NEWPORT BEACH, California, May 30. A sold-out standing room only crowd of around 2,000 fans jammed their way into the Bergeson Aquatic Center on the campus of Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., to see the USA Men's Senior National Team fight valiantly before falling to top ranked Croatia 6-2. The game was the first of two exhibition contests for the two squads who have spent the week in common training and will meet again Saturday evening at Oaks Christian High School at 6 p.m.
Croatia wasted no time attempting to take the crowd out of the action finding the net just thirty seconds into the match to take a 1-0 lead on their way to building a 3-0 advantage at the conclusion of the first period. Three minutes into the second stanza USA got on the board as veteran center Ryan Bailey found the net to draw Team USA within a pair at 3-1. Croatia would respond with two more goals and pulled into halftime in front at 5-1.
The USA defense settled down in the second half anchored by Merrill Moses in net who turned aside some 12 shots for the night as they allowed just one Croatian goal in the third quarter, coming with 17 seconds remaining. In the fourth the defense kept at it pitching a shutout but the offense wasn't able to muster much. Peter Varellas put one home on a man advantage with 1:33 remaining but that would be all for Team USA on this night.
Notes: The game was a homecoming for USA center John Mann who attended high school ay Corona del Mar and is a Newport Beach native…Croatia Head Coach Ratko Rudic also made a return to the USA, Rudic served as Head Coach for Team USA at the 2004 Olympic Games…Tickets for the game on Saturday at Oaks Christian will be available for sale at the door one hour prior to game time.
Special thanks to USA Water Polo for contributing this report.