South Africa Scores in Final Seconds to Defeat USMNT in FIH Series Finals Semifinals

Images Courtesy of Hockey India

June 14, 2019, 9:57 a.m. (ET)

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BHUBANESWAR, India - June 14, 2019 – The top two nations in the FIH Series Finals will play in an Olympic Qualifying Event. That goal has been in the back of the minds of the No. 25 U.S. Men’s National Team since they first stepped on the pitch at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India. In a rematch of their opening game, USA knew their opponent No. 16 South Africa and battled them until the very end but an unfortunate goal in the final seconds of regulation cut their dream short as South Africa won 2-1.

"The guys deserve nothing but compliments today," said Rutger Wiese, USMNT Head Coach. "They fought like lions but unfortunately the game lasted 35 seconds too long."

The first quarter saw South Africa come out on the front foot while USA maintained a similar structure to their first meeting, sitting in a deep half-field press. South Africa produced three circle entries early and in the fourth minute, Nqobile Ntuli got the first shot of the game and earned their first penalty corner. Although the attempt went wide, South Africa continued to threaten their circle and earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 9th and 10th minutes. USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany) made saves on both attempts, the first a straight drag and the second a drag down to the inserter Richard Pautz on the reverse whose deflection went off the toe of Klages. With time in the first quarter ticking down, Tyler Sundeen (Simi Valley, Calif.) sent a ball into the USA circle, hit a South Africa foot and earned a penalty corner. Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) calmly stepped up and sent a drag high into the net to give USA 1-0 lead as time expired.

South Africa maintained their attacking mentality in the second quarter, but USA continued to absorb the pressure. As their opponents were on the hunt to level the score Keenan Horne and Owen Mvimbi were the only two who registered shots and both went wide of the goal. On the other end, USA produced a shot of their own, but the play leveled out for the remainder of the frame as USA held the lead into halftime.

To start the third quarter, South Africa came out with four strikers but the change in structure didn’t confuse the USA unit. The red, white and blue produced a few more looks inside their attacking 25 but were unable to make connections in the circle. The first came through Will Holt (Camarillo, Calif.) on the left side when he tried to send a backhand cross that was successfully defended. An identical play through Tom Barratt (Greensboro, N.C.) was saved by South Africa goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse and the follow-up shot was deemed dangerous. This attack was matched by South Africa who earned a penalty corner in the 42nd minute. The first chance went off the foot of A. Kaeppeler and on the rewarded corner, Austin Smith scored on a drag down the middle for the equalizer as the quarter score ended tied at 1-1.

With the spot in an Olympic Qualifying Event lingering, the final fifteen minutes was hard-fought until the end. South Africa came out quick earning a two consecutive penalty corners in the opening minute. Klages came up big making two critical stops, the first a stand-up glove save on a straight drag and the second on the ground to fend off a double slip, close range shot. Just after, USA produced two chances of their own when A. Kaeppeler sent an aerial to Barratt on the right side who sent it into the circle to Sundeen but he was unable to get a shot off. Next, Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) used his skill to get on the left baseline and passed to Alberto Montilla (Allen, Texas) who could not control the pass. In the 53rd minute, USA almost scored when K. Kaeppeler worked it in the circle, ran the right baseline and Christian DeAngelis (Doylestown, Pa.) put it in but not before it hit his foot. Under a minute to go and with a shootout on the horizon, South Africa worked a deep ball into their circle that got shuffled toward the top. USA was unable to cleanly defend as a shot on goal was touched by Nicolas Spooner past Klages to give South Africa the come from behind 2-1 win. 

At the end of the game, South Africa defender Tyson Dlungwana earned Man of the Match.

The U.S. Men’s National Team will play tomorrow, Saturday, June 15 at 7:30 a.m. ET in the FIH Series Finals bronze medal game against the loser of the second semifinal game. For more information, including results, full schedule, rosters and more, check out the FIH Series Finals event page by clicking here. #FIHSeriesFinals