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LIMA, Peru - August 4, 2019 - It was four years ago at the last edition of the Pan American Games since the No. 14 U.S. Women’s National Team faced No. 63 Cuba. In the final quarterfinal match of the day at the 2019 event in Lima, Peru at the Villa Maria Triunfo complex, USA secured their ticket to the semifinals with another strong goalscoring performance despite the adversity caused by Cuba’s relentless defense. Tallying five goals in the third quarter alone, USA’s determination to score showed as they went on to defeat Cuba 9-0.
The opening minutes saw USA take control of the possession. The red, white and blue swung it around the backfield and worked it into the corners trying to break through Cuba’s defense. A few circle entries were present, but USA was unable to find an outcome. In the 8th minute, Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) pushed a hard ball into the circle and earned USA their first penalty corner after it hit a Cuba foot. The slip to Linnea Gonzales (Bel Air, Md.) was swept down to Lauren Moyer (York, Pa.) who deflected it in to put USA on the scoreboard. USA didn’t let up their offensive pressure and continued to attack Cuba’s circle. A build up down the right side found Gonzales who drove into the circle and earned USA another penalty corner. Although unsuccessful off the first attempt, Kathleen Sharkey’s (Moosic, Pa.) straight shot hit a Cuba foot and earned another chance. The second try saw Hoffman send a low drag into the right corner to extend the lead to 2-0 just before the quarter closed.
Remaining on the front foot, USA resumed their game plan and swung it around the backfield with patience looking for the opportune moment to push forward. Good looks came through Sharkey, Moyer, Danielle Grega (Kingston, Pa.) and Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) but Cuba’s defense continued to step and contest every shot. In the 22nd minute, Anna Dessoye (Mountaintop, Pa.) took a free hit quickly and pushed it through to Mackenzie Allessie (Mount Joy, Pa.) who put it on her backhand and swept it into the net making it 3-0. Following, a close chance came for Cuba as Yuraima Vera Rojas drove into their attacking 25, beat three USA defenders and passed it across to Yeskenia Gutierre, but she couldn’t get a touch. On the run, USA immediately took it down the other way as Grega weaved her way to the top of the circle, dished it left to Sharkey and got it back but her touch on goal was stopped by Cuba's goalkeeper Yurismailis Garcia. Cuba countered off this chance, got it into their circle and a shot by Vera Rojas was saved by USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) but the rebound hit a USA foot, giving Cuba a penalty corner. Unable to convert, the halftime score stood in favor of USA 3-0.
USA started a bit slow in the third quarter, and in the second minute Cuba earned a quick circle entry. The slow pass ahead forced Bing to come out and clear the chance. This was followed by USA working it down the other way as Sharkey passed to Matson who sent it forward to Allessie in the corner. Allessie sent it back to Sharkey but goalkeeper Garcia got a touch on it. USA didn’t let up and tallied three goals in three minutes. The first came in the 36th when Matson was quick on a reception and pushed it toward goal. Goalkeeper Garcia stepped but the rebound fell to Casey Umstead (Green Lane, Pa.) who ripped it into the goal. Next on a textbook penalty corner play, Hoffman sent it down to Grega off the right post who tapped it in. Lastly, what started as a backfield transfer was sent forward and deflected enroute off a Cuba defender, the ball went to Manley who tucked it into the goal to make it 6-0. After a Cuba penalty corner, the goal scoring continued for USA as they added two more in the 43rd and 44th minutes. The first came after Matson used individual skill to drive the left baseline and feed it back to Allessie for her second of the game. The second when Sharkey was left alone in the circle and calmly put it in off the reverse. USA finished the quarter with an unsuccessful penalty corner but held the 8-0 lead.
The fourth quarter resumed in similar fashion for USA. As fatigue started setting in for Cuba, they dropped their press line deeper making it hard for USA to find positive circle outcomes. After an unsuccessful earlier penalty corner, the constant attack paid off for USA in the 53th minute when Hoffman sent another down to Grega off the right post to make it 9-0. A minute following, Cuba found a spark off a breakaway as they worked it up field. On the play, Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) was issued a green card for a stick tackle but USA’s defensive unit shut down the threat. USA earned three more penalty corners in the closing minutes of play that they were unable to convert, leaving the score at USA 9, Cuba 0.
The U.S. Women’s National Team has advanced to the Pan American Games semifinals where they will face No. 18 Canada on Tuesday, August 6 at 6:15 p.m. ET.
Team USA is ready in Lima with a gold medal and automatic qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the line. With that, fans and followers can join the conversation and follow along with additional story lines with the hashtag #AllEyesOnLima on social media and usafieldhockey.com. Check back often for more stories around USMNT and USWNT athletes, umpires, venue, history and more as the Pan American Games get underway.
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