Eerily similar to their female counterparts’ game against China a day ago this contest went back and forth throughout. Italy struck first just thirty seconds into the game with a score which seemed to jolt Team USA as they quickly found themselves in a 1-0 hole. Some two minutes later following an Italian exclusion Peter Varellas (Moraga, CA) fed Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, CA) who was cruising towards the cage for a goal and it was tied at 1-1. Then with 2:29 remaining in the period first-time Olympian Tim Hutten (Seal Beach, CA) got on the board with a direct shot from about six meters to give Team USA the lead at 2-1 at the end of the first period.
In the second period it was the United States that struck just thirty seconds in as following another Italian exclusion Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, CA) has his shot deflected in by an Italian defender and USA was in front 3-1. Italy came right back scoring consecutive goals within two minutes to tie the game at 3-3, the last coming following an exclusion on Azevedo. In a game of runs the United States would put together another scoring two straight goals courtesy of two more first-time Olympians. The first came at center when JW Krumpholz (Santa Ana, CA) took a feed from Varellas right in front of the cage and buried the shot. At the 1:31 mark in the first half Rick Merlo (Fresno, CA) painted the left corner of the net with an outside shot and USA was holding a 5-3 lead at halftime.
As to be expected the start of the third quarter started with another rally, this time by Italy as they surged back into the game courtesy of two straight goals by Valentino Gallo and the game was tied at 5-5. Bailey would draw a five meter penalty which Azevedo cashed in to go up 6-5 but that was short lived with Gallo scored again for Italy to tie the game at 6-6. USA countered with a pair of goals, first from Adam Wright (Seal Beach, CA) with 4:56 remaining and then from Powers on a counter attack at the 4:13 mark. Italy scored with just under two minutes to go in the quarter and it was an 8-7 advantage for the United States going into the fourth.
USA looked to put this one in the books early when Peter Hudnut (Encino, CA) scored during a rare 5 on 4 scenario that started with a double kickout followed by a second exclusion for Italy. Powers followed with a score less than a minute later and Team USA was rolling at 10-7. Italy halted the good times with two straight goals and with 4:37 left in the period has closed to within 10-9. The United States always seemed to be able to keep Italy at bay however as Layne Beaubien used a player advantage to score making it 11-9, and then Powers hit for his third goal and it was 12-9 with just over three minutes left. There was no time to exhale with Italy scoring two straight goals drawing to within 12-11 at the 1:09 mark. The final seconds were frantic as Italy got the ball back with 24 seconds remaining and then drew an exclusion on the United States. Their last chance to score went awry however when a bad pass sealed Italy's fate as time expired.
Next up for the United States will be a matchup with Serbia on Thursday at 10:50am local time (7:50pm PST - August 13) at the Ying Tung Natatorium. Team USA last faced Serbia in the Gold Medal match of the 2008 FINA World League Super Final losing by a score of 7-3.
"I think that this one was critical, it puts us in control of our own destiny. It is just a huge win for us, we did give up some goals there at the end that we shouldn't have but overall it's a good win." Terry Schroeder - Head Coach - U.S. Olympic Team for Men's Water Polo
On balanced scoring: "It was great, that is what it will take for us to win. The 6x5 was a huge positive and alot of our young people did some good things today." Terry Schroeder - Head Coach - U.S. Olympic Team for Men's Water Polo
On Serbia: "They are the most talented team out there. They have a great center, their goalie is probably the best in the world, I think they are the strongest team in the tournament and this will be a very good test for us." Terry Schroeder - Head Coach - U.S. Olympic Team for Men's Water Polo
USA - 12 (2,3,3,4) J. Powers 3, T. Azevedo 2, T. Hutten 1, R. Bailey 1, L. Beaubien 1, R. Merlo 1, A. Wright 1, P. Hudnut 1, J. Krumpholz 1 ITA - 11 (1,2,4,4) V. Gallo 3, M. Felugo 3, A. Calcaterra 2, L. Sottani 2, L. Binchi 1
Saves - USA - M. Moses 6 - ITA - S. Tempesti 8
6x5 - USA - 5-8 - ITA 5-10