Pan Am Championships Update
Updates from Argentina, courtesy of the Los Angeles Team Handball Club
Team USA in Argentina, Day 7
We have been without internet access for a couple of days, so I haven’t been able to post any updates. Day 6 finished off with a game against the top 1st division club in Argentina. Just like the last club we played, you could tell that these guys had been playing together for a long time. They moved very well together and played fast. That being said, Team USA was able to beat them by 5 goals with a final score of 30-25. We were expecting more of a dominant performance, but we kept making the mistakes of a team that has only been training together for a few days.
Day 7 had us play a re-match against our first opponent. This team is one of the top clubs in the Elite division and is a very tough opponent. In fact, they played a match against the Uruguayan national team two days earlier and were able to beat them. The last time we played this team, we let them put up 6 unanswered goals to open the game. This time, we were the team that scored first, scoring on the opening play.
The match was a back and forth affair, with each team holding the lead at different points throughout the game. Being the experienced team that they are, they made adjustments against us and gave us a difficult time. With only one minute left to play in the game, the score was tied. Team USA had the ball and was determined to score. After some really nice ball movement and some nifty passing, our center back, Martin Axelsson, hammered home a goal to give us the lead. There was still 30 seconds left on the clock and the Argentineans tried their best to even the score. Team USA played great defense and didn’t allow anything easy to go through. With only three seconds left, the Argentineans put up a desperate shot and Team USA goalie, Gabe Goodreau, came through with the save. The game ended with Team USA ahead, 29-28.
The first week in Argentina was a very busy week. We fit in a lot of practices, a lot of team meetings, and three games. The living conditions were less than ideal, but going through this kind of hardship as a team has definitely helped us bond. We have the talent to play with anyone in this tournament, but what we are lacking is the time spent playing together and bonding as a team. This week spent living with 20 guys in one room, with very limited resources has helped us come together.
After our last game, we moved into a hotel near the site of the tournament. I have never seen grown men so happy to be in a hotel. We now get our own room, with clean sheets, a bathroom, and good food. It may sound silly, but going without those things for a week can really make you appreciate what you have.
Our first game is tonight. I have intentionally been vague about what we have been working on as to not give away any game strategies. Now that we are at the tournament and our opponents can see us play live, I will try to give more details. Be sure to watch our games via the live stream link. Our first game is tonight against Argentina. Argentina won the Pan Am games and will be playing in the Olympics next month. This team is favored to win the entire tournament and will be a very difficult opponent. But don’t count out Team USA, we feel like we may be able to pull off a couple of upsets in this tournament.
Team USA in Argentina, Day 5
There really isn’t too much that has changed to our schedule to warrant a detailed update. We have a lot of practices and have a lot of meetings to go over video and game plans. We were supposed to have a second game last night, but the team that we were going to play had a schedule change and could not play. Instead, we had another practice to really work on some things.
Today, Day 5, was a scheduled “light” day. We had a really intense practice in the morning, with an emphasis on conditioning. We did drills that required a lot of running and really pushed hard to get in a great workout. The “light” part of the day is that instead of two or three practices, we only had the one. We were given the evening off to get out and see a bit of the city.
It really is a great experience being here as part of Team USA. The athletic club that we train at also has a lot of children’s handball clubs. These children often come to our practices and cheer us on when we scrimmage each other. After the practices they come up to us and ask for our autographs and for pictures. It is pretty amazing to see how excited they are to see us. What they probably don’t understand is that we are just as excited to see them as they are to see us. Handball isn’t popular back in America, so we never get receptions like this. Seeing the fans here get excited about our team really makes us feel like all of of the sacrifices we make to play handball are worthwhile.
Team USA in Argentina, Day 3
Day 2 in Argentina was filled with practices and team meetings. Basically we wake up, eat, practice, have a team meeting, eat, practice, team meeting, eat, go to bed. The practices are pretty intense and we are trying to not only learn the new system but learning to play together as a team.
Day 3 was just like day 2, except in addition to two practices during the day, we had a game at night. The game was against one of the top clubs in Argentina who have been playing together for years. About 100 people showed up to the game, and there was even a group in the stands that brought a drum. All of us, especially those playing their first international game, were excited to get out on the court.
The game did not start out very well and Team USA soon found themselves in a 0-6 deficit. We were very tentative on offense and kept turning the ball over. The energy and excitement that was there during pre-game was starting to leave as it looked like we might be routed. Jordan Fithian scored our first goal for us and our defense made a good stop. Jordan then scored another goal and we were able to breathe again.
Team USA settled down and began to play well together. We started communicating and just went out there and had fun playing a game that we all love. The first half ended with the score 11-13. All of our confidence and energy had returned and we knew we could win this game. The entire team was in good spirits and no motivational half time speech was needed. We were all eager to get back out on the court and resume play.
The second half started better than anyone could have imagined. The Argentineans didn’t score a goal until the 8:26 mark of the half. Team USA really stepped up their defense and played with a lot of energy. With about 4 minutes left in the game, we opened up a 5 goal lead and the game looked well in hand. However, the Argentinean club was an experienced club and did not go down without a fight. They made a furious comeback, but couldn’t quite close the gap. The final score of the game was 26-24.
We were all very excited to get this win, but we realize we have a lot of work to do. The club we played was a very good club, but they are not at the level of competition that we will be facing in the Pan Am Championships. We need to learn from this game and continue to improve.
Team USA in Argentina, Day 1
To keep everyone updated on how Team USA is doing in Argentina, we will be posting blog updates everyday (internet access and time permitting). To keep things interesting, we will have different members of the team write their version of the events each day. The day one update will be written by Erich Weller.
Day one started off with Gabe Goodreau and I landing at the airport in Argentina around 9:30 am. By the time we made it through customs and got our bags, it was a little after 10:00. Gabe and I were the last members of the team to arrive today, so we were greeted by the coaches and 8 other team mates. We all got on a bus and headed to where we would be staying.
Our home for the next week is a local sports club. This club has a pool, soccer fields, a track, tennis courts, and, of course, a handball court. The facilities are a bit older, but they have everything the team needs to get in a week of practice before the Pan Am Championships start on June 18th.
We arrived at the sports club a little before 12:00 and after we got settled in, we were treated to lunch at the onsite cafeteria. We were given the next couple of hours to rest up, before we had practice at 3:00. The practice started off with an hour of light conditioning work which included a 2 mile run, core work, pushups, and stretching. The next hour of practice was dedicated to Coach Latulippe showing us the new formations that he wants to implement for the tournament.
After the two hour practice, we ate dinner, and then had the rest of the night to fully recover from our travels. We have a lot of practices and scrimmage games planned for the week, so it should be a lot of fun. It is great to play with a group of guys that are high caliber athletes as well as receive coaching from a guy who truly knows the sport. I am really looking forward to the rest of the week. I truly believe that this team can qualify for the World Championships.