A look back and a look ahead
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. - Championship matches can come down to just one critical moment that draws the line between victory and defeat; champions and the runner-up. In the final match of Champions Challenge I, USA built an early 2-0 lead against Japan, however, sixty second before halftime, an unexpected goal changed the momentum of the match and USA was unable to break Japan’s rhythm. The consequence is clear. USA fell short of reaching their goal of a first place finish and advancing to Champions Trophy. However, the positive outcome has been recognition of key areas to focus on as the Pan American Games rapidly approach.
"Champions Challenge was a clear indicator of the development of the midfield elimination skills of the USA Team,” said Terry Walsh, Technical Director, USA Field Hockey. “The ability to control important matches with quality control, precise passing and receiving execution, changeable outletting options and incisive midfield eliminations was evident throughout the tournament.”
USA remains ranked thirteenth in the world and continues to develop their reputation as a team that can have a presence at the highest level heading into the 2012 Olympic year. In the upcoming two months, USA will play in twelve international matches, further providing the opportunity to assess strategies and areas of development prior to the Pan Am Games. USA will challenge Germany and Belgium on a European Tour in August and meet New Zealand on home turf in early September.
“The world’s best teams, Holland and Argentina, have had significant trouble with New Zealand at the recent Champions Trophy in Amsterdam,” said Walsh. “New Zealand possesses speed and elimination skills through their midfield and deep into attack. The five game test series against New Zealand in Chula Vista will be a key period in the development of the team.”
While defeat is often times heartbreaking, it can provide valuable learning lessons that lead to success down the road. For USA, the final match at Champions Challenge offered vital information that will, in time, produce the desired result.
“Playing our way into the final and our performance against Japan has provided some critical and vital lessons to our squad,” said Bodimeade. “As disappointing as losing was, I know that it has provided us with the information needed that is relevant to our group and can be taken forward onto the Pan Am Games. Each day is another step, a challenge to approach excellence and an opportunity to raise the level.”
Looking ahead to the Pan American Games, Canada, Chile and the world’s number one ranked team Argentina will be key opponents for USA. The Pan Am Games is an event held every four years, one year prior to the Olympics, with eight teams fighting for one sought-after spot and the chance at an Olympic dream. The direct route to the London Olympics will be success in Guadalajara, October 19-28. While this is a challenging task, it is achievable for the talented USA Team who is hungry for gold. USA has finished second to Argentina in the last five out of six Pan Am Games and is expecting a different result this year.
In February, USA traveled to Argentina for two, four nation tournaments. USA advanced to the finals of the second tournament in Rosario against Argentina and fell just shy of defeating the number one world ranked team. Most recently, Argentina was knocked from the podium by the Netherlands at Champions Trophy in Amsterdam. The Netherlands successfully denied Argentina of what would have been their fourth consecutive title at Champions Trophy.
USA’s full-time athlete residency program will reconvene next week at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA and the preparation will continue for the Pan American Games. The training will be tiring, difficult and strenuous, but the end result will be worth the sacrifice. The blood, sweat and tears shed over the next two and half months will be a total team effort in pursuit of claiming gold at the Pan Ams and gaining an automatic entry into the Olympic Games. Not to mention ending a lingering Argentinian winning streak that dates back as far as 1987.