Team USA Increases Lead to 7-2

Team USA Increases Lead to 7-2
2009 Mosconi Cup / Las Vegas, NV

by Sally P. Timko

Team USA, which went into the 2009 Mosconi Cup 2-1 underdogs, came out of Friday’s matches with a daunting 7-2 lead, winning three of the four matches played today. Team Europe will really have to hustle Saturday if they can be considered in contention for the prestigious Cup.

The first match featured the American powerhouse team of Johnny Archer and Shane Van Boening against Niels Feijen and Ralf Souquet. Europe drew first blood after capitalizing on a weak safety by Van Boening, but the US drew even after the next and then took a one-rack lead with a break and run-out. With Europe struggling with the break shot, they came up empty on the next and the U.S. team cleared for a lead of 3-1.

Archer crushed his next break, sinking three balls, and the USA moved another game closer. After Feijen tried to return a safety on the 2 ball but left an open shot in the following game, the U.S. ran out to reach the hill. A ray of hope appeared when Archer hung the 4 ball in the next game, and Europe put another rack under their belt, but after Feijen fouled on the 2 ball in the final game, Team USA cleared to take the first set of the day 6-2.

“We’re here to play, and we’re here to win,” Van Boening averred afterward. Archer added, “We’re all a team, we’re all enjoying ourselves … there’s no selfishness out here.”

Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann was matched up with Corey “The Prince of Pool” Deuel in the second set, and it was a knock-down, drag-out fight, with Europe desperately trying to stay in the race. Deuel took the first rack, but his ineffective breaks throughout the match cost Team USA, as Hohmann took the second rack after an illegal Deuel break and then won the next rack with a superb kick shot on the 6. Deuel came up empty on his following break, but Hohmann rattled the 1, and Deuel cleared to draw even at 2-all. A break and run-out by the former world 9-ball champion put Europe in the lead again, but Deuel reclaimed parity in the next after a safety battle over the 2 ball.

Yet another break and run by Hohmann gave Europe the edge again, and when Deuel scratched on his next break, it looked as though Europe was going to reach the hill, but Hohmann lost a safety exchange over the 3 ball, and Deuel took the rack to make it 4-all. Deuel scratched on the 2 ball in the next, and Hohmann cleared the table to reach the hill, and in the next and last rack, Deuel came up dry again on the break, and Hohmann carefully picked his way through the rack to put Team Europe on the board for the first time Friday with his 6-4 victory.

It was the next doubles match that pushed Team USA past the halfway point in the race to 11. The pairing of rookies Oscar Dominguez and Dennis Hatch easily handled newbie Darren Appleton and Mika Immonen at the beginning of the match. The U.S. broke and ran the first rack and then capitalized on a rattled 1 ball by Appleton to go up 2-0. Appleton redeemed himself in the next with a kick shot on the 5 ball to put Europe on the board, but when he came up empty on his next break, Team USA ran out to lead 3-1. Appleton missed position in the next rack and hooked Immonen, who was foxed and handed another rack to the U.S.

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Team USA, which went into the 2009 Mosconi Cup 2-1 underdogs, came out of Friday’s matches with a daunting 7-2 lead, winning three of the four matches played today.

Team USA, which went into the 2009 Mosconi Cup 2-1 underdogs, came out of Friday’s matches with a daunting 7-2 lead, winning three of the four matches played today.

Europe rallied at this point, and when Hatch played a safety on the 1 ball, Immonen still had a shot that he pocketed, and Europe ran out. They then broke and ran out the next rack to draw within a game at 4-3. But an empty break by Appleton spelled bad news for Europe, as Hatch smoothly pocketed a 5-9 combo to take the hill. Europe wasn’t ready to give up, though, and Appleton scored a sweet crossbank on the 4 to set up partner Immonen for the 5-9 combo to make it 5-4. Immonen performed a massive error in the next rack when he brought out the rake to shoot the 6 and not only missed the 6 but moved the 7 with the rake. With ball in hand for Team USA, they easily cleared the remaining four balls to win 6-4, putting Team USA up 6-2 in the race to 11.

Pointing at Team Europe’s captain, Alex Lely, Hatch screamed, “One plus one! One plus one!” He explained in the interview following that when Hatch had an illegal break earlier in the match, Lely twitted him by shouting, “One plus one,” referring to the amount of balls that had passed the headstring. This, Hatch said, was “rude.”

But it was a visibly emotional Hatch who said, when asked about his experiences so far at the event, “It means more to me than anything in the world. The pressure is unbelievable—the emotions, the tears—I gotta hold them back.”

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world—it’s pretty cool,” Dominguez added. When asked about the 2-1 odds with which Team Europe went into the Mosconi Cup, he astutely pointed out, “It’s on paper. When it comes down to it, we’re playing on a pool table, not on paper.”

The fifth match of the day was canceled, so Johnny Archer versus Darren Appleton was the last showdown Friday. Things went Appleton’s way in the first two racks, as small errors by Archer put him up 2-0. A more glaring mistake was when Archer opted for a dicey 8-9 carom in the next instead of playing the safe—he missed, and Appleton pocketed the two balls to reach a 3-0 lead. Archer pocketed four balls on his next break and played safe on the 5 ball. Appleton kicked at and hit the 5 but left an open shot, and Archer got on the board. A break and run moved Team Europe closer, and Appleton reached the hill after Archer fouled on the 3 ball, making it 5-1.

A short bank on the 4 ball by Archer gave him the next rack, and then a break and run by Archer put him only two racks away from Appleton 5-3. When Appleton scratched on his next break, Archer cleared the table, drawing within a game. It became a hill-hill affair when Appleton scratched on the 3 ball in the next game, and Archer dished up to make it 5-all. Appleton broke illegally in the final game, passing control of the table to Archer. “The Scorpion” ducked on the 2 ball, and Appleton unwisely opted to shoot it instead of playing safe, leaving it hanging in the corner pocket. Archer speared it and cleanly picked his way through the rest of the rack, winning 6-5 and moving Team USA up to a massive 7-2 lead going into Saturday’s matches.

“It was tough to breath out there. Mosconi Cup puts a lot of heat on you, and the crowd really pulled me through,” said Archer of his incredible comeback. “Darren’s such a great player and a great guy, he’ll come back from that.”

Team USA only needs 4 points in the race to 11 to claim the Cup, while Team Europe needs 9. Visit InsidePOOL for the latest news in the sport of billiards and pool.