U-21 USMNT Finish Fourth in JPAC, Narrowly Missing JWC Qualification
by USA Field Hockey
IMAGES TAKEN BY WORLD SPORT PICS
SAINT MICHAEL, Barbados – An FIH Junior World Cup qualification was on the line as the U.S. U-21 Men’s National Team took the field against Chile in the bronze medal match of the 2023 Junior Pan American Championships (JPAC) at the Wildey Hockey Centre located in the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in Saint Michael, Barbados. The Junior Wolves finished fourth place overall after falling to Chile 4-1, missing out on a Junior World Cup qualifying spot.
“We started flat and Chile did well to capitalize on the chances they created,” said U-21 USMNT Head Coach Pat Harris. “Our team did well to keep fighting until the end. Unfortunate to miss out on qualifying for the Junior World Cup.”
Eager from the start, Chile wasted no time finding the goal. At three minutes in, a hard cross from the righthand corner was tipped in the circle directly to Chile’s Sebastian Loehnert Baeza, who pushed it into the cage to put Chile up 1-0. Chile played patiently while in the backfield, looking to attack quickly off of turnovers from the USA defense and midfield. With the assistance of a few errors from USA, Chile was able to retain a majority of possession for the quarter. In the final minute of the frame, a pass up to USA’s Luca Civetta (Key Biscayne, Fla.) looked like a promising chance, but Chile’s defense stood strong to keep their 1-0 lead to end the quarter.
Soon after the whistle blew to begin the second quarter, tensions were already building up between the two teams, as physical contact increased in tandem. At the 17 minute mark, the Junior Wolves were finally able to connect their passes up the field without error but were thwarted by Chile’s defense at the circle. Chile continued to make fast breaks into their attacking 25, and USA tried to take advantage of any opportunity, including one after Brett Eisner (Lafayette, Calif.) applied high pressure to cause a Chile turnover. 23 minutes in, a bad tackle outside the circle by USA led to Chile earning the first penalty corner of the match. A save on the initial shot by USA goalkeeper Amar Singh (Santa Clara, Calif.) rebounded to the right post, where Chile’s Joaquin Acevedo was unmarked and ready to put the ball in the net. The penalty corner goal put Chile up 2-0 over USA. Firing on all cylinders now, Chile increased their lead to 3-0 just a minute later when Alexi De Witt fired a backhand shot from the left side of the circle into the right corner of the cage. The half finished with Chile leading 3-0.
A minute into the third, USA’s Gurcharan Johal (Phoenix, Ariz.) laid down a frustrated tackle from behind on a Chile attacker, leading to a penalty corner for Chile. The shot on goal was blocked by the USA defensive line and sent over the endline, but Chile made quick use of their hit coming in and earned another penalty corner at 33 minutes in. Again, Singh was able to make the initial save, but Chile’s De Witt was there to finish the rebound through a crowded USA circle, putting Chile up 4-0. After the restart, USA pushed up and was able to earn their first penalty corner of the match. The insert went past the USA attacking penalty corner unit at the top of the circle, leading to a turnover. At the 37 minute mark, the red, white and blue were awarded their second penalty corner, and this time Charasika was able to get off a shot that was blocked by Chile’s defense. Earning a retake, USA again were unable to trap the ball at the top of the circle, and Chile took advantage to send an aerial ball up the field to their attacking circle, which USA defended. USA found a calm moment with possession in their backfield, sending a few nice passes and looking to open up space for a counterattack. A strong step up from defender Mees Kloen (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) led to a set of passes up the field for USA, reaching Civetta in the circle, who sent the ball left the Emmanuel Langton (London, United Kingdom). Langton was able to find Eisner in front of the cage, who finished the ball in the cage to put USA on the board in the final minute of the third quarter. The frame ended with Chile leading 4-1.
Chile remained on attack for much of the remainder of the match, not needing to go out on the offensive and continuing to take advantage of USA errors. At the 50 minute mark, USA’s Langton was able to push up into the attacking circle and looked to send a cross that was ultimately blocked by Chile’s defense. The Junior Wolves pressed up high when Chile’s defense had possession, looking to force a turnover, but were unable to do so cleanly. A few more shots from the Chile offense were saved by Singh, keeping Chile out of the net for the final quarter. Finishing with a 4-1 loss, it was a disappointing result for the Junior Wolves, who will head home with an admirable fourth place finish.
For more information regarding the Junior Pan American Championships, visit the event page.
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