Aug. 17, 2004
ATHENS, Greece - Former UCLA goalie Brandon Brooks helped lead Team USA to a 9-6 win over Kazakhstan Tuesday as the U.S. improved to 2-0 in Olympic play. It took almost 13 minutes before Team USA was able to officially pull out of Kazakhstan's rear-view mirror, but once U.S. captain Wolf Wigo (New York, NY/Stanford/New York AC) put Team USA on top in the first half, he and his squad stayed there to notch the U.S. men's second Olympic win with a 9-6 decision over Kazakhstan Tuesday at the Olympic Aquatic Centre Indoor Pool. Five straight U.S. goals blew the United States right past Kazakhstan and secured Team USA's second Olympic win for a 2-0 record in the grueling Group A. "It was a strange game," U.S. coach Ratko Rudic said. "Their first three goals were our mistakes, but they were also very lucky. We got them deep in the shot clock, they'd get off a bad shot and we'd have a bad defensive play. So the beginning was bad for us. Then in the second part of the game, they didn't play water polo. For them it was all wrestling, so I didn't know what to tell the players. It was bad. For us, the goal now is to forget this game and move ahead to play real water polo against Hungary." Team USA struggled to get any real offensive opportunities early in the game. Only 6-on-5 chances gave the USA an organized look at the cage. Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA/Stanford/Olympic Club) converted on one, and Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/Long Beach Shore) converted a pair, but Team USA was still stuck playing catchup once the Kazakhs took the first lead. Kazakhstan went ahead again at the 3:43 mark of the second quarter on a power play goal from Igor Zagoruiko, forcing the United States to figure out a way to score outside of the man advantage. And who better to take matters into his own hands than three-time Olympian Wigo? Wigo ripped in an even equalizer at 3:28 and then put his captain's touch on another U.S. 6-on-5 to grab the USA's first lead at 5-4 with 1:23 left in the half. For the first time, the U.S. missed on a 6-on-5 in the third quarter, but Chris Segesman (Santa Barbara, CA/Long Beach State/Los Angeles WPC) picked up a steal for Team USA on Kazakhstan's next trip down. Not wasting any time, Jeff Powers (San Luis Obispo, CA/UC Irvine/Newport WPF) drilled in a skipper from eight meters out to pad the U.S. advantage to 6-4. Thanks to several saves from goalie Brandon Brooks (Honolulu, HI/UCLA/Los Angeles WPC), that lead stuck, as Kazakhstan was held scoreless in the period. Wigo drilled in his third of the day with a ripper from six meters out, and then helped end Team USA's dry spell on the power play with a pass in to Dan Klatt (Fresno, CA/UC Irvine/Newport WPF) for his first Olympic score and a comfy 8-4 lead with 5:10 left to play. Kazakhstan finally ended the United States' five-goal scoring streak when Ivan Zaitsev skidded in a long one that made it 8-5 USA. A power play save from Brooks fed into the U.S. counterattack. Azevedo took the outlet pass and crossed to Wigo on the left side, where Wigo took the pass and blazed in his fourth goal of the game. Kazakhstan answered with a counterattack goal of its own when Sergey Drozdov went one-on-one with Brooks, but it was too late for a run, and Team USA had its second Olympic victory solidly under its cap.