U.S. men reach quarterfinals at water polo World Championships
U.S. men's water polo Coach Terry Schroeder has been commenting on his team's performance at the World Championships in Shanghai. The top three finishers will qualify for the London Olympics. Here's his take on the team's victory Sunday over Canada.
We came to play. The team was excited to prove that they are ready to play at a high level here in Shanghai. We stressed defense and talked about playing tough man-to-man defense for 30 seconds (the entire shot clock). Our goal was to allow them no more them four goals.
We came out with great intensity and totally dominated the Canadians in all aspects of the game. At the end of the first period, we were ahead, 5-2, and at the half it was 11-2. We went on to beat them, 17-4.
It was a game when almost everything we did worked. Our defense frustrated the Canadians the entire game. They really had trouble doing much of anything. This is a key for us as we now advance to the quarterfinals against Hungary."
The Hungarians advanced first in their bracket. They had a tough bracket which included Montenegro and Spain. They beat Montenegro, 10-9, in the first game of the tournament and then beat Spain, 12-11, to win their bracket and earn the bye that all first-place finishers in the preliminary rounds earn.
In Beijing, the winners of pool play also received byes. Both teams (U.S. and Hungary) that received byes ended up advancing to the finals. The point is that in a long tournament like this that extra day off is a big advantage. If we look at it this way, Hungary may have the advantage.
However, for us we are just now working our way back into our game. The team feels pretty good about where we are. They are excited about playing defense again, which is something that has been missing over the past year or so. In fact, last year we gave up an average of 10.5 goals per game. In contrast, during the Olympic Games, we gave up an average of six goals per game prior to the finals when Hungary beat us in a shootout.
Our energy level is good. We were able to use all of our players pretty equally over the past few games so no one should be too tired. The hotel situation has worked in our favor, where we have not had to drive all over town two times per day for training. We have limited that to one off-site training and one training on site. The point is that we should not be too broken down going into this quarterfinal match. We should be ready.
Hungary came to our game as a team and watched us play. They are a pretty cocky bunch and they have certainly earned that to a degree. This is a team that has won the past three Olympic gold medals. They are good for sure but they are beatable.
This will actually be our first real meaningful match against the Hungarians since the gold-medal game in Beijing. I am excited. A berth to the London Olympic Games is at stake (it appears that Serbia will make the top four which means that all four teams in the top four will earn bids to the Games because Serbia is already qualified).
How do we beat Hungary? We have to be committed to playing our best defense. They have a team of sharp shooters. Lots of guys that can score the ball. We cannot get into a shootout with them and expect to beat them.
Our best game is a low-scoring game where defense is dominant. We want to make them score six-on-six from the perimeter. We need Merrill [Moses, the goalkeeper] to have a big game and we can’t give them any cheap goals -- we need to make them earn everything they get.
We can do this. It certainly will not be easy but it is not supposed to be. This is a team we need to beat if we are to have a chance to win a gold medal in London. There is no doubt that they will be in the final rounds in London. It is time to play with pride on defense. If we can hold them to six to seven goals we can definitely beat them.
[Monday] we will begin to focus in on what we need to do to beat these guys. We will be reviewing video for a good part of the day and we will also have one training where we will work on some tactics that will be key to our strategy to win. Game time Tuesday is 2 p.m. local time [11 p.m. Monday Pacific time].
See you at the pool.
Photo: Devon Diggle of Canada (white) and Ryan Bailey of the U.S. vie for the ball in their men's water polo quarterfinal match. Credit: How Hwee Young / EPA.