While Argentina maintained possession for much of the first 15 minutes of play on the opening day the Pan American Cup, the U.S. men’s field hockey team wouldn’t let a shot get through.
The American defense kept things deadlocked at zero through the first quarter, but just 1:45 into the second period, Argentina showed why it’s the defending Olympic champion and the No. 1 team in the world.
Capitalizing on U.S. errors, Los Leones netted four goals in the period before tacking on two more in the second half to down Team USA, 6-0, in pool play Friday at Spooky Nook Sports.
“You saw the difference between an Olympic champion and a team that still needs to grow,” U.S. head coach Rutger Wiese said. “You make four mistakes, it’s four goals. You learn quick against teams like that.”
Argentina went on the attack early, controlling the game through the first 10 minutes of play. Team USA finally got its shot on a penalty corner with just under five minutes left on the clock, but Will Holt had his drag flick saved.
The U.S defense held strong on the other end, fighting off a scramble in front of the cage before Paul Singh was able to clear the ball. The quarter then closed with consecutive corners for Argentina that were both turned away by Team USA, but the scoreless tie wouldn’t last much longer.
After a turnover by the U.S., Argentina quickly sent the ball downfield, where Matias Paredes was able to slip it past goalie Brandon Karess and into the cage. Karess would turn away Argentina’s next counter, but the U.S. deficit would double four minutes later.
Gonzalo Peillat took the insert on Argentina’s third corner of the game and fired a rocket of a drag flick into the net. A minute later, Gonzalo Merino made it a 3-0 game with his first of two goals on the night.
Paredes would also score twice, with his second tally coming with just a minute left in the half to put Argentina up by four.
“It’s the ability to stay disciplined,” Wiese said of the difference between the first two quarters. “It’s on the field discipline — what’s my task and can I stick to my task the full 60 minutes. The answer today was not 60 minutes, it was probably 40-45.”
Team USA seemed more focused in the second half, but couldn’t take advantage. The squad’s closest look came in the final five minutes as Tyler Sundeen intercepted a pass and sped downfield.
The striker’s breakaway pulled Argentina’s goalie Agustin Abratte out of the cage and in front of the left post. Seeing the open corner, Sundeen slid the ball across the front of the cage but the pass didn’t connect with his teammate’s stick.
By that point, however, the U.S. was already down by five. Karess was called for a stick tackle in the 49th minute to give Argentina a penalty stroke and Juan Gilardia easily lifted the ball into the top left corner of the net for the goal.
Argentina awarded a penalty stroke with 11:01 to play & Juan Ignacio Gilardi lifts the ball into corner of the net for easy tally & 5-0 lead pic.twitter.com/Ej0O9hpkl5
— Diana Pugliese (@dianapugs) August 5, 2017
Merino’s second goal would make it a 6-0 game with the final minute ticking off the clock.
While there may be a lot to work on for Team USA — which will play a Venezuela squad that fell 6-0 to Chile Sunday at 7 p.m. — Wiese admits to seeing a “tremendous amount growth” since taking over the program in January.
“In the past, we weren’t even in the game,” he said. “We could all see today the first quarter, the third quarter and the last quarter we were fully in the game, and that’s different from the past. We’re creating opportunities, we didn’t do that two years ago.”
“All of those areas, we get better, but if you want to measure yourself and you want to win and beat teams like this, or even a top ten team, you’ve got to be disciplined. AS long as we can’t keep that in a full game, you’re not going to win.”