If you’re a USA Women’s Field Hockey fan, the excitement and emotion of the United Eagles victory Thursday may not have faded yet.
Team USA rallied to win 2-1 over Japan in the semi-final round in Ranchi, India. Winning the match means that USA qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer. The top three teams are Paris-bound.
Throughout the past year and a half, many insiders – both international and American – didn’t predict this outcome. USA has been rebuilding its coaching staff and spending its funds strategically to prepare for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
But, what’s so thrilling is that the planning has already paid off, long before USA anticipated it would. This is a first for the entire team. Following the Rio 2016 Olympics, the team’s athletes one-by-one retired.
Many of them are still involved as head college coaches, club coaches and USA board members, as well as volunteers with the Master’s program. Rachel Dawson is head coach of USA’s newly formed Hockey 5s team, which will be playing in the 2024 World Cup in Oman in four days.
USA didn’t qualify for the 2020 Japan Olympics. So, the blue print was to prep this current team for the next cycle when USA host the games.
But, this new brand of hockey has methodically appeared. It’s apparent that there’s a new mentality that’s evolving and the team is maturing. During the past 16 months, they gained experience in the FIH Pro-League as well as dedicated hours of training together in both Chula Vista, California and Charlotte, North Carolina.
USA has its toughest competition of the FIH Qualifier at 9 a.m. (EST) Friday. The United Eagles play Germany, which has qualified for every summer Olympics since 1984.
USA and Germany have qualified in Ranchi, India, while Spain and Belgium women’s qualified in Valencia, Spain.
Out of the 21 games between USA and Germany, USA has won 5 and Germany has won 11. There have been five draws between the two countries. Germany has won the last six matches. USA tied them 1-1 in July 2017.
Germany has shooters, especially 28-year-old Charlotte Stapenhorst. USA is facing a tough competitor, but they proved that they shouldn’t be counted out. They played all 60 minutes Thursday punching in both goals on penalty corners in the fourth.
Two things to watch Friday:
2. Risks: At this point in their journey, the United Eagles seemingly are taking more risks as competition gets tougher. When they have possession between the 50 and 23 meter, it’ll be interesting to see how they work the ball to the cage. Aerials worked some of the time against Japan, which also played the ball in the air. And, firing off blistering passes toward post could also work. Because they are qualified, the championship may be a chance to push beyond their physical boundaries.
1. Fight: When Japan scored first, USA took on a new look. They immediately executed stronger tackles, leaning into them without overcommitting. They upped their speed and maintained the pace. And, they appeared to have agreed they didn’t want to play for the bronze. There was no quit. Either way, USA will medal Friday in Ranchi, India. They have punched their ticket. And, their fans back home in the USA couldn’t be more excited for them.