USA Men’s Hockey team fall to Chile in the Semi-Final match
Dragflick Newsdesk : In an even contest that could have gone either team’s way, the No. 22 U.S. Men’s National Team took on hosts No. 22 Chile in the 2022 Pan American Cup (PAC) Semifinals. Scoreless through regulation, Chile defeated USA in the shootout 3-1, dashing the red, white and blue’s chances of World Cup qualification.
“It was a tough heartbreak,” said Harry Singh, USMNT Head Coach.
“The boys gave everything for this match, but unfortunately sports doesn’t always give the result we expect. We all should be extremely proud of the way the team played. So far they have really displayed the kind of hockey which everyone loves to see. Their process and progress in this tournament deserves a medal – and they get a chance at that.”
In a closely ranked match, USA knew it was going to be a battle against Chile. Haven’t played one another since the 2019 Pan American Games, the opening quarter saw limited chances. The home team had a good look when Kay Gesswein sent a backhand high and wide.
Following, USA picked up the forward movement but had a scare in the 10th minute when Adam Miller (Panama City, Fla.) was disposed deep, but Michael Barminski (Ventura, Calif.) was there to clean up the attack. Alberto Montilla (Allen, Texas) produced USA’s only chance in the frame when he received a long ball, turned and shot, but was called for the infraction. With 5 seconds remaining, Chile earned a penalty corner, but solid USA defense denied the shot to keep it scoreless.
The second quarter started with USA on the front foot, gathering two circle penetrations. On the third entry, what started with great ball movement in the backfield led to Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) passing ahead to Ajai Dhadwal (Agoura Hills, Calif.) who set up Jack Heldens (Hamburg, Germany) on the backhand. His shot on goal was deflected by a perfectly set Montilla but was saved off Chile goalkeeper Adrian Henrqiuez’s pads.
In the 25th minute, Aki Kaeppeler (New York City, N.Y.) turned it over out of the backfield giving Chile a 3v3 situation, but USA goalkeeper Jonathan Klages (Berlin, Germany) came out to make the stop and win the call. A minute later, double 5-minute yellow cards were issued to USA’s Miller and Chile’s Ignacio Contardo as the frame played out still deadlocked.
With few scoring chances present for both teams, USA knew they had to make the most of their opportunities when earned. The opening minutes of the third quarter were played between the 25-yard lines as neither side could positively break into their attacking end. USA broke that spell in the 37th minute when quick passing got it into the circle, and they earned a penalty corner.
Unsuccessful on the attempt, Chile immediately countered, and a long ball was deflected by a diving Raimundo Valenzuela narrowly missed. USA turned on the offensive pressure and produced a handful of circle entries, but it wasn’t until the 43rd minute when they produced a shot. It started with Pat Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) using speed that led to a backhand by Montilla. With 43 seconds on the clock, USA used a great transfer sequence to earn another penalty corner, and when A. Kaeppeler’s drag was saved the score line remained 0-0 heading into the final frame.
As tensions rose, both sides knew the final 15 was going to be critical. Chile opened the quarter with a shot by Gesswein that went wide. Moments later, they earned a penalty corner and Klages came up big saving the drag attempt. The home team put USA’s defense under a lot of pressure and in the 58th minute Heldens was issued a 5-minute yellow. As time ticked down, USA looked to break the tie, but the match finished scoreless taking it to a shootout.
In the opening round of the shootout, both K. Kaeppeler and Juan Amoroso scored. In the second, both teams missed but Chile scores in both the third and fourth for the 3-1 win.
“The game could have gone any direction at any time,” said Mohan Gandhi (London, United Kingdom), USMNT Captain, following the game. “For us it is a very painful moment in the World Cup cycle for our team.”
“It was one of those games, you play 100 times – Chile would have won 50, USA would have won 50. The stats were so even. [I think] having a home crowd helped Chile and gave them that little edge today.”
The USA men will play No. 12 Canada in the PAC Bronze medal match on Sunday, January 30 at 12:30 p.m. ET.