Shannon Taylor scores lone goal

LONDON -- The rankings say the United States beating Argentina qualifies as a significant field hockey upset.

The Americans disagree.

Shannon Taylor scored late in the first half and the U.S. survived some frantic final moments to topple Argentina 1-0 in women's field hockey on Tuesday night at the London Olympics, a win that essentially keeps alive the Americans' medal chances.

"I don't think we think about things in terms of upsets any more," said U.S. goalie Amy Swensen, who kicked aside one point-blank chance by the world's second-ranked team late in the second half and got plenty of help from teammates down the stretch as well. "It's wins and losses and we're just trying to win as many as we can right now."

Both teams are 1-1 in Group B play.

"We had to get a result today to get our tournament back on track," said U.S. coach Lee Bodimeade, whose team came to London ranked No. 10 in the world. "We were probably fortunate in a lot of ways that we had to play against Argentina, the team that we respect the most in this tournament and the team that drives us to our best performances."

By now, that's pretty clear.

The Americans got into the Olympics by stunning Argentina 4-2 in last year's final at the Pan American Games. That was considered the biggest win in U.S. field hockey history.

Not anymore, perhaps. The Americans controlled long stretches of play in the first half, then kept Argentina star Luciana Aymar -- widely considered the world's best player -- largely silent throughout. When the U.S. won the Pan Am Games final, Aymar was quoted saying that the Americans were not at the same level as the Argentines.

After this loss, she was far more complimentary.

"We tried everything," Aymar said. "They ball just didn't go in."

The teams played a four-game test series in June, splitting the matchups -- one win for each team, and the other two games ending in ties -- although Argentina was playing without Aymar, who got tons of attention from the U.S. defense on the blue turf of the London Games.

As she carried the ball over midfield midway through the first half, five Americans -- yes, five -- surrounded her, each no more than a step or two away.

"We just had to stick to the game plan," Taylor said. "Watch out for Aymar, and play our game."

The U.S. had a great chance to open the scoring after being awarded a penalty corner with 9 minutes left in the first half, only to be denied.

The denial was temporary.

Only two minutes later, Taylor got behind the Argentine defense and tipped a ball played by Michelle Vittese into the upper part of the cage, giving goalkeeper Florencia Mutio no chance and giving the Americans a 1-0 lead.

That was all it took.

"A complete team effort," Swensen said.

Argentina had an opportunity to tie the game with about 1:30 left in the half, getting a corner of its own, but Swensen blocked it with ease to help ensure the Americans would head into intermission on top.

In the second half, Argentina poured on the pressure. Carla Rebecchi had two great chances, one stopped by Swensen with the right foot, another sailing over the top of the cage with about 7 minutes left. Rocio Sanchez Moccia and Martina Cavallero each had shots from well inside the arc slide just to the left of the cage in the final 14 minutes as well.

"Maybe a bit lucky toward the end of the game," Bodimeade said. "But we got three points and we're looking forward to being back in the tournament."