PRETORIA, South Africa – On the fourth day, the No. 18 U.S. Men’s National Indoor Team continued their momentum with a stellar winning performance over No. 19 Argentina at the 2023 FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup at Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria, South Africa. Tied 1-1 at half, USA took control in the third tallying three goals within a 3-minute span. This was matched by an exciting fourth quarter that saw Los Leones and the red, white and blue each score three for a final in favor of USA, 7-4.
USA held much of the possession in the first quarter, earning several penalty corners including some retakes. The first came in the 3rd minute where Pat Harris’ (Moorpark, Calif.) shot was saved on the goal line, but a re-award was given. Next, Argentina’s goalkeeper Alan Frias broke the line early sending a defender back to halfway. On the resuming attempt, Harris’ shot was stopped by an oncoming Frias. In the 6th minute, Stuart Kentwell (Spring City, Pa.) received control and tried to drive forward but was taken down outside the circle and it was upgraded to a penalty corner. Unable to find a result, USA remained on the front foot as the frame closed.
Momentum shifted in favor of Argentina at the start of the second as USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany) was tested early. First, a deep USA turnover led to a shot, next, Juan Eleicegui fired a chance that went off Klages’ body. Facundo Navarro then drove the top of the circle, but Klages again made the stop. USA took control when Aki Kaeppeler (New York, N.Y.) found his brother Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) on the right who got into the circle and tried to pass it to S. Kentwell, but Frias got a stick on it. Luckily it was lifted, giving USA a penalty corner in which A. Kaeppeler converted to make it 1-0. The lead was short lived as a minute later, Argentina earned their first penalty corner and Joaquin Gonzalez scored off the slip. USA earned another three penalty corner chances in the closing minutes but couldn’t change the 1-1 halftime score.
USA produced a stellar third quarter, notching three goals within a 3-minute span to make it 4-1. The first came in the 27th minute when A. Kaeppeler drove forward and had a Los Leones defender intentionally swing through on his tackle, giving USA a penalty corner. Off the re-award, A. Kaeppeler sent it down to Heldens for the deflection and a textbook goal. Two minutes later, a long ball got through to Marius Leser (Mannheim, Germany) who buried it under Frias. Next, off a penalty corner, A. Kaeppeler notched his second of the game to close out the quarter.
The final frame was action packed with both teams tallying three goals apiece. It started in the 32nd minute, when Leser capitalized on a quick free hit to make it 5-1. A minute later, Argentina earned their second penalty corner that was denied by Klages but this sparked a comeback for Los Leones. After a 2-minute yellow card was issued to Kai Kokolakis (Melbourne, Fla.) in the 35th minute, Argentina used it to their advantage and went on a dominating offensive run. Within the same minute, they cut the margin to 5-3 after Gaston Rodriguez and Joaquin Gonzalez both scored field goals. However, USA didn’t stop their offensive threats and in the 36th minute a bad breakdown foul earned the red, white and blue a penalty stroke. A. Kaeppeler stepped up and converted to add one back and make it 6-3. With the same minute, Argentina also got a penalty stroke and scored through Eleicegui, but not before USA closed out the scoring in the 38th minute on an open net goal by Harris.
Following the game, USA’S Aki Kaeppeler was named Player of the Match for his hat-trick.
USA returns to the court tomorrow, February 9, for their final pool game against No. 10 Australia at 5:00 a.m. ET.
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