US defeats Canada 18-6 to win Pan Am men's water polo gold and Olympic berth

LIMA, Peru — Canadian assistant men's water polo coach Brian Parillo grimly looked at his clipboard. The players sitting near him looked despondent. Their teammates in the water didn't have answers either.

And it wasn't even halftime.

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The United States scored 10 first-half goals en route to a comfortable 18-6 victory over Canada on Saturday. The win gave the Americans the Pan Am gold and a berth in next year's Tokyo Olympics.

"We were lacking a lot of stuff at the beginning," Canada's Nicolas Constantin-Bicari said by way of understatement. "Intensity, blocks and swimming."

The unbeaten Americans, ranked sixth in the world, put the 10th-ranked Canadians in an early hole with three quick goals and maintained that pace through the first half.

The U.S. took a 12-3 lead into the fourth quarter and the rout was on.

"We put all our energy in the right direction," said Alex Bowen, one of three Americans with five-goal efforts. "We really maintained composure, we didn't rush anything.

"We really played into our strategy and really worked everything through and took the last possible shot instead of the first possible shot."

The Americans edged Canada 13-11 in the preliminary round but were by far the superior team on this night.

Canada will get another chance to reach the Tokyo Games at a qualification tournament in March. The Pan Am silver matches the team's previous best from the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Constantin-Bicari and George Torakis helped anchor a Canadian side here with several Pan Am rookies. The big-game, high-pressure environment seemed to be a factor from the start.

The game slipped away early for Canada and it quickly became a one-sided affair.

"We had problems on the offensive side," said head coach Giuseppe Porzio. "We became nervous, we missed and we had no ability to play our style of play."

Canada couldn't seem to catch a break in the first quarter.

Matthew Halajian hit the post twice on one possession and Jeremie Cote fired a shot off the crossbar the next time down the pool.

Reuel D'Souza floated a lovely pass down low to Jeremie Blanchard for Canada's first goal. The Americans answered quickly with a goal that glanced off Aria Soleimanipak's arm and into his own net.

Two more American goals to open the second quarter forced Porzio to call a timeout. It didn't help.

The onslaught continued as the U.S. side picked the Canadians apart. The lone Canadian bright spot in the second quarter was Constantin-Bicari's brilliant no-look goal.

"This USA team is really organized," he said. "They were really focused, really calm, really patient. They buried their chances, especially early in the game."

Canada's Aleksa Gardijan scored early in the second half as play tightened up at the Villa Maria del Triunfo venue.

Late goals by Gardijan, D'Souza and Gaelan Patterson offered little consolation for a Canadian team that was expecting a better showing.

Benjamin Hallock and Johnathan Hooper each scored five times for the Americans. Maxwell Irving, Luca Cupido and Marko Vavic added singles.

The Canadians, who won bronze four years ago in Toronto, edged Brazil 8-7 in the semifinal to reach the gold-medal game. The Americans trashed Argentina 17-1 in their semifinal.

Brazil topped Argentina 9-6 for bronze.

The Canadian women's water polo team locked up a Tokyo spot earlier in the week.

Canada dumped Brazil 19-5 in one semifinal and the United States crushed Cuba 31-7 in the other. Since the Americans had previously qualified, the Olympic berth from the Pan Ams went to Canada.

The top-ranked Americans dumped Canada 24-4 in the women's gold-medal game earlier Saturday.

The Canadian women are ranked ninth.


Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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