In a 3rd place match that would also determine qualification to the Jr World Championships the USA came up short 23-18 vs Chile. Chile led throughout the match, and the USA mounted several comebacks in the 2nd half cutting the lead to 1 on a couple of occasions, but could never get over the hump. With 8 minutes left and the score 17-16, Chile closed out the game with a 6-2 run for the eventual 23-18 victory.
Abou Fofana led the U.S. in scoring with 7 goals. Antoine Baup, Alexander Binderis and Sebastian Wheeler had 3 each and Sam Hoddersen had 2 goals. Chile was led by Aaron Codina with 8. Fofana had several nice jump shots at 9 meters and Antoine Baup’s circle play was outstanding causing several penalty shot opportunities and 2 minute penalties.
The key play of the match without a doubt was Sam Hoddersen’s defensive foul on Chile’s right wing Enzo Toro with 6:05 remaining in the first half. The play resulted in a red card and Hodderesen’s exclusion from play for the rest of the match. As is often the case with defense against the wing it was a bang-bang play that in real time looked pretty innocuous. As Toro writhed in pain on the court Hoddersen pleaded his case to no avail.
Video: Link (foul occurs at 29:07 on Youtube clock)
Further compounding my suspicion was a red card exclusion of Chile’s Ignacio Porta just a few minutes earlier. Porta had fouled USA Circle Runner, Antoine Baup, and had received his 2nd two minute suspension of the game. Porta then apparently mouthed off to the ref, receiving yet another two minute penalty and as it was his 3rd of the game he was then red carded. Could the red card on Hoddersen been a way of evening the scores? I speculated on this and other aspects of the decision in my live audio commentary.
After the match, however, I consulted 2 experienced officials and both concluded independently that the red card decision was justified. The video of the foul is not the best angle, but multiple reviews as well as screen shots confirm that Hoddersen bent his knees inward and cut off the player’s jump. The still shot while grainy clearly shows Toro’s takeoff as behind Hoddersen’s legs. Did Toro dramatize the foul a bit and the extent of his injury? That’s quite possible, but in the end it doesn’t matter. The foul was for contact while a defenseless player is jumping and such a foul is grounds for a red card.
The impact of the Hoddersen red card was dramatic. Indeed, Hoddersen had scored 17 goals against Chile in the first match which the U.S. won 31-24. More importantly, Hoddersen had been Team USA’s most consistent player on offense and without his involvement on attack, the U.S. was more prone to turnovers. Repeatedly, I saw instances where his steady hand might very well have resulted in an eventual goal instead of a turnover.
While disappointing this Jr Team will have an opportunity for redemption next month when they take part in the IHF Continental Cup against Colombia, Guatemala and Martinique. Additionally, 5 of the athletes, Paul Skorupa, Sebastian Wheeler, Amar Amitovic, Nik Zarikos and Rene Ingram are young enough to participate in the Youth (U19) Championships which will take place in Chile also this April.
Video (1st half): Link
Video (2nd half): Link
Note: Brazil won the gold medal match with a 31-23 victory over Argentina. For more information on the tournament check the PHF website: Link