DURBAN, South Africa – February 11, 2020 – Following an off day, the No. 24 U.S. Men’s National Team and No. 14 South Africa took the pitch at Ashton International College in Durban, South Africa excited for their third meeting of the series. USA came out quick, scoring in the second minute, and kept the game close until South Africa produced three goals within a 6-minute succession as the red, white and blue fell 3-6.
After absorbing the opening attack from South Africa, USA made the most of their first offensive chance. In the 2nd minute, Ajai Dhadwal (Agoura Hills, Calif.) swept the perfectly threaded ball through to Michael Barminski (Ventura, Calif.) at the top of the circle. He turned and fired a backhand into the corner to give USA an opening 1-0 lead. Some back and forth play followed for both teams, and USA had a chance to add another on a backhand shot by that was saved by South Africa goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse. The hosts started to gain momentum and their offensive control showed when they scored two back-to-back goals within a minute. The first came in the 10th minute, when Dayaam Cassieum’s backhand from the top found the corner of the goal and the second was a tip in by Nqobile Ntuli. The first quarter stood in favor of South Africa, 1-3.
The second frame proceeded with South Africa holding much of the possession. Their offensive threats did not go uncontested as the defensive unit of Mohan Gandhi (Ventura, Calif.), Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) and USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany) continued to disrupt the play. In the 19th minute, Ntuli added a second after receiving the ball at the top of the circle and burying a low, hard backhand. Both sides had final connections on attack go untouched in the remaining minutes, but it was the home team who registered a few more shots on goal.
Ownership shifted in the third quarter with USA holding the advantage. Klages was tested a few times, as South Africa earned four penalty corners, but it was the red, white and blue who converted on their first penalty corner. In the 43rd minute, a fake drag by A. Kaeppeler was picked up by Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) whose high drag hit off the post but Johnny Orozco (Ventura, Calif.) was there to finish and make it 2-3. Although South Africa immediately took possession into their end and earned a penalty corner, USA maintained their offensive mindset to close out the quarter.
A one goal game heading into the fourth quarter, the intensity continued to rise. USA remained patient when with the ball but the quick passing and ability to capitalize on turnovers benefited South Africa. The hosts extended their lead in the 51st minute when a long ball into the circle was touched by a diving Mustaphaa Cassiem. USA responded four minutes later off a penalty corner drag from A. Kaeppeler, but that was short lived as only a minute following South Africa capitalized on a lapse in USA’s defense when D. Cassiem extended the lead to 3-5. South Africa added one final goal in the 57th minute off a penalty corner through Daniel Bell to secure the hard fought 3-6 win.
"It was nice to get an early goal and to see the team with lengthy periods of good positive hockey," said Rutger Wiese, USMNT Head Coach. "It was tough to concede so many goals in the fourth quarter which resulted in a disappointing outcome for the amount of work the team put in."
The U.S. Men’s National Team and South Africa will go head-to-head tomorrow, Wednesday, February 12 at 2:00 a.m. ET in their final match of the series. 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.