Uruguay Spoils USA's Hopes for Toronto, Rio

March 16, 2015, 9 a.m. (ET)

Uruguay Goalkeeper Felipe Gonzalez (right) had an MVP-worthy performance against the U.S. Men

By: Maurice M. Godwin
USA Team Handball Communications Specialist
maurice@usateamhandball.org

CANELONES, Uruguay -- The U.S. Women needed to win by at least six. The U.S. Men couldn't lose by more than three. Last Saturday, the worst case scenarios occurred for Team USA, as both the Women's and Men's teams lost to Uruguay, 24-22 and 28-20, respectively.

An estimated 1,200 Team Uruguay fans packed the "Sergio Matta" Stadium to support the home teams. The "eighth-man" as they are known in Uruguay amplified the already-motivated Uruguay teams in both matches. 

In the first event of the evening, the Uruguay Women's Team jumped out to an early 8-3 lead on Team USA. Uruguay fan-favorite Martina Barriero sparked the early Uruguay run on offense, while Team USA struggled to put the ball past Rossina Socca, Uruguay's goalkeeper.

The high defense of Uruguay's backcourt made it especially difficult to advance the ball, but Team USA also struggled to convert open shots when they were available.

Coach Christian Latulippe switched to a 3-3 defensive tactic that showed promise against Uruguay in the past, and Team USA, with Staci Self making great saves in goal, brought the score to 9-8 still in favor of Uruguay. However, as the first half drew to a close, the U.S. gave up three fast-break goals and Uruguay went into halftime with a 13-8 lead and plenty of momentum.

After halftime, the tables turned. Team USA's defense improved and Uruguay struggled to score against goalkeeper Sophie Fasold.

Though Team USA brought the score to a 17-17 tie, there were a few goals that the U.S. left on the table, including a fast-break shot that missed off the goal post, a fast-break resulting with an unforced dribble off a knee, and another uncontested shot missed from the wing.

Had those plays been converted, the outcome of the match might have been very different.

Team USA came close to stealing the momentum back from Uruguay and silencing the home crowd, but the visiting team could not capitalize on opportunities. Although Sophie Fasold was amazing in the goal for Team USA in the second half, stopping shots from the wing, the backcourt, and point-blank range, there were too many attempts given up by the USA defense for her to save them all.

Uruguay closed out the game by simply trading goals with Team USA. Uruguay had a balanced scoring effort, and Team USA did as well, aside from Kathy Darling's seven-goal effort. 

Barriero was named MVP of the match as Uruguay defeated Team USA, 24-22, and qualified for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.


Final Score: URU – 24, USA – 22

Goals: URU – C. Barriero (5), M. Barriero (4), Scarrone (4), Fynn (3), Schinca (2), Bellbe (2), Falco (1), Faedo (1), Ferrari (1), Grosso (1)
Goals: USA – Darling (7), Andersen (3), Gascon (3), Taylor (2), Fithian (2), Rhoads (1), Levinkind (1), Lombard (1), Van Ryn (1)
The Men's match started with promise for Team USA. They only needed to keep it close, win or lose, to advance to the Pan American Games and keep their 2016 Summer Olympic Games hopes alive.

Three goals by Team USA's Greg Inahara kept the U.S. within striking distance early in the match. However, on the third goal, a fast-break, Inahara landed awkwardly and suffered a right knee injury which forced him to leave the court. He would return later on to score another goal for USA, but he immediately left the court again citing knee pain as the reason.

Without Inahara's pesky defense, Team USA struggled to stop Uruguay's scoring attack. In addition, Uruguay goalkeeper Felipe Gonzalez thwarted USA's chance for momentum saving goals from every angle. 

USA captain Jordan Fithian scored two straight fast-break goals for Team USA to give the visiting team the lead, 9-8. Uruguay responded by calling a time-out and regrouping.

After that time-out, the match changed course.

Uruguay's defense forced Team USA into a long scoring drought over the remainder of the first half. Christopher Morgan and Djordje Radovanovic, two of the heroes from the first "Last Chance" match for Team USA, finally scored two goals to momentarily silence the raucous Uruguay crowd.

Unfortunately for Team USA, Uruguay came right back with two goals of their own, one each from Gabriel Spangenberg and Nicolas Fabra. While the U.S. Men struggled to score, Uruguay finished out the half on a 6-2 run and took a 14-12 lead into the locker room.

Moritz Marx replaced Danny Caparelli in goal for the U.S. in the second half. He and Vladimir Andjelic attempted to motivate their teammates to maintain focus, as Team USA was only behind by two goals. 

That two-point deficit turned into an eight-point deficit as Uruguay fired shot after shot past the U.S. defense, and Uruguay rode a 8-2 run to a 22-14 lead.

With their Pan American chances slipping away, Team USA attempted to dial up the pressure on defense. They switched to a high 3-3 defense that worked very well against Uruguay in last year's Pan American Championship match as well as the "first leg" match in Auburn a week earlier. However, the increased physicality resulted in multiple two-minute suspensions for Team USA. In fact, one too many for Morgan, as he was ejected from the match for picking up his third.

Even though the Men's team only needed to trim the deficit to three, they could not swing momentum back in their favor. Each U.S. goal for the remainder of the match was met with a Uruguay goal. U.S. Coach Javier Garcia Cuesta emptied his bench and gave almost all of his players some court time, but Uruguay found answers for every new tactic from Team USA.

Uruguay won the match by eight (28-20), and won the series with a +4 differential score. Gonzalez was named match MVP due to his outstanding play in the goal for Uruguay.

With the loss, Team USA will not qualify for the 2015 Pan American Games nor will they have a chance to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Final Score: URU – 28, USA – 20

Goals: URU – Velazco (5), Fabra (5), Rubbo (3), Gamba (3), Mendez (3), Abdala (3), Morandeira (2), Chaparro (1), Spangenberg (1), Gamiz (1), Rudich (1)
Goals: USA – Inahara (4), Morgan (3), Hines (3), Fithian (3), Radovanovic (3), Chun (2), Key (1), Andjelic (1)
Special thanks goes to Santiago Russo of Play Handball for his on-site photography during the event. Visit their Facebook page at Facebook.com/PlayHandball.