It was a game of defense between U.S. Men and Canada this afternoon in the second semifinal match that would determine which team would advance to the gold medal game against Brazil.
The first goal was scored 9 minutes into the first half, by Canada’s Brendan Gaulin. At the half, Canada led the U.S. Men’s team 1-0. After a high ball penalty against the U.S. early in the second half, the score was 2-0, Canada. Joseph Hamilton scored 2 goals to tie the game and bring the teams into overtime.
With less than 30 seconds left in overtime, the score was tied 2-2. When Matthew Simpson (Smyrna, Ga.) stepped forward to throw, he slipped, sending the ball backwards towards the U.S. goal line. John Kusku (Commerce Township, Mich.) pushed the ball toward Canada’s defenders in an effort to avoid a 10 second penalty. In the haste of avoiding the penalty, John’s frantic throw rolled into Canada’s net undetected.
“It was a panic play,” said Kusku. “The ball was rolling quietly and it got past their first defender.”
The men’s last minute win in the semifinal match advanced them to the gold medal game against Brazil tomorrow morning. This will be the second time the U.S. Men will play Brazil. In preliminary play, Brazil won, 9-2.
“It is going to take incredible defense and incredible patience on offense,” Kusku said. “They are the best team in the world and we can’t expect to score. We just gotta keep pushing it to them and keep blocking the goalball.”
Earlier that morning, the U.S. Women’s Goalball needed to do one thing to advance to the gold medal game against Brazil – break through Canada’s wall of defense. The game was back and forth but U.S. Women led at the half, 4-3. Their normal strategy of ‘defense first’ was tested early in the game when 2 goals were scored on them by Canada’s Ashlie Andrews.
After the half, U.S. Women took a comfortable lead with two goals. The Canadian women answered with 2 goals of their own to tie the game to 5-5, with 7 minutes left to play. Amanda Dennis (Peachtree City, Ga.) brought her team into the lead again before Canada answered with a sixth goal to tie the game in the last 2 minutes.
Dennis scored to win the game for the U.S. Women with 12 seconds left in the second half. Her goal brought the final score to 7-6 and advanced the team to the gold medal game.
“We’ve had ups and downs throughout this tournament, but it was all about keeping it solid for the last few shots,” said Dennis. “It was a back and forth game but, it’s really more exciting when you win a close game.”
The win against Canada advanced the U.S. Women’s Team to the gold medal match where they would play against Brazil.
The women scored 3 goals on Brazil and held their opponents to 4 goals in the first half. In the second half, Asya Miller (Portland, Ore.) tied the game at 8:26. Brazil answered will 3 more goals in the second half to win the game, 7-6. Miller scored all 6 goals for the U.S. Women.
“I think, in general, we were a little more prepared and kind of knew what to expect, from playing [Brazil] earlier,” said Miller. “Having played Canada twice before playing Brazil again was another chance for us to work on our strategy offensively as well.”
Unfortunately, while their offense excelled, defensively, the team struggled.
“I don’t think our defensive mojo was alright today,” said Miller. “It wasn’t typical Team USA defense today, unfortunately.”
Brazil and U.S. teams will meet again next year in Rio for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
“We look forward to playing them again in the future,” said Miller. “We’ve got to make sure our minds are good defensively.”
The Parapan American Games served as a qualification opportunity for goalball teams to secure a spot in Rio 2016’s Paralympic program. Though both U.S. and Brazil’s Men’s and Women’s teams have already qualified, Canada, the winner of the Women’s bronze medal match tonight punched their ticket to Rio tonight.