After losing their first games in disappointing fashion, both Spain and the U.S. men’s water polo teams came into their match Monday needing a win to avoid a dreaded 0-2 start to the Rio Games.
Both teams battled numerous ejections to go back and forth in a tough defensive game. In the end, four unanswered goals for Spain in the third and fourth quarters was too much for the U.S. to overcome, as they fell to the Spaniards 10-9.
Spain’s Gonzalo Echinique scored the first three goals for his team in the opening quarter, helping to get off to a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. Echinique, however, was only able to help his team in the first half, as he was ejected for three exclusions just before halftime.
Ejections were troublesome for both teams in the game. Three Spanish players, as well as an assistant coach were sent out of the game. For the U.S., starting center John Mann was ejected just before the end of the third quarter, and Luca Cupido, who scored a goal in the first quarter, joined him late in the fourth.
Down two with a minute to play, Alex Bowen threw in a quick goal for the U.S. to bring his team within one. The American’s held Spain until Alex Roelse was called for an exclusion, restarting the shot-clock for Spain with 32 seconds remaining. The Spanish ran the clock out to give the US just two seconds of offense. Jesse Smith threw a desperation shot from half-pool, but Spanish goalkeeper Daniel Lopez Pinedo made the save as time expired.
The U.S. battled back from down two goals in the second quarter, scoring twice in the final minute and a half, including a goal by Alex Bowen with three seconds remaining, to head into halftime tied 5-5.
Bret Bonanni gave the U.S. their first lead with 3:54 remaining in the third quarter. That lead would last for less than a minute though, as Spain rattled off four straight goals, giving them their largest lead of the game with under four minutes in the contest.
American’s killer B’s Bowen and Bonanni had seven combined goals – three for Bowen and four for Bonanni – on 10 shots. Cupido and Tony Azevedo had the other American goals.
Merrill Moses saved 10 of 20 shots in goal for the U.S., including five saves on shots of more than five meters.
Echinique led Spain with three goals despite not playing the second half.
The U.S. will try to dig out of their 0-2 hole on Wednesday when they take on France (0-2) at 10:40 a.m. ET. Spain (1-1) will take on Croatia at 7:50 p.m. ET.