CHULA VISTA, CA - The USA Field Hockey Women's National Team fell to the Netherlands, 3-2, in a test match at the U.S. Olympic Training Match in Chula Vista, CA. Michelle Kasold scored both goals for the USA.
It was a disappointing result for the USA, who held a lead against the 2008 Olympic gold medal winners until the final minutes. The Dutch scored on a penalty corner to draw the game in the 69th minute and added a field goal moments before the final whistle.
Michelle Kasold scored two goals in the first half as the American offense looked strong, with strikers putting together an effective passing attack. Kasold scored in the 9th minute to put the USA ahead early.
"I knew I could get it in the circle, so I just went for the shot," said Kasold. "It happened to tip off the defender's stick and I think it threw off the goalkeeper."
The strikers and Kasold benefitted again in the 25th minute with another field goal. A pass from Maren Ford into the shooting circle set up Kasold's score.
"I saw Maren and I couldn't get the ball on the outside, so I cut right in and she threw me a perfect ball," said Kasold.
"I got a little touch on it past the goalkeeper coming out."
The American attack early was fluid, as the team's practice and preparations seemed to pay off.
"We had good spacing," said Kasold. "We moved their defense around and attacked their players to open up space for the forwards. They gave us good lengths to run in and easy balls to play forward."
"The strikers were presenting in great spaces," said team captain Carrie Lingo. "It's something we've been working on in the past couple of games, so it was nice to see the fruit of the practice."
The Americans had several scoring chances in the half and seemed to have the Dutch defense back on their heels.
In the second half, a renewed Dutch team went on the offensive. Holland's attack was persistent, but missed several scoring opportunities. One penalty corner strike clanged off the goal crossbar above Amy Tran. The Dutch were finally able to score the equalizer in the final minute, as Maartje Paumen delivered the tying goal on a penalty corner.
"Holland did what they do well," said Lingo. "They knew they needed a goal, and stepped up their game. I don't think we stepped up to match that at the end."
Holland's Kelly Yonker scored in the final moments, celebrating as the final whistle sounded. It was a hard moment to face, as the Americans had been on the verge of drawing, if not defeating, the number one team in the world.
"We handled the ball better than we have in the past, and that allowed us to take advantage of some good buildup. Unfortunately, we haven't been in this situation too often and we learned some lessons at the end of the game," said Bodimeade.
"It's a hard lesson," said Lingo. "The game is 70 minutes. It's just a lesson we have to take now and move forward."
"Holland's a good side, and we're building to be at their level," said Bodimeade. "Along the way, you need to be in certain situations to know what to do in them. There was some inexperience there today. We'll be better in the long run because of it, but it cost us today in this game."
Despite the loss, the match may prove to be a watershed moment in the team's development as they move towards the AtaHolding Women's World Cup Qualifier.
"There were many positives," said Terry Walsh, Technical Director of High Performance. "Getting a position of 2-0 and holding it for a very long time was positive. As was not having the lead undermined quickly by a very good opponent. Even with the first goal against us, which was a careless goal, we didn't capitulate. We held our ground."
"I think it is a significant moment for us," said Bodimeade. "To come out and put 60 minutes of good play against a one of the best teams in the world who was really trying was a big step for us."
"It was the first time we've been in a position of ascendency against one of the best teams in the world - if not the best," said Terry Walsh, Technical Director of High Performance. "Overall, our contesting was matched with theirs. We won more than our fair share of 50/50 balls. There was a belief that grew. There was an ability to control the frustration the opponent was bringing on the pitch. It was the best I've seen from us in four years. We were able to match the best in the world."
Above all, the test matches are learning opportunities for both teams.
"We've played well coming from behind in the past, but to be a front-runner against one of the top teams in the world was a new situation for us," said Bodimeade. "It brings with it different scenarios and challenges, and it's fantastic to have Holland here to learn how handle that."
"I thought we were able to compete with the Dutch," said Walsh. "We were certainly there physically, and most of the time we were where we needed to be mentally, but we're still learning how to play under the conditions when pressure is very high. It was very pleasing. It's been a considerable improvement. Lee's done a great job taking the team from a mediocre performance last week to a strong performance today. Today was a really heated game, and that's what a test match should be."
The Netherlands visited Chula Vista almost exactly one year ago. Coming off their gold medal performance in Beijing, the Dutch routed the USA in several matches. A year later, the USA was on the brink of a victory against the number one team in the world.
"Holland was here last year and we had some performances that made us question if we were heading in the right direction," said Bodimeade.
"It's hard to compare," said Walsh. "We were in a different spot in our preparation phase. After the Olympics, we were going through a transition with our players and we were trying to find out where we were as a team, and we were thumped. Obviously, now we have the Qualifier coming up in six weeks. I think now the Dutch would say it's been a worthwhile, competitive environment, not just a nice trip, but a good competitive series. They've had some very good contests with us."
The USA will face China on Wednesday, February 3. The Netherlands make their final appearance at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.
USA - Michelle Kasold - 7' (FG)
USA - Michelle Kasold - 8' (PC)
NED - Ellen Hoog - 51' (FG)
NED - Maartje Paumen -69' (PC)
NED - Kelly Jonker - 70' (FG)