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Team USA, the defending Olympic champions from 1920 and 1924, opened their account in Rio with a 17-14 loss to Argentina Tuesday. Using a stifling defense, Argentina built a 12-0 lead before the USA could get any offense going. After a series of yellow cards by the Pumas, the Eagles stormed back to take the lead with two tries in the second half. With less than a minute left, a string of miscues by the USA gave Argentina an opening on the wing for the game-winning try, 17-14.
The Eagles recovered opening kickoff, but knocked it on soon after. Rodrigo Etchart broke the USA front working off advantage in American territory. He was hauled down, and an opportune Folua Niua poached the ball for Madison Hughes, but a penalty followed. The Eagles kicked for touch at 40 meters.
After the lineout, the USA attempted to move the ball, but Argentina’s defense was stout. Danny Barrett slipped a tackle, but a bad pass caused a turnover to the Pumas. Argentina worked into the USA half when an inside move by Bautista Ezcurra found space in the middle of field. Perry Baker prevented a try at the line, but after a quick tap penalty by Fernando Luna, Axel Muller barreled over Hughes for the try. Gaston Revol punched the conversion through for the 7-0 lead with 3:30 minutes left.
On the restart, Baker caught the kick; however, Santiago Alvarez was sent off for a dump tackle on the play. The USA offense looked to have some life, but they gave it back after another penalty. With less than a minute left, Barrett poached the ball and a subsequent pass to Ben Pinkleman was dropped for a turnover. A sideline drive by Argentina ended the half with a knock.
Up 7-0, Argentina kicked off and recovered the ball, but the USA defense tackled the ball into touch. A quick throw was followed by a Hughes kick ahead. The American captain was obstructed and knocked down down immediately with no penalty.
Argentina employed a wide game going sideline to sideline spreading the Eagles out. Etchart found space with a strong run before getting high tackled by Barrett close to the try line. The infraction was caught, and Argentina’s Luna quick tapped the ball inside the five and was met by Bender and Unufe at the try line. The referee initially indicated a try, but called for a review. The replay showed a clear knock by Luna in the tackle; however, the referee awarded the try to the Pumas.
With a little over five minutes left and down 12-0, the USA kept trying the move the ball, but the defense was too good. The Eagles got a break when Matias Moroni was binned for Argentina's second tip tackle. After the lineout, Zack Test faked a crash to a streaking Nate Ebner and slashed across the field. Juan Imhoff tackled Test at the try line, and while he crossed the whitewash, the ball wasn't grounded. After a review, the referee yellow carded Imhoff for a high tackle and awarded the USA the penalty try. Hughes made the score 12-7 and the Eagles were back in the game.
With the two-man advantage and less than three minutes to go, the USA forced the issue, and Ebner collected a loose ball inside the Pumas’ field. Barrett skip-passed to Bender, who spun out of a tackle to inside ten meters. At the ruck, Baker popped the ball Barrett, who slipped two tackles for the try. Hughes connects on the kick to give the USA a 14-12 lead with less the two minutes left.
With both teams back at full strength, Niua made a fatal error on the kickoff by not kicking the ball 10 meters. Argentina methodically worked the ball downfield using the same strategy during as its second try. After time expired, the Puma offense caused the USA to get bunched up inside. A lucky bounce landed in the hands of German Schultz, who found a wide open Moroni on the wing to score the game-winning try in the corner. The conversion was missed, but Argentina prevailed 17-14.
The USA plays their next opponent, Brazil, at 5:00 pm ET. Brazil lost to Fiji, 40-12.