USMNT Ties Japan, Finishes Top in Pool and Advances to FIH Series Finals Semifinals

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June 10, 2019, 2:30 a.m. (ET)

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BHUBANESWAR, India – June 9, 2019 – Top seed placement in Pool B and advancement to the semifinals was on the line. With that, the No. 25 U.S. Men’s National Team knew they had to bring 60-minutes of hard work to No. 18 Japan in the FIH Series Finals at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India. Tested defensively from the beginning USA kept Japan scoreless in the first half and scored twice but not before their opponents answered on both for the 2-2 draw. On goal differential, the tie put USA at the top of the pool and gave them direct advancement to the semifinals.

“It was an extremely exciting match,” said Rutger Wiese, USMNT Head Coach, following the game. “Japan kept surrounding us in our own circle but the guys held strong. We’re very happy that we have qualified for the next round. We have still a lot of work to do before Friday.”

USA started the game with possession, but a turnover gave Japan control deep in their offensive end. In the third minute, Japan earned their first circle penetration but Tom Barratt (Greensboro, N.C.) was there to make the intercept and clear it away from danger. This was followed by shared circle entries, but it was Japan’s Kota Watanbe who registered the first shot of the game that resulted in a penalty corner. The slip to the left was read well by USA but Japan recovered and earned another penalty corner. Japan was unable to control it at the top and USA immediately countered down the left side. Paul Singh (Simi Valley, Calif.) pushed it hard into the circle for Sean Cicchi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) who got a redirect touch just wide of the goal. Japan held possession in the closing minutes and earned two more penalty corners and saw opportunities from Raiki Fujishima, Kenta Tanaka and Genki Mitani but USA’s defensive unit, led by goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany), kept the game scoreless.

Japan carried their control over into the second quarter, but USA’s defense remained solid. The red, white and blue only allowed one shot during the frame and that came in the 26th minute after being a man up following a green card issued to Tyler Sundeen (Simi Valley, Calif.). USA continued to withstand the pressure even when Japan earned their fifth penalty corner, but Barratt forced the obstruction to keep the game deadlocked 0-0.

The third quarter was full of action on both ends, as USA started to develop offensive chances and Japan continued their threatening mentality. Klages stayed strong in goal fending off Japan’s nine shots, even producing back-to-back critical saves early on. These were accompanied by the USA’s defensive unit of Barratt, Sean Harris (Moorpark, Calif.), Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) and Johnny Orozco (Ventura, Calif.) remaining poised under pressure. A close chance came for Japan in the 38th minute, when Seren Tanaka sent a long ball into the circle that found Kentaro Fukuda wide open in front of Klages. Fukuda turned and shot but Klages was there to make the save but Japan earned a penalty corner. On the chance, a combined effort from Klages and Michael Barminski (Ventura, Calif.) on the post kept Japan off the scoreboard. Three minutes following USA opened up the scoring after quick succession passes went from Christian DeAngelis (Doylestown, Pa.) to Sundeen and over to Deegan Huisman (Almere, The Netherlands) who finished. This was followed by USA earning two penalty corner chances but both were well defended by Japan goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa. With five second remaining in the quarter, Japan found the equalizer when K. Tanaka on the right baseline cut back and sent a reverse sweep into the net over Klages.

Fighting for a direct spot in the semifinals, the final 15 minutes was a battle from the opening whistle. It started with K. Tanaka getting a shot but Klages was there to make the save. Just after, Sundeen had it in the midfield pocket and passed it ahead to Patrick Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) who ran it hard into the circle and fired a shot but Yoshikawa got a stick on it. This was followed by a ball sent into the USA circle that ended up in the air and Huisman was there to volley it into the goal and give USA a 2-1 advantage. As time ticked down Japan had sustained attack and earned two penalty corners in the final 3 minutes. Japan was successful on the second when at close range Suguru Hoshi hit it through Klages to even the score at 2-2. The fight continued until the dying seconds when Japan almost found the go-ahead when a long ball into the circle was tipped but it went off the post as the game finished in a 2-2 draw.

 “We were trying to play our game, and at some point in the match you make the decision that a draw is enough,” commented Wiese. “Japan was fantastic and we were able to hold on.”

At the end of the game, Japan’s Kenta Tanaka earned Man of the Match.

Finishing first in Pool B, the U.S. Men’s National Team will advance to the semifinals on Friday, June 14 at 9:45 a.m. ET against an opponent to be determined. For more information, including results, full schedule, rosters and more, check out the FIH Series Finals event page by clicking here. #FIHSeriesFinals