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Home Sweet Home

The crowd at York Hall was not shy in supporting the home squad.

BEFORE THE nail-biting conclusion, though, the teams traded body blows over the course of the opening two days. With a total of 10 points available, the first half of the Mosconi Cup offers teams a nasty proposition: You cannot win the competition, no matter how well you play, but you certainly can go a long way toward losing it. Should a team fall two, three or four points behind, the odds of victory only grow slimmer.

In the opening team match, where all five players from both teams take turns each playing an entire rack, Team USA took the first point of the competition with a 5-3 victory. The Americans then took a pair of doubles victories, while the Europeans countered with two points in singles play.

If there ever could be a turning point early in the competition, Day Two provided one. With a 3-2 lead, the Americans sent Archer and Dechaine up against the British duo of Melling and Appleton. While Appleton was widely regarded as Europe's No. 1, Melling has established himself as a star to be reckoned with. With a background in snooker and English 8-ball, the portly sharpshooter broke through in American pool with a victory at the 2011 China Open.

But the Americans looked in better form to start the set, as Archer led Dechaine to the hill by winning four of the first six racks. Team Europe responded with a pair of 9 balls to force a case game, but a missed 1 ball by Melling gave the table to the Americans. Eying a 6-9 combo, Dechaine dropped the match-winner to put Team USA up 4-2.

At that point, play switched to singles - with Van Boening, America's presumed No. 1, taking on untested rookie Ekonomopoulos. The Greek was successful on the EuroTour in 2012, notching a victory at the Austrian Open, but the 30-year-old remained relatively unknown outside the Continent.

With the potential to extend America's lead to 5-2 overall, Van Boening looked in complete control of the set early, taking the first two games against the rookie. But Ekonomopoulos shook off the nerves that showed on Day One. He hit a number of big shots and turned that early deficit into a stunning 5-3 win that put Europe within a point.

"It was a very difficult [match], and Shane is a very good player, a great player," Ekonomopolous said. "We lose three matches, 5-4, and I believe we were unlucky. But now, it will be better for us."

And it was, as the Dutch pairing of Feijen and van den Berg trounced Hatch and Shuff, 5-2, before Melling edged Hatch, 5-3. That potential 5-2 advantage for the Americans? They needed a hard-fought 5-4 win from Van Boening and Archer over Appleton and Feijen to even the race for the Cup at 5-5 after two days.

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