USMNT Falls in Bronze Medal Match of FIH Series Finals

Images Courtesy of Hockey India

June 15, 2019, 10:01 a.m. (ET)

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BHUBANESWAR, India – June 15, 2019 – In the bronze medal game of the FIH Series Finals in Bhubaeswar, India, the No. 25 U.S. Men's National Team met familiar opponent No. 18 Japan. Having met in the final pool game, which ended in a tie, both sides knew this meeting was going to be a battled until the end - and that it was. Despite scoring the game's opening goal in the first few minutes, USA rallied from behind to tie the game in the 59th minute. But in a haunting similar fashion to their last-second loss to South Africa, Japan deflected in the go-ahead goal plus one more in the final moments to claim a 4-2 win. 

Calm and composed hockey is what USA brought to the opening minutes of the first quarter. On defense, USA limited Japan’s circle entries by tightly marking and stepping to intercept. On offense, the red, white and blue worked to get it in their attacking end using speed and swift passes. It took until the 9th minute for the first positive penetration to come in the reward of a Japan penalty corner. The drag chance by Hirotaka Zendana was saved by USA goalkeeper Daan Wisselink (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Immediately following, USA took possession the other way and responded with a penalty corner of their own that Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) sailed into the net to give USA a 1-0 lead. That advantage lasted only 60 seconds as down the other way, Japan converted off a penalty corner on a textbook reverse deflection into the net by Kazuma Murata to tie the game. Both sides had runs in the final minutes, but the quarter finished at 1-1.

The second frame started with shared control before Japan opened the door five minutes in to a spell of chances. A shot by Murata was saved and cleared by Wisselink right to another Japan striker who crossed it back but Will Holt (Camarillo, Calif.) was there to clear it away. This was followed by a reverse shot from Kenta Tanaka that was also saved by Wisselink but the official called a penalty stroke as Paul Singh (Simi Valley, Calif.) recovered to defend. Dragflicker Zendana stepped up to take the stroke but his attempt went wide. USA worked it down the other way forcing Japan goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa to make a diving save after Michael Barminski (Venura, Calif.) sent a backhand toward the goal and Singh rushed the pads. A minute later, Japan earned another penalty stroke after Barminski was called for deliberately using the back of his stick in the circle. Yoshiki Kirishita buried the stroke into the left corner to give Japan a 2-1 lead. Both sides shared penalty corner chances in the final minutes, Japan with two and USA with one, that went no avail. Japan held the 2-1 lead going into halftime.

Japan held the tempo early in the third quarter, forcing Wisselink to come off his line to make a save. That same play was followed by a Japan penalty corner that was almost converted after the drag was saved by Wisselink, the rebound fell right to a Japan striker and the follow-up sweep by Yamada was saved off the stick of a diving Wisselink. Japan earned another penalty corner shortly after and the initial shot was saved by Wisselink and it fell a yard away and a collective effort by Wisselink and Barminski on the line kept Japan out. In the 41st minute, Alberto Montilla (Allen, Texas) was presented with a backhand chance but he couldn’t make a solid connection. Japan saw a final chance at the end of the quarter, but A. Kaeppeler made the stop to keep the score in favor of Japan at 2-1.

An action packed fourth quarter saw both USA and Japan share an equal amount of possession. At the 50-minute mark, both teams earned unsuccessful penalty corners followed by multiple circle entries. With the game on the line and 1:34 left, Japan’s Masaki Ohashi was issued a 5-minute yellow card which opted USA to pull Wisselink for two extra field players. The strategy worked as 20 seconds later, USA earned another penalty corner that A. Kaeppeler buried into the left corner of the goal to tie up the game at 2-2. This tally was short lived as Japan immediately countered and with 36 seconds remaining found the go-ahead goal after Suguru Hoshi sent a ball in to K. Tanaka that was deflected in. Pulling Wisselink again, Japan capitalized on an open net seconds later after an aerial ball got through USA’s defense and K. Tanaka scored a solo field goal. The game clock sounded as Japan won 4-2.           

At the end of the game, USA goalkeeper Wisselink was named Man of the Match, after making 13 saves in the match.

Following the conclusion of the title game, individual tournament awards were given. USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany) was named Odisha Mining Corporation Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament for his performance throughout the event.

Next, the U.S. Men’s National Team will travel to Spain for a test series from July 1 to 6 in preparation for the 2019 Pan American Games in July in Lima, Peru. For more information, including results, full schedule, rosters and more, check out the FIH Series Finals event page by clicking here. #FIHSeriesFinals