Aug. 19, 2004
ATHENS, Greece - The U.S. men's water polo team absorbed its first loss of the 2004 Olympic Games at the hands of reigning World and Olympic champion Hungary. UCLA senior Brett Ormsby scored scored his first Olympic goal and former Bruin goalie Brandon Brooks made 11 saves in the losing effort. The U.S. got some stellar defense and cage play against Hungary's 6-on-5 but failed to convert on several key player-up chances of its own en route to a 7-5 loss. U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic was pleased with his team's play but sees the need for improvement on the player advantage. "We played very well and were very disciplined," he said. "We actually dominated most of the game but we have to analyze our 6-on-5 problems. Our 5-on-6 defense was excellent because we prepared all week for Hungary with a special, specific defense." Whatever the plan, it looked to be paying dividends early with Team USA matching the World Champs goal for goal. Early in the first quarter, Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/Long Beach Shore) disrupted a Hungarian breakaway by knocking the ball away from lefty Peter Biros. Biros was kicked out in transition, but Azevedo's 6-on-5 attempt sailed wide of the cage, keeping the score locked at zeros. The doughnut was finally straightened out when USA resident big man Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA/UC Irvine/Newport WPF) took a pass from Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA/Stanford/New York AC) at the four meter line and put it past his defender and Hungarian keeper Zoltan Szecsi to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Hungary evened the score on a putback goal by Rajmund Fodor at the 2:04 mark, but the U.S. jumped ahead less than a minute later on a player-up skip goal by Olympic rookie Brett Ormsby (El Cajon, CA/UCLA/Bruin WP). Hungary cashed in on a 6-on-5 of its own the next time down, with Norbert Madaras putting the finishing touches on the play from the lefthanders' position. Just past the midway point in the second quarter, Team USA was whistled for back-to-back exclusions, first on Ormsby, then on Chris Segesman (Santa Barbara, CA/Long Beach State/Los Angeles WPC). Hungary made good on the ensuing 6-on-4 opportunity, getting a second goal from Madaras to take a 2-1 lead. The U.S. came down to earn an ejection the other way, but Beaubien's shot was hauled down by Szecsi, sending Hungary out on the counter. Hungary seized its first lead of the game on a penalty throw by Tamas Kasas, a skip into the low right corner, at 1:25 to make it a two-goal game. Azevedo cut that lead to a goal with a player-up score six meters out on the right side at 1:06, but Hungary pushed the advantage back to two on the scoreboard with a goal from the right post by Tamas Varga. With just three seconds left in the half, Azevedo rifled a long, crosscager into the high left corner to pull the U.S. to within one at the break. USA goalkeeper Brandon Brooks (Honolulu, HI/UCLA/Los Angeles WP) made his bid for play of the day at the 4:35 mark in the third quarter, stuffing a 1-on-nobody breakaway by the always deadly Biros. Biros was denied by Brooks again on the next trip down, this time from the perimeter, sending the U.S. on a counter. Madaras was excluded in the front court, prompting U.S. head coach Ratko Rudic to take a timeout. After the x's and o's session, the U.S. worked the clock well, but turned the ball over on an attempted pass into the hole. Gergely Kiss got into the act for Hungary late in the frame, burying a man-up goal from the perimeter to send his squad out to a 6-4 lead. In the final ticks, Azevedo worked for inside water and got tackled from behind for a whistle that never came, keeping Hungary with a two-goal lead heading into the final quarter. On Hungary's first possession of the fourth quarter, Segesman was called for his third and final exclusion of the game, drawing some protest from Rudic on the bench. Rudic was awarded a yellow card for his outburst, but the U.S. managed to stop Hungary on its attack. Brooks rose to the occasion again at 4:27, making another 6-on-5 stop in the low right corner. Team USA drew an exclusion on the ensuing possession and got a score from out on the perimeter by Jesse Smith (Coronado, CA/Pepperdine/New York AC) to close the gap to 6-5. Later in the quarter, Brooks stifled another Hungarian player-up chance with a block of Hungarian lefty Kiss to keep it close, but Varga's man-up conversion at 1:27 put Hungary back up by two. A field block and a save by Szecsi on a Team USA player advantage in the final minute helped keep the momentum in Hungary's favor. USA captain Wolf Wigo's (New York, NY/Stanford/New York AC) delivery in to Ryan Bailey at two meters was intercepted with 37 seconds left. Hungary drew an ejection in transition and played keep away for the remainder to hold on for the 7-5 victory. Asked whether he thought Team USA's play would help earn the respect of the other teams in the tournament, Ryan Bailey replied: "For me, respect doesn't matter. I want to win. I really don't care what the other teams think about us." The U.S. finished the game 3 for 11 in the player-up department. "In our power play situations, we need to spread out, and we're going to have to make better passes and take better shots," said Bailey. The win pushes Hungary to 3-0 in Group A, with group games still remaining against Kazakhstan and Russia. Team USA goes to 2-1 and is looking ahead to games with Russia (Saturday, Aug. 21) and Serbia and Montenegro (Monday, Aug. 23).