The first men’s semi-final of the XIX Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile landed in favour of Argentina after a 2-0 win over a gritty and disciplined USA side. Two first half goals, one from each of Lucas Martinez and Santiago Tarazona, were the difference makers with no goals coming off Argentina’s seven penalty corners.
It was a tight opening half as a disciplined USA defence line kept a speedy Argentine forward line in check and weathered the storm of four early Argentina penalty corners – two of which had the lethal trio of Tomas Domene, Maico Casella and Nicolas della Torrre all on at the same time. USA keeper Jonathan Klages looked extremely sharp today, making several key to hold the Leones to a 1-0 score line by half time.
The lone first half goal came when the USA were caught transitioning back to their circle and Lucas Toscani fed Domene who moved it forward for Lucas Martinez to pop past Klages to make it 1-0.
The USA continued to deny Argentina any chances from their usually lethal penalty corner battery forcing the Leones to create their way in free play. Just after half time Nicolas Keenan sent a stinger of a diagonal aerial to a waiting Domene on the right side of the pitch. Domene smashed a ball across the circle for Tarazona, whose deflection hit top of the USA net before any defender could turn.
The 2-0 lead was all that Argentina could bury past Klages who was so key in making multiple saves. If it were not for a sliding tackle from USA Finlay Quaile, the USA might have made more of an offensive threat but the 10-minute yellow card made it a steep hill to climb for the final quarter. Playing short didn’t seem to damper their determination though as USA’s Kei Kaeppeler bravely ran down a Domene drag flick, while Ajai Dhadwal and Aki Kaeppeler did well to maintain the composure in the USA backline.
In the third quarter the USA earned a penalty corner but the Aki Kaeppeler flick was blocked by the Argentine defence. Domene thought he then made it 3-0 but the goal was called back after a successful USA video referral.
"We are very happy with our performance this semifinal and happy to be in the Pan American final," said Santiago Tarazona of Argentina. "Before this match, we analyzed the United States and made changes in some tactics and details that were important for this game, and at halftime we were generating many plays in our favor and we analyzed the finer details to be able to keep on scoring."
“I thought we had a pretty valiant performance and unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted,” said Paul Singh after the match. “I thought we defended really well as a team and our zone was working pretty well but we couldn’t really counter. Klages made some world class saves.”
The score difference was the most flattering for the USA, having lost by three or more goals the in their meetings since 2015. Despite the loss, there was a high for USA defender Paul Singh who reached an impressive 100th cap milestone. Singh’s career has included three Pan Am Cups and now two Pan Am Games.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to get 100 caps and medal at these kind of tournaments and I’ve ticked off a few of those which is awesome but I think a lot of USA players don’t get to this milestone so it’s nice to be a part of that fraternity but it would have been better with a win,” added Singh.
Argentina have yet to miss a Pan American Games final, this year marking their 15th-straight appearance, while the USA will regroup and head to the bronze-medal match up.
Earlier in the day Mexico beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 in a shootout after a back-and-forth 3-3 game. Mexico will now play Brazil, who beat Peru 8-1 in the other 5-6th place classification match. Peru and Trinidad and Tobago will square off for 7-8th place.