In the final game of Men’s Pool A, table toppers the United States (8-0) looked to close out the early stages of the tournament with a whitewash of results to cement their place at the top of the group. The only team left in there way was plucky surprise outfit Spain.
The Spaniards (7-3) had made their mark on the group and showed themselves as formidable challengers to the top eight with an early win over Poland. This was followed by a tough universe point loss to Russia before a mammoth win over Canada which turned many heads. If they would be able to repeat the North American giant killing, it would put Spain into second place going into pre-quarters.
The USA, with some notable absentees going into the match in the form of Jonathan Nethercutt, Jack Hatchett and Tyler DeGirolamo, still boasted seasoned stars like Cassidy Rasmussen, Jon ‘Goose’ Helton and Mario O’Brien.
The States came out of the traps hard, breaking the Spanish in 20 seconds flat after Jason Clark eats up a deep disc and begins the counter attack. In a considerably longer second point almost stretching to five minutes, the nippy Diego Lorenzo Jimenez grabbed a bookends thanks to a layout D followed by him bombing deep.
From here, they traded to 3-2, with some noticeably clean offence, fronted by the ever reliable O’Brien for the States, who would dictate the play with his smooth, smart throwing and movement. Then, USA broke again, followed by some more offensive trading to bring it to 5-4 with the States on O.
In order to stay in the tie, Spain would need up their defence, and that they did as some tight downfield guarding forced a rare error from the US reset. A huck goes up down the other end and Ruben San Jose Garcia toes the line to make it 5-5. Next point, USA turn on a huck as Rasmussen is caught in the sand which affects his jump and Spain captialise with a deliciously naughty inside flick huck to turn the game right on its head as the Europeans lead for the first time this game.
Out on O for the third time in a row, the States gifted the Spanish once more with a short field turn, which they gladly accept. Spain take half 7-5 and they are rewarded with an O point to start the second.
However, in return of their present from the USA earlier in the game, Spain decide to return the favour, as an uncontested drop on an easy dump gives the States an easy break. Some more trading brings it to 8-7 before a big Brett Matzuka runthrough D sets the chain of events resulting in some bookends for the shaggy haired Chi-Town man.
Slightly rattled, Spain then almost gave away another easy break as the first pass is fumbled but recovered with style by Ricardo Jose Marquez Ravelo. Both teams slot home their resulting O points to make it 9-9 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
It was extremely noticeable that once Spain’s offence was moving, USA could not stop it. The sheer speed and work rate of the attacking players was too much for even America’s top defenders to get a bid on. It was phenomenal to watch. But, far too often in tight games like this did their O start off too slowly, with drops, mis-throws and fumbles on the first or second pass. This is what killed a game that the Spanish really otherwise deserved to win as once again they gave their opponents an easy break with an uncontested drop on an easy swing pass. 10-9 USA.
With the USA choosing an interesting time to call a time out at this point, it was Spain that actually got the chance to regroup. After a deep breath and some motivational words in the team huddle, combined with the sideline support of not only the Spanish Mixed team but the Venezuelans, there was a lot of energy being given to the Europeans. You could sense this game was going to go the full stretch.
At 11-11, Spain do what was almost the unthinkable at this stage and get a turn from the USA. With a chance to break and the game seconds from the cap, this really was their big moment. However, once again, a bad drop on an easy dump ends their golden opportunity as Rasmussen finds Goose to spare any USA blushes for another hold.
Frustrated, Spain attempted to regroup by slotting the resulting O in no time at all with a giant huck from Diego Lorenzo Jimenez to San Jose Garcia., sending it to universe. Sadly, the States were not going to allow Spain another shot as Rasmussen finds Jared Inselmann for the clean sweep.
Despite the feeling that they should have won this game, I think Spain should be proud of their performance in this match up. Taking the World Champions to universe is no easy feat and punctuates how far they’ve started to come as a nation, especially on sand. Spain will face a massive test now in their quarter-final against the Philippines, but if they can secure a big win here I consider them in a great chance of getting a medal.
USA however will meet Australia, who snuck through the crazy Pool B in 4th place at 2:50pm CEST.
By Aidan Kelly.