Valiente and The Daily Racing Form-DRF Bets Advance to Finals of 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship
The highly anticipated semi-finals of the 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship saw dominant performances from the two remaining undefeated teams as The Daily Racing Form-DRF Bets (DRF) defeated U.S. Polo Assn 11-8 and Valiente defeated Flexjet 17-9 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The first semi-final saw a resurgent DRF team finding their elite form against a U.S. Polo Assn that struggled to find their attacking style, putting them in a large deficit early in the game. DRF displayed an efficient scoring attack in the first half, converting seven of their first eight shots, led by 10-goaler Hilario Ulloa’s five goals. The potent attack of DRF left U.S. Polo Assn on the defensive throughout the majority of the match as they produced just two shots in the first four chukkas. The foul troubles of DRF continue to be their Achilles heel throughout the tournament as they committed 15 fouls, to allow U.S. Polo Assn to stay within reach in the game but their effective shooting won out in the 11-8 victory.
From the opening throw-in, DRF displayed a relentless attack, scoring three unanswered goals in the 1st chukka and another three goals in the 2nd chukka to build a commanding 6-0 lead. U.S. Polo Assn found the scoresheet in the 3rd chukka when Alejandro Novillo Astrada was fouled in the goal mouth, resulting in a penalty 1, but DRF quickly responded with two more goals, one each from Ulloa and Jared Zenni to hold an 8-1 lead at the half. The inability of U.S. Polo Assn to generate shot opportunities from the field, despite 10 fouls from DRF was a result of DRF quickly regaining possession and using their defensive proficiency to begin their counter-attacks.
The 2nd half developed into a different game, as U.S. Polo Assn sharpened their defence and clawed back onto the scoreboard by continuing to draw penalties from DRF. Committing only half as many fouls as the opening half, DRF were punished more severely for their fouls as U.S. Polo Assn was sent to the penalty line six times in the final three chukkas, where Juan Martin Nero was able to convert four. Along with a three-goal 5th chukka, with two of those goals coming off the mallet of Astrada, U.S. Polo Assn had a glimmer of hope to potentially tie the game up, reducing the deficit to four. In the end DRF’s dominant 1st half performance secured the win as they held on until the final whistle to book their spot in Sunday’s final and await the winner of the second semi-final.
With just two games standing between Valiente’s perfect 26-goal season, they displayed their offensive prowess in one of their most impressive performances to date, scoring 17 goals against Flexjet to cruise to the eight-goal victory. The two 10 goalers in Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres had their way in the game as they were left unmarked numerous times throughout the game to contribute to Pieres’ impressive 11 goal performance, along with four goals from Cambiaso. An accurate attacking display from Valiente was a result of their ruthless counter attacking to take advantage of any Flexjet errors and continuously put goals on the scoreboard.
The opening chukka was played at a breakneck pace with Valiente converting four of their five shot attempts to quickly build a three-goal lead against a Flexjet team that looked a step behind. Keeping Flexjet off the penalty line, Valiente controlled possession in open play scoring six goals from the field and forcing Flexjet into difficult positions defensively that resulted in four penalty goals for Facundo Pieres. Converting just two of their six shot attempts, Flexjet found themselves trailing 10-2 at halftime, facing an eight-goal deficit against the undefeated powerhouse of Valiente.
In the 2nd half Valiente continued to pressure Flexjet and attack the goal rather than get complacent over the final three chukkas. Any doubt of the outcome was removed in the fifth chukka as Valiente added five more goals to their total, two of which came from the penalty line as Facundo Pieres completed a perfect day from the line, converting all six penalty attempts. With 17 goals in just five chukkas of play, Valiente had all but secured the outcome. Not risking injury in the final minutes while holding an 11-goal lead, Valiente rode out the game, as Flexjet fired eight shots at goal. An efficient Valiente attack took advantage of an unorganized Flexjet defence to continue their undefeated run and reach Sunday’s final against DRF in the final game of the 26-goal season.