With the Pan American Games set to commence in Lima, Peru on 26 July 2019, there is a definite sense of optimism among the USA hockey fans this time round.
In a statement released earlier in May, USA Field Hockey previewed both of its national teams:
“The U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams have their eyes on Lima as one of the biggest key competitions for earning a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
While making the final podium is ideal, both teams are after the bigger prize of a trip to Tokyo next summer.
At The Dragflick, we evaluate both the USA Men‘s and Women‘s teams chances of winning the games as well as the challenges that lie ahead for them.
Pools & Rankings
The USA men (World Ranked No. 24) are placed in Pool B, along with Canada (10), Mexico (32) and Peru (55), while Argentina (No.4), Cuba (69), Chile (No.28) and Trinidad & Tobago (37) make up for Pool A.
The USA women (World Ranked No. 13) are placed in Pool B along with Chile (15), Mexico (29) and Peru (38), while Argentina (3), Canada (18), Cuba (63) and Uruguay (25) make up for Pool A.
Chances for the USA Men’s hockey team:
The USA Men’s hockey team had a podium finish at the Pan American Games only once in 1995, that is almost 25 years ago. At the last Pan American Games, they finished fifth and missed out on openly qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
This current squad looks different and more confident ofcourse. The 2019 edition of the Pan American Games has been in sight since 2017 for them. A missed opportunity to qualify at their last go around hit home especially for some veterans of the USA Men’s hockey team.
After a bronze medal finish at the FIH Hockey World League Round 2 in Trinidad and Tobago, the squad mapped out what it would take to upgrade to gold in 2019.
At the FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar, this team were a real surprise package, finishing fourth.
Knowing that this is their only and final chance to make it through for the Olympics, the team will do everything to punch their ticket to an event they have not appeared in since 1996.
Chances for the USA women’s hockey team:
Given the record in international competition over the last two and half years, their rankings have declined from World No.7 to World No.13. They also had a poor showing in the inaugural edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League finishing last and recording only one win out of 16 games.
For the USA women’s hockey team, “All Eyes on Lima” means competing from one big stage to the other as they transition from the FIH Pro League.
At the Pan American Games in 2011 and 2015, the USA women’s hockey team displaced Argentina – a 6x Pan American Champion and will be looking to do a three-peat this time around.
But, the competition will be stiff as the USA women’s hockey team has shaped in to a much different looking squad than the one that travelled to the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Challenges for the USA Women’s hockey team
Argentina with a world ranking of No.3 for its women and No.4 for its men are prohibitive favourites to win the Pan Am Games this year, and will look to eliminate any chances for the USA Women’s hockey team to three-peat.
USA women also have to be wary of the Canadian women’s hockey team who have been centralised and training in Belgium since more than a year and have been rising on the world hockey table.
Challenges for the USA Men’s hockey team
The USA Men’s hockey team look vastly improved and have given an excellent showing of themselves at the FIH Hockey Series Final in India where they finished at the 4th place, however the two stumbling blocks are still World No.4 Argentina and World No.10 Canada with Argentina being motivated even more after narrowly failing to qualify for the FIH Olympic qualifier through the Pro League tournament.
While USA fans and officials are seemingly optimistic and bullish about the chances of both of its teams qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 by winning this game, given the performances so far this year, both teams will really have to play through their skin if they want a top finish.
The USA men’s hockey team will begin their campaign against Peru on July 30, 2019 while the USA women’s hockey team will begin their campaign against Mexico on July 29, 2019.