The USA Men’s National Team faced off against the Canadian MNT at Auburn University’s Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum in the opening game of their home and away series with the victor qualifying for the 2019 Lima, Peru, Pan Am Games. The last several games between the Canadian men and Team USA have not gone well for the Americans. In fact, the Canadians have had their way with the MNT in recent important competitions.
The MNT is now lead by new Head Coach Robert Hedin and they impressed quickly. The MNT sported several outstanding players who had not previously played on the senior MNT. And their presence made the Americans look very impressive. They opened quickly with the goal by Michael Lee on a breakaway and quickly demonstrated their physicality on defense. Only a few minutes into the game, it was obvious that good things were going to happen.
The Americans unleashed left back Aboubakar Fofana, a brilliant 6-5 right-hander and he looked like he was firing lightening bolts from high above the court. His precision and velocity were breathtaking for the largely American crowd. Instantly the American offense was blazing hot with outstanding play. Michael Lee scored on a breakaway followed by Ian Hüter quickly tossing in multiple goals. Veteran Gary Hines, Ty Reed, and Fofana added three more goals each.
Time and again Hines thrilled the crowd as he took off from the court, literally looking like he could touch the ceiling. He was truly spectacular. The Canadian defense looked helpless against the Americans. The Canadian goalkeepers also had no answers for the dominating Americans.
The Americans scored 18 goals in the first half to take an 18 to 14 lead at halftime. As well as the Americans played in the first half, they played even better in the second half. Rookie USA goalkeeper Renee Ingram played very well and the American defense in front of him was suffocating, allowing a mere 10 goals to the Canadians.
The American offense on the other hand just looked brilliant. Hines continued to soar, scoring four more goals, and Reed looked unstoppable, firing in five more. The right winger was virtually unstoppable literally picking all four corners of the goal as he attacked. Fofana continued to score with amazing accuracy, for a game high of nine goals.
With all the high flight demonstrations, the Americans also demonstrated incredible quickness. Lee scored his third goal and Greg Inahara, returning from an ACL injury, looked quick as a cat, scoring a spectacular goal of his own. The American scored another 18 goals in the second-half, limiting the Canadians to only 10 goals, for a final score of 36-24.
USA Team Handball CEO Michael Cavanaugh was obviously elated as he watched a truly outstanding effort by the USA MNT. Cavanaugh had watched the team practice on Friday and remarked they were really impressive. Sunday’s performance demonstrated the MNT isn’t just a flashing practice team, they have all the speed, quickness, accuracy, toughness, and poise to be competitive with any team in the hemisphere. They also made new Head Coach Robert Hedin a happy man in his debut as their leader!
The teams now travel to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for game two, Wednesday, September 5. The American have a tremendous advantage now with a victory by so many goals. A solid game by the Americans will put them into the 2019 Pan Am Games.