PRETORIA, South Africa – The No. 18 U.S. Men’s National Indoor Team produced a key win over hosts No. 11 South Africa in their third pool game of the 2023 FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup at Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria, South Africa. After sharing goals early in the contest, USA's poised defense translated to positive attack to secure a 5-2 win.
USA found themselves trailing just 30 seconds into the contest, after South Africa converted on a penalty stroke. The red, white and blue didn’t fret and responded off the restart when Marius Leser (Mannheim, Germany) flipped it into the goal to even it. USA kept threatening and earned their first penalty corner in the 5th minute, but Stuart Kentwell (Spring City, Pa.) saw his shot stopped by the host goalkeeper Anton van Loggerenberg. A minute later a close chance came for South Africa when Lungani Gabela found himself 1v1 with USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany), but a good approach and recovering teammates forced his shot wide. The quick pace continued, and USA took the lead off a great build up on the right side. Aki Kaeppeler (New York, N.Y.) found Jack Heldens (Hamburg, Germany) ahead who passed it across to Leser for the finish. USA held on to the 2-1 quarter lead and even had a chance to extend the margin after winning a penalty corner in the final minute.
Similar to the start, South Africa found themselves earning a penalty stroke in the opening minute of the second quarter. Klages came up big and made the stop on Mustaphaa Cassiem’s second attempt. The hosts remained on the front foot and leveled the score after a buildup found a diving Ryan Julius off the post. They continued to push forward, test Klages, but USA settled and resumed control in the 16th minute. S. Kentwell produced a good look after using speed and getting a determined shot off and moments later, A. Kaeppeler used strength to carry out of the backfield, earn multiple stick fouls and a USA penalty corner. Unsuccessful on the opportunity, the resuming play saw Heldens on the right baseline pass it toward the middle where S. Kentwell finished to put USA ahead, 3-2.
Action in the third quarter was clinical, as both sides saw opportunities, but were unable to change the score line. USA produced shots from Leser and Pat Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) but couldn’t get around Loggerenberg. South Africa also couldn’t break through Klages as he denied a handful of chances and was smart with approaching the ball. The biggest play of the frame came in the final seconds when the hosts found themselves at close range, but Klages came up with a spectacular glove save to keep the score at 3-2.
As things started to heat up, both teams were issued 2-minute yellow cards in the 31st minute. With USA’s released for just 10 seconds, the red, white and blue extended their lead after using quick passing to find A. Kaeppeler in the left corner who buried it into the goal. A determined South Africa produced a flurry of shots but a wall of USA defenders, led by Klages, denied the chances. To cap off the scoring, on an open net, Harris added his name to the scoresheet to secure the 5-2 win.
Following the game, USA’s goalkeeper Jonathan Klages was named Player of the Match for his great saves in goal.
USA returns to the court tomorrow, February 8, for their fourth pool game against No. 19 Argentina at 9:40 a.m. ET.
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