NEWPORT BEACH, California, May 27. BEHIND a game-high six goals from Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/NYAC), and a strong defensive effort, the USA Men's National Team defeated Hungary 12-9, at a jam packed Newport Harbor HS. Team USA never trailed in their first win over Hungary in 10 years, a victory that witnessed 12 saves from Merrill Moses (Palso Verdes, CA/Pepperdine/NYAC) and five different goal scorers. A day after going just 2/13 on player advantages, the United States was stellar, posting a 10/16 conversion rate on power plays.
Less than 24 hours after falling to Croatia by a goal on Saturday evening, Team USA came out hitting on all cylinders as they took a 1-0 lead a little under two minutes into the match, when Jeff Powers (San Luis Obispo, CA/UC-Irvine/Newport WPF) followed a missed shot and buried the ball for a score. Hungary answered on the next possession, but that only seemed to ignite the USA offense. Azevedo scored his first of the day on the next USA possession to put his team back in front, 2-1. 90 seconds later, Tim Hutten (Seal Beach, CA/UC-Irvine/Newport WPF) got inside two meters for a power play goal and the United States was up 3-1. At the 2:28 mark, Azevedo scored again, on a power play, and the red, white, and blue were in front 4-1. Hungary came back with a power play goal on their next chance, but Powers was there to respond as he whipped a shot past the keeper following an ordinary foul to build a 5-2 lead with :33 left in the period. A shot by Jesse Smith (Coronado, CA/Pepperdine/NYAC) on a breakaway, as the quarter wound to close, barred out, but the United States remained in command 5-2.
The second quarter belonged to the United States on both ends of the pool. Team USA kept the high scoring Hungarians off the scoreboard for the entire period while adding two goals of their own. Twice Peter Varellas (Moraga, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) found the cage on power plays and the United States surged to their biggest lead of the match, 7-2, going into halftime. Hungary came out refocused to start the third period, scoring two of the first three goals of the quarter, sandwiched around another Azevedo score, to close within 8-4, with 2:45 left in the third. Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA/Stanford/NYAC) had a response with a power play score and it was 9-4 in favor of Team USA with 1:04 to go. Hungary scored again moments later to get back within four, but with just four seconds left in the period, it was Azevedo once more hitting on a power play score for a 10-5 USA lead after three.
Hungary looked to mount one final rally and it came early in the fourth period. The Hungarians scored twice to open the quarter, closing the gap to 10-7, with 6:23 remaining. That would be as close as they would get, the USA defense would keep Hungary off the board for the next four minutes. Azevedo continued his offensive onslaught with a power play goal with 5:36 to go in the game. He put the match away with his final goal of the day, another power play score with just 1:44 left, building a 12-7 lead. Hungary would score two late goals, but they did not factor in the decision.
Notes: Hungary went just 4/12 on power plays while Team USA converted 10/16. Neither team attempted a penalty shot. Newport Harbor High School was at capacity with an estimated 1700 fans on hand. The match was a rematch of the Gold Medal final from the 2008 Olympics, a 14-10 win by Hungary. In the last four years the two teams only met in one major championship, the 2011 FINA World Championships, a match won by Hungary, 9-8. The win over Hungary was the first since a victory in FINA World League play in a match held at the SODA Aquatics Center on July 26, 2002 in Moraga, CA.
The match was aired live on NBC Sports Network and will replay tomorrow (Monday) on Universal Sports at 3pm est/12pm pst. Hungary will take on Croatia tomorrow (Monday) at Newport Harbor High School at 8pm est/5pm pst. The three team series continues later this week. Team USA will meet Hungary on Thursday, May 31 at 10pm est/7pm pst at UCLA and then the action concludes with USA and Croatia on Friday, June 1 at 10pm est/7pm pst at Rose Bowl Aquatics. The USA match on June 1 will be webcast live on UniversalSports.com.
USA 12 (5, 2, 3, 2) T. Azevedo 6, J. Powers 2, P. Varellas 2, L. Beaubien 1, T. Hutten 1
HUN 9 (2, 0, 3, 4) M. Vamos 2, T. Varga 2, P. Biros 2, G. Kiss 2, T. Kasas 1
Saves – USA – M. Moses 12 – HUN – L. Bakas 2, V. Nagy 4
6×5 – USA – 10/16 – HUN – 4/12
Penalties – USA 0/0 – HUN 0/0
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