USA Men Hold off Canada for Trip to the Pan Am Games

Sept. 06, 2018, 8:30 a.m. (ET)

The USA MNT crushed their Canadian cousins Sunday 36-24 and traveled to Montreal for a Wednesday night final game of their home and away qualifying series for the 2019 Pan Am Games, scheduled for July 26, 2019, in Lima, Peru.  The MNT entered the game as the prohibitive favorite, having such a goal differential lead that the Canadians would need a resounding victory over a USA team that is obviously superior in every phase of the game. 

Wednesday’s game drew a sellout crowd of more than 500 raucous Canadian fans.  The Americans opened the game with outstanding rookie goal keeper Rene Ingram in goal.  He proved early the he is everything Head Coach Robert Hedin hoped he would be.  Ingram stopped seven Canadian shots in the half while his teammates opened up the lead. 

The MNT offense was firing on all cylinders early as Greg Inahara scored, followed by a 7-meter score from Adam Elzoghby, then Inahara scored again, followed by Antoine Baup.  The MVP of game one, Abou Fofana, scored and was followed by Elzoghby’s second goal.  The high-flying Gary Hines once again impressed the crowd with his speed, quickness, and outstanding athletic ability, scoring the seventh and tenth goals for the Americans.  Ty Reed, scored twice, followed by Hines with two more, and the Americans were looking invincible.  Sean Zimber joined the group of Americans who had already scored and was followed by several other players would score again before halftime.

The Americans truly had vaulted into the lead and dominated just as they did Sunday.  In fact, the MNT looked as if they would truly embarrass the Canadians in front of their crowd, with a halftime score of 16-10.

The second half began with the Canadians out to prove they were worthy of being respected.  They played with the fire and passion everyone expects from those representing Canada.  However, a well-balanced American attack kept the visitors out in front the entire second half until the final moments.  The highflying Hines scored three times, Ian Hueter scored twice, and Ian Pickett got into the scoring column. Zimber, Elzoghby, Reed, and Baup also scored for the Americans in the half.  The surprising goal was empty-net goal fired in from 125 feet by goalkeeper Mezick.  That goal would prove to be critical. 

The Canadians worked hard on both sides of the court.  On offense, they tried to run and they attacked at a far quicker tempo than they had in the first half.   USA Head Coach Hedin decided to provide court time to all his athletes.  While the Canadians were throwing everything they had at their rivals, Hedin was ensuring everyone got to taste the sting of battle. 

The USA goal keepers were superior all night.  When Ingram left the court, Alden Mezick took over and also played very well.  As the Canadians stepped up their second half assault on the American defense, Mezick came up with several outstanding saves to hold them off.  Mezick totaled eight saves in the second half.

For the Canadians, it became an all-out effort to preserve their dignity.   Being pounded at home in front of a packed house would be humiliating beyond description for them.  So, work they did, hustling, fighting for loose balls, giving 110%, and finally closing the score to a respectable margin, and then in a couple of goals. 

In a last-minute push, Team Canada got a goal to bring them to within one and as time wound down, they were able to get possession of the ball and push an attack up toward Mezick where a Canadian player hit the back of the net to tie the game with five seconds to play at 27 all.  Team Canada must have felt like a million dollars and the home crowd loved it!  However, it was the Americans who were truly celebrating as they won the series and earned a berth to the 2019 Pan Am Games. 

The WNT had celebrated their victory and was courtside for the second half of the men’s game.  As the MNT bench erupted in celebration, their sisters in red, white, and blue, rushed the court to join in the celebration as American pride was on display for everyone watching in person or online. 

A jubilant Hedin left the court with a huge smile on his face, with a great sense of relief as well as accomplishment.  In his first effort with the MNT, he had etched his name in USA Team Handball history, returning the MNT to the Pan Am Games for the first time in eight years.