LONDON – Rewind back to last October, the biggest victory in U.S. field hockey history. Team USA had a stunning 4-2 win over defending world champion Argentina in the gold medal game of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Some thought it was a fluke. Ranked No. 13 in the world, the U.S. was not expected to win the gold medal. But, they did.
In the second match of the preliminary rounds at the Olympic Games, the U.S. and Argentina met again. With a lot on the line and something to prove, the U.S. repeated their performance from the Pan American Games and came out with a 1-0 win.
"We were in a position where we had to get a result today, to get back on track in the tournament,” said Head Coach Lee Bodimeade. “We were fortunate to play against Argentina, a team that drives us to our best performances. We knew had to go out and do what we did in Guadalajara. It was really a terrific effort.”
The U.S. controlled the pace of the game from the start, feeding the ball through the circle and putting constant pressure on Argentina’s defense. Argentina struggled to play a composed game and appeared rattled throughout much of the first half. With seven minutes remaining, Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, NJ) threaded a pass to Shannon Taylor (Midlothian, Va.) who made a sprawling effort for the tip-in goal. The U.S. took the lead, 1-0.
Katelyn Falgowski (Landenberg, Pa.) and Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, NY) were key in keeping Argentine star Luciana Aymar silent throughout the match. Amy Swensen (Grantville, Pa.) made crucial saves in net and the defense was solid in shutting down Argentina’s attack.
The U.S. opened the second half with three straight penalty corners, but were unsuccessful in registering a second goal. Argentina had a strong second half, but were unable to find an equalizer and the U.S. walked away (again) victorious over the World Champions.
"We had a really good game plan going out there and I think as a whole we executed it very well,” said Falgowski. “It is challenging and intimidating to go up against the best in the world but it is a fun thing to try and step up to do. My task was to try and disrupt Luciana in the midfield as much as possible."
"I think our teams strength is defense,” said captain Lauren Crandall. “We knew we had to bring our best performance to today’s match and we did. I think todays win was an all-around team effort but Katelyn Falgowski and Melissa Gonzalez were exceptional in holding the best player in the world (Aymar) from attacking. They both played a consistent match throughout the 70 minutes and they definitely had the tallest task for today."
Both Team USA and Argentina have one win and one loss in their pool.
The U.S. will face off against Australia on August 2 at 10:45 a.m. Australia also has one win and one loss in pool play. The matchup will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 5:45 a.m.