USA Men's and Women's Indoor Squads Secure Victories over Host Nation at Pan Am Cup
The U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams created a positive presence during the opening of the 2014 Pan American Cup yesterday in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The U.S. Men’s Team came out strong with a quick goal in the first minute of play when Mohan Gandhi (Ventura, CA) received a ball in the corner and slipped it under the goalkeeper’s near side to take an early lead. Team USA dominated possession but Uruguay held on to keep the score 1-0 going into the second half.
The U.S. Men’s fitness and ball speed were a key factor in opening up the scoring in the second half. Rob Schilling (Long Beach, CA) finished on a penalty corner to go up 2-0. Sebastian Scheurer (Greenwich, CT) showed confidence in attack as he took on the Uruguayan defense and lofted a ball over the keeper to go up 3-0. Another attack by Sebastian with quick passing from Schilling permitted Runzi to score and seal the win at 4-0. The Men will compete against Guyana today.
“Yesterday’s game was a solid performance from the boys against the host nation,” said Coach Andy Thornton. “We moved the ball around well and were patient in our attacks against a hard working Uruguayan team which had the crowd on their side. We are looking forward to today’s game against another strong opponent.”
The U.S. women started the Indoor Pan American Cup against the host country last night as well in an unusual position. At their 3 p.m. team meeting, there were still a full 7 hours until game time. Uruguayans are known for staying up late and 10 p.m. is a typical dinnertime, so for the home team this was normal. Their second challenge was competing against the home team in front of a large boisterous crowd. In the days and weeks prior to the tournament, the women prepared by training with loud music blaring in the gym and by staying up late and shifting their meal times. Despite the preparations they still showed some minor jitters in what was the first Pan American match for nine out of 10 ladies on the team. As expected, the stands were full, the temperature was hot and the volume was up at game time.
The match started off evenly and the U.S. women were treated to a more physical style of play than they are used to seeing. The teams each had multiple scoring opportunities but were stymied by strong defensive play on both ends. In the 10th minute, the Uruguay attacked the right side of the circle but was turned away by U.S. goalkeeper Maria Keesling (Downingtown, Pa.). The shot that followed struck a U.S. defender and a penalty corner was granted. That chance and a second penalty corner were stopped, but in the 14th minute Uruguay fought hard in the attacking left side and an errant shot was deflected into the goal to put them ahead by one. In the minutes that followed, the U.S. team was able to earn two penalty corners off of counterattack play, but could not produce a goal. In the final minutes, the U.S. generated a flurry of attack as Amanda Fleischut (Doylestown, Pa.) took shots on goal but found the post and a Uruguayan defender. The score going into half remained 0-1.
In the 23rd minute of the match, defender Kim Tunell (Wilmington, Del.) found Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) who combined with Susan Ciufo (Bangor, Pa.) for another good scoring chance. Uruguay countered and attacked through the right side again and sent a cross ball to a waiting attacker in front of the cage for the finish to move the lead to two. The U.S. continued to fight hard and nearly scored on two more counter attack opportunities, but it wasn’t until the 29th minute that Ciufo found the back of a net on a cross ball from Matson to cut the lead back to one. Just a minute later, Uruguay drew a green card penalty for drilling and the U.S. women had a minute of up number play and continued to pressure the Uruguayan defense. The pressure paid off and after the game returned to even numbers Rachael Milne (Hatfield, Pa.) fired a ball into the circle to Ciufo who tipped the ball high towards the goal. The Uruguay keeper redirected the save into the head of Matson to give the U.S. another penalty corner. On the ensuing corner, Ciufo scored her second goal of the match to even the score.
The goal by Ciufo ignited the hometown crowd and chants of “Uruguay” began immediately. Ciufo responded with a high reverse flick from deep in the left corner that evaded the keeper and somehow crossed the goalmouth without going in. Uruguay came back strong and quickly earned a penalty corner but Milne neatly turned the shot away from the post position. A second corner had hearts racing and the shot went around U.S. goalkeeper Ashley Dalisera (Millersville, Md.) and over the head of Tunell, but rang off the goalpost. It looked like the match might end in a tie until the last minute when the U.S. earned their final penalty corner. Matson and Ciufo combined once again and Matson scored the final tally to put the U.S. women on top 3-2. To continue the tournament, Team USA takes on Canada today.
Check out this video from the PAFH of Team USA's first day in Uruguay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqe34218x6M
Follow our Twitter account @USAFieldHockey for more Pan American Cup coverage.