Valiente and Flexjet Advance to 2018 USPA Gold Cup Final
Two exciting semi-finals in the 2018 USPA Gold Cup at the International Polo Club Palm Beach saw Valiente face on of their toughest tasks yet as they narrowly defeated Tonkawa 9-8, while Flexjet defeated The Daily Racing Form-DRF Bets (DRF) 10-9 to advance to Sunday’s final.
Facing each other for the second consecutive game, Tonkawa provided a stronger performance to challenge Valiente but were unable to stop individual runs from Facundo Pieres, with Pieres accounting for eight of the nine Valiente goals in the game. Inaccurate shooting from both teams kept the score close but set play dominance from Valiente in the second half, winning 9 of 11 throw-ins, gave the always potent Valiente offense the extra possessions they needed to separate themselves from Tonkawa. Ultimately, the opportunity was present for Tonkawa to put an end to Valiente’s undefeated run through the 26-goal, but it was the inability of Tonkawa to convert their chances at goal, shooting just 29% from the field that proved to be the difference in the one goal victory for Valiente.
The Tonkawa attack started strong in the game, completing a good team goal that was finished by Julian de Lusarreta, but that was the only offense they were able to generate as Valiente controlled possession and willing to shoot from distance. The missed Valiente shots put pressure on the Tonkawa knock-ins as they struggled to get past an organized Valiente defense. Yet missed opportunities from Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso led to Tonkawa holding an early 3-2 lead with Sapo Caset scoring both Tonkawa goals in the second chukka. After Valiente restored a tie score by halftime, the momentum of the game changed in the fourth chukka as Pieres and Cambiaso scored goals in quick succession to open the half and ended the chukka with a long run from Pieres that seemed to deflate a Tonkawa team trying to stay within reach. Preventing Tonkawa from scoring a field goal for the second consecutive chukka stretched Valiente’s lead to 9-5 with one chukka remaining. Tonkawa made a valiant effort to tie the game, scoring three quick goals, the third goal being a penalty 2 conversion from Caset with just under two minutes left but Valiente was able to hang on in the final seconds to complete the 9-8 victory and capture the first spot in Sunday’s final.
The second semi-final saw a narrow victory for Flexjet as they used a balanced offensive gameplan that saw Nico Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade all working together effectively to produce scoring chances throughout the game. Committing twice as many fouls as Flexjet, DRF was able to stay in the game behind their effective 8 for 12 shooting from the field, with Jared Zenni playing a strong game in support of 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa. In an otherwise close game, the third chukka proved crucial as Flexjet built a three-goal lead and used a strong defensive effort the rest of the game to limit the chances of DRF to complete the comeback, finishing with the 10-9 victory.
Early in the game, both teams were evenly matched as they scored two goals each in the first and second chukkas, with Flexjet producing more chances due to six DRF fouls but were unable to build a lead with DRF yet to miss a shot from the field. The foul trouble caught up to DRF in the third chukka as Gonzalito Pieres converted both penalty 2 attempts, while Nico Pieres completed a long run to give Flexjet a 7-4 lead at halftime. The pace of the game in the second half continued to be sporadic as the closely matched game saw six fouls in the fourth chukka, with neither team able to break way for open runs. Holding a three-goal lead, Flexjet was content to contain the 10-goaler Ulloa and limit the chances for DRF over the final two chukkas. After a foul put Ulloa on the penalty line, he was able to convert the penalty 2 for his first penalty goal of the game after missing his first two penalty attempts from the 60-yard line but ultimately it was too late as Flexjet held on for the 10-9 victory to set-up Sunday’s final against Valiente.