US midway through FIH Masters World Cup

Aug. 18, 2012, 8:56 p.m. (ET)
The U.S. Men’s over 45 National Team has gathered in Canterbury, England for the first International Hockey Federation Masters World Cup.  Selected from U.S. citizens living all over the world, the team completed two days of practices in preparation for the tournament and for its first game against Australia. This is the first time a U.S. Masters team has competed, while Masters International Hockey is well established in Europe, Asia and Australia and New Zealand. 

The U.S. team includes three Olympians, Brian Spencer, Morgan Stebbins and goalkeeper Steve Wagner. Two athletes participated in the Indoor World Cup, Olaf Maack and Peter Jones and two others have worn U.S. shirts, Andrew Dunning and Phil Danaher.  Buta Johal played in the past for India, Jeremy Roberts for Guyana and Muzammal Malik for Pakistan Juniors.  Simon Gray, Robert Goldmuntz, Srinivas Karaturi, Warren Prestwich, Dieter Hillert, Jonathon Drucker, Ian Wagge and Amjad Zia are putting on national team shirts for the first time, after long careers playing good level hockey around the world.  Peter and Simon are doing double duty as coach and manager respectively, as well as playing.  Todd Koch is assistant manager and runs the bench during games, while Ashley Jones is the video analyst. 

The U.S. team faced two powerhouses of Masters hockey in its first two games, Australia and England.  Despite hard work on defense and some great saves from Steve Wagner, the U.S. trailed Australia 5-0 at half time and were down 9-0 before fighting through the last 16 minutes to keep it to single figures.   

The England game saw a stronger first half from the U.S., with England scoring its second and third goals in the 29th and 33rd minutes.  Unfortunately the effort involved drained the U.S. and led to an England goalfest in the second half with a 10-0 final scoreline.  

The U.S. team has suffered a number of injuries and had to make adjustments to its lineup for the Spanish game.  Spain brought many full international players with a total of over 650 caps and Olympians from Los Angeles (1984), Seoul (1988), Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996).  With total commitment from all the available players, including a strong effort from the second keeper, Warren Prestwich, drafted in as left defender, the U.S. held Spain off the scoreboard until the 27th minute when a glorious deflection beat Morgan Stebbins and Steve Wagner.  

Some more amazing reactions in front of goal produced a second goal for Spain just before half time.  The U.S. regrouped and was able to mount a number of strong attacks in the second half, keeping the ball in the Spanish end for some extended periods.  The last ten minutes saw Spain add to its lead on a well played counterattack, before adding a penalty corner in extended time for a 4-0 final score.  

It has been a challenge to blend the players and staff together quickly into a cohesive unit, but a lot of progress has been made.  The team still has three more games in which to try to pull some upsets against higher rated countries which have played together before and benefit from established domestic Masters competitions. Next up are Ireland. The USA underdogs are ready to do battle!

The USA team is pleased to have received substantial support and assistance from Asics, USA Field Hockey and the U.S. Men’s Field Hockey Foundation.  In addition, the team is delighted to have received financial support from the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS).  Based in NYC, HSS is the country’s leading orthopedic hospital.  One of the players, Phil Danaher, is able to compete because of an innovative shoulder replacement surgery performed at HSS.