THOUSANDS OAKS, Calif – The United States Men's National Team hosted three of the globe's top ten water polo powers at an exhibition series in Thousand Oaks, CA last weekend and emerged with two wins and a tie - impressive results on the surface. But "exhibition" was a highly apt description of most of the competition.
Italian coach Campagna admitted on camera and off that he was trying new things with his squad, as were the Americans with the addition of newcomers Janson Wigo and Jeff Tyrrell to the roster. The European teams arrived just before matches began and it showed. Play lacked crispness and was often downright sloppy, while the referees seemed at odds and at times altered the pace of the game with confusing calls.
Some positive things stood out:
- Merrill Moses played very well in goal for the US with a key penalty shot block against the Germans on Saturday. He was the standout player of the weekend.
- The Montenegrins put on a show in the second half of the match against Italy, with power and precision completely lacking in their sluggish first half. They can be very dangerous in London if they qualify.
- Germany scarcely resembles their 2008 edition - a much better organized squad than in Beijing, and a laser shooter in Marc Politze.
- Without Tempesti - who sat out the match against the Americans with a fever - in goal the Italians suffer both in goalkeeping skill and defensive leadership.