Everything you need to know about this tournament could be seen at 8:45 this morning, 15 minutes into the first game, Japan versus Colombia: Outside the stadium a line stretching far down the block was still waiting to get in. On the field, Colombia was scoring goal after goal each one to a roar of the crowd. One got the sense that this was going to be a special day.
Eventually everyone got into the stadium to pack in about 15,000 souls and eventually Colombia stretched the lead to 7-3, as much as a surprise as possible given Japan’s recent show of strength in Sakai and Colombia’s case of hometown nerves. But then one play seemed to turn the tide. Colombia’s Santiago Montaño made a ridiculous sky-high grab and landed hard as the crowd burst into cheers. Bouncing up quickly he sees a wide-open teammate in the end zone and throws an easy forehand… too far. The goal would have made it 8-3 but instead Japan scored right away to cut the lead to 7-4 and the momentum shifted to start the second half.
Japan never looked back as they clawed their way into a late lead and hung on to win 13-12 behind a big game from Masashi Kurono (five assists) and Madoka Ito (four goals). They seemed loose, happy and big on the layouts to eke out the win. But give Colombia credit: they should have won this game but they did not hang their heads.
The crowd, we would learn, would return. Playing ultimate on a Sunday in Cali is a good match.
The second game, Great Britain versus Canada, was a tale of two halves. GB made all the big plays in a turnover-plagued first half but in the second half Canada tightened up their game, closed down on defense and forced GB turnovers, converting them at an alarming rate. A 4-7 deficit at half was erased and then some as Canada dismantled Great Britain with an 8-1 run and an eventual 13-9 win.
Australia versus USA turned out to have a similar tone. Both teams traded turnover after turnover in the first half and Australia led by a few. At 6s and Australia on offense they turned it over, USA converted from half and that little bit of momentum shift was all the Americans needed to stretch the lead in the second half and win going away, 13-8.
From 1pm to 3pm a nice Latin American siesta greeted athletes and fans alike before a 3:40pm Opening Ceremony introduced the teams to the crowd which turned out in droves. The sun now behind the rafters meant that the near side was absolutely jam-packed with locals wearing Colombia’s soccer team colors of yellow and green. The maximum seating for this portion of the stadium was 23,000 and it was clear we were near that amount and much more than the morning games.
They came to see Colombia face-off against Great Britain. This match started off well for Colombia as they took a two goal lead. But Great Britain came back with a Callahan score from Tom Abrams and eventually streaked all the way to a comfortable 10-8 lead, up two breaks and only needing to trade out. But that’s when Colombia stayed true, scoring to make it 10-9, then getting a turnover and scoring to tie it at 10s. The next point was a “hell” point with travel calls, fouls, wind gusts turning over discs, overthrows, etc. It lasted 15 minutes but at the end Colombia scored. And again. And again. And then it was over and the crowd erupted. When the dust settled Colombia had run off five straight points to end the game and win 13-10. Stars Yina Cartagena threw six goals and under-23 sensation Elizabeth Mosquera caught a remarkable seven goals.
Biggest crowd ever to watch a game of ultimate? No, but of the modern era, quite possibly yes.
The next game Japan faced their Eastern rival Australia. In 2009 Australia eked out a 13-12 win, could they do it again? Turns out they didn’t need to. Japan looked out of sorts and Australia stayed confident, taking half 7-5. Even after Japan tied it at sevens the Crocs stayed the course and went up by two again. Eventually they would win 13-10 as Tim Lavis and Gavin Moore led the way.
Last but not least was USA versus Canada, a rematch from earlier this summer when the teams met at Poultry Days, a fun and bountiful Midwestern American tournament. Canada won the finals 13-12 and took home the trophy but here in Cali the score was settled. Again sloppy play from both teams defined the beginning of the game before the Americans finally looked slightly less sloppy than the Canadians and booked four straight to take half, 7-3. Mac Taylor led the way as the streak continued into the second half, USA stretching the lead to 10-4. Finally, a let up, as Hui scored two for Canada and West Coasters Andy Collins, Morgan Hibbert and Nick Menzies found the end-zone to close the gap to two. Fittingly the game ended on another run of goals, three from USA, to close out 13-8. Mac Taylor came up big with 2 assists, 3 goals and a massive layout block to get a break for USA late in the game.
by Pasquale Anthony Leonardo