RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The U.S. Paralympic soccer team narrowly missed reaching its goal of medaling at the Parapan American Games after falling to Canada, 1-0, in the bronze medal match at the Deodora Sports Complex.
“Defensively we did quite well,” USA coach Jay Hoffman (Virginia Beach, Va.) said, “and I liked the quality of the chances we created, but our finishing wasn’t good.
“In this game at the international level, you don’t get a lot of chances, and to be a world class striker, you’ve got to make sure every chance is on frame. Today our mentality was a lot better to make sure things were on target, but now to elevate ourselves to the next level, these guys have to make sure they stick two of them away. The keeper is going to have to make a world class save.”
The teams battled to a 0-0 tie during the first half of play. The only score came late in the match as Matt Brown scored from inside the box in the 51st minute of play.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of tracking down,” Hoffman said about the play that resulted in the winning score. “The ball got to [Brown] up front. We held him up rather well. We didn’t let him turn, but to make that effective, everybody else has to fill in behind and give us a good shape, or else all of a sudden, you are picking the ball out of the back of the net.”
USA managed to get several more opportunities to score but was unable to capitalize.
“We still had some chances,” Hoffman said. “We had numerous opportunities where I thought we could have created better quality of chances.
“Their goal keeper (Ross MacDonald) played extremely well and came up big a number of times. That certainly changed the game. They basically matched up against us man-to-man, and individually they won a majority of those battles.”
The teams were even in shots with 18 apiece. Canada led in shots on goal, 11-6.
“Soccer is a game of adjustments and readjustments, and we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities to score,” USA defender John Theobald (Syracuse, N.Y.) added. “We need to learn how to win. We are confident that we have the skills to win the games we haven’t won in this tournament, but learning how to win and learning how to take advantage of our opportunities is very important. The effort is definitely there. It is sad to see the outcome the way it was given all the effort that was put into it.”
Next up for USA is the World Championships, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in November. It is the team’s last opportunity to qualify for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.
“This was a chance to win a medal and put ourselves in a half decent situation for seeding for World Championships,” Hoffman said. “Now we are at the mercy of the draw.
“I guarantee every one of these guys wants to go to Beijing. Now the question becomes, are you willing to pull all the little pieces that will get you to Beijing. That’s what you are constantly trying to reinforce with these guys.”
2007 U.S. Men’s Soccer Parapan Am Games Roster
Chris Ahrens, Virginia Beach, Va. (Baldwinsville, N.Y.)
Derek Arneaud, Virginia Beach, Va.
Josh Blue, Denver, Colo.
Louis Garrett, Columbus, Ohio (Memphis, Tenn.)
Keith Johnson, Spring, Texas
Tommy Latsch, Virginia Beach, Va. (Euclid, Ohio)
Jon McCullough, Virginia Beach, Va.
Josh McKinney, Raleigh, N.C.
Shaun Schetka, New Brighton, Pa.
Jason Slemons, Seattle, Wash. (Eagle River, Alaska)
John Theobald, Syracuse, N.Y.
Marthell Vazquez, Virginia Beach, Va. (Long Beach, Calif.)
Head Coach: Jay Hoffman, Virginia Beach, Va.
Assistant Coach: Michael Haas, Denver, Colo.
Team Leader: Dana Schoenwetter, Denver, Colo.