The U.S. men’s water polo team hung tough with Montenegro for three quarters and looked like they could make a run for the win in the final eight minutes.
That run wouldn’t be meant to be though. In the opening minute of the fourth, Alex Roelse was sent off for a match exclusion, forcing the U.S. to play man-down for four minutes. Montenegro capitalized on the man-down situation, scoring three goals on their way to an 8-5 win over the Americans.
The game was a must-win for the U.S. for them to have any hope of controlling their own destiny and reaching the top 4 in Group B. Now, with just one game left in group play, the U.S. (1-3-0) is all but eliminated from qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Montenegro had a slight 2-1 lead at the end of the first quarter, and both teams failed to find the net in the second, taking that same lead into halftime.
Missed shot opportunities were an issue for the U.S. all game. In the second quarter alone they had three shots hit the goal post. Montenegro’s goalkeeper Milos Scepanovic didn’t give the Americans any room either. Scepanovic had 13 saves on the night, including going a perfect 10-10 on U.S. shots attempts from beyond five meters.
The U.S. had just one shot attempt on extra player opportunities, and missed from long-range 18 times.
Up 4-3 heading into the fourth quarter, Montenegro had a penalty shot saved by U.S. goalkeeper Merrill Moses, but after the ball went out of bounds they regained possession and was able to find the net on the next shot.
U.S. driver Luca Cupido kept his team within a goal after getting a steal and swimming all the way down the pool for a break to evade a defender and put the ball in goal to make the score 5-4 with just over five minutes remaining.
Montenegro answered less than 30 seconds later to go back up two.
Josh Samuels scored his second goal of the game for the U.S. with three minutes remaining, but again Montenegro answered on the next possession to never let the U.S. get a chance at tying the game.
Defensively, the U.S. had eight steals and two blocked shots, both from Cupido who added three steals. Moses saved seven of 15 shot attempts on the night.
The U.S. will finish group play Sunday when they take on the No. 1 team in Group B, Italy, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Montenegro will face Spain at 11:50 a.m. ET.