USA Men’s Hockey team trounce Mexico to secure their Semi Final berth
Dragflick Newsdesk : The No. 22 U.S. Men’s National Team met No. 29 Mexico in their final pool match of the 2022 Pan American Cup (PAC). Scoreless after the first quarter, USA broke things open in the remaining frames to go on and win 7-1 as well as secure the top finish in Pool B and automatic advancement to the semifinals.
“I am happy with the results but I think we should be more clinical in the circle,” said Harry Singh, USMNT Head Coach, following the game.
“We have improved in each department match over match. I’m looking for the same in the semifinal. Coming at the top of the pool always gives confidence to the team and players, which is good, but the most important game will be the next.”
In the opening few minutes Mexico put USA under a lot of pressure when they worked it around the backfield. The three-quarter press swamped the midfield pockets and limited any forward movement.
As the game continued, majority of possession was shared between the 25-yard lines. Mexico had a close chance in the 12th minute when long ball sent in hit off the post. USA immediately countered but Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) was unable to break into the circle. The quarter played out as the score remained deadlocked at 0-0.
USA produced more offensive threats in the second quarter, switching roles and putting Mexico under pressure. Kei Kaeppeler (Stuttgart, Germany) sent a hard cross ball from the right corner into the circle and Alberto Montilla’s (Allen, Texas) deflection went just wide. With five minutes to go, Montilla had another good look when he got off a quick backhand that was saved by Mexico goalkeeper Gonzalo Segura.
A minute later, the red, white and blue earned the game’s first penalty corner but the attempt was well defended by Mexico. Although down an athlete because of a green card issued to K. Kaeppeler, USA didn’t let up and seconds later a great buildup down the right sideline finished with a spectacular goal. Adam Miller (Panama City, Fla.) passed it ahead to Christian DeAngelis (Doylestown, Pa.) who on the baseline dumped it back and Montilla sent a one-time backhand into the net. USA held a 1-0 led going into the halftime break.
Eager to equalize, Mexico started the third quarter fast and within the first two minutes tried to break into their attacking circle but poised, collective USA defense limited the entry. In the resuming minutes possession was a bit frantic between both sides until in the 38th minute, Kai Kokolakis (Wiesbaden, Germany) earned USA penalty corner.
Unable to find a result, a minute later USA earned back-to-back attempts and on the second try Montilla tried to reverse flick it on goal, but it went into the body of a Mexico defender. After the play was reviewed, USA was issued another penalty corner. Montilla doubled USA’s led deflecting in Pat Harris’ (Moorpark, Calif.) drag off the left post.
Three minutes later USA added another, again off a penalty corner, when K. Kaeppeler sent a drag into the right corner. Just as time expired, Mexico earned their first penalty corner of the game but couldn’t cut the margin.
With a 3-0 score heading into the final quarter, USA added another four to secure their top Pool B finish. Two came in the 48th minute, when Jack Heldens (Hamburg, Germany) used great elimination skill to break through Mexico’s defense and DeAngelis was off the left post to finish. Next, Kokolakis tried to cross it in the circle, but it was deflected in off the stick of a Mexico defender.
A minute later, Vincent Heller (Stuttgart, Germany) added his name to the scoresheet and with five minutes to go, K. Kaeppeler tallied his second. Mexico added one back off a straight drag by Francisco Aguilar in the 58th minute, but USA went on to win 7-1.
Today’s match marked a career milestone for goalkeeper Hamzah Hashmi (Granada Hills, Calif.), who checked into the game in the 52nd minute. This marked his first international cap for Team USA.
The USA men finished at the top of Pool B and have advanced to the semifinals on Friday, January 28 at 4:30 p.m. ET. They will face the winner of the crossover match between No. 27 Chile and No. 29 Mexico. For the men’s side, the top two finishers qualify for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, a feat the USA men has never reached.