By International Polo Club. All photos © David Lominska/International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The second 26-goal final of the 2017 season was a tale of two games—the second instalment of which went a lot better than the first for Valiente, who turned around a lingering first-half deficit to win the 2017 USPA Gold Cup 9-6 over Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola came out blazing in the first chukker, looking fiercely determined as Julian de Lusarreta completed a slick run off a pass from Miguel Novillo Astrada to open the scoring. Shortly afterward Julio Arellano converted a safety to give Coca-Cola an early 2-0 lead.
With Arellano and “Dead-eye Diego” Cavanagh both exquisite penalty shooters at 68% and 72% respectively coming into the game, both teams needed to avoid fouling and providing penalty opportunities.
That remained the case through two chukkers as Valiente was held without a penalty attempt and Coca-Cola used strong teamwork to control open play. Coca-Cola shot at goal four times in the second chukker, converting two of those attempts.
Patrona Gillian Johnston finished off a Coca-Cola drive and de Lusarreta completed a knock-in play. Coca-Cola handily increased their lead to 4-1, putting pressure on a Valiente team that has rarely trailed this season.
Coca-Cola continued to do an effective job containing Matias Torres Zavaleta up front and not allowing Cambiaso to be unmarked at any time, but foul trouble allowed Valiente to make their way back into the game.
Four Coca-Cola fouls in the third chukker resulted in three penalty attempts for Valiente. Cavanagh converted two of them, while Astrada converted a penalty 2 for Coca-Cola. Valiente closed the gap and got back within two goals, trailing 5-3 at halftime.
Valiente emerged from the break invigorated and systematically began to seize control. Adolfo Cambiaso put a long shot through the goalposts from 60 yards out early in the fourth chukker to give Valiente all the momentum.
Cavanagh, the leading scorer in the tournament, proceeded to take over the game in the fourth and fifth chukkers. He made 4 consecutive goals—3 from the penalty line and 1 from the field—to bring his goal total for the game to 6 and turn a tense game into an 8-6 lead for Valiente.
Quiet throughout most of the game, Matias Torres Zavaleta took the ball from his own 60-yard line and used high-octane horsepower to run past the entire Coca-Cola team and finish off a long run. That gave Valiente a 3-goal lead as time was running out for Coca-Cola.
Valiente zealously protected their lead, committing no fouls in the sixth chukker and providing Coca-Cola with zero penalty attempts in the second half—a key factor in slowing the Coca-Cola offense.
Valiente converted all 3 penalty attempts and took advantage of Coca-Cola shooting 1 of 6 (17%) from the field in the second half.
Cavanagh was the leading scorer on the day with 6 goals. Cambiaso added 2 goals and Zavaleta had 1 goal in a strong team effort that leaves Valiente undefeated in 26-goal play this season.
Game report, stats and photographs provided by International Polo Club Palm Beach.