LIMA, Peru – August 3, 2019 – Crossover matchups were on the line as the No. 24 U.S. Men’s National Team took on No. 32 Mexico in their final Pool B battle of the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The sun from the previous day had set back behind the clouds, but the crowd at the Villa Maria Triunfo complex still brought the energy. With the two teams evenly matched, USA struggled to score until the final minutes of the first half. Mexico found an equalizer in the third quarter, but the team effort by USA put them on top as they notched four goals in the second half to secure the 5-1 win.
The match began slow as both teams were unable to break through each other’s defensive lines to create a scoring opportunity. Frustrated by the lack of success found, the game turned aggressive as the two teams sought to turn their fortune. A close call for USA came when Mexico looked to attack but Aki Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) intercepted a pass and sent it down the other way. From there, Deegan Huisman (Almere, The Netherlands) threaded a perfect ball to Christian DeAngelis (Doylestown, Pa.) who was unable to keep control. Shortly after, Juan Sosa was issued a five-minute yellow card following an altercation on the field. Even during the man-up situation, USA could not connect to put one on the scoreboard as the quarter ended scoreless.
A few minutes into the second quarter, USA earned their first penalty corner. The drag flick by Sean Cicchi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) was blocked by a Mexico defender, and play transitioned the other way. USA began to press higher on Mexico to try and force a turnover and the strategy paid off as Huisman intercepted the ball. He and passed it off to Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) who had room for a shot but was unable to get it off as a Mexico defender took it away. USA finally broke the seal with five minutes remaining in the half when Alberto Montilla (Allen, Texas) buried a backhand past Mexico goalkeeper Jose Hernandez. USA went into halftime leading 1-0.
Only behind by one goal, Mexico came out with a vengeance in the third quarter, immediately breaking into USA’s circle for their first entry of the match. USA’s defense continued to be tested again as Mexico earned their first penalty corner halfway through the quarter. After the ball was fumbled at the top, Mexico sent it back to the inserter where post-player Michael Barminski (Ventura, Calif.) stepped and broke up the threat. Mexico did not relent and David Terminel evened the score when he got a long ball from the backfield and shot it into the left corner. The goal against lit a fire for USA and within the same minute, USA answered on a rebound off Hernandez that was shot by Tyler Sundeen (Simi Valley, Calif.) to put the red, white and blue up again. Pat Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) extended the lead the three minutes later by sending a hard shot into the bottom left of the goal. The frame ended with USA on top, 3-1.
USA took control in the final quarter as they fought for the ball all over the field. They added two more goals to their lead to extend the scoring margin by four. The first came in the 54th minute off a penalty corner drag by A. Kaeppeler that went into the net past Hernandez. A minute later, at close range DeAngelis passed it off to Montilla who reverse tapped it to make it 5-1. Mexico did not let up and started to exploit holes in USA’s defense to try and find any opportunity to answer. The red, white and blue held strong the remainder of the quarter to secure the win.
With a projected second spot finish in Pool B, the U.S. Men’s National Team will play the third place finisher in Pool A on Monday, August 5. Tomorrow, the U.S. Women’s National Team starts quarterfinal play when they take on No. 63 Cuba at 6:15 p.m. ET.
Team USA is ready in Lima with a gold medal and automatic qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the line. With that, fans and followers can join the conversation and follow along with additional story lines with the hashtag #AllEyesOnLima on social media and usafieldhockey.com.
Photo Credits: Mark Palczewski