(USA Men's PANAM Games Team and Staff)
A short handed U.S. side wrapped up its Pan American Games competition earlier today with a 32-24 loss to Cuba. Due to injuries to Nicolas Robinson, Patrick Hueter and Greg Inahara, the 14 man U.S. roster had only 11 healthy players to work with. Despite this, the match started out well for the U.S. as a combination of their offense clicking and stalwart defense allowed the U.S. to take an 8-5 lead with 16 minutes remaining in the period. Unfortunately, for the U.S. the rest of the half didn't go so well as Cuba stepped up its game and went on an 11-2 run to close out the half and gave Cuba a 16-10 lead at the break.
The U.S. started the second half with a nice comeback, cutting the lead to 18-16 in the first 10 minutes. And, this was despite a red card given to Left Wing Ty Reed during the U.S. run. Cuba, however, eventually responded to the comeback and gradually built its lead back up over the remainder of the half. All told, the loss of Reed, coupled with the other injuries left the U.S. with just 10 healthy players and no remaining left handers. The U.S. could not muster any more comebacks and Cuba pulled away in the closing minutes for for the 32-24 victory.
About Fofana led the U.S. in scoring with 7 goals and Ian Hueter added 5. Other U.S. scoring: Ty Reed (4), Sam Hoddersen (3), Sayed Shalaby (2), Gary Hines (2), Drew Donlin (1). Guillermo Corzoand Omar Toledano led Cuba in scoring with 5 a piece.
Match Statistics: Link
Video Replay: Link
Despite the sixth-place finish overall, the U.S. squad is looking forward to the future. Head Coach, Robert Hedin, said, "He was very proud of the team's solid performance and thought they were getting better every day." Drew Donlin noted that "The PANAM Games was an awesome experience and a great step for USA Team Handball." And, that "There were now higher expectations for the team" Abou Fofana, who had a solid tournament as the team's primary backcourt 9 meter shooter probably stated it best noting that "Other countries are taking notice of the U.S. and not taking us lightly."
The next major tournament for the U.S. will likely be the North American & Caribbean Championships. The timing and location for the tournament are TBD, but there has been discussion suggesting that the new Federation will seek to play the tournament in January 2020, the same time that most continents are now playing their championships so as not to conflict with European club seasons. This tournament will also serve as a qualifier for the 2021 World Championships.