MNT Gains Valuable Experience at Gjensidige Cup
by Matthew Collins
With formidable opponents of Portugal, Brazil, and hosts, Norway, the Senior National Team headed to Trondheim, Norway to participate in the Gjensidige Cup before traveling to Jonkoping, Sweden to play in the IHF World Championship for the first time in over 20 years.
Twenty-four athletes were invited to represent the USA at the tournament with that number being slimmed down to the final roster being released before the first match of the World Championship versus Morocco.
After convening the squad from all over the world, the first match of the Gjensidige Cup Americans was against strong South American side Brazil.
The Americans took some time to gain some rhythm playing together with Abou Fofana supplying the first goal about four minutes into the match. The match remained close for the remainder of the half with the largest lead by either team only extending to two, and the half ending into a 12-10 Brazil advantage.
After the intermission, the Brazilians went on a 5-3 run, extending their lead to 5 at the ten minute mark of the second half. The US was able to cut the lead down to 3 several times but the Brazil squad eked out a 27-22 win.
Abou Fofana scored 8 goals on 13 shots, with Drew Donlin, Joey Stromberg, and Alex Chan Blanco each chipping in three goals a piece. Pal Merkovszki had a stellar game in goal with 13 saves and a 34% save percentage.
Looking to rebound after a day of rest, the USA were up against fellow World Championship qualifier Portugal. The Portuguese team jumped out to a 10-2 lead, before Ian Huter provided a pair of goals to help cut the lead to six. At halftime, the lead was seven for the European side, 19-12.
A switch in goalkeeper at half to Rene Ingram was made to try and thwart the Portuguese attack, but the goals were coming via Pedro Portela.
Veteran national team player Gary Hines entered the match to provide a spark but Portugal defeated the US 39-27.
Abou Fofana was the leading scorer once again, with winger Sam Hoddersen adding 5 and Ian Huter providing 4.
In the last match of the tournament, in front of a packed house in Trondheim, the USA squared off against the hosts and a serious World Championship contender in Norway.
Right from the start, the hosts meant business, jumping out to a 4-0 lead with four straight goals from winger Sebastian Barthold. The Norwegians implemented a 7 vs 6 attack which proved challenging for the Americans.
After nine minutes, the Americans were finally able to break through the Norwegian defense and score their first goal, courtesy of Ian Huter. The deficit for the USA would grow to 15 at the halftime whistle.
Goalkeeper Nicolas Robinson entered the game in the second half and provided some big saves and added an empty goal in the 52nd minute.
At full time, the Norway squad pulled off a 43-27 victory. Alex Chan Blanco was the USA’s leading scorer with 5 and Patrick Huter contributing 4.
The squad will now head to Gothenburg, Sweden for a training camp before traveling to Jonkoping, Sweden where the first match of the IHF World Championship vs Morocco awaits.