(Gary Hines vs Cuba during Group Play; The two teams will meet again today; Photo courtesy of Lima 2019)
The USA beat Peru yesterday 22-16 in a 5th-8th place semifinal. With Peru being without a win and an an inexperienced roster Coach Robert Hedin chose to rest several players and give more playing time to his reserves. The adjusted U.S. lineup gave extended playing time to Sean Zimber, Sayed Shalaby, Greg Inahara, Drew Donlin and Paul Skorupa. Skorupa who normally plays circle runner also played left back for most of the match.
With a different lineup the U.S. got off to a bit of a slow start, but gradually built up a six goal lead (8-2) at the 13 minute mark. The U.S. further extended the lead to 11-3 and then Peru managed a mini-comeback to close the half with a 13-7 lead. The second half was a low scoring affair with both sides managing just 9 goals a piece. The U.S. extended their lead at one point to 18-8, but Peru again succeeded in closing the margin for the final 22-16 score.
Sam Hoddersen led the U.S. in scoring with 8 goals and Paul Skorupa, scored 5. Other U.S. scoring: Greg Inahara (3), Drew Donlin (1), Sayed Shalaby (1), Sean Zimber (1), Gary HInes (1), Ty Reed (1), Ian Hueter (1), Sergio Alverado and Carlos Zerillo led Peru in scoring with 3 goals a piece.
Match Statistics: Link
Video Replay: Link
While the U.S. is disappointed to be in the lower bracket playing for 5th place, the coaching staff indicated that everyone is excited about the prospect of another opportunity to play Cuba. The two sides have played each other three times in the past few months. Cuba and the U.S. met this past April both in Group Play and in the Gold Medal match at the NORCA Emerging Nations Championship. The U.S. won the Group Play match 26-23, but Cuba later won the title match 37-36 in an overtime thriller. Then, just last week the USA beat Cuba, 26-25 in Group Play, so Cuba will be trying to even the unofficial score 2-2 for this renewed rivalry. Additionally, with the establishment of the new North American and Caribbean Handball Confederation both sides surely would like to make a statement as they could meet yet again early next year with a 2021 World Championship berth at stake.
End of game highlights of first PANAM Games match vs Cuba: Link
The Cuba - USA 5th place match will be at 1:00 PM (US ET) and can be seen on ESPN 3: Link