BUDAPEST, Hungary, July 21. IT wasn't the way that the U.S. men's water polo team wanted to end its road trip in Europe.
A 17-5 loss at the hands of 2000 Olympic gold medalist Hungary before a record crowd of 5,000 in Budapest hardly sits well on a 12-hour flight. But U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic, the consummate optimist, realizes that his young squad is taking a lot from these games. Learning curve aside, the U.S. will head home tomorrow to prepare for its final two games against Hungary
in California (July 26 & 27).
A fatigued U.S. squad, which has trained through these last six games in Europe, is looking forward to getting their feet back on American soil.
"There are no excuses for how we did in this game," said U.S. team captain Wolf Wigo. "They're an excellent team with loads of experience and skill. Training every day and playing the teams in this bracket has been a definite test of our mental and
physical endurance. But I think we'll be a much different team in Moraga (next weekend) after a few days off."
The U.S. played Hungary to a 2-2 tie by the end of the first quarter, but the hosts exploded for six goals in the second quarter and held an 8-4 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Hungarians abandoned their zone defense in place of the press, forcing several U.S. errors. The U.S. was outplayed for the last 18 minutes, as Hungary outscored them 9-1 in the second half.
Eight different players scored goals for the reigning Olympic champs, including Gergely Kiss, who led all scorers with four. Five different players accounted for Team USA's five goals.
Genai Kerr notched eight saves in goal for the U.S.
The U.S. is now all but out of contention for the second spot at next month's (Aug. 1-4) Super Final in Patras, Greece. Even if the U.S. wins its final two games against the Hungarians, Russia would have to lose two in a row against Croatia to end the season in a tie for second. Currently, the U.S. has a goal differential of -22, while Russia's is -5.
Team USA will take to the skies tomorrow afternoon, returning to Southern California for a day before heading up to Moraga (Calif.) on Wednesday (July 24) for its season-ending series with Hungary at the Soda Aquatic Complex on July 26 & 27.
Team USA 2 2 0 1 — 5
Hungary 2 6 4 5 — 17
Team USA: Wigo 1, Felix 1, Azevedo, 1, Klatt 1, Bailey 1
Hungary: G. Kiss 4, Fodor 3, Benedek 3, Molnar 3, B. Steinmetz 1, Biros 1, C. Kiss 1, A. Steinmetz 1
Man Advantage Scoring
Team USA: 2 for 5
Hungary: 4 for 6
Team USA: Kerr 8
Hungary: Szecsi 10, Jaszberenyi 2
Attendance: 5000 *
* FINA World League attendance record.
–Team USA will be taking on Hungary back on American soil on July 26 & 27. The games, which will be played at the Soda Aquatic Complex in Moraga, Calif., will coincide with the 2002 Water Polo Junior Olympics. Prior to the FINA World League games, the U.S. men will join Hungary in a clinic on July 25 at Diablo Valley College in nearby Pleasant Hill (Calif.). For
more info, please contact Boyd LaChance at 916-769-3385.
Ratko Rudic (USA Head Coach)
"This game was similar to the ones you have here in the Hungarian championships. Hard pressing all the time, leaving no space and no time for your opponent. This style of playing is not fitting for our inexperienced players who began committing
mistakes. Also, it was bad to let the Hungarians score from the center-forward position."
"We are not on their level tactically. To play a tight game with them we have to be maximally disciplined, but it never happened this weekend."
Ryan Bailey (USA Two-Meter Man)
"We kept up with the Hungarians for a while, but then we started to commit mistakes, and they punished us for even the smaller ones. Again, it turned out that most of our team lacks the experience needed for this level of play."
Denes Kemeny (Hungarian Head Coach)
"It was an equal first period due to our bad attacking, though our defense was acceptable. I asked for more precise shooting from my players from my players in the second period and they managed to regroup themselves, hitting six."
"We showed true respect for our opponents by not underestimating them, but scoring as many goals as we could."
Zoltan Szecsi (Hungarian Goalkeeper)
"To tell the truth, we hated this game. During the first period, we suffered and could not find a rhythm. But after a while, we gave in and started to score and found a way of playing and enjoying ourselves."