Team USA men will attempt to rebound from a mixed opening round loss to Croatia in which they earned an early two-goal lead while giving substantial playing time to their two 18-year old newcomers, Thomas Dunstan and Ben Hallock. USC sophomore McQuin Baron spelled starting goalkeeper Merril Moses for the entire second half. Croatia pulled away from the Americans to earn a 7-5 victory.
Some observers questioned the decision to replace Moses, who finished the first half with 10 saves. USA Head Coach Dejan Udovicic has said publicly he has no intention to bury the newcomers on the bench, but also admitted that an opening round win over Croatia was less important than beating Spain, Montenegro and France in their remaining group play matches.
Spain is next for the USA on Monday. The Iberians appeared to have beaten Italy on Saturday only to squander a tight lead at the end of the match. An observer close to the American team was confident they were a better team than Spain. Chances are that confidence will be buttressed by greater playing time for the team’s most experienced players, thought there’s no guarantee. Udovicic clearly has a long-term vision for the program that may not adhere to conventional wisdom.
Some Day 1 observations:
- Serbia completed a steady if unspectacular comeback to earn a 13-13 draw with Hungary in their opener on Saturday. Olympic openers are often poor measures of a team’s state since they often have no bearing on tournament strategy. But there were a few signs of vulnerability for the world champions.
- Japan nearly defeated Greece in what would have been a stunning upset on Saturday. Despite the 7-8 loss the Japanese continue to harass opponents with their unorthodox high-press defense, which may attract more serious attention from coaches. In a game that has largely homogenized at the highest levels in the past decade it is entertaining – at least – to see such a deviation from the norm.
- Australia made noises about their medal aspirations before the games but looked outclassed against Brazil on Saturday. The home team showed a much improved level of play overall and clearly enjoyed performing in front of a boisterous group of supporters.