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U.S. men lose to Hungary, 9-8, at water polo World Championships

July 26, 2011 |  8:06 pm

U.S. Water Polo Coach Terry Schroeder has been sending reports from the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China. Here's his latest, after the team's loss Tuesday to powerful Hungary.

Hungary vs. the USA turned out to be a great battle that was fought hard down to the very end. After Team USA took a commanding 5-2 lead, Hungary fought back to tie the game, 5-5, and then took the lead. From there the momentum of the game seemed to swing back and forth. We would catch them and tie the game, and had a chance to take the lead, but we never again regained the lead.

The tempo was in our favor. We actually beat them six-on-six. Our defense was playing very strong. We came to played and played one of our best games since the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The underlying story of the game was the six-on-five and five-on-six. They scored five out of 11 and also had a penalty shot and we scored only three out of 11. Often in these big games that is where the games are won and lost, and Tuesday this proved to be our downfall.

In fact, in the fourth quarter we had four six-on-five opportunities. We scored on only once. The Hungarian goalie made a few very nice saves to shut us down. It was tough, and to make matters worse, on two of our power play opportunities Hungary came down and scored on the very next possession to make these in effect two-goal turnarounds.

The final score was 9-8 with Hungary moving on to the semifinals with Croatia, Serbia and Italy. We go into the fifth-through-eighth bracket and will play Germany again on Thursday.

As I reflect on the game there were many positives: we definitely played well enough to win in many areas. Our six-on-six defense was very strong. We had good intensity and Merrill [Moses] played a great game in the goal for us.

However, we made some individual one-on-one mistakes where we took bad exclusions (kickouts) and gave them a few easy goals. They even had one-on-nobody breakaway when we took a quick shot immediately off an ejection foul and their team captain [Peter] Biros broke away by himself.

Our little mistakes hurt us big as they usually do against a good, experienced team. 

Our five-man defense was actually pretty good, too. Hungary scored five of 11 times and we had them somewhat frustrated on their man-up opportunities. The real weak spot that sticks out is our six-on-five. 

As I have mentioned in the past, the six-on-five is the true mark of how well your team is working together. We scored on only three of 11 of our power plays. This is not a good percentage, and granted, some of our failure is due to Hungary’s great five-man defense. They move in and out on defense better than anyone in the world. Much of our failure in my opinion is just lack of time together. 

In the last few non-Olympic years, we have only had three to four weeks' training time together because of the European schedules that almost all of our players play. This year will be different.  All the players have agreed to stay home and spend the next year training together. Actually, the opening ceremonies in London are one year from today!

In order to make this happen we are going to have to raise some funds to help the players out. We will be having a major fundraiser in late September where all the funds raised will go directly to the athletes for training expenses. This will be critical to our success next summer.

As you can all see we are close to the top, but to climb to the summit is going to take a lot of hard work and time together. When we return to Thousand Oaks and resume our training at California Lutheran University we will be working hard towards the Pan American Games, which is our next opportunity to qualify for the London Olympics. The Pan Ams will be in October of this year and we need to win the gold to qualify. Obviously, we have lots of work to do before then.

For now, we need to focus on finishing strong here. Germany on Thursday and then, if we win, we'll play the winner of Montenegro and Spain for fifth place on Saturday. 

Time to get back to work and start preparing for Germany.  There's lots of video to watch and figure out how we are going to win.  

See you at the pool.

-- Terry Schroeder


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Photo: Hungary captain Peter Biros, bottom, scores on U.S. goalkeeper Marrill Moses during the U.S. team’s 9-8 quarterfinal loss at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai on Tuesday. Credit: Aly Song / Reuters