Injury leaves US men's roster in flux
Last Tuesday marked the day for the US Olympic Men's Water Polo team to be announced. Or so we thought.
"We had every intention to come here today and announce 13 players that were to make up our Olympic team," men's national team head coach Terry Schroeder said. "However we had a pretty serious injury to one of our players, so based on that injury — and with respect to the process of selecting an Olympic team, in fairness to all the athletes and ultimately to give us the best chance to win that gold medal in London — we've decided to name 14 players today."
The 14 players will make up the 13 roster spots plus an alternate. The evaluation will extend a couple of more weeks when the team heads to Kazakhstan for the World League Super Final where all 14 players are expected to see action.
The injury that threw the process for a loop was a concussion sustained by center J.W. Krumpholz when he was hit in the head by a teammate's shot during warmups of the team's match in the World League prelims last month. Krumpholz was out of the pool for two weeks and has had limited action in the past two matches.
Krumpholz, a member of the 2008 Olympic team, says he feels "great" and no longer has any effects of the concussion. Schroeder says the final cut will "more than likely" come down to Krumpholz and center John Mann, as one of two centers the team will take to London along with Ryan Bailey.
"One thing I worry about is myself," Krumpholz said. "As long as I put myself in the best situation to make the team, then hopefully I will, just like last time."
Mann was an alternate on the 2008 team and hopes his fortunes change this time around.
"A lot of people would think (being an alternate) would be a really cool experience, but you don't compete for your country, you don't get to compete for your team, so that's heartbreaking," Mann said. "It's something that builds a fire inside of you and wants you to keep going and keep fighting."
Although the spotlight is on Krumpholz and Mann, Schroeder says he's talked to "six, seven" players about needing to see more from them.
The national team will enter London as the reigning Olympic silver medalist. The US finished second in Beijing for the third time in program history.
The Americans have made strides recently by beating three-time defending Olympic gold medalists Hungary in a training match for the first time in 10 years. They also picked up a win over Croatia for the first time since the 2008 Olympics.
The team representing the United States in London is a veteran squad that features two members who will be making their fourth Olympic team: team captain and attacker Tony Azevedo and Bailey. They believe their experience will be a huge plus for the team to have success in London.
"We're a little more confident going into (London)," Azevedo said. "A lot of us have played together for over 13, 14 years.
"We all decided to stay together and train seven months nonstop to make sure that every little aspect is going to be perfect. I think that, as we showed two weeks ago, if we continue working harder and get that motivation, that when we play our game, we're the best team in the world."
The Americans will be in Group B along with Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Great Britain and Serbia. They'll open against Montenegro on July 29.
The USOC roster deadline is June 18. Schroeder is hoping to get an extension. The World League Super Final ends June 17, and the team will then head to Montenegro for five days of training. Schroeder wants to hold off on the decision until the team returns home.