The U.S. men’s water polo team came into Wednesday’s game needing a win to stay in the top 4 of Group B and move on to the quarterfinals.
Win they did, and in decisive fashion, taking down France 6-3 for their first victory in Rio.
A steady rain fell at Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, though that didn't quiet the loud American fans who packed the stadium and could be heard chanting "U-S-A" throughout the match. The pool water had also been turned a light green color, possibly the same issue that affected the diving pool a day earlier.
McQuin Baron got his first start in goal for the U.S., and was stellar, finishing the game with 11 saves on 14 shots. Baron had nine saves in the first half, and didn’t allow a single score from beyond five meters.
The U.S. went into halftime up 5-1, and that score would stay through the third. For the first time in the Rio game, an entire quarter went by without a single goal from either team.
Samuels struck again with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. After going more than 22 minutes without a goal, having not scored since 2:03 remained in the first, France finally found the net twice to bring the score to 6-3 with 1:48 to play.
France had a chance to cut the score to two and make a game of it, but U.S. defender Jesse Smith smacked a shot attempt out of the air, the final tally in a great defensive game for the United States.
Samuels finished with a game-high three goals on five shot attempts. Smith, Luca Cupido and John Mann notched the other goals for the U.S.
Now with a 1-2 record, the U.S. sits in a tie for third in Group B. They’ll need to keep winning, and will try for victory number two Friday against Montenegro at 10:40 a.m. ET.
France (0-3) will play Spain Friday at 7:50 p.m. ET.