PRETORIA, South Africa – The No. 18 U.S. Men’s National Indoor Team put up a good fight against No. 3 Iran in their second pool match of the 2023 FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup at Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria, South. After trailing 3-0, USA came from behind to even the score, but Iran went on to score five unanswered, including three on an open net, for the 8-3 win.
USA found themselves trailing by two goals in the opening three minutes of the game. The first came when Rezza Norouzzadeh capitalized off a penalty corner and next captain Behadad Beiranvand received a long pass in the left corner and tucked it under USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany). The match started to get physical as three cards were issued in the frame. USA found themselves slowing the pace a bit and keeping more possession in the backfield. The quarter closed in favor of Iran, 2-0.
Iran started the second quarter with a 2-minute yellow card issued to Beiranvand for pushing the ball away. USA used the advantage and earned their first penalty corner, but a poor insert led to a miss trap at the top. The red, white and blue stayed on the front foot and had more looks on goal. In the 16th minute, Stuart Kentwell (Spring City, Pa.) was taken down by an Iran defender just outside the circle which was upgraded to a penalty corner. USA produced two shots on the attempt, which both were defended well by Iran goalkeeper Sasan Hataminejad. Moments later, Pat Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) used speed off a free hit that led to a shot that hit the outside of the goal. The last minute was action packed which started with a shot by Aki Kaeppeler (New York, N.Y.) off a penalty corner hitting the top right post. Resuming, Iran extended their lead on cored on an open net to cut the margin, 3-1.
USA used their momentum from the end of the second frame and carried it into the third. Three minutes in, Harris saw another shot hit the post, but the play ended with USA earning a penalty corner. On the attempt, A. Kaeppeler slipped it left to Harris who made it 3-2. USA didn’t let up and two minutes later a shot by S. Kentwell was stopped on the goal line by an Iran defender’s foot giving USA a penalty stroke. A. Kaeppeler stepped up to take it, but his attempt was saved by Hataminejad. Persistent, USA found the equalizer in the 28th minute, after Mohan Gandhi (Ventura, Calif.) passed it down the right side to Harris who found Heldens in front of the goal to touch it in and make it 3-3. The excitement was short lived as Iran regained the lead seconds later off a field goal by Navid Taherirad.
What started with a score line of 4-3, finished with a chaotic fourth quarter that saw Iran tally four more goals, including three on an open net. It started of promising for USA, who were looking to continue their momentum from the second and third quarters and find an equalizer. A penalty corner led to a penalty stroke, taken by Harris but yet again the post defended another one of USA's opportunities. USA didn’t slow down and quickly earned another penalty corner, however a poor insert led to Iran’s defense making an easy interception. Iran turned it around with a goal at the 35-minute mark by Nooranian, bringing their lead to 5-3. Needing a few goals with little time, USA pulled Klages to push up offensively with six athletes on the court. Frustrations seeping in, Harris was issued a 2-minute yellow card. In just a few short minutes, Iran’s Taherirad scored a goal, bringing it to 6-3, and earned Iran a penalty stroke. Back in the net, Klages made the save, and then was pulled back out to give USA the advantage on offense. Unfortunately, USA’s advantage didn’t last long as A. Kaeppeler received a yellow card. Two back-to-back goals on an empty net from Norouzzadeh gave Iran a hefty 8-3 lead to end the match. The score line doesn’t reflect the effort displayed by USA as Iran’s four goal fourth quarter was a result of the red, white and blue’s offensive push.
Following the game, Iran’s goalkeeper Sasan Hataminejad was named Player of the Match.
USA returns to the court tomorrow, February 7, for their third pool game against No. 11 South Africa at 5:00 a.m. ET.
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