The U.S. men’s water polo team couldn’t snap out of its slump and fell out of medal contention on Wednesday with an 8-2 loss to Croatia in a quarterfinal game at the London Olympics.
The Americans came into the game after being beaten by Serbia and Hungary by 11-6 scores. Against Croatia, they couldn’t get anything going offensively and were a miserable 1 for 15 on power plays.
“There are a lot of good teams here and we played three of them in a row,” U.S. coach and San Marcos High alum Terry Schroeder said. “Today we did few things well, but in the six on fives we didn’t do well. The five-men defense was very strong, but we scored one from 15 in six on fives, and it’s tough to win that way. We could have done a better job in the last three games.”
Schroeder guided the U.S. to a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. The team opened the London Olympics winning its first three games.
“The Olympics is a pretty amazing thing, happening once every four years and you have to be at your peak for those two weeks,” Schroeder said. “For whatever reason, we started out well and we were strong against Montenegro, but after that we seemed to be a little bit up and down. We never found our rhythm and probably the belief in ourselves either.”
Team USA fell behind 5-0 at halftime, closing out the half scoring with a fifth power play goal, the second of the day for Paulo Obradovic. The Americans had chances following that fifth goal but failed on three consecutive power plays.
In the third things started to click for the Americans as they put together back to back goals from Bailey and then Varellas, on a power play, to draw within 5-2 with 3:30 remaining. Croatia responded with a power play goal at the 1:39 mark to go ahead 6-2. They would add another score with just four seconds remaining in the period for a 7-2 lead.
“They executed their game plan and we didn’t execute ours,” goalie Merrill Moses said. “The bottom line is that they played better. The game comes down to six on fives, that is what our coach always tells us. Their goalie played very well and it was their day, not ours.”
The U.S. will play Spain in a fifth-place semifinal on Friday while Croatia advances to the championship semifinals against Montenegro.
USA WOMEN’S WATER POLO: Kami Craig and the Americans will play for the gold on Thursday against Spain. Team USA is looking to improve on the Silver Medal it brought home from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.