Courtesy: USA Water Polo
BUDAPEST, Hungary – The USA Men’s National Team built a big lead and then held off a furious rally to defeat defending World Champion Croatia 11-10 at the FINA World League Super Final today. The victory gives Team USA the Group B title after going 3-0 in pool play competition.
Alex Bowen (Santee, CA/Stanford/NYAC) scored five goals in the match and was named game MVP. McQuin Baron (North Tustin, CA/USC/NYAC) piled up 14 saves in net. The win marked the first victory over Croatia in major competition since the 2008 Olympic Games. Team USA defeated Croatia last summer in an exhibition in Long Beach, CA.
Team USA will take on an opponent to be determined on Thursday in quarterfinal play currently scheduled for 1:45pm et/10:45am pt (subject to change). The match will stream LIVE on FINA TV, click here to watch (subscription required). Click here to watch a replay of the USA-Croatia match. For more information on the FINA World League Super Final, click here.
Croatia struck first to open a 1-0 lead before Team USA ran off three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead thanks to a Bowen goal with less than a minute to go in the quarter. The United States took a 3-2 lead early in the second and expanded it to 6-2 on goals from Johnny Hooper (Los Angeles, CA/California/LA Premier) Bowen and Luca Cupido (Santa Margherita, Italy/California/Olympic Club). After Croatia stopped the run with a goal, Max Irving (Long Beach, CA/UCLA/LA Premier) returned fire with a score at the halftime buzzer for a 7-3 lead at intermission.
The third quarter saw a scoring explosion as the teams combined for nine goals with Croatia closing to within two goals at 10-8 with 44 seconds left in the period. Bowen had an answer scoring with 14 seconds left to put Team USA ahead 11-8 going to the fourth quarter.
In the final period the USA offense went cold as Croatia held Team USA scoreless. On the other end Croatia mustered two goals closing to within 11-10 with a little over four minutes to play. The USA defense held the rest of the way, keeping the defending World Champions off the board to claim the 11-10 victory.
With time running out, how did @TeamUSA secure the win over Croatia? Two MONSTER field blocks 🖐️🖐️from @Amazing_Brick and @LucaCupido95. A reminder to keep your hand up on defense. (wait for the replay) #WaterPoloWednesday #WPWL18
— USA Water Polo (@USAWP) June 20, 2018
Team USA went 4/9 on power plays and 1/1 on penalty shots with Croatia going 4/16 on power plays and 0/1 on penalty shots.
USA – 11 (2, 5, 4, 0) A. Bowen 5, L. Cupido 2, H. Daube 1, A. Roelse 1, J. Hooper 1, M. Irving 1
CRO – 10 (1, 2, 5, 2) A. Vukiceivc 2, J. Vrlic 2, H. Benic 1, L. Fatovic 1, A. Setka 1, L. Milos 1, I. Krapic 1, J. Garcia 1
Saves – USA – M. Baron 14
6×5 – USA – 4/9 – CRO – 4/16
Penalties – USA – 1/1 – CRO 0/1