By International Polo Club. All photos © David Lominska/IPC.
The highly anticipated matchup between Orchard Hill and Valiente to begin the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship® lived up to the hype as it was a close, physical game that came down to the final seconds.
The first two throw-ins to begin the game were swiftly taken in for goals, with Polito Pieres opening the scoring for Orchard Hill and Adolfo Cambiaso immediately answering back to tie the score.
A penalty 2 for Facundo Pieres, followed by field goals from Jota Chavanne and Polito Pieres, gave Orchard Hill 4 goals in the opening chukker. However, 3 Orchard Hill fouls resulted in Diego Cavanagh converting both penalty 2 attempts to keep his team within 1.
Valiente lost a key member in Matias Torres Zavaleta to injury midway through the first chukker. Zavaleta has been having an incredible season and has more often than not appeared to play above his handicap.
Fellow 6-goaler Pablo Spinacci was tasked with being his replacement, and he carried on with strength throughout the game. Although he didn’t provide the same offensive spark as Zavaleta, he was very active on defense, constantly pressuring Facundo Pieres.
That largely contributed to Facundo’s inability to score any field goals all day, ultimately a big factor in the final outcome.
Coming into the game, both Facundo Pieres and Cavanagh were two of the best-ranked penalty shooters at 78% and 72% respectively.
For either team to be successful, they would need to keep one of them off the line. Valiente was successful in doing so, only providing Facundo Pieres with two penalty attempts for the entire game, while fouls became an issue for Orchard Hill, who committed 16 fouls throughout the game.
The game was tied at 6 at halftime. It came down to the final chukker with Orchard Hill having an 11-8 lead. Then Cavanagh and Cambiaso both scored from the field, along with a Cavanagh penalty goal, to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Although Orchard Hill had been winning the open play battle throughout the game, a foul early in the 7th chukker placed Cavanagh on the penalty 3 line, and he converted to give his team the overtime win.
Cavanagh finished with 9 goals to lead Valiente, while Polito Pieres had a strong game finishing with 6 goals, all from the field, to lead Orchard Hill.
The 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship® continues Thursday, April 6 at IPC with two games. Flexjet plays Audi at 11 a.m. on field 4, and Coca-Cola opposes Travieso at 5 p.m. on Isla Carroll East.
All games in the U.S. Open are being live streamed on the USPA Polo Network: uspolo.org.
Game report, stats and photographs provided by International Polo Club Palm Beach.