Brief shining moments has been as good as it gets for Team USA in field hockey.
Field hockey has been a fixture at the Summer Olympics since being introduced as a men’s event at the 1908 London Games. Women’s field hockey was played for the first time at the 1980 Moscow Games. The United States has fared poorly in both events. The U.S. won silver in men’s field hockey in the 1932 Los Angeles Games. It also won bronze in women’s field hockey in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Beyond those two times, Team USA has not even come close to contending for a medal.
That could change this year, in women’s field hockey at least. The U.S. women showed in Olympic tuneup matches earlier this summer that they have an ability to go toe-to-toe with the best field hockey teams in the world.
Argentina and the United States played a series of four friendlies ahead of going to London. The U.S. posted a 1-1-2 record against the powerful Argentine squad. What is significant with these results is that Argentina was ranked no. 2 in the world at the time of those matches. The South American nation is considered one of the favorites to win the gold medal.
Experience has been a big factor for Team USA. Seven players on the 16-man roster played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They helped the U.S. finish eighth overall in 2008 and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table.
Defense will be a key to whether or not a better finish is in the cards this time around. Defenders Lauren Crandall, Caroline Nichols and Claire Laubach – along with goalkeeper Amy Tran-Swensen – anchor the unit. They were all key team leaders in 2011 when the U.S. stunned no.1 ranked Argentina 4-2 to win the gold medal match at the Pan American Games.
Offensively, Katie O’ Donnell is a threat to score anytime at striker. O’Donnell came up with several huge goals in the Pan American Games and will need to mirror that performance in London to give Team USA a chance.
It will not be easy. The U.S. has been placed into a difficult pool. Opponents in pool play include several traditional field hockey powers such as Argentina, Germany and Australia. Only the top two in pool play advance to the knockout stage. Given the competition, it might take a minor miracle for the U.S. to be one of those two teams.
Then again, it would not be the first time Team USA made the most of its underdog role in women’s field hockey.
John Coon has covered multiple Olympic sports, including field hockey, as a reporter in Salt Lake City. He has enjoyed watching field hockey matches on several occasions and considers himself a fan of the sport