PanAm Games 23: Leonas defend Pan Am title, book ticket to Paris in thriller against USA

Everything was on the line and neither team held back but Argentina clung to a fourth-quarter goal to win 2-1 over the USA to take home their eighth Pan American gold medal and, ultimately, punch their ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The USA pulled their goalie with three minutes to go and even earned two penalty corners but could not find a way to tie the game.

It was a feisty affair that saw the USA defence shine from start to finish and while Argentina owned the lion’s share of the possession, they were not generating the precision scoring chances that they are known for. The Leonas had 10 penalty corners, to the USA’s two and it was one fortunate quick break that led to the USA penalty stroke to tie the game 1-1.

Alexandra Hammel, Ashley Hoffman and Beth Yeager were superb in the backfield with Meredith Sholder quarter-backing the USA midfield.

For Argentina, the little things up front weren’t going their way as Julieta Jankunas, Delfina Thome and Maria Granatto seemed out of sync. A brief period of panic, however, led to a burst of penalty corners early in the game. Agustina Gorzelany buried a flick after having two denied by the USA defence to give Argentina the 1-0 lead.

The second quarter was largely the USA defending their 23, but they did so valiantly. USA keeper Kelsey Bing denied two more penalty corner flicks from Gorzelany. Late in the second Sofia Toccalino blasted a ball towards goal and the rebound came off Bing’s pads for Maria Campoy but the shot flew just wide of the post.  

It was on the next play that a ball popped lose for the USA and they ran the middle of the pitch. A ball was floated through traffic for Ashley Sessa, who brilliantly flipped the ball into space but was interfered with on her shot to force a penalty stroke. Argentina appealed the call but the video referral favoured the USA and Sessa made no mistake burying it past Clara Barberi to tie the game 1-1.

Argentina came out on full fire power with Bing being called to action on quick successions of Argentina attack. Gorzelany had another chance to build back Argentina’s lead but her flick flew high over the bar. More opportunities came as Argentina found space to cut across the field through the USA midfield but a Thome shot flew across the goal mouth and out the other side and Campoy blasted a shot high over the bar. Valentina Costa had a go on a penalty corner but her shot was also deflected over the net.

As the game went on the physicality increased. Jankunas was sent off with a yellow in the fourth alongside USA’s Sholder, off with a green. The pressure was building on the USA and eventually they broke. A bouncing free hit across the circle was brilliantly deflected in the USA goal by Eugenia Trinchinetti to give Argentina the much-needed relief.

With three minutes to go in the game, coach David Passmore pulled Bing to opt for the extra player as USA were in Argentina’s territory. They patiently worked the ball around the back field looking for an entry. While they couldn’t gain the circle, a hard challenge from Victoria Sauze on the speedy Sessa did earn the USA a penalty corner. That chance was squandered by a charging Argentina defence, who then nearly counter-attacked for an empty net goal.

The USA had a final penalty corner with just seconds left on the clock but again Argentina were able to make the block and run down the clock. The Leonas were pushed to the final seconds of the game but Trinchinetti’s deflection gave them the 2-1 win and a successful defence of their 2019 Pan American title.

Earlier in the day two penalty corner goals from Denise Rojas Losada lifted Chile 2-0 over Canada for the bronze medal. Uruguay put away three goals on Cuba to take fifth place, while Trinidad and Tobago beat Mexico 1-0 for seventh place.

Final Standings:

  1. Argentina (Gold, Qualified for Paris 2024 Olympic Games)
  2. USA (Silver, Qualified for FIH Olympic Qualifier event)
  3. Chile (Bronze, Qualified for FIH Olympic Qualifier event)
  4. Canada (Qualified for FIH Olympic Qualifier event)
  5. Uruguay
  6. Cuba
  7. Trinidad and Tobago
  8. Mexico


PanAm Games

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