As for the final match of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games the United States came in hot following a 10-5 defeat over Serbia in the semi-final match but struggled on this day to contain the sharp shooting of Hungary. It was a back and forth game in the early going as Team USA found themselves in a shootout with one of the top offensive teams in the world. Hungary took an initial lead at 1-0 just 37 seconds into the game but that was answered about a minute later when Peter Varellas (Moraga, CA) cashed in on a player advantage to tie the score at 1-1. USA then grabbed the lead when following another Hungarian exclusion Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA) found the cage for a 2-1 score. Hungary answered with a tally to tie the game at 2-2 in what would become a very high scoring first quarter. JW Krumpholz (Santa Ana, CA) drew a five meter penalty on a following US possession and Azevedo connected to make it 3-2 Team USA.
Hungary tossed in two straight scores to rebuild a lead at 4-3 but that was short lived as Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA) received a pass in at two meters and delivered a gem of a backhand to tie the score at 4-4. Hungary closed out the period with two straight goals to again take a lead this time at 6-4. The United States continued to show resiliency in the first half as to open the second quarter Jesse Smith fired a laser in from six meters out to draw within 6-5. From there a Hungarian kickout at 5:44 led to Azevedo scoring his third goal of the evening following some solid passing. Again Hungary countered as they would all evening with back to back goals and led 8-6. USA was up for the task when Layne Beaubien (Coronado, CA) lit the proverbial lamp at the 3:52 mark to draw within one at 8-7. Azevedo came calling again moments later with his sweetest score of the evening, a nifty lob that hit the post and trickled in tying the game at 8-8. Some confusion occurred towards the end of the quarter and the Hungarians took advantage of a quick restart to score with just one second left in the half taking a 9-8 lead into intermission.
The third quarter got off to a good start for the United States when Beaubien took a feed following several great passes and buried the ball into the cage for a tie game at 9-9. That score however would signal the beginning of a scoring drought for the United States while the Hungarians remained hot. It was a low scoring quarter in all with just three goals notched but the last two came from Hungary as they went up 11-9 with 3:10 left in the period. At that point USA goalie Merrill Moses (Palos Verdes, CA) who had struggled at times was lifted in favor of Brandon Brooks (Honolulu, HI). Brooks would go on to post four saves in a little over a quarter of action.
Into the fourth the game went with Hungary at 11-9 and then they began to add to their lead. Using exclusions against the United States to their benefit Hungary scored three straight goals over the course of nearly six minutes of the quarter to take a 14-9 lead. The scoring drought for Team USA ended at over 13 minutes of game play when Smith came through with a goal to the left side making it 14-10. At that point only 1:28 remained in the contest and the lead was insurmountable. Hungary moved on with the 14-10 victory and the Gold Medal while the United States completed a tremendous run at the Olympics winning their group and posting a 5-2 record. After entering play ranked ninth in the world they will leave Beijing at second place in the world.
"For us this is an amazing accomplishment, in 2001 we were in 11th place and nobody quit, we stuck together and our only goal as been to get back to the podium and that was accomplished with all of us playing as a team." Tony Azevedo - U.S. Olympic Team for Men's Water Polo.
"We never got into any kind of rhythm defensively, we went 5/5 to start on extra man but the flow of the game was not in our favor, you can't be in a shootout with these guys." - Terry Schroeder, Head Coach, U.S. Olympic Team for Men's Water Polo.
"To see this team grow has been a wonderful experience not just as water polo players but as people. I wanted that gold for them as much as anyone but I think when you put it in perspective it's a great accomplishment. To see them step up there on that podium I know there were some tears in my eyes, kind of like a proud father watching his children. - Terry Schroeder, Head Coach, U.S. Olympic Team for Men's Water Polo.
USA - 10 (4,4,1,1) T. Azevedo 4, L. Beaubien 2, J. Smith 2, P. Varellas 1, R. Bailey 1
HUN - 14 (6,3,2,3) Da. Varga 3, P. Biros 3, De. Varga 2, N. Madaras 1, T. Kasas 1, G. Kis 1, T. Molnar 1, G. Kiss 1, T. Benedek
Saves - USA - B. Brooks 4, M. Moses 1 - HUN - Z. Szecsi 7, I. Gergely 2