BHUBANESWAR, India – The U.S. U-21 Men’s National Team opened up their FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup journey at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India with a tough loss to Spain. Facing a quick, offensive threatening team in Pool C, the Red Sticks’ experience overpowered USA on their way to a commanding 17-0 win.
"we have to focus on the things we can control, like our effort on both sides of the ball and sticking to the game plan as much as possible," said Pat Harris, U-21 USMNT Head Coach. "We will have a look at the fixes and look to bounce back against Korea tomorrow."
Spain started on the front foot and remained there for majority of the first quarter. Just 1:45 into the match, they earned a penalty corner and the drag attempt was saved by USA goalkeeper Shomik Chakraborty (Washington, D.C.). The constant forward momentum paid off for the Red Sticks as they jumped to a solid lead, scoring six goals in the opening frame. The first came in the 6th minute when Gerard Clapes capitalized on a deep turnover. A minute later, a low angle sweep was deflected in by Manual Rodriguez and in the 9th minute Pepe Cunill converted off a penalty corner to make it 3-0. Spain went on to score a goal in each of the final minutes of the quarter through Rafael Vilallonga, Clapes and Rodriguez for the 6-0 lead.
A hole no team wants to dig out of, USA knew they had an uphill battle especially on the defensive end. The red, white and blue shifted their game plan to a deep half field press and contained Spain’s attack to start the second quarter. Tight marking and more poised possession led to USA’s first break into their offensive end but a long pass in by Jatin Sharma (South San Francisco, Calif.) was intercepted by Spain. The Red Sticks’ pressure broke through in the final four minutes of the quarter as they scored another four goals to extend the lead to 10-0 heading into halftime. Eduard De Ignacio-Simo exploited a deep ball that wasn’t cleared properly and Clapes went on to score the remaining three.
Spain kept up the attack, scoring off the opening possession in the third quarter to make it 11-0 through De Ignacio-Simo. USA shifted and sat deep, defending as a unit to cut off the threatening penetrations. The Red Sticks were held scoreless for 6 minutes before De Ignacio-Simo added another off unselfish passing. USA came together and steadied Spain’s offense, with Chakraborty denying a flurry of shots, to finish out the quarter 12-0.
The persistence of Spain’s attack continued in the fourth quarter, as they added another five goals. Pol Cabre-Verdiell scored within the first minute before Pau Cunill converted off a penalty corner in the 55th. Next, Jordi Bonastre added his name to the scoresheet and then within the final minute Guillermo Fortuño tacked on another two for the 17-0 victory.
“I think coming out in the first quarter a lot of us were playing with a little bit of nerves, and I think going forward for the rest of the matches that can’t happen,” said Sharma, U-21 USMNT Captain, following the game. “Tonight, we will watch some film from the game, talk about what we need to do better, get feedback from our coaches and implement that tomorrow.”
USA return to the pitch tomorrow, November 26 for their second pool game against Korea at 1:30 a.m. ET.
For more information regarding the 2021 FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup, visit the event page.