BUDAPEST, July 19. THE U.S men's water polo team definitely has its work cut out over the next two weekends.
But they already knew that heading into today's game against 2000 Olympic gold medalist Hungary in Budapest. With only the top two teams from each bracket advancing to the FINA World League Super Final in early August, the U.S. men have been trying to hang on to second place behind undefeated Hungary. But after a crushing 15-8 loss to their hosts tonight, and with its next three games against Hungary, the U.S. road to Patras just got a lot bumpier.
Approximately 3000 spectators turned out for the U.S. arrival in Budapest, despite some light showers during the contest. The Hungarians, minus go-to guy Tamas Kasas who was given the day off, were never really threatened and led 3-0 after onequarter, 8-4 at the half, and 12-6 at the end of the third before closing out with the 15-8 win. The margin of victory was
the largest for the Hungarians (9-0) thus far in World League play.
Both teams were playing on only one day's rest. Hungary just capped off a two-game set with Russia, while the U.S. (3-6) was arriving from Croatia. Fatigue, however, didn't seem to offset the potent Hungarian offense.
Gergely Kiss, who entered the game with the league's third highest goal total, got the scoreboard warm with 6:56 to play in the first quarter, giving Hungary a 1-0 lead. Goals by captain Timor Benedek and Peter Biros gave the Hungarians a 3-0 lead by quarter's end, as the U.S. was unable to hit pay dirt through in the first frame.
Hungary strode out to a 6-0 lead in the second quarter, starting out on a 3-0 run with Kiss and Benedek scoring their second goals. The U.S. finally got on the board with 5:17 to play before the half on a score by hole man Ryan Bailey. Hungary answered promptly, courtesy of a goal by Csaba Kiss. The U.S. then outscored Hungary 3-1, with two goals by Tony Azevedo and another by Bailey, but trailed 8-4 at halftime.
Hungary opened the third quarter with another three quick goals to go up 11-4, but Azevedo connected on another two of his own to narrow the deficit to five at 11-6. However, another goal by Benedek in the closing seconds of the period put a lid on the American momentum.
Seeming to favor the 3-0 runs, Hungary worked another one out to begin the final quarter of play. Rajmund Fodor, Barnabas Steinmetz, and Biros each netted goals on the stretch to boost Hungary's lead to 15-6. Wolf Wigo and Jeff Powers found the net in the waning minutes of the game, but Hungary was able to breathe easy with the 15-8 win.
Azevedo's four goals led the U.S. offense. Bailey picked up two in the loss for Team USA.
Hungary, who runs its record to 9-0, sits alone atop the Group B standings and is beginning preparations for Greece. The rest of the bracket, however, is fighting for the remaining berth in the Super Final (Aug. 1-4). The loss bumped the U.S. out of second place, a spot now held by Russia (4-5), which defeated Croatia earlier today, 10-6. Croatia currently sits in fourth place with a record of 2-7. Croatia would have to sweep Russia in the final three meetings between the two teams for a shot at the playoffs, in which case the U.S. would still need to take two of three from Hungary.
Team USA will have another shot at Hungary on Sunday evening, 5:00 p.m. local Budapest time.
Team USA 0 4 2 2 — 8
Hungary 3 5 4 3 — 15
Team USA: Azevedo 4, Bailey 2, Powers 1, Wigo 1
Hungary: Benedek 3, Fodor 3, Biros 3, G. Kiss 2, C. Kiss 2, Steinmetz 1, Molnar 1
Man Advantage Scoring
Team USA: 2 for 6
Hungary: 2 for 3
Team USA: Moses 10
Hungary: Szecsi 14
–Tony Azevedo, who scored four goals on Friday, still leads the league in scoring with 26 goals. Timor Benedek, who connected for three goals for Hungary tonight, is close behind with 24. Hungary, however, boasts four of the league's Top 10 scorers. Next on the list for the U.S. is Jeff Powers, who is nearing the top of the crowd with 12 goals.
–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)
"We made so many mistakes, but we stand to learn a lot from playing them. This is a very educational experience. We need to analyze our game and try to play better."
"Our young team is still learning. It is a year of testing the young players who never played in front of such a huge audience and never played with such a great opponent as Hungary. The game went on as we expected. The Hungarians have excellent individuals in each position, this team is fast, playing a good counter-attacking game. I tried to call my players'
attention to this but they couldn't prevent the Hungarian breakaways. But it is a good matter to analyze and our guys should learn from this experience."
Tony Azevedo (USA Driver)
"You know, it's a little bit strange for most of our young players to come to Hungary and play in front of thousands. A first game here is never an easy one, but we are getting used to it so I'm looking forward to the next game on Sunday."
Ryan Bailey (USA Two-Meter Man)
"This is the first time playing Hungary on Margaret Island in Budapest for most of our guys. This is a place rich with tradition and I think a lot of the team learned what playing level they need to attain."
Denes Kemeny (Hungarian Head Coach)
"First of all thanks to our fans for coming in such a large number. We were there to entertain them and I think they could be satisfied. After a day off, our players looked much fresher. They seemed to be happy to take part in this game. The only thing we should take care of is not committing those silly mistakes on defense. We will try to avoid them next time. I want
to underline that it was not an easy game from the beginning. It became easier than expected, but the U.S. has beaten the Russians and the Croatians as well!"
Rajmund Fodor (Hungarian player)
"It was much easier after a day of rest, everyone played with confidence, we had the right speed from the beginning to the end."