By Eric Velazquez
U.S. goalkeeper Dan Hackett shook off four games of subpar goal play on Wednesday night against Greece, making a slew of amazing stops and finishing with 10 in three quarters played. His Hellenic opponents met came up empty shot after shot last night, with Hackett getting to balls that he had missed earlier in the tournament.
Shots at the corner…stuffed. Shots off the water…I don’t think so. The 6-6 Hackett did it all on Wednesday, playing just the kind of game that Team USA
needed heading into Friday’s quaterfinal match against Russia.
Over five games, Hackett leads all goalkeepers with 45 saves. Among goalkeepers with over 100 minutes under their belts, he is also leads in save efficiency (55.6%) and is second in shots faced (81) and steals (4). Hackett played one quarter of one game in 1996.
Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Number:
Yes, he’s only 18. Yes, just a few short months ago, he was sitting in a classroom at Long Beach Wilson High School. Yes, he’s the only member of the U.S. men’s Olympic team to have gone to a senior prom within the last year.
To all the critics who were worried that Tony Azevedo wouldn’t be able to hold his own against this week’s Olympic field…shhhhh.
In five games, Azevedo has connected for a team-high nine goals, equaling the totals of established veterans Wolf Wigo and Chris Humbert. Azevedo is
tops on the team in shots taken, as well, going goalward 24 times thus far. He’s also spreading the wealth on offense, having assisted on three goals.
Defensively, Azevedo has compiled three steals and two field blocks. I guess age really “ain’t nuthin’ but a number.”
O Captain, My Captain:
Chris Oeding. U.S. water polo team captain. A creator in the pool for teammates. A distributor of the ball, who traditionally has been first or second on the team in assists. A tribute to selflessness in the pool.
So what’s he doing shooting the daylights out of the ball this week?
Oeding, an Olympian in 1996, has scored five goals in five games, two more than he did over six games at the UPS International Cup in June. Oeding scored two more goals last night in a 9-3 win over Greece. Not surprisingly, he is also second on the team in assists with six.
The Numbers on Humbert:
U.S. big man in the middle, Chris Humbert, is widely regarded as the best two-meter player in the world. Seeming at times to score at will, Humbert has dazzled the world of international water polo for over a decade.
Humbert’s last major international competition, the UPS International Cup, saw the 6-7 scoring machine bury 11 goals in five games played. Humbert is not that far off of his UPS Cup pace that netted him Most Valuable Offensive Player honors. However, this
week he is getting off just a handful less of shots than he was in the UPS Cup.
Sharing the Wealth:
Team USA is fourth in the field of twelve with 42 goals scored. But this hasn’t been just a one or two man gig.
Quite the contrary, the U.S. has received goals from nine different field players this week. Three players, Wolf Wigo, Chris Humbert, and Tony Azevedo, have nine goals and lead the team. Team captain Chris Oeding is next on the list with five, the granddaddy of the team, Kyle Kopp, has three, Gavin Arroyo and newcomers Ryan Bailey and Sean Kern have two, and Robert Lynn has one.
After backup goalkeeper Sean Nolan spent the fourth quarter guarding the cage for the U.S. against Greece, the U.S. had officially played everyone on its 13-man roster.
Off to the Races:
U.S. utility man and former Olympic gold winner in swimming, Brad Schumacher, has won 10 of his twenty opening sprints for the U.S., good enough for second overall in the tourney. Schumacher was a member of the 1996 Olympic relay swim teams that won gold in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 events.
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