Archrivals Valiente and Orchard Hill Claim Spots in 2017 US Open Final
Finalists were determined Wednesday for the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). In the semifinals defending champion Orchard Hill took a 10-9-overtime victory over previously undefeated Flexjet, and 2015 U.S. Open winner Valiente defeated Travieso (a team that made their U.S. Open debut this year) 16-6.
The first match of the day featured Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Nico Pieres) against Orchard Hill (Polito Pieres, Juan Chavanne, Facundo Pieres, Steve Van Andel). Flexjet demonstrated why they came into the game undefeated as they outshot Orchard Hill 5 shots to 1 to begin the game. Flexjet took an early 3-0 lead behind back-to-back goals from Nico Pieres, along with a goal from Rodrigo Andrade.
Flexjet controlled play through the first two chukkers, holding Orchard Hill to a single shot and only fouling twice (with neither foul providing Facundo Pieres with a penalty opportunity). The combination of defense without fouling gave Flexjet the edge as the game unrolled. The trio of Nico Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade played an effective game defensively, with two players always in the action and the other covering the back. That seemed to puzzle an Orchard Hill team that used the duo of Facundo and Polito Pieres to generate their offense.
Orchard Hill started to come alive in the third chukker, shooting at goal four times while holding Flexjet without a shot. However, Orchard Hill was only able to convert 1 of those 4 shot attempts as Facundo Pieres scored his first goal of the game to get his team back within one. A penalty conversion for Gonzalito Pieres pushed Flexjet’s lead back up to two heading into halftime in a low-scoring, back-and-forth affair.Orchard Hill celebrates the win.The close game continued in the fourth chukker as Flexjet continued to keep Facundo Pieres off the penalty line—all the while holding him without a single attempt. They traded one field goal each with Polito Pieres scoring his first and Gonzalito Pieres scoring his second of the game. The fifth chukker was full of excitement from the first throw as Facundo Pieres scored back-to-back goals from the field, while also converting his first penalty attempt to give Orchard Hill their first lead of the day at 6-5. After Andrade tied the game back up at 6, Nico Pieres would drive downfield with time expiring and put the ball through the goal just as the horn sounded to end the fifth chukker. That gave Flexjet a one-goal lead heading into the sixth chukker.
The game tightened up in the sixth with both teams committing 3 fouls each, allowing Facundo to convert both of his penalty attempts. That gave Orchard Hill a two-goal lead with 2 minutes remaining. However, a penalty 5 near center for Flexjet resulted in Andrade’s third goal of the game. With less than a minute left, Flexjet won the throw-in and picked up a foul, sending Gonzalito to the penalty 2 line where he would convert to send the game into overtime. Orchard Hill had more opportunities throughout the game but were only shooting 38% from the field, compared to Flexjet’s 58%.
An extended overtime saw exciting runs and a foul by Orchard Hill, giving Flexjet a penalty 4 opportunity to send their team to the finals. Unfortunately for them, the penalty 4 wasn’t converted as overtime went on. On the next throw-in Facundo Pieres won the ball in the front of the line-up, approximately 200 yards from goal. He used superior horsepower to run downfield and finish off the run with a final tap for his game-leading eighth goal of the day—and his 100th goal of the season—to send Orchard Hill to the U.S. Open Finals to defend their 2016 title.
Valiente Vanquishes Travieso 16-6Valiente: Best Playing String in US Open.The second semi-final match saw Travieso (Teo Calle, Sebastian Merlos, Mariano Gonzalez, Alfredo Capella) face Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh, Adolfo Cambiaso) to determine which team would face Orchard Hill in the final on Sunday. After their first loss in 26-goal events last week, Valiente bounced back in a big way, dominating play from the first throw-in. Cambiaso found Cavanagh on a nice pass to open the scoring, and that goal was quickly followed by Cambiaso scoring from approximately 70 yards out. Cambiaso wasn’t done there, as he added another goal to give Valiente a 3-0 lead.
Hard work from Cavanagh providing picks and blocks for Cambiaso was making a huge impact as Cambiaso had more space than normal and given the time, there may be no better player at picking an opposing team apart from the back position. To go along with 3 goals of his own, Cambiaso helped set up Cavanagh for two goals from the field as well as Zavaleta for one goal as Valiente stretched their lead. Cavanagh added three penalty goals to give Valiente a 9-3 lead heading into halftime. Travieso was led by Mariano Gonzalez scoring all 3 goals, 2 from the penalty line and 1 from the field. But as a team Travieso was struggling to get to Cambiaso to provide pressure, and when they did he often found Cavanagh or Torres Zavaleta downfield.
Valiente continued the pressure to start the fourth chukker as Adolfo shot from over 100 yards out to put one through the post and Travieso had no answer for the balanced Valiente attack that seemed to be moving straight downfield with each attack. A nice goal from patron Teo Calle got Travieso on the board to start the fourth chukker as Travieso picked up a bit of momentum. Gonzalez made an amazing save on the goal line, taking the ball out of the air on a long Cambiaso shot. But after Gonzales driving it downfield, Cambiaso stole the ball and promptly ran it in for his fifth goal of the day.
Valiente was too much from the start as they outshot Travieso 26-9 and never allowed them to make a run. Seven goals from Cavanagh, 6 from Cambiaso and 3 from Torres Zavaleta resulted in a big 16-6 win for Valiente, setting up a rematch of the 2016 U.S. Open final against Orchard Hill.The final takes place Sunday at 3 p.m. All games in the 2017 US. Open are being live streamed on the USPA Polo Network: uspolo.org.
Game report, stats and photographs provided by International Polo Club Palm Beach.