Defense Shines for USMNT in Narrow Loss to South Africa

Images Courtesy of Caleb Shepard Photography

Feb. 09, 2020, 10:06 a.m. (ET)

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DURBAN, South Africa – February 9, 2020 – Competing in their second matchup, both the No. 24 U.S. Men’s National Team and No. 14 South Africa looked to follow up their performances in front of the crowd at Ashton International College. Both squads fought hard for ball control throughout the contest as USA's defensive unit stepped up time and time again to keep the match competitive. After teams swapped goals in the third quarter, South Africa was able to hold off a final push by the red, white and blue to claim a 2-1 victory. 

 

South Africa started on the front foot with the home crowd behind them as Austin Smith quickly set up a scoring chance in the opening seconds. USA fought for the ball in their corner but South Africa intercepted near midfield and reset but the shot was off target. The defensive unit of USA stood strong over the next several minutes and halted several opportunities which included key saves by USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany). South Africa earned the game’s first penalty corner in the 14th minute where Matthew Guise-Brown took the drag but Klages was in position once again to round out the opening quarter.

 

Tyson Dlungwana was issued a green card in the 17th minute which Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) aimed to capitalize on as he led USA’s ensuing possession but could not get the team on the scoreboard. In the 22nd minute, Tevin Kok was chased into USA's corner where Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) gained control. The red, white and blue could not clear as the ball moved to Taine Paton who gained a circle entry and quickly fired a shot behind Klages for the game’s first goal. USA settled down and nearly scored moments later but South Africa goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse made a save. The teams then exchanged offensive tries to conclude the half. 

 

As the third quarter got underway South Africa threatened once more with a penalty corner in the 35th minute, which Keenan Horne converted to extend the lead. Two green cards were also issued in quick succession to Clinton Panther and Dayaan Cassium to put USA up two players. They seized the opportunity in the 37th minute on a penalty corner which A. Kaeppeler put into the top corner of the goal. USA settled shortly after and continued to patiently wait for openings in the opposition’s defense but South Africa turned the ball over several times. Klages and USA’s defense were up to the task in response and halted multiple chances to finish the quarter.

 

Mohan Gandhi (Ventura, Calif.) started off the last 15 minutes of the match for USA as he found Johnny Orozco (Ventura, Calif.) on a quick possession near the 25-yard-line. The pass was just out of reach but USA was back on offense seconds later. After A. Kaeppeler was given a green card in the 49th minute, South Africa’s Paton picked up a yellow card but USA could not take advantage. Turnovers near midfield continued to damper USA’s hopes to score the equalizer as the home team shaved time off the penalty and game clock. A final push saw USA drive into the far corner but could not find an opening as time expired. 

 

Today’s match marked a career milestone for Gandhi, who played in his 100th international cap. To mark the occasion, the 26-year-old served as USA’s captain for today’s game.

 

USA and South Africa continue their summer series on Tuesday, February 11. Fans can tune in and watch live stream coverage of the series on Shoott South Africa's Facebook page. For more information, visit the USMNT vs. South Africa event page by clicking here.