Young Brazilian Water Polo Squad Schooled by American Men in Intercontinental Cup Play

Photo Courtesy: Luis Olaya

Young Brazilian Water Polo Squad Schooled by American Men in Intercontinental Cup Play

By Luis Olaya

Tuesday at the Villa Deportiva Nacional pool a difficult task was in store for a young Brazilian men’s water polo team that has endured much the past few years, including an absence of competitive tournament play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Participating in these tournaments is key to getting into a competitive rhythm,” said Brazil head coach Bárbaro Diaz Cervantes. ““It’s the first competition we have [played] and is super important to get to know each other better and be able to see the boys in the pool.”

Composed of an uncertain mixture of youth and experience, the Brazilians jumped in against the United States for what ultimately was a one-sided American win by the score of 14-9.

Leading the way for Team USA were Chase Dodd, Sawyer Rhodes and Ben Stevenson with three goals apiece.

Rafael Real Vergara, who last fall as a junior at Long Beach State scored 66 goals, registered a hat trick for Brazil, as did Gustavo De Freitas.

Stevenson of the United States put his team ahead with a power play goal in the first minute, with Brazil’s Real responding to make it 1-1. Then the USA demonstrated their physical superiority, scoring eight of the next nine goals to make it 9-2 at the half.

The American’s advantage was such that a crowd of Colombian players—the American’s next opponent—spoke excitedly in the stands about the USA’s shooting power and ability to play water polo at a faster pace.

Cervantes’ team attempted to follow their game plan with little success, settling for misfired shots. Only Real and Gustavo Guimarães—a veteran of the Brazil’s brilliant run in the 2016 Rio Olympics—were able to beat American goalie Drew Holland.

Numerous Brazilian first-half attacks were repulsed by Holland, who again enjoyed a fabulous night, registering 13 saves a day after a 16-save effort in a 10-9 win over Canada.

[USA Water Polo Opens FINA Intercontinental Cup with 10-9 Win Over Canada in Rematch of 2019 PanAm Final]

In the second half of the water polo match, Brazil fought back but the closest they came was 13-8 on a goal by Real with a little over a minute to go. Stevenson, who propelled the American offense, was the man of the match.

Looking ahead, the Brazilian coach mentioned a match Thursday against Canada, which rebounded from its narrow loss to the U.S. with a 19-18 win over Australia Tuesday afternoon.

“We have a team with 2-3 experienced players,” Cervantes said about the immediate challenge of playing tough opponents. “The rest are new because we want to build a team for the future,”

USA  water polo Goals: (4, 5, 3, 2) S. Rhodes 3, C. Dodd 3, B. Stevenson 3, T. Gruwell 1, Q. Woodhead 1, D. Woodhead 1, J. Ehrhardt 1, T. Abramson 1

Brazil Goals: 9 (2, 0, 3, 4) R. Vergara Real 3, G. Freitas 3, R. Aghula de Freitas 1, B. Maizza 1, G. Coutinho 1