USA Men Advance to Gold Medal Final at FINA Intercontinental Water Polo Tournament

Photo Courtesy: FINA

The USA Men’s National Team punched their ticket to the 2017 FINA World League Super Final and earned a berth in the gold medal match of the FINA Intercontinental Tournament following a 20-6 win over New Zealand. Johnny Hooper (Los Angeles, CA/California/LA Premier) scored six goals and Zack Rhodes (Palm Desert, CA/Pepperdine/Waves WPF) recorded 10 saves in net in the victory. Team USA advances to meet Australia in the final on Sunday, with the time difference the game is at 10pm et/7pm pt TONIGHT. To watch live streaming of this game, click here. To watch a replay of the USA-New Zealand match, click here.

Match report from

United States of America eased into the final against Australia with a comfortable win over the Kiwis. USA managed to steal at will, pressing hard at all times, inflicting pain when wanted. This was evident in the third period when USA went on counter for four straight goals  in 90 seconds — three of them to scoring sensation Johnathan Hooper to bring his tally to five. New Zealand actually opened the scoring through captain Mathew Small, who is making a big impact here.

USA then scored seven of the next eight goals for 7-2 in the second quarter. Matthew Bryant sent in his second goal from downtown for the Kiwis for 7-3. It went out to 9-3 with Anton Sunde pulling one back only for Maxwell Irving to whip in a penalty goal to close the half at 10-4. Hooper netted four times in the third quarter to bring up six goals for the second time this week (also against China) and have his team 15-4 in front by the last break. New Zealand tightened up its defence somewhat in the final quasrter and after Hannes Daube let fly with a fiver-metre shot that appeared to be a double take, captain Small converted extra. USA did what it has done best here all week with conversions of extra-man attack to take the lead to 17-5.

The Kiwis were not without chances, one counter by Sunde screaming over the bar. Tiredness had well and truly hit and USA breezed home 20-6. That last goal went to Liam Paterson on counter when New Zealand had a two on one 10 seconds from time.

Max Irving (Long Beach, CA/UCLA/LA Water Polo) added four goals in the win. Team USA went 9/13 on power plays and 1/1 on penalty shots while New Zealand was 3/7 on power plays and did not attempt a penalty shot.

“The game against New Zealand gave us another opportunity to give our guys off the bench more minutes in the water and just another chance to play together and work together. I think the first two games of this tournament, in particular, we were a bit nervous, but we’ve begun to build over the days and grow in confidence. We only have two Olympians on the roster right now, so our younger guys, in particular, were able to get some quality game time. It’s been enjoyable to see us taking advantage of the playing time and experience.  We have four high schoolers on this team and they are getting some great minutes. We made some huge mistakes against the Aussies — some match-up issues, so we need to clean that up defensively. We would like to be able to slow them down more. I think again our younger guys were a little nervous and hopefully tomorrow they’ll be a lot calmer.” Alex Rodriguez, Team USA Assistant Coach.

USA 20 (5, 5, 5, 5) J. Hooper 6, M. Iriving 4, A. Roelse 3, H. Daube 2, A. Molthen 2, N. Carniglia 1, N. McConnell 1, J. Ehrhardt 1
NZL 6 (2, 2, 0, 2)
Saves – USA – Z. Rhodes 10
6×5 – USA – 9/13 – NZL – 3/7
Penalties – USA – 1/1 – NZL – 0/0

USA 8 Australia 12 – April 28

The USA Men’s National Team suffered their first loss at the FINA Intercontinental Tournament dropping a 12-8 decision to Australia. Johnny Hooper (Los Angeles, CA/California/LA Premier) and Hannes Daube (Long Beach, CA/Orange Lutheran/North Irvine WPC) each scored two goals while Alex Wolf (Huntington Beach, CA/UCLA/Bruin) recorded four saves in net.

From 2-5 down three minutes into the second quarter, the Aussie Sharks struck back with a vengeance, led by the hulk of a captain Joe Kayes. The former New Zealander who honed his trade in Hungary, Kayes was an inspiration, especially with his second goal at 0:35 in the third, gaining the ball on counter, taking the 5m shot and scoring and then remonstrating with his defender. It was a match that Australia owned and fellow Olympian Jarrod Gilchrist and goalkeeper Ed Slade were the stars of a team that shone all night.

USA had the better of the start after Australia led through Olympian Jarrod Gilchrist, such a standout player this week. Hannes Daube reversed the lead before Kayes equalised with a centre-forward backhand late in the period. Daube fired in his second in a three-goal spurt for USA with captain Alexander Obert clambering for a goal over slow defenders for 4-2. Johnathan Hooper, a leading goal-scorer this week, scored on counter and USA was safe at 5-2.

It all changed in the next five minutes as James Fannon and Gilchrist on extra; Lachlan Hollis from the left brought the match level. Nathan Power, who so cruelly had to withdraw from the Rio Olympic team with injury, gained the ball from Kayes to take the 6-5 lead by halftime.  Gilchrist and Kayes took it to 8-5 in the third and Ashworth Molthen responded for 8-6. Kayes took the ball on extra and scored off a five-metre shot at 0:02 for the 9-6 three-quarter advantage. Luke Pavillard made it a four-goal lead on extra from deep right.

USA awoke and started to get on the road train with two quick goals from Matthew De Trane cross-cage and Marko Vavic from outside. Australian Olympian Johnno Cotterill made the trip up from Sydney for his first match and was kept busy all over the field. He had the honour of scoring a 4:44 penalty goal for 11-8. USA peppered the Aussie goal to no effect and went to a timeout at 2:36, still enough time to level the match. Nothing came of that while Kayes netted his fourth with an unrushed goal from two metres on extra at 0:30 to settle the encounter in the Sharks’ favour. Team USA went 1/3 on power plays with Australia going 4/5 and neither side attempting a penalty shot.

“We came out with a lot of energy and we knew it would be a tough game. We scrimmaged with them last week so we had an idea of what they were going to do. They came into our zone and we pressed the ball hard. I think we just had some slight mistakes that can be easily fixed. We were alert but relaxed after the early lead. If we meet them in the final we will probably keep it similar and fix the little things.” – Hannes Daube


USA 8 (2, 3, 1, 2) J. Hooper 2, H. Daube 2, A. Obert 1, M. Vavic 1, M. De Trane 1, A. Molthen 1
AUS 12 (2, 4, 3, 3)
Saves – USA – A. Wolf 4
6×5 – USA – 1/3 – AUS 4/5
Penalties – USA – 0/0 – AUS – 0/0
USA Water Polo and FINA both contributed to this report. 
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Thomas A. Small
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