U.S. national team attacker Luca Cupido at Newport Harbor.

U.S. men's water polo shows promise but falls to Canada


NEWPORT BEACH The up-and-coming talent on the U.S. men’s water polo team surfaced a bit late Monday night against Canada at the FINA Intercontinental Tournament at Corona del Mar.

But after a dismal first half by Team USA, at least the promise arrived, sparking inspired play for the Americans in their opening match of the eight-nation tournament.

Canada eventually issued a response and claimed a 10-9 victory against its future Pan American Games rival.

Team USA plays Japan, a 14-9 winner against Argentina, on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Corona del Mar.

Jared McElroy (game-high four goals) scored from seven meters with 2:36 left in the fourth to snap a 9-9 tie and capitalize on a failed power-play by Team USA, which was the main nemesis for the Stars and Stripes.

McElroy fired from the point moments after the U.S. team sailed a cross-pass to Bret Bonanni (Mater Dei) at the far wing on an extra-man coming out of a timeout with 3:23 left. Team USA finished 2 for 11 with the extra attacker, including three chances that failed to generate a shot and one attempt blocked by a field a player after the goalie was excluded.

Canada finished 4 for 8 on the power-play, including a 4 for 4 start that charted a 7-3 halftime lead. But Team USA opened the second half with a 6-0 run that featured two strikes by rising Cal freshman Luca Cupido (Newport Harbor), who gave the Americans an 8-7 lead with 44 seconds left in the third.

Alex Bowen, another up-and-coming U.S. player, also scored twice in the surge. The Stanford senior scored on a spectacular perimeter strike over goalie Robin Randall's head to tie the score, 7-7, and gave Team USA a 9-7 lead with a power-play goal with 6:39 left in the fourth. But that was the final goal for Team USA.

Cupido finished with a team-high three goals and four steals for Team USA, which didn’t play Olympians Tony Azevedo (two goals, two assists), John Mann (Corona del Mar) and Jesse Smith in the final minutes.

During the final stretch, Team USA played Jackson Kimbell, Ben Hallock, Cupido, Bowen, Bonanni and Josh Samuels (Villa Park). Samuels finished with two steals and two field blocks while Kimbell, a sophomore defender from Stanford, had a goal and field block in the third.

Goalie McQuin Baron (Mater Dei) recorded 10 saves, including four in the third.

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