USA Water Polo Overwhelms Colombia 21-8 in Intercontinental Cup Play in Peru

usa-water-polo
Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya

USA Water Polo Overwhelms Colombia 21-8 in Intercontinental Cup Play in Peru

By Luis Olaya

With one-sided losses in his team’s first two matches of the 2022 FINA International Cup—by 21-5 to Brazil and 19-4 to Argentina—Colombia men’s assistant water polo coach Mario Ochoa knew that a match-up versus the undefeated American side was likely to be more learning experience than competitive contest.

That Columbia was at the wrong end of a 21-8 decision proved Ochoa right—though a strong second quarter demonstrated that his team is headed in the right direction.

“Our objective was clear,” the Colombian coach said after the match. “Every quarter was a new game for us, and we didn’t have to look at the scoreboard. In the second quarter we greatly improved the effectiveness of the passes and caused many exclusions.”

Even with a reduced squad for this tournament—the American men’s squad includes Olympians Hannes Daube, Drew Holland, Ben Stevenson and Dylan Woodhead to Lima along with younger prospects for their 2024 Paris Olympics effort—Team USA has been the class of both the men’s and women’s brackets. The American women, with Amanda Longan, the team’s sole representative from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, are also 3-0 in round-robin play after beating Brazil 13-5 on Wednesday.

In Wednesday’s game against the U.S. men, Colombia went down 1-0 in the first minute after a successful 5M penalty by Chase Dodd. Colombia’s Nelson Bejarano tied the match at 1-all 45 seconds later, but the Americans then rattled off five of the next six goals to lead 6-2 after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, we saw the best Colombia play of the tournament. They attacked American goalie Adam Weinberg more effectively, using good passing to and set up better shots—which landed. With four goals in the period—Carlos Sanchez, Enzo Salinas, Felipe Mora and Daniel Bueno all connected—the Colombians were cheered by a vocal crowd at Villa Deportiva Nacional. Even though they ended the quarter down 11-6, the Colombians fans encouragement was tireless. They knew that theirs was the weaker team but the fans in Videna recognized that their players gave their hearts in each attack.

Weinberg, in his first appearance with the USA Water Polo senior squad, and his mates pitched a near shutout in the second half, allowing two goals late in the third period before blanking their opponent for the fourth. The USA counterattack—led by Tyler Abramson and Evan Cain with four goals each—was a lethal weapon that hurt a Colombia team victimized by its own impatience.

In the end, their effort wasn’t enough, and the match ended in favor of the Americans. The United States was technically superior—converting 61% (21 of 34) of its shots with 18 assists—while the Colombians (34% on 8 of 23 shooting) had a difficult time finding enough space from the U.S. pressure to comfortably finish off their shots.

Still, this learning experience is invaluable for a team seeking to improve its play against more accomplished rivals.

“Participating in this tournament is a great experience that will allow us to learn a lot to improve our polo, which is under development,” Ochoa said about his team’s appearance at the Intercontinental Cup. “We have few chances to face rivals of such a high level, so it was a good opportunity for us.”

USA Water Polo Goals: 21 (6, 5, 6, 4) T. Abramson 4, E. Cain 4, M. Farmer 4, T. Gruwell 3, C. Dodd 2, S. Rhodes 2, B. Leichty 1, D. Woodhead 1

Columbia Goals: 8 (2, 4, 2, 0) E. Salinas 3, N. Bejarano 2, D. Bueno 1, F. Mora 1, C. Sanchez 1