The “home and home” 2 game aggregate playoff may well be the fairest playoff format devised. Both teams get a match at home. The winner is whoever has the most goals after 120 minutes of play. No home court advantage and less chance that the outcome that one fluke performance (good or bad) will determine the outcome. And, if by chance, there is a fluke outcome in the first match, each team has some time to make adjustments to correct any problems that may have occurred.
For sure, both sides had their share of problems in the first game. The U.S. offense struggled against the 3-2-1 defense of the Canadians. Forced out higher away from the 6 meter line the U.S. backs had difficulty getting in position to be a threat to score. And, when they did move forward on attack coordination with the wings and circle runners was lacking resulting in only 1 goal in 60 minutes from those positions. The U.S. will definitely need to make some adjustments if they want to improve on the 22 goals scored in the first match.
The Canadian women will also need their own adjustments to improve on their 20 goals. At times it seemed as if the Canadians were simply playing catch hoping for an opening in the U.S. defensive wall to magically appear. As the saying goes: hope is not a strategy. Canada will need to make some adjustments to get the static U.S. defense moving to the point where they can find some more offensive openings.
If either side can find a way to step it up a bit on offense, that side will likely be well on its way toward victory. But, it could very well be that we just might see another night of stellar defensive play with both team struggling to eke out goals in half court situations. If that’s the case, the outcome may well come down to which team minimizes turnovers and resulting opponent fast break opportunities.
And, if that’s the scenario for tonight I think the veteran U.S. team is probably at an advantage with several players having been there before. Indeed, the U.S. team 8 years ago needed a 5 goal win in Canada to qualify and they found a way to do it. This time around they have a +2 goal cushion to work with.
Countering that argument, though is a hungry Canadian side which surely feels they can play better than they did Sunday night. And, on top of that, they are playing at home in front of a sellout crowd of 600 fans who will surely be making some noise in support.
Emotions should be running high tonight. And, with everything to play for in front of a sold out crowd. This is going to be one game to watch for sure.
Match Schedule (Wednesday, 5 September)
Canada vs USA (Women) 1900 Eastern Time (0100 CET, Thursday)
Canada vs USA (Men) 2100 Eastern Time (0300 CET, Thursday).
The match will be live streamed on the Quebec Handball Federation Facebook page: Link