U.S. Men Exact Measure of Revenge, Beat Japan in FINA Intercontinental Cup Match

Alex Bowen of the U.S. Men's Senior National Team. Photo Courtesy: USA Water Polo

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

In an extremely taut match yesterday on the other side of the world, the U.S. men’s water polo team pulled away from Japan in the fourth quarter behind goalie Alex Wolf and a strong defensive effort, giving the Americans a hard-fought 12-10 victory. The win—their third at Auckland’s Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre—puts them at the top of their group in the 2018 FINA Intercontinental Cup in New Zealand.

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The win also gives the U.S. a small measure of revenge for a 15-7 shellacking at the hands of the Japanese in the 2017 FINA World Water Polo Championship, a loss that was not only the American’s first-ever to Japan but led to a program-worst 13th place finish at FINA Worlds.

A pair of Alexes—Bowen and Obert—each notched hat tricks for the American, with single goals registered by Hannes Daube, Ben Hallock, Johnny Hooper, Max Irving, Chancellor Ramirez and Alex Roelse.

For Japan, Seiya Adachi—who last year in Budapest torched the U.S. for a career-high seven goals—Kenta Araki and Kohe Inaba each delivered two goals apiece.

A difference in the contest was the Japanese hit on 6 of 18 opportunities with the man advantage while the Americans were a tidy 7 of 14 on their power-plays.

Alex Bowen. Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Underscoring just how important this contest meant to the Americans, U.S. Head Coach Dejan Udovicic was red-carded with less than four minutes remaining in the match, causing assistant coach Alex Rodriguez to step in and guide Team USA, which at the time was nursing a narrow two-goal lead. With less than two minutes remaining, Hooper nailed a power-play goal to give his team a 12-9 lead, making a goal by Inaba with the man advantage one minute later meaningless.

The Japanese jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, creating anxiety for American fans watching from afar. But back-to-back goals by Obert got the U.S. right back in the match, and the first frame ended up 3-3. In the second the two teams continued to trade goals, with a power-play goal by Bowen being the difference for the Yanks, who led 7-6 at the half.

After Udovicic inserted Wolf (9 saves) in the U.S. cage, the entire team picked up defensively. The Japanese scored only one even-strength goal in the half—a break-away goal by Keigo Okawa—and three goals with the man advantage. The American’s ability to field block, coupled with strong netminding by the UCLA sophomore, allowed the U.S. to break out to a two-goal lead on a Bowen power-play score with less than a minute remaining. With two seconds remaining, Inaba converted with the man advantage to narrow the Americans’ lead to 10-9 entering the final period.

The win assures the Americans that—with one final match to be played against China later today—they will finish on top of Group A and be one of two top seeds for the tournament’s knockout round, which will begin tomorrow.

2 Comments

2 comments

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      Hi:

      Of course! My job is to share what I find (and respond to any comments that might arise). I will confess to cherry-picking stories from this tournament—the US women losing to Australia and the US men beating Japan have significance (to me).

      We’ll have to see it that significance translates into something more.

      Your correspondent

Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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