What started as a tough defensive battle in the first half turned into a scoring spree in the second as Croatia defeated the U.S. 7-5 in the first round of men’s water polo.
Tony Azevedo opened the scoring midway through the first quarter to give the U.S. an early 1-0 lead. The teams went goal-for-goal from there until the end of the first half where they went into the break tied 3-3.
Team USA switched goalies to start the second half, replacing veteran Merrill Moses with newcomer McQuin Baron. Moses stopped seven of 10 shots in the first half.
Croatia’s offense flourished in the second half, scoring four unanswered goals through the fourth quarter. Baron had four saves on eight shots in the second half.
Team USA’s lone goals in the second half came at the beginning of the third quarter and with under two minutes left in the game. Azevedo hit a bounce shot three minutes into the third quarter, and Alex Roelse notched a goal with 1:45 remaining in the contest. Four of Team USA’s five goals came with an extra man.
Azevedo had two goals, and Roelse, Alex Bowen and Bret Bonanni had one goal each for the U.S.
Maro Jokovic and Andelo Setka led Croatia with two goals each. Croatia’s goalkeeper Marko Bijac saved 13 of 18 American shot attempts, including nine saves on nine shots from beyond five meters.
The U.S. will return to action Monday when they play Spain at 10:40 a.m. ET.