COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, February 13. TEAM USA is looking to carry momentum from its first place finish at the 2006 ASUA Cup into Melbourne next month when they compete against 15 teams for the coveted title of World Champion. With a roster boasting 13 internationally seasoned athletes, including eight from the gold medal ASUA Cup team, Head Coach Ricardo Azevedo is looking to advance Team USA's international ranking by securing a top four finish. Since the inception of the FINA World Championships in 1973, USA has only made it to the medal rounds in two out of 11 events. This year, armed with a fast tempo and an aggressive press defense, Team USA is ready break out of its bracket and earn the distinction of becoming the first USA team to make it past the semifinal rounds since 1991.
"ASUA Cup demonstrated the strength of our team," Azevedo said. "but World Championships will be the real test of our distributed training program."
With nine of their core athletes playing in European leagues, six in residential training and five balancing college with weekend training, Azevedo has only had 14 athletes from his 18 team training roster together on a regular basis to train for the upcoming tournament.
"With our distributed roster, we have had to become innovative in terms of our team's training regimen," Azevedo said. "Our coaching staff has developed a series of videos and written material to ensure every member of the training squad has access to the same information. In doing so, we've been able to track each athlete's development and determine the best fit for our World Championship roster. This format worked well for us at ASUA Cup and we are confident that the additional substance we've put in place will once again provide a successful outcome."
Azevedo, who was hired in 2006, brings with him 24 years of experience working with the National Team programs, including working as assistant coach for the 1996 and 2004 Men's Olympic Teams. After four World Championship appearances as assistant coach, this will be Azevedo's first time as head coach. Assisting Azevedo on the deck will be assistant coaches Ryan Brown and four-time Olympian and Hall of Famer Dr. Terry Schroeder. During Schroeder's career as a national team player, Team USA finished second to Yugoslavia at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and placed fourth at the 1986 and 1991 World Championships. The team also captured the 1991 FINA Cup in Barcelona, downing longtime nemesis Yugoslavia in the title game.
This year's World Championship team is a mix of young and old, with seven Olympians back from the 2004 Summer Games including leading scorers Tony Azevedo, Jesse Smith and Jeff Powers. Ryan Bailey has had a great year and will manage the center position one more time with Merrill Moses and Genai Kerr adding depth to the team in the goalie position. In addition to these veteran players, Peter Varellas, Kevin Witt and Dreason Barry look to make their own contributions at their first World Championship event. Both Varellas and Witt have had successful seasons in Europe and should increase Team USA's score output with their ability to run a balanced offense. With his 6'10" frame, Barry has proven to be an unstoppable force at the post position and his power and speed will make him a difficult match up even against the most seasoned competitor.
At the World Championships, the USA Men will face Australia, South Africa, then Croatia in their bracket play. The top teams in each group will advance to the semifinals and then the final. The 14 day event will commence Monday, March 19th at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Center with the women's and men's competition alternating each day. The men's first game on Tuesday, March 20th is against Australia, the event host and a strong contender for this year's championship title.
2007 Men's World Championship Roster
Cap# Name Ht. Position Hometown Club
1 Merrill Moses 6'3" Goalkeeper Los Angeles, CA NYAC
2 Peter Varellas 6'3" R-Driver, LH Moraga , CA Savona, ITA
3 Dreason Barry 6'10" Defender Eugene, OR Newport WPF
4 Jeff Powers & 6'7" Center San Luis Obispo, CA Cremona ,ITA
5 Adam Wright & 6'3" Attacker Seal Beach, CA Civitavechia , ITA
6 Kevin Witt 6'1" R-Driver, LH Glendale, CA Valencia , ESP
7 Ryan Bailey ^& 6'6" Center Long Beach, CA Panonios , GRE
8 Tony Azevedo ^& 6'1" Attacker Long Beach, CA Cremona , ITA
9 Rick Merlo 6'3" Defender Fresno, CA Nervi , ITA
10 Layne Beaubien & 6'6" Defender Coronado, CA NYAC
11 Jesse Smith & 6'5" Defender Coronado, CA Mladost , CRO
12 Brian Alexander 6'3" Defender Santa Ana, CA Valencia , ESP
13 Genai Kerr & 6'8" Goalkeeper Imperial Beach, CA Long Beach Shore
alt John Mann 6'6" Center Newport Beach, CA NYAC
alt Spencer Dornin 6'5" R-Driver, LH Laguna Beach, CA Queensland, AUS
^ 2000 Olympian; & 2004 Olympian