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Originally published Friday, August 10, 2012 at 7:46 AM

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US will play for 7th in men's Olympic water polo

Felipe Perrone Rocha scored his third goal of the game with under a minute to play and Spain held on to beat the United States 8-7 on Friday in men's Olympic water polo.

Associated Press

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LONDON —

Felipe Perrone Rocha scored his third goal of the game with under a minute to play and Spain held on to beat the United States 8-7 on Friday in men's Olympic water polo.

Spain advanced to the fifth-place game Sunday against either Hungary or Australia, while the U.S., which won silver four years ago in Beijing, is left to play for seventh place.

"It's a difficult game to get excited for," coach Terry Schroeder said. "We're playing for pride, for character, and for the future of our sport in our country, and sending a message that we're not done, we're going to keep fighting. Unfortunately, we fought better, we did a little bit better offensively, but we came up short again."

The U.S., which came to London a title contender, was eliminated from the medals Wednesday with an 8-2 loss to Croatia. After that disappointment, the Americans didn't look like they wanted to be in the pool against Spain. They quickly fell behind 3-0 in the first quarter.

"It is a little bit hard, coming off a quarterfinal loss, to motivate," Jeff Powers said. "We wanted to win. It's just we didn't do it. Having your medal dream crushed is a little hard."

The U.S. battled back in the second and third quarters, and Layne Beaubien notched his second score of the game to pull the Americans within a goal at 7-6 with five minutes to play.

But Perrone Rocha put the game away. His long-distance shot hit the crossbar and bounced in off the back of U.S. goalkeeper Merrill Moses' head.

Regardless of what happens in the seventh-place game Sunday, London will be a massive disappointment for U.S. men's water polo.

With 10 players back from the team that took silver in Beijing, the Americans spent seven months this year training for London, believing that if any team could win the country's first Olympic gold in the sport since 1904, this was it.

The team started well in London, beating medal contender Montenegro 8-7, then played well enough to win its next two preliminary games, but those came against the group's weakest teams, Romania and Britain.

When they faced the tournament's top tier next - Serbia, Hungary and Croatia - the U.S. lost three straight, a streak that stretched to four Friday.

"We didn't want any of this to turn out like this," captain Tony Azevedo said. "We know we screwed up, we didn't play to our potential, so these last two games here aren't anything to learn from. If anything, it's a chance to give some of the younger guys on the team a chance. That's about it."

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Ryan Lucas can be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/relucasz.

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