U.S. Men have shown impressive endurance since their first game against China at the Rio Paralympic Games. Team USA emerged from the ‘group of death’ with a 2-2 record in pool play. Then, they survived the knockout round by earning their ‘toughest win of the tournament’ against Germany in quarterfinals. All of their hard work brought them to a game against host nation, Brazil, in the semifinals. The winner would play for gold while the loser would fight for a spot on the podium.
In the first half, Brazil committed a surprising four penalties, all of which U.S. Men were able to score on. Brazil only scored one even-strength goal in the first half, making the score 4-1. The Brazilians continued to commit long ball and high ball penalties in the second half while Team USA’s defense stayed solid and allowed no goals from the Brazilians. Tyler Merren matched Brazil’s only even strength goal with his own in the second half and John Kusku blocked the only penalty committed by U.S. Men in the game. The final score was 10-1.
“The score was 1-1 even strength and we went 9-9 on special teams,” said Joe Hamilton, who scored on one of Brazil’s penalties.
“We’ve been showing, game in and game out, that our three-on-three defense is the best in the world,” added Hamilton. “We knew as long as we just stayed the course and blocked every hard shot they threw, that they were going to give us opportunities.”
Though U.S. Men have lost to Brazil many times over the years, including a loss at the Rio test event earlier this year, it seems Team USA waited to win when it really counted.
“We’ve lost about six straight to those guys,” said Hamilton. “We tied with them in 2011 and haven’t beat them since.”
This U.S. Men’s team made history with this win. It has been 28 years since the U.S. Men’s goalball team made it to the finals at the Paralympic Games but tomorrow, Team USA will play for gold again.
“It’s an honor and an extremely emotional win,” said Kusku, one of three first-time Paralympians on the team. “But I also feel hungry [for gold]. Silver’s not good enough.”
U.S. Men will play for gold against Lithuanian or Sweden in the finals tomorrow at 8:00pm BRT. Follow @USMGoalball on Twitter for live tweets from the game.