soccer player with Holstein Kiel in Germany’s Bundesliga 2. Walczak brings a level of athleticism to the German side that could spur them to an upset or two.
South Africa is one of three newcomers to the Division. Most of the Wild Dogs come from the University of Cape Town, including captains Oliver Goosen and Thulie Mayaba. According to coach Jonathan Aronson, the South Africa style of play is mainly traditional, but while giving the players a chance to show their creativity. One of their players will be traveling from Norway to meet them there, coming straight from the Junior World Orienteering Championships. For those who don’t know, Orienteering involves navigating through unfamiliar terrain on foot. In other words, it’s something of a mix of cross country running and treasure hunting.
The Canadian women will try and round from a surprising semifinals defeat in 2013 with one of their most experienced squads to date. Adrianna Rowe, Erin Bussin, and Karen Chan come over from the Toronto Capitals to lead the gold-hungry squad. Throw in Mira Donaldson, who led UBC to a semifinals appearance at the College Championships this past May, and you have a team with a legitimate shot to win it all.
Although they come in as the five seed, Germany will be looking to go deep into the Women’s Division. The Germans are boasting ten players who won the gold at the EYUC Youth Championships in 2013. With an 8th place finish in 2010, and a 5th place finish in 2013, Germany is poised to move up a few spots.
Colombia returns to this tournament after a run to the semifinals in 2013. Captains Jennifer Ricaute and Sara Builes are getting valuable experience with their club team, Bamboo. Builes has played on multiple Junior Worlds’ teams, and brings a wealth of experience to the Colombian side. According to coaches, their goal is to “give it all they have on the field.”
New Zealand is led by Hanna Coombridge and Brigette Legge. Coombridge, a product of the New Zealand U19 team, is balancing her ACL tear recovery with her med school studies. Sheena Wejendorf is one of the youngest players traveling to London this year, at 16 years old. Despite her age, her coaches praise her composure and her ability to make big plays in the air. Wejendorf has already been placed on the U19 squad traveling to Poland next year.