WASHINGTON DC - The USA Field Hockey Women's National Team drew with Argentina today, 1-1, in the first game of a five game test series at American University in Washington DC. Katie O'Donnell scored for the USA.
The result is a promising start for the USA. This is the first international competition for the United States since they were defeated by Korea in the final of the AtaHolding Women's World Cup Qualifier in March. Argentina, ranked number two in the world, are looking to fine-tune their play and build momentum as they host the 2010 World Cup in August.
"I'm very happy with the performance," said Head Coach Lee Bodimeade. "There's a lot of ways this game could have gone that would have been less than we expected, so I'm please that we were able to come out and score first and play the way we did for large periods of time."
"It was a good start for us," said goalkeeper Amy Tran. "We showed that even when times are tough, we're still going to come out put our hearts on the field. That's a really mature step for our team."
The first half saw much of the action in the American defensive zone, as Argentina pressured for the first score. The defense held and a scoreless tie was the results at halftime. The USA finally opened the scoring almost immediately in the second half, as Katie O'Donnell eluded the Argentina defense to score.
"Katie Evans gave me a nice pass from the top of the circle," said O'Donnell. "I was able to eliminate one defender and lift the ball over the goalkeeper to the far post."
The USA followed with four or five good scoring opportunities inside the circle, but was not able to capitalize. Argentina drew the game in the 47th minute, when Alexandria Gulla tipped in a penalty corner shot. Argentina had opportunities near the end of the game to take the lead, but was denied by Tran and the USA defense.
"It was one of the more physical matches we've played," said Tran, "and I don't think Argentina likes to play that way."
"This is their best team," said Bodimeade. "They're training at their highest level to win the World Cup, and we're pissed off we didn't make the World Cup. When those two mentalities clash, you're going to have a genuine, physical contest like we had here today. To know Argentina brought that level of intensity to their game - and we didn't flinch in the face of that - is a really good sign."
Bodimeade stressed the need for urgency with his team.
"One thing I've been critical about with the team," said Bodimeade, "is the mentality that we only really start to play when we're a goal down. I get the sense after the Qualifier that, as a program, we're a goal down."
Marta Malmberg and Kelsey Kolojejchick earned their first cap. For Malmberg's part, she was frequently tasked with defending Argentina's Luciana Aymar, five-time winner of the World Hockey Player of the Year Award and one of the sport's iconic figures.
"I had to think of her as any other player, even though she's obviously a great player," said Malmberg. "I gave her the space she deserved, but didn't let her get away with too much."
The second game of the five-game series is Saturday, May 15 at 2:00pm.