August 1, 2013 – Tremendous growth and tenacity followed the Under-21 National Team from match to match at the ERGO Hockey Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach’s Hockeypark despite a loss to quarterfinal-opponent Argentina.
USA U-21 National Team Head Coach Steve Jennings with the aid of his reputable staff, Tracey Fuchs and Pam Bustin led the team through a tactical game of mental and physical endurance as a majority of ball possession was held in the center of the pitch.
“I thought we played awesome today. The team was incredible,” said Jennings. “Argentina is an astounding team and I think we just raised our level of play and put them under a lot of pressure to create chances for ourselves. It was a game that was played a lot in the midfield.”
Ball possession battered back and forth from the starting whistle until the final seconds of the game. Argentina scored off of their only first-half corner in the 35th minute to create a halftime score of 0-1. Team USA fought past Argentina’s line, drove into their attack circle and was rewarded with three penalty corners. Although valiant efforts, U.S. was unable to convert these scoring opportunities into goals. In the 60th minute Argentina lured the U.S defense unit to the right side of the circle and quickly transferred the ball to the left to win the moment to score another goal. The game ended U.S. 0, Argentina 2.
“I’m really proud of the intensity we played with and togetherness we showed,” said Jennings. “We’ve made the most unbelievable strides as a team in the last eight weeks. It’s really an amazing transformation. We’re all disappointed we didn’t win today but I know we threw everything we had at them.”
“We stepped it up this match more so than any of the other games we competed in at this tournament,” said U.S. defender Kelsey Harbin (Escondido, Cali.). “I’m just so proud of how everyone came together and played united. Our press has been the best it’s ever been. We were right there in our attack circle too. If we would have capitalized on a few key plays the game would have had a different outcome.”
U.S. created a strong tournament presence when they rose above Korea in the opening of pool play, breaking a 1-1 halftime score and finishing the game 4-1. Korea is one of the most decorated teams at the Women’s Junior World Cup, having participated in all editions of the tournament since its creation and finishing on top in 2001 and 2005. The following day U.S. competed in a hard-fought match against the Netherlands, a squad with equally noteworthy accomplishments having been crowned Junior World Cup Champions in 1997 and in 2009. Although U.S. held up relentless play, Netherlands’ attack secured five goals to U.S.’s one. Ghana was the U.S.’s final competitor in Pool A. The U.S. U-21 Team maneuvered the ball through the middle with poise and carried the momentum to the cage. U.S. won the match 6-0 and qualified for quarterfinals.
The team USA will now compete against Australia at 2 p.m. local time Friday, August 2 for 5th – 8th placement at the Junior World Cup. The semi-finals will be played on August 2 and the gold and bronze medal match on August 4.