NEW YORK, NY, Sept. 24. IT was a grueling, physical, down-to-the-wire contest when the U.S. Men's National Team met up with Pro Recco, the Italian Professional League champions, in New York City today. Team USA played Pro Recco to a 7-7 tie through regulation, but the out-of-towners eventually got the better of the U.S. squad by way of a shootout, 4-3.
Approximately 500 spectators filled the George Delacorte 50-meter pool at Asphalt Green in the heart of New York City at 91st and York. With a large Italian population attending the match, there were plenty of red, white, and green flags to contrast the Stars and Stripes, making for a raucous and lively environment.
Team USA, which was not at full-strength due to the start of the men's collegiate season, added four players from the Northeast to its roster to fill out at 13. It played without the likes of Tony Azevedo, but looked none the worse for wear against the Italian
champs, who are widely regarded as having the world's best club program.
"We played a really smart and intense game for having taken a month off," said U.S. goalkeeper Merrill Moses, who played the second half and stopped eight shots. "It was good to see that we hadn't lost our competitive edge and that we could play so well against
the best club team in the world."
Team USA looked sharp early on, going ahead 2-0 on an extra-man score by Ryan Bailey and a goal off of an Adam Wright drive. Italy's Allesandro Calcaterra cut the margin in half with a goal of his own with 2:13 to play in the first quarter. Pro Recco evened the
score at 2-2 before quarter's end.
Pro Recco went up 4-3 early in the third quarter on a score by Vladimir Vujasinovic, but Omar Amr answered a minute later with a U.S. goal to tie it at 4-4. New York native Wolf Wigo broke the impasse with 54 seconds left in the period, drawing a roar from his
hometown crowd. But in the developing see-saw battle, Calcaterra managed another score after an Amr ejection at the 23 second mark.
USA big man Ryan Bailey put the U.S. up again to start off the fourth quarter, but Hungarian star Tibor Benedek found the net for Pro Recco with 4:46 remaining in regulation. Late call-up Dan Satchkov, who plays for the New York Athletic Club, rose to the
occasion, giving the U.S. the lead again at 7-6 with 3:08 on the clock. BUt Italy's Luca Giustolisi buried his only score of the day with just under two minutes to go, sending the game to a shootout.
Team USA only connected on three of its five attempts, while Pro Recco touched the net for four. Still, U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic was still pleased with his team's performance.
"We really didn't expect to play this well," he said, with Team USA having only met for a short swim and a meeting in the morning. "We gained great game experience this summer in the World All-Star tour, allowing us to do well in this kind of game."
USA two-meter defender Dan Klatt had a different view.
"I hate shootouts," he playfully jibed following the loss.
The U.S. team is scheduled to be back in action this December, with a Senior, Junior, and Youth North American tournament scheduled for play in Los Alamitos (Calif.) at the U.S. Water Polo National Aquatic Center.
United States 2 1 2 2 — 7
Pro Recco 2 1 2 2 — 7
. Pro Recco Wins by way of shootout, 4-3.
USA: Bailey 2, Beaubien 1, Satchkov 1, Amr 1, Wigo 1, Wright 1
Pro Recco: Caliogna 2, Calcaterra 2, Benedek 1, Vujasinovic 1, Giustolisi 1
Man Advantage Scoring
USA: 6 for 10
Pro Recco: 5 for 9
USA: Kerr 8, Moses 8
Pro Recco: Rollan 4