It wasn’t easy but the job was done and the USA advance to the semifinals after a 3-0 win over Uruguay to top Pool A, while Chile edged a spirited Cuba side 2-0 to top Pool B on Day 6 of the XIX Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile. The USA will face Chile in their cross-over match up for a spot in the finals.
WOMEN Pool A: Uruguay (0) – USA (3)
The United States secured their spot in the semi finals with a 3-0 win over Uruguay in this final important match up for women’s pool A. Uruguay did well to congest the scoring area, keeping the USA off the scoresheet for nearly two full quarters but when the first goal game, it opened a window of momentum for three goals in as many minutes.
The USA wasted no time putting the Cimarronas under pressure earning a penalty corner in just the fourth minute of play but Uruguay’s Teresa Viana Ache made her post-player duties look easy, denying Ashley Hoffman from the top of the circle.
Uruguay’s attack was too stretched with Manuela Vilar making most of the yards thanks to her defensive prowess and speed. Vilar put USA defenders Alexandra Hammel and Beth Yeager on the backfoot several times but, all alone, was unable to create anything dangerous.
Outside of an open look at the back post on a bouncing ball for USA’s Emma Deberdine, the USA couldn’t seem to connect on their last phase of attack. Maria Bate’s stacked pads and Viana Ache to her left helped deny a further penalty corner option.
Finally with three minutes to go in the second quarter, Hoffman found Abby Tamer in the circle and the forward cleverly turned in to space and blasted a back-hand shot to give the USA the 1-0 lead. Uruguay huddled up after the goal to re-group but the USA rode that wave, connecting on a well-worked penalty corner routine. Hoffman, avoiding route one, slid the ball the the far post where Meredith Sholder was there to deflect in for a 2-0 USA lead.
To seal up the three goals in three minutes, Tamer once again used her speed down the right side and flipped it into a soft spot in front of Bate’s pads. Ashley Sessa somehow found the space with several defenders around her to flip the ball up and into the net for the 3-0 USA advantage.
That score line would stand as Uruguay came out with nothing to lose after the break. Still it was Vilar and Viana Ache on their own trying to get on the board but they could not generate much to force a save out of Kelsey Bing, in goal for USA. In the other end, Bate was doing well to stand up to the USA attack.
The second-quarter scoring frenzy was enough to secure the 3-0 win and, ultimately, a spot in the semifinals, with the Top 4 teams at the Pan American Games also qualifying for Paris 2024 qualifying tournaments if they are not successful at winning the Games.
“We are ready to feed off the energy we had tonight heading into the next games,” said USA’s Tamer. “We have been preparing for this tournament for a while as well as all the different scenarios. We talked about keeping the energy from the second quarter and building that up throughout the game.”
“We knew it was going to be a challenging match, because the US is an opponent that is physically very good, and they also have a very high international level,” said captain Viana Ache. “We were pressing very well, but our lack of concentration in three minutes cost us the difference in the score. Now, we must focus and concentrate on the new stages that are coming. This is clearly not the result and even less the stage we wanted to reach, but we will continue to give our best until the end of the tournament".
WOMEN Pool B: Chile (2) – Cuba (0)
It was tighter than it should have been but credit to a gritty Cuba team that showed up to play the hosts, Chile in front of another packed stadium at Estadio National. Chile had two goals taken back in the opening quarter including a great turn and finish by Manuela Urroz and then a Camila Caram penalty corner deemed too high on the initial shot.
A penalty stroke in the ninth minute was all that Chile could cling to for the better part of the game. Fernanda Villagran finished from the spot in the first quarter for the 1-0 Chile lead. Cuba’s Tahimi Licea, Helec Carta and Sunaylis Nikle were anchoring a much more disciplined Cuban back line than seen earlier in the tournament.
The crowd roared on their Diablas and while possession was in their favour, the finishing touches in the other end just hopped and skipped away from available sticks. Cuba did well to do just enough to disrupt the circle entries and collapse on any free space for a shot.
Cuba coach Mileysi Argentel was passionately animated on the sidelines, non-stop encouraging her side and it seemed to be paying off. Heading into the final quarter it was still just 1-0 for Chile and the Diablas were clearly frustrated.
The release finally came after two penalty corner chances – both Villagran was unable to generate any power on. But on the second flick the rebound came off keeper Yurismakis Garcia and back to a waiting Denise Rojas Losada. Making no mistake from the top, Rojas Losada swept the ball high into the net for a 2-0 Chile lead.
Hope was not lost though as Cuba earned a penalty corner chance in the fourth quarter but the shot from Sunaylis Nikle was easily managed by Chilean keeper Natalia Salvador. Cuba did will to stymie any further attack, cheering tremendously at the end of the match but the three points still favoured Chile and the 2-0 score margin was more than enough to advance the Diablas to the semifinals.
Cuba will cross over against Triniad and Tobago for the 6-8th placing games, while Chile will play the USA.