Men's Water Polo: Azevedo Leads USA Past China

John HoumesSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2008

While most eyes were focused on the China vs. U.S match-up on the basketball court, Yingdong Natatorium prepared for the same match-up in the pool. Seventh-place finishers from the 2004 Olympics, the U.S. water polo squad looked to take an early victory in a Group B prelim match.

Lead by Tony Azevedo's two scores, the USA ended the first quarter up 3-1.

China scored twice in the second quarter to even the score at 3-3.

In the last minute of the second quarter, the US called a time-out to take advantage of a power play situation and regain some momentum before halftime. Tony Azevedo scored his third goal during the power play to put the US up 4-3 at halftime.

Azevedo scored his fourth goal on a lob shot over goalie Wei Ching three minutes into the third quarter. Three minutes later, Layne Beaubien scored his second goal for the US on a power play, putting them up 6-3.

China had the final word in the third quarter as Wang Beiming scored in the last minute from the top right to lessen the US's lead, 6-4.

Team USA wrapped up a victory in the fourth quarter as goalie Merrill Moses blocked a shot by the Chinese on a power play, Tony Azevedo scored on a penalty shot, and the Chinese threw away a ball on another chance at a power play.

Jessie Smith scored in the last thirty seconds to give the U.S. an 8-4 win over China.

Team USA scored four of their eight goals on power plays. China was not able to convert from any of their power play opportunities.

Tony Azevedo ended up with five goals. U.S. goalie Merrill Moses had 11 saves and was an impressive force.

Wang Beiming lead the Chinese side with two goals.

All of the U.S.'s goals, besides Azevedo's penalty shot, were scored from shots outside the 2-meter position. If the U.S. is going to step up against tougher teams, like their Group B competitors Serbia and Croatia, they will have to work on their scoring from 2-meter man, Ryan Bailey.

The 2-meter position is much like the center in basketball. Bailey sets up 2-meters away from the goal with his back facing the goalie. He attempts to recieve passes and quickly turn and shoot or backhand the ball into the net. Establishing this will allow the perimeter shooters to be even more effective.

The U.S. faces Italy on Tuesday.