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LIMA, Peru - August 5, 2019 - In their quarterfinal match of the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, the No. 24 U.S. Men’s National Team took on No. 69 Cuba to decide who would move on to the semifinals round later in the week. The lights shone on the Villa Maria Triunfo complex, setting the stage for a battle between USA’s attack and Cuba’s defense. After a scoreless first half, the USMNT put away five goals in the second half to propel over Cuba, 5-1, and onto the next round of the tournament.
From the pushback, USA took control of the game and attacked into Cuba’s 25. They kept the ball there for the majority of the quarter, forcing turnovers by Cuba each chance they had. Cuba held their ground, making strong tackles, and contained each threat as they prevented USA from scoring. Cuba goalkeeper Leordan Hernandez flanked the defense and turned away many opportunities from the USA. While Cuba was preoccupied by the relentless USA attack, the opponent drove forward toward the end of the quarter. Cuba tested USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany) on a few instances where they were able to get around the USA defense but could not produce a result. After fifteen minutes of play, the score stood tied at 0-0.
USA increased their tempo as the second quarter got underway. Three different penalty corner opportunities for USA were denied by the time the first half concluded. With urgency, USA brought the ball into Cuba’s circle, and Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) earned the first penalty corner of the match. Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) placed his drag flick on goal, but the official called it dangerous as it hit a defender. A second opportunity for the red, white and blue came two minutes later where Sean Cicchi’s (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) drag hit the post, while the third penalty corner drag taken by A. Kaeppler was sent over the goal. USA kept knocking, but Cuba packed the circle and clogged the passing lanes as USA tried to connect for a chance to get on the scoreboard. Neither team could convert and the score did not change, remaining USA 0, Cuba 0.
Looking for a positive outcome, USA pressed on at the beginning of the third quarter where they finally found the back of the goal. At the 36th minute mark, Pat Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) carried into the circle and drove the ball into the left corner of the goal. Cuba answered with a score of their own three minutes later on a breakaway by Carlos Conseguera. As a series of cards, including a 10-minute yellow, plagued Cuba as USA capitalized and earned their fourth penalty corner. A. Kaeppeler's drag flick hit a Cuba defender behind goalkeeper Hernandez and the official signaled a penalty stroke. A. Kaeppler stepped up and converted to put USA ahead again with a low push into the left board. USA's scoring did not end there as they added one more goal in the quarter. Off a quick restart in the 41st minute, Mohan Gandhi (Ventura, Calif.) passed it outside to Cicchi, who sent it into the circle. Deegan Huisman (Almere, The Netherlands) got a touch and it was saved by goalkeeper Hernandez, but he collected the rebound and lifted it into the net over Hernandez. USA led Cuba by two goals, 3-1, going into the fourth quarter.
The final frame of action was full of more chances for both USA to extend their lead and Cuba to cut the deficit. USA used quick possession passes to earned two penalty corners in the first five minutes. Although the first chance went wide, the second saw a rebound shot from K. Kaeppeler tapped in by Huisman to make it 4-1. Shortly following, Paul Singh (Moorpark, Calif.) got the ball on the left side of the circle and sent a backhand shot into the net. Holding possession, USA looked to run out the time and keep their four-goal lead. Cuba had a different plan in mind and sought a result for themselves, continuing to attack. They earned two penalty corners late in the quarter but neither could cut the goal margin as they were denied by USA goalkeeper Klages and the defense. The red, white and blue came out on top 5-1 and sealed their place in the semifinal match.
The U.S. Men's National Team has advanced to the Pan American Games semifinals on Thursday, August 8 against No. 4 Argentina at 4:00 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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