U.S. Men's Field Hockey Wins 6-1 In First Game In Santiago
by Brendan Rourke
SANTIAGO, Chile — A sunny Wednesday afternoon in Santiago initiated the start of the U.S. men’s field hockey quest to grab a second consecutive Pan American Games medal. And when the fourth quarter ended, the result emulated the beautiful weather.
The U.S. defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 6-1, on Oct. 25 to begin their preliminary group match play at the Pan American Games Santiago 2023. The goals came from six different goal scorers, including one from Pat Harris, who is the most experienced player on the roster with 151 caps under his belt after today’s match. Trinidad & Tobago’s goal came late in the fourth quarter, well past the time needed for a comeback.
“We started slow,” Harris, a native of Moorpark, California, stated. “But in the breaks (between play), we were just talking about playing easy, finding the next pass as quickly as possible, defending hard.
“I felt like we slowly got into the game, and then once we got into our rhythm, the goals started to go in.”
Harris was a part of the Pan American Games Lima 2019 squad that beat Chile, 2-1, to win the bronze medal.
The U.S. got on the board in quick fashion in the first quarter after a Trinidad & Tobago defender committed an infringement in the 23-meter area in front of the goal. A penalty corner, or “short corner,” was awarded to the U.S., and Aki Kaeppeler fired the ball low and left past the goaltender.
But, to Harris’ point, the score remained stagnant for quite some time. Luckily, the U.S. came up with several impressive stops in a row after Trinidad & Tobago earned multiple penalty corners. The defensive unit knocked several balls out of the crease before regaining possession.
“I’d say we can thank our goaltender, Jonny Klages,” Jack Heldens, a native of Hamburg, Germany, said. “He kept us in the game. Otherwise, it would’ve been quite bad for us.”
Klages saved eight of nine shots on the day, including all five attempts not taken via penalty corner.
“I think the defense is going to take us as far as we want to go in the tournament,” Harris added. “So, we’re really focused on that. Ideally, we don’t want to concede as many circle penetrations or corners. But, I think we handled the pressure well.”
As a team, Trinidad & Tobago had 10 attacking circle penetrations and took seven penalty corners, one of which resulted in its goal.
Nonetheless, the squad is in high spirits after the five-point victory. The 23rd-ranked team in the world will also face Canada (17th in the FIH World Rankings) and Brazil (35th) in Group B match play.
“It’s always a good start if you win,” Heldens said. “It’s good for the confidence. We can now go positively into the next match against Canada.”
Team USA fans interested in watching men’s field hockey’s quest for another Pan American Games medal can watch all matches here.
U.S. Men's Field Hockey In Action