Live Video and Audio Links: USA vs Chile 3rd Place Match

Team USA celebrating their Group Play win over Chile.  The 2 teams meet again tonight to determine which nation will go to the World Championships.

Team USA celebrating their Group Play win over Chile. The 2 teams meet again tonight to determine which nation will go to the World Championships.

Team USA will take on Chile today for bronze and more importantly qualification for the Jr World Championships this summer in Algeria.  These two teams met in Group Play with the USA coming away with a 31-24 victory.  Both teams later qualified for the semifinals with the USA scoring a 25-23 victory over Uruguay while Chile dispatched tournament hosts Paraguay 36-24.  And, in the semifinals both teams lost by lopsided margins.  The USA lost to Argentina 31-22 while Chile was crushed by gold medal favorite Brazil, 30-11.

But, of course, all those results mean very little now.  It all comes down to this match for the USA and Chile.  The winner punches a ticket for the World Championships.  The loser starts preparing for 2019.

The Panamerican Handball Federation has been providing a video stream of all the action from Paraguay and tonight I am planning to provide some live audio commentary via the Mixlr website.  Feel free to listen in and provide your own comments/questions via the Mixlr chatroom or via twitter.

Live Video Feed: Link

Live Audio Commentary: Link

PHF Men’s Jr Championships:  Hoddersen’s 17 Goals Powers Team USA Past Chile

Team USA on defense vs Chile

Team USA on defense vs Chile

Team USA secured a 2nd place finish in Group B with a convincing 34-21 victory over Chile.  The match started out evenly and was tied at 8-8 midway through the first half.  The U.S. then pulled away for a 14-9 halftime lead.  In the 2nd half, Argentina cut the lead to 15-18 at one point, but the U.S. ran off 4 unanswered goals and never looked back closing out the game with 34-21 win.

Leading the U.S. in scoring  Sam Hoddersen, with 17 goals.  Chile had no answer for Hoddersen, who plays for German 3rd Division side, HSG Rodgau Neider-Roden, as he scored on fast breaks and multiple positions on the court.

Video of USA-CHI: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The U.S. is now finished with Group play and has a rest day prior to a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday  Barring a Chile win over heavily favored Brazil, the U.S. will finish 2nd in Group B.

In Group A action, Argentina beat hosts Paraguay, 33-23 while Uruguay held off the Dominican Republic, 41-38.  Argentina is likely to finish first in the Group while Paraguay is likely to finish 2nd.  Uruguay would then finish 3rd unless the Dominican Republic beats Paraguay in today’s final match.

After last night’s action, the group standings are

Group A
Argentina 2-0-0 4 points  +35 GD
Paraguay 1-1-0 2 points -2 GD
Uruguay 1-1-0 0 2 points -5 GD
Dominican Republic 0-2-0 0 points -28 GD

Group B
Brazil 1-0-0 2 points +28 GD
USA 1-1-0 2 points -21 GD
Chile 0-1-0 0 points -7 GD
Probable Schedule for Team USA

After a rest day on Wednesday, the U.S. will likely play Uruguay on Thursday in the quarterfinal.  With a win over Uruguay, the U.S. would then play Argentina in the Semifinals on Friday.  A win against Argentina would setup a likely rematch vs Brazil in the championship, while a loss would likely have the U.S. play the winner of the Paraguay-Chile quarterfinal match for 3rd place and the final ticket to the Jr World Championships.

PHF Men’s Jr Championships: Day 1 Results

Opening Ceremonies in Asuncion, Paraguay

Opening Ceremonies in Asuncion, Paraguay


Yesterday, the Panamerican Handball Federation (PHF) Jr Men’s Championships started with Brazil and Argentina scoring big victories in the opening round of Group play.  Argentina defeated the Dominican Republic 44-19 and Brazil beat the U.S., 52-24.  In the more closely contested 3rd match of the day hosts Paraguay beat Uruguay, 30-22.

After last night’s action, the group standings are

Group A
Argentina 1-0-0 2 points  +25 GD
Paraguay 1-0-0 2 points + 8 GD
Uruguay 0-1-0 0 point -8 GD
Dominican Republic 0-1-0 – 25 GD

Group B
Brazil 1-0-0 2 points +28 GD
Chile 0-0-0 0 points +0 GD
USA 0-1-0 points -28 GD

PHF Jr Championships webpage: Link

Today’s matches in Group A has yesterday’s winners and losers playing each other.  Argentina will be solid favorites over Paraguay, while Uruguay and the Dominican Republic will likely play each other for the 3rd place spot in the Group.

Group B will see favorites Brazil take a day off while Chile in the USA play in a match that will likely determine 2nd place for the group.  That match will be played at 1730 Local Time (1630 US East Coast Time).

Live Streaming Video: Link

Brazil vs USA

The U.S. played Brazil competitively in the first half and was only down 23-14 at the break.  The 2nd half was a different story as the U.S. tried a lot of different player combinations and was overwhelmed by Brazil’s deep bench.  The end result was 52-24.

Despite the big setback, USA Coach Mark Ortega, had an overall positive outlook on the opening match, noting that the team played hard for a full 60 minutes and has not yet had a full practice together.  2 starters for team USA only arrived the day of the match and surely were still working off some of the jet lag travel from a long journey.  He also singled out the play of goalkeeper Rene Ingram who had 8 defensive stops in the first half.  Coach Ortega is confident that his team will keep improving, particularly at the offensive end as they gain experience playing together.

Video of the match:  Link

USA Scoring
Sam Hoddersen, 6 Goals
Antoine Baup, 5 Goals
Abou Fofana, 4 Goals
Cedric Kolmann, 3 Goals
Paul Skoruba, 3 Goals
Sebastian Wheeler, 1 Goal
Michael Lee, 1 Goal
Amar Amitovic, 1 Goal

Mexico Drops Out of Women’s NorCa Championship


Looks like this nifty logo needs to be updated.

Qualification for the Pan American Championships just got a little easier for Team USA and other competitors participating in the North American and Caribbean (NorCa) Championships in March.  This is because, according to the Mundo Handball website Mexico is reportedly dropping out of the tournament leaving only four nations (Puerto Rico, USA, Greenland and the Dominican Republic) competing for three qualification spots.

Mundo Handball did not give a reason for Mexico’s withdrawal, but did speculate that some falling dominoes may result in Mexico qualifying for final tournament anyway as a sort of wild card.  This is because Cuba, which has already qualified for the final tournament by virtue of their 2nd place finish in 2015 may choose not to participate.  Mexico, which finished 8th in 2015 could then be in line to take Cuba’s spot assuming that places 1st through 7th have already qualified.

The NorCa is scheduled for March 30 – April 3 in Puerto Rico.  The four teams will play a round robin and then will be seeded for semifinals and finals.  The top 3 teams will qualify for the Pan American Championships which will take place in Toronto from 16 – 25 June.  The top 3 teams at that tournament will then qualify for the World Championships in Germany from 1 – 17 December

NorCa Tournament Schedule: Link



Canadian National Team in Brazil

Canadian men on defense against Cuba.  Cuba won the match played yesterday in Brazil 35-30.

Canadian men on defense against Cuba. Cuba won the match played yesterday in Brazil 35-30.

This past week the Canadian Men’s National Team traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to participate in a 4 Nation tournament with hosts Brazil, Chile and Cuba.  The Canadians finished last, but Coach Alexis Bertrand was quoted on the Brazilian website as being pleased, stating “We need this type of tournament to evolve our handball. It is important for us to play against skilled teams, just so we evolve in the sport.”   Both Brazil and Chile had several of their European based players competing as club teams were on break due to 2018 European Championship qualification matches being played this week.


Friday, 4 November
Chile 37 x 24 Cuba
Brazil 46 x 12 Canada Canada Goals: Vachon (4) Larouche (2), Touzel (2), Chaduvet (1 .) Dupéré (1) Fischer (1) and Rousselle (1)

Saturday, 5 November
Canada 21 x 37 Chile
Brazil 45 x 17 Cuba Canada Goals: Larouche (5), Vachon (4), Touzel (3), Gaudet (2), Rousselle (2), Danulet (1), Van Wijk (1), Mercier (1), Dereck Dupéré (1) e Chauvet (1)

Sunday, 6 November
Brazil 40 x 29 Chile
Cuba 35 x 30 Canada Canada Goals: Vachon (11), Gaudet (7) Rousselle (3), Chauvet (3) Fischer (2) Mercier (2), Gordulic (1) and Dupéré (1).

Podcast: A Discussion on Handball in California and Argentina


Femebal: The regional federation centered around Buenos Aires has been the developmental force behind Argentina’s rise in the handball world

Cal Heat’s Martin Bilello and I discuss the state of handball in California and why there’s only been 2 major clubs there for several years.  In this free flowing conversation Martin also explains how handball is organized in Argentina and what the U.S. might learn from successful development programs there.

Femebal Website: Link


Subscribe to the Team Handball News Podcast in iTunes: Link

Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

Need balls, socks or shoes?  Check out the sponsor of this Podcast:  Team Handball Nation


Play the Game 2009

By Christer Ahl

Six months ago, I used my Facebook and got the help of some friends to use their web pages to announce my need for an urgent kidney transplant.   So very many of you responded with best wishes and encouragement, and I thank all of your for this support which was invaluable in a difficult time.

But I was not so optimistic that my efforts would lead me to someone who would be willing to donate a kidney.  However, I am enormously happy to inform you that the miracle happened!  And it happened through my decades of involvement in sports, especially in handball.  An ex-player and now coach in PanAmerica, whom I met many years ago, when I was a referee and an instructor, saw my postings.  This fantastic man had already had in mind the idea of donating an organ, and when he now saw my name and photo, he decided to come forward.  Obviously, I am eternally grateful to him!

We are both doing well, and my kidney function is now very strong again.  And it was a special coincidence that our transplant surgery took place, precisely during the days of the handball competition in Rio.  This is to me a story about the meaning of the ‘true Olympic spirit’!


Qatar’s Rafael Capote: What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been

In 2007 Cuban Handball Player Rafael Capote defected in Rio at the PANAM Games. Nine years later he’s back in Rio, this time playing for Qatar. Can his journey to become an Olympian actually make you cheer a bit for the mercenary team in maroon and white jerseys?

In 2007 Cuban Handball Player Rafael Capote defected in Rio at the PANAM Games. Nine years later he’s back in Rio, this time playing for Qatar. Can his journey to become an Olympian actually make you cheer a bit for the mercenary team in maroon and white jerseys?

Well, in the midst of reports chronicling the mercenary nature of Qatar’s national team there’s surely been a couple of questions folks have been wondering.  How does a Cuban become a world class handball player? And, how does a Cuban end up playing for Qatar?

Well, the answer to the first question is that he’s a product of Cuba’s development system.  Perhaps the last remaining example of a communist style sports program, even if it’s been running on life support for the last decade or so.  Handball is not a huge sport in Cuba, but nevertheless it’s gotten some level of government support for years.  Players with potential are identified and they train together as a national team.  I’m sure there’s some choice in doing so, but the arm of the government also surely makes recruitment easier and participation strongly encouraged for those selected.

And, because other nations in Pan America put little emphasis on the sport Cuba has traditionally been a power in this hemisphere.  At times, they’ve even been competitive on the world scene.  But, every time this has happened defections have decimated the team.  Two notable players from earlier times are Rolando Urios and Carlos Perez who played for Spain and Hungary, respectively.

Capote’s defection is more recent and ironically enough Capote has now come back full circle to the city of his defection.  At the 2007 PANAM Games in Rio, Capote snuck out of his room with the clothes he had on, $300 and in the pouring rain he took a taxi to Sao Paulo where a former teammate was living.  Just 19 at the time, Capote then began a rather eclectic handball journey.  Playing first in Brazil, surely at a semi-professional or low paid level before moving on to Italy.  Italy is by no means a handball power, but for some reason it’s league that has been a stepping stone for a number of players from Latin America.  Obviously he played well otherwise he wouldn’t have been signed in Spain where he really started to get noticed, even becoming the EHF player of the week.  And, then when Qatar was awarded the World Cup, and hired a Spanish coach, it probably didn’t take Coach Rivera to consider bringing along a Cuban who hasn’t played internationally for several years.  Heck, I’m guessing that the crafty Rivera figured he could turn this pretty good back into a great back with a little time.  Something that’s clearly been accomplished and is just but one piece to the puzzle that has made this collection of decent cast offs a medal contender.

I wonder how Capote feels now having returned to the scene of his defection?  Just 9 years ago, he was 19 years old, scared, making the decision to leave the country of his birth (perhaps forever).  Surely not really knowing if this risk was worth taking.  Think about the “big decisions” you’ve made in your life and whether they pale in comparison. Talk about a leap of faith and crossing the Rubicon!  He could not have even imagined a journey that would take him from Brazil to Italy to Spain to Qatar and back to Rio nine years later as an Olympian. Walking into the opening ceremonies in flowing Arabic robes representing a country he probably had never heard of before.?  Heck, I can hardly imagine it.  And, while I’m no fan of the mercenary nature of the Qatari team I can’t fault Capote for taking this monetary and career opportunity.  Heck, I can’t help but root for him.

Rafael Capote Wikipedia page (Spanish): Link article on his defection in 2007: Link

PATHF Tournament Assignments:  North America with 3 Major Championships


The Pan American Team Handball Federation (PATHF) met this past week in Argentina and the North American Zone was able to secure 3 major championships for 2017 and 2018.  Link

Canada will host the Women’s Sr. Pan American Championships from June 15-26, 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta.  Canada’s hosting of this tournament will be a major opportunity to showcase the sport’s growth in Alberta.  The top 3 teams from this tournament will also punch tickets to the 2017 Women’s World Championships in Germany. (Commentary on Handball’s growth in Alberta: Link)

Greenland will get the opportunity to host its first major tournament when it hosts the Men’s Pan American Championships in 2018 in the nation’s capital, Nuuk.  Air travel has always been an issue in the past with commercial flights to Greenland being expensive and only available via Denmark.  The tournament will likely be played in June and the top 3 teams (or more pending 2017 WC results) will qualify for the 2019 Men’s World Championships that will be cohosted by Denmark and Germany.

Finally, the USA will host the 2018 Pan American Beach Handball Championships.  The tournament will be staged in either Miami or Southern Californian in the March timeframe.  Both Men’s and Women’s tournaments will be played with a TBD number of places to be awarded spots at the 2018 Championships in Sochi, Russia.  The USA Men are the defending PATHF Champions.

Commentary:  I’ve commented on more than one occasion about South American dominance in PATHF affairs.  Canada was once denied participation in a PATHF Championship, despite having qualified for the previous WC (Link) and Greenland was even unceremoniously voted out of PATHF not to long ago: Link.  A decade or so ago it was pretty bleak.  Now 3 major tourneys all awarded to North America. Brazilians and Argentinians getting the opportunity to get a lot of frequent flier miles.  No complaints from me.  It’s time to sing Kumbaya around the PATHF Congress table!

Now we’ll see if the North American sides can take advantage of these opportunities to get some World Championships berth.  In particular, it should be interesting to see how Greenland will fare with what surely will be a loud and boisterous crowd backing them.


Puerto Rico on the World Stage


Puerto Rico Asst Coach Julio Sainz gets a haircut after Puerto Rico's victory over Kazakhkstan

Puerto Rico Asst Coach Julio Sainz gets a close shave after Puerto Rico’s victory over Kazakhkstan

Puerto Rico’s surprise 4th place finish at last Summer’s Pan American Championships earned them a ticket to their first ever World Championship.  Going into the tournament I figured the debutants were all but guaranteed to lose all their games on the way to a 24th place finish.  And, after their first four games in Group Play it sure looked like a good prediction as they lost to Romania, Norway, Russia and Spain by an average of 28 goals.  Their last Group Play game against also winless Kazakhstan presented an opportunity, but they were still big underdogs.  Kazakhstan is by no means a world power, but they’ve been respectable in the past, even qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.  Perhaps, motivated by assistant coach Julio Sainz’s promise to shave his head Puerto Rico used their speed and quickness to win 30-27.  (And, for those of you don’t know, Coach Sainz has been the Assistant coach for the U.S. and the LA Women’s side for several years.  Apparently, he’s on loan to the “Commonwealth”)

I’ve been able to watch bits and pieces of Puerto Rico’s matches on beIN sport.  They’ve got a really young side with an average age of 22.  And, they are undersized as well with an average height of just 5 ft 6 inches.  The inexperience really shows with lots of turnovers, but their quickness is comparable to the top teams.  If they can get some of their players playing in Europe where they can get more experience this team could have a bright future.  One player in particular, 20 year old Jailene Maldanado will likely garner some interest from a European club.  Teams are always looking for a decent lefty and surely some coach has already figured out that if she’s doing pretty well already with little experience, she might just become a star with quality regular competition.

What Might Have Been

Watching the matches on beIN Sports also has me reflecting quite a bit on what it might have meant for the U.S. Women if they had qualified.  It’s not entirely clear, but as far as I can tell there’s only a handful of women currently training at Auburn.  Certainly there’s not enough to scrimmage and reportedly a tryout last month had no women candidates.  The Head Coach is coaching a Men’s club team in France.  Essentially, there’s almost no program right now.  Qualifying for the World Championships would have kept the program intact and have given several players a tremendous experience on the world stage.  That being said, with an average age of 28.5 I’m not so sure that enough of the U.S. players were young enough that they could have realistically used the experience to build upon for future success


Also, seeing Puerto Rico play on a U.S. based TV network had me contemplating what it might have meant if the U.S. had qualified.  For several years now I’ve been advocating a sponsorship or partnership deal between USA Team Handball and beIN Sports US.  A no brainer deal that would be a clear win-win for both sides.  U.S. qualification could very well have been a tipping point that would have facilitated such an arrangement.  For sure one would think there would some promotion of a U.S. National Team playing on U.S. TV.  Something that doesn’t happen very often.


USA Women with Great Draw for Pan American Championships

Obama:  And can you do anything for us vis a vis the upcoming Pan American Championship? Castro:  I'll see what I can do.

Obama: And can you do anything for us vis a vis the upcoming Pan American Team Handball Championship?
Castro: I’ll see what I can do.

Yesterday the Pan American Team Handball Federation (PATHF) conducted the draw for the Women’s Pan American Championship that will be held next month in Havana. A combination of luck and generosity resulted in probably the best conceivable draw possible for the USA Women.

Initial Draw- Paired with Cuba

PATHF competition regulations call for draw performance rows to be based on the results of the previous championship. 7 nations participated in the 2013 Championships resulting in the following performance rows

– Brazil-Argentina
– Paraguay-Uruguay
– Mexico-Venezuela

The remaining 5 teams (Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Greenland and Puerto Rico) were then drawn randomly to fill out the remaining performance rows. And, as luck would have it the U.S. received the very best possible result, getting paired with Cuba and thus not having to face a team that recently beat them 35-15 at the NORCA Championships.

Cuba Chooses a Tougher Path

But, while it was fortunate to be paired with Cuba and avoid them in Group Play in all likelihood the U.S. could anticipate ending up in a tough group. This is because Cuba as the host nation gets to select which group it prefers after the other 5 performance rows have been drawn. The results of the draw were

Group A
Brazil- 1st at 2014 South American Games and current World Champion
Paraguay- 5th at 2014 South American Games
Venezuela- 7th at 2013 Pan American Championship
Puerto Rico- 5th at 2015 North American & Caribbean
Greenland- 4th at 2015 North American & Caribbean

Group B
Argentina- 2nd at 2014 South American Games
Uruguay- 4th at 2014 South American Games
Mexico- 2nd at 2015 North American & Caribbean
Guatemala- 1st at 2014 Central American Championship
Chile- 3rd at 2014 South American Games

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to immediately conclude that Group A would be a far easier path towards a semifinal berth and World Championship qualification. Beating Brazil would be a tough ask, but Cuba surely would make short work of the remaining competition in that Group. But, apparently Cuba was not looking for an easy ticket as they selected Group B. As Ruben Gomez speculates at Mundo Handball, Cuba apparently would prefer to size up their squad relative to their competition at the PANAM Games later this summer. And as fate would have it Group B provided Cuba with that opportunity as it had all 3 teams (Argentina, Uruguay and Chile) Cuba will meet in Toronto during Group Play.

Team USA with a Great Opportunity

The end result of avoiding Cuba and then having Cuba choose a tougher path presents a tremendous opportunity for the U.S. to qualify for the World Championship.   In fact, it’s probably the best possible draw imaginable.   Arguably, based on recent results, 5 of the top 6 teams in PATHF are crammed into Group B. The U.S. avoids 3 teams (Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay) they recently lost to, plus Argentina and Chile, 2 teams that qualified directly for the PANAM Games by defeating Uruguay.

Instead, the U.S. gets to take on 2 teams they’ve recently beaten (Puerto Rico and Greenland) and Paraguay and Venezuela, 2 teams probably similar, maybe even slightly below Uruguay in terms of quality. The U.S. has not played Paraguay recently, but Paraguay finished a rung below Uruguay at the 2014 South American Games. The U.S. did lose to Venezuela at the 2013 Pan American Championships, 36-29, but the U.S. has improved since then while Venezuela hasn’t played as much internationally.

It’s a foregone conclusion that Brazil will win Group A, but the U.S. is clearly in the mix for a semifinal berth and a potential World Championship ticket.  Many thanks to Cuba for extending that warming of relations with the U.S. to the Handball World.


Preview: USA vs. Uruguay Last Chance Qualification (2nd Leg)


Newcomer, Greg Inahara, helped spark Team USA to a 25-21 in the first leg.  Up next:  The return leg in Uruguay.

Newcomer, Greg Inahara, helped spark Team USA to a 25-21 in the first leg. Up next: The return leg in Uruguay.

The 2nd legs of the Last Chance Qualification series between the USA and Uruguay will take place this Saturday in Canelones, Uruguay. The Women’s match starts at 6:30 PM (Local) and the Men’s match starts at 8:30 PM (Local). Uruguay is currently GMT-3 or 1 hour ahead of U.S. East Coast Time.

Livestream site: Link

Results of the First Leg and What Each Team Needs in Order to Qualify for the PANAM Games

These matches are the second matches of a two match playoff. If a team wins both matches they, of course, win the playoff, 2 wins to 0. If, however, there is a split with both teams winning one match, the winner will be determined by overall aggregate goal differential for both matches. Then, in the event that the goal differential is equal, the total number of away goals is the next tiebreaker. Finally, in the unlikely event that the score of the 2nd match is identical to the 1st match a coin flip will determine the overall winner.

Women’s Numbers: Uruguay won the first leg at Auburn by a score of 30-25.  Here’s the practical breakdown of what the U.S. Women need to do in order to qualify for the PANAM Games:

  • Win by 6 goals or more
  • Win by 5 goals and score at least 31 goals in the match on Saturday

Here’s the breakdown of what Uruguay needs to do in order to qualify for the PANAM Games:

  • Lose by 4 goals or less
  • Lose by 5 goals and don’t let the U.S. score more than 29 goals on Saturday

If the U.S. wins by the score (30-25) there will be a coin flip to determine the overall winner.

Men’s Numbers: The U.S. Men won the first leg in Auburn by a score of 25-21.  Here’s the practical breakdown of what the U.S. Men need to do in order to qualify for the PANAM Games:

  • Lose by 3 goals or less
  • Lose by 4 goals and score at least 22 goals in the match on Saturday

Here’s the breakdown of what Uruguay needs to do in order to qualify for the PANAM Games:

  • Win by 5 goals or more
  • Win by 4 goals and don’t let the U.S. score more than 20 goals on Saturday

If Uruguay wins by the score (25-21) there will be a coin flip to determine the overall winner.

Women’s Game: Can the USA nibble away at Uruguay’s 5 goal lead?

Last Saturday’s match was pretty much an even affair until midway through the second half at which point Uruguay took control of the game enroute to a 5 goal victory.  One could summarily conclude that it’s pretty unlikely that the U.S. can return the favor with a 5 or 6 goal in Uruguay. However, the U.S. can take some comfort in that several of their players pulled off a similar turnaround just 4 years ago against Canada. In that 2 match series to qualify for the 2011 PANAM Games the U.S. lost it’s first match in Lake Placid by 5 only to beat Canada on the road in Montreal by 5 goals a few days later. And, the U.S. scored more away goals to win the tiebreaker.

Also, working in the U.S.’s favor is that they can undoubtedly play better than they did last Saturday. The U.S. failed to finish many prime scoring opportunities, had far too many turnovers and allowed way more goals (30) than they normally do against teams of Uruguay’s level.

Working against the U.S. however will be the long road trip and a vocal crowd in Uruguay. On top of that, the U.S. style of play is more methodical and they are less likely to rattle off a string of quick goals to change the game in just a few minutes. Instead, if they are to pull off the turnaround it’s more likely that it will be done by nibbling away at Uruguay’s lead over the course of 60 minutes. So, a doable task, but the U.S. will have to shoot a higher percentage and really avoid the turnovers.

Men’s Match: Can the USA hold on to its 4 goal lead and can Uruguay handle the defensive pressure?

For about 3/4 of the match last Saturday, Uruguay had a slight edge, but then Team USA applied some aggressive pressure defense that rattled Uruguay leading to turnovers and fast breaks. In the end, the U.S. won 25-21 to give them a 4 goal lead heading into the return leg. (See video of open defense compiled by Mundo Handball: Link)

All due credit to Coach Javier Cuesta and the U.S. side for applying this aggressive strategy successfully, but one has to truly wonder how Uruguay was seemingly unprepared for this tactic. This is because the USA had already used a similar tactic against Uruguay last June after falling behind 15-5 in a pivotal Group match.   Uruguay struggled and the U.S. came within striking distance of a miraculous comeback only to fall short. To be surprised once is somewhat understandable, but to be unprepared twice is unconscionable.

Further defining the extent of this failure is the reality that such a defense can generally be easily defeated with simple preparation. There’s a reason why you only see this type of defense used by high level professional clubs and national teams towards the end of a match. It’s a high risk defense that more often then not leads to further disaster with a goal scoring barrage.

It will be interesting to see, if and when the U.S. applies this defensive tactic again. I suspect that the U.S. will try and hold on to its 4 goal lead with standard play. After all, the two sides were relatively even for much of the game in Auburn. Should this aggregate lead start to slip, however, it surely will be applied and then we will find out whether Uruguay will get rattled again or whether they have prepared and are ready to learn from their mistakes.

But, to be honest, it’s the U.S. that could be in more danger of getting rattled. 3 relative newcomers (Greg Inahara, Chris Morgan and Carson Chun) made significant contributions in the friendly confines of Auburn, but this will be the first big road match wearing a U.S. uniform. They’ll need to play well again and the U.S. will also likely need big games in the backcourt from veterans Gary Hines and Martin Clemons Axelsson, who was a non-factor in the first match.


USA vs. Uruguay Last Chance Qualification to be Live Streamed: What to Look for

The USA Women had a much needed offensive outburst against Puerto Rico last weekend.  Can they repeat that performance tonight against a better Uruguay side?

The USA Women had a much needed offensive outburst against Puerto Rico last weekend. Can they repeat that performance tonight against a better Uruguay side?

The USA Women and Men will be taking on Uruguay in the first match of a two game series tonight in Auburn, Alabama. The Women’s match starts at 5:30 PM (Local) and the Men’s match starts at 8:00 PM (Local). (Auburn is located in the U.S. Central Time Zone which is GMT-6.)

Livestream site: Link

USA Team Handball also indicates that the full match will be posted to Youtube a couple hours after the matches,

Taped Delay: Link

Understanding the 2 Game Playoff Format

These matches are only the first matches of a two match playoff. If a team wins both matches they, of course win the playoff, 2 wins to 0. If, however, there is a split with both teams winning one match, the winner will be determined by overall aggregate goal differential for both matches. For example if the USA Women wins the first match by 6 goals, but loses the second match by 5 goals, the USA Women will still advance due to having a “plus 1” aggregate goal differential.

Another way to look at it, is that the USA and Uruguay are playing a very long game with the first half being played tonight and the second half being played next Saturday in Uruguay. Because of this format it’s very important to note that simply winning the match by a narrow margin at home could be a unsatisfactory result. The goal is instead to win the first match by as many goals as possible. Or to put it another way, there is no “garbage time” at the end of the game as every goal counts in the end.

Finally adding to the home court advantage for both teams is the travel time required to and from Auburn, AL and Montevideo, Uruguay. Depending on the flights taken it could be anywhere from 17-25 hours of total travel time. And, on top of that there’s a four hour time difference, meaning that the Uruguay Men’s body clocks will be on Midnight when their match starts at 8:00 PM in Auburn.

A Closer Look at the Women’s Game

On paper the Uruguay Women appear to have an edge in this contest. This is primarily based on the last match between the USA and Uruguay played in July, 2013 at the Pan American Championships in the Dominican Republic.  The match was close for a half (14-12), but Uruguay totally dominated the U.S. in the second half en route to a 30-17 victory.

The rosters, however, have changed significantly for both teams. Notably, Uruguay is missing 7 players that scored 16 of Uruguay’s 30 goals in the 2013 match. The USA is also missing 7 players, but only 1 of them, Stephanie Hesser was a significant contributor in the 2013 match. And, Hesser who is perhaps injured and unavailable appears to have slipped on the depth chart anyway.

Also, the recent 3 game series against Puerto Rico might have been a breakthrough performance for the USA Women. For months the USA Women have struggled to put points on the board usually scoring in the low 20s.   This past weekend, however, they scored 29, 30 and 31 goals and if they can match that goal total against Uruguay it may be enough to put them over the top.

On paper, though, Uruguay is a stronger team than Puerto Rico and plays an aggressive 3-3 defense that has given the USA Women problems in the past. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. handles that pressure.

A Closer Look at the Men’s Game

Uruguay and the USA Men have an even more recent match that provides a window of what to expect. This past summer they met in a pivotal Group Play match at the 2014 Pan American Championships to decide which of the two teams would make the semifinals. In that match the USA played very poorly at the start and ended up being down 15-5 at halftime.   An aggressive defense surprised Uruguay in the second half allowing the U.S. to catch up and make the final score a more respectable 27-23, but the outcome was never really in doubt.

The rosters for both teams have changed some and both teams are missing a key player due to injuries. The U.S. is missing Adam El Zogby who plays professionally in Egypt and Uruguay is missing Massimo Cancio who plays in Spain’s Professional league.

The U.S. will surely be relying on its 2 veterans playing professionally in Europe, Gary Hines and Martin Clemmons Axelsson to provide the scoring punch, but it will be interesting to see how well coach Garcia Cuesta can integrate those players with his inexperienced residency program athletes. And, the U.S. has also called up several players who play on club teams in the U.S. to include Jordan Fithian, Justin Key and a trio of naturalized players from the former Yugoslavia, Serbians Vladimir Andjelic and Djorde Radovanovic and Croatian Vladimir Bicvic.

Uruguay’s side counts just 1 professional on its roster, Alejandro Velazco, who plays in Spain while 2 other players Gaston Ruddich and Sebastian Abdala play in the Argentine club league which while mostly amateur is fairly well established. The rest of Uruguay’s side plays club handball in Uruguay.

On paper based on last June’s match Uruguay is the the favorite.  That one match, however, was played in Uruguay and it seems unlikely that the U.S. will play as poorly as it did last June again.  The U.S., however, will have to make up for the loss of El Zogby at Left Back and the Uruguay side may also benefit from the greater familiarity their players have with playing with each other.