On the final day of men’s pool play at the XIX Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, the United States came out with a 5-1 win thanks to four goals from penalty corner ace Aki Kaeppeler. Chile took down Mexico 5-0 to also secure second spot out of Pool A. The wins seed USA and Chile in second place of their pools, setting up a semifinal battle between Canada and Chile and then Argentina and USA.
MEN Pool B: Brazil (1) vs United States (5)
Brazil and United States stacked up quite tightly and it was a feisty affair with four yellow and four green cards being handed out across both teams. Four goals from Aki Kaeppeler from set pieces propelled the USA to the 5-1 victory, while a late goal from Joaquin Lopez broke the American shutout.
While the Americans dominated in possession, Brazil still had their share of runs and had they been more clinical on their penalty corners it could have been a different game. The USA buried three of their five penalty corners, while Brazil could not convert on their six.
The USA broke through late in the first quarter with two quick goals. A long diagonal aerial deep in Brazil territory was brought down well by USA’s Nicolas Kuehne and then blasted across the face of goal. Kai Kokolakis made a brilliant reverse stick deflection to ripple the top of the net and lift USA 1-0. Marius Leser then earned a USA penalty corner off the foot of Mateus Santos in the Brazil circle and it started the Kaeppeler run of finishes.
Aki Kaeppeler flicked high, glove side with an absolutely bomb of a shot to make it 2-0. Brazil had plenty of opportunities to level the score but Stephane Verle Smith and Joaquin Lopez could not finish on the penalty corner and credit to Jonathan Klages who continued to look very sharp in goal for USA.
With minutes to go in the second quarter, Pat Harris was chopped at and brought to the ground to give Kaeppeler a chance from the spot. This was not a spot he was going to miss from and Kaeppeler made it 3-0 to bury his second goal in as many minutes.
The Kaeppeler show continued with another drag flick, this time just over the backboard but at top speed, in the third quarter to bring USA’s margin to 5-0. Brazil lost composure and some team discipline, serving time for three yellow cards, one of which was a 10-minute suspension.
Despite the cards, Joaquin Lopez was able to sneak in a goal for Brazil after a scoop from Matheus Borges into the USA circle was beautifully redirected out of the air by Lopez to bust Klages’ hopes of a shutout.
It was too little, too late as Kaeppeler’s fine finishes were more than enough to secure USA second spot in Pool B and a cross-over match-up between Pool A leaders Argentina. Brazil will then face off with Peru for the 5-8th place cross-overs.
“We treated this game as a quarter-final and we really wanted to win,” said USA’s Kai Kokolakis. “Of course it’s a big challenge (to face Argentina) but we have two days to prepare and we will do our best.”
“We knew we were facing a very strong opponent, but we know we showed up against this very strong team,” said Brazil’s Joaquín López. “The result was not what we expected, but it did not reflect everything that happened in the match. Looking forward, we must analyze the opponent, regardless of who they are, and the goal must be to go in to win”.
MEN Pool A: Mexico (0) vs Chile (5)
The Chilean men secured second place in Pool A with a convincing 5-0 win over Mexico to wrap up pool play for the men’s side. The hosts wasted little time putting Mexico under pressure as Kay Gesswein ran the ball in to the Mexico circle to earn a penalty corner but Juan Amoroso’s flick was saved by Oscar Copado’s pads in the Mexican net.
Minutes later Gesswein again ran the ball into the circle, this time outpacing Miguel Leon, and smashed a ball on his back hand for Chile’s opening goal and eventual game-winner. Amoroso helped make it 2-0 on a series of penalty corner flicks, the first of which hit the inside of the post and stayed out. The next attempt was saved by Copado but the rebound fell perfectly for Nils Strabucchi to sweep in between Copado’s legs.
Mexico’s chances were limited and when they did get a penalty corner, and they had four in total in the game, they were unable to really threaten Chilean keeper Adrian Henriquez. Jorge Gomez was in good position to tap in a ball that beat Chile’s Adrian Henriquez in goal but at full stretch he still couldn’t connect.
Mexico had a pair of penalty corners but both flicks were denied by a charging Gesswein on defence for Chile. Amoroso made it 3-0 in early in the third quarter with a penalty corner perfectly placed just over the backboard. Chile’s fourth goal was exceptional as Martin Rodriguez smashed a ball across the circle and Jose Hurtado picked the ball out of midair and redirected it in for 4-0. Franco Becerra also put in a cross at height to make it 5-0.
With the loss, Mexico will now play Trinidad and Tobago for the 5-8th playoffs, while Chile will cross over with Canada for the semifinals.
“It was very good to close the match with a 5-0 win, a good difference and we are calmer and united as a team,” said Chile’s Raimundo Valenzuela. “We are going into the semifinals with a good feeling knowing we will face a strong and intense Canadian team and that’s what we need.”
“This game was key and the result did not favor us but despite that we came through as best we could,” said Mexico’s Óscar Copado. “We had been preparing for this for months, now we have to pick ourselves up as we know this is not over yet. For the next crossover, we will continue training with our heads up and we will give everything in the next matches. We are a strong and young team.”