US Open Players in Round 2: What They Bring to the Party
The first round of games in the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship® this week saw a comeback overtime win for Valiente against Orchard Hill (12-11), a single-goal win for Flexjet over Audi (10-9), and another strong performance from Coca-Cola as they held on to defeat Travieso (11-9).
In this Sunday’s games all six teams have one or more of the world’s top players, each of whom is capable of single-handedly pushing his team to victory. Here’s a look at how the odds stack up for the teams and what each player brings to the April 9 triple-header at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).
Game 1 (10 a.m.) - Audi (0-1) vs. Orchard Hill (0-1)
In the first game of the day at 10 a.m., Audi (Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Magoo Laprida and Alejandro Novillo Astrada) faces off against Orchard Hill (Polito Pieres, Juan Chavanne, Facundo Pieres, Steve Van Andel). Audi has a balanced line-up with three 8-goal players. In their first game they applied constant pressure that resulted in 17 shots at goal. Audi uses Marc Ganzi, averaging 1 goal per game, as a threat downfield for a pass. He converts just under 50% of his shot attempts, making him a popular target. Nic Roldan was one of the leading scorers at 6 goals per game in the 20-goal tournaments earlier in the season, with 68% accuracy from the penalty line and 5 throw-in wins per game. The highest-rated player on his team in the 2017 Ylvisaker Cup, Magoo Laprida joins Audi in a different role where he can look to pass forward and block for his teammates. Laprida is also a strong offensive player in his own right, converting 67% of his shot attempts at goal. Alejandro Novillo Astrada made his 2017 season debut Wednesday. He provided a strong presence for Audi in the #4 position, playing effective defense and driving forward to score 3 goals on 6 shot attempts and leading the team with 8 throw-in wins.
Orchard Hill features two 10-goal players in the Pieres cousins (Facundo and Polito), who generate an offensive attack that is one of the best in the world. One of the 26-goal leaders with 3 goals per game from the field, Polito Pieres shoots often at goal, 33 times through 6 games (including 9 shots at goal in the first game of the U.S. Open). He has been able to convert 55% of those chances. Juan Chavanne joined Orchard Hill at the beginning of the USPA Gold Cup® and works hard to provide space for Polito and Facundo to operate. In their opening game of the U.S. Open, Chavanne provided some offense, scoring 3 goals from the field on 6 shot attempts, creating another option offensively. That will make Orchard Hill even more dangerous if Chavanne can continue that offensive output. Facundo Pieres constantly proves why he is one of the best players in the world, averaging 6.2 goals per game in 26-goal events. He has shot an amazing 86% from the penalty line, including a perfect 18-for-18 on penalty 2s and 3s. Facundo also provides extra possessions for his team, winning 7.8 throw-ins per game, with those extra chances often turning into scoring opportunities. Patron Steve Van Andel rarely comes forward and instead plays a strong back position using skilled riding and positioning to guard the back end for Orchard Hill. That provides the freedom for the other three players to attack, knowing that Van Andel is protecting from behind.Game 2 (noon) - Coca-Cola (1-0) vs. Valiente (1-0)
Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Julian de Lusarreta, Julio Arellano and Miguel Novillo Astrada) are playing their best polo as of late, winning the Butler Handicap final as well as making the USPA Gold Cup® final. A consistent receiver downfield, patrona Gillian Johnston pushes the team forward, shooting at goal 2.4 times per game and converting 44% of those chances. A breakout game in the Butler Handicap final saw Johnston score 5 times, a great sign for Coca-Cola moving forward. Julian de Lusarreta has had an exceptional season, leading all players with 103 throw-in wins to go along with 2.7 goals per game from the field. De Lusarreta often provides the offensive spark for Coca-Cola, shooting at goal 90 times through 17 games. He is a major threat in every game. Julio Arellano has excelled from the penalty line, converting 68% of his chances while also adding 2 goals per game from the field on 60% shooting. Miguel Novillo Astrada is one of the strongest players defensively, always in the correct position to slow the opponent’s attack. Recently he has added more offense to an already dangerous Coca-Cola team, adding 2.5 goals per game on extremely effective 71% shooting. Coca-Cola is 4-1 in their previous five games heading into another tough match-up against Valiente.
Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh and Adolfo Cambiaso) came into the U.S. Open with an undefeated 6-0 record in 26-goal events, taking the C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Gold Cup® titles. They won their first U.S. Open game against Orchard Hill to move to 7-0. Nobody knows his role better than patron Bob Jornayvaz, who impacts the game immensely with his ability to provide perfect blocks to provide space for Cambiaso and Cavanagh to work. Only fouling 1.3 times per game while being that involved in the play makes Jornayvaz a highly valuable player for Valiente. Matias Torres Zavaleta has been a bright spot for Valiente, averaging 2.3 goals per game on 56% shooting. He plays an intense style that has resulted in 3.5 fouls per game, but he makes up for it as a strong receiver downfield with the ability to score at any time in the game. With Zavaleta’s injury in the last game, Pablo Spinacci came in, playing a strong defensive game for Valiente and generating a different dynamic. Without Zavaleta, more of the offense will go through Cavanagh and Cambiaso moving forward. Diego Cavanagh has had a breakout season, averaging 6.4 goals per game to lead all players in 26-goal events. He shoots 76% from the penalty line, helping Valiente capitalize on any penalty chances they receive. The work from Cavanagh and Zavaleta has allowed Adolfo Cambiaso to play more of a quarterback position where he controls the offense, passing and driving forward at the precisely the right moment. Still one of the leading scorers from the field at 3.1 field goals per game along with 6.7 throw-in wins per game, Cambiaso’s ability to anticipate play is second to none and must be seen live to fully appreciate how much he impacts each and every game.Featured match (3 p.m.) - Flexjet (1-0) vs. Travieso (0-1)
Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Nico Pieres) displayed good chemistry on the field. Gonzalito and Rodrigo have joined forces on many previous Audi teams, while Nico and Pieres have frequently competed together in Argentina. Patrona Melissa Ganzi won two throw-ins in her opening game while stretching the field, providing an option downfield for a pass and consistently moving the ball downfield when opportunity arises. Rodrigo Andrade always seems to be in on the action, evidenced by his 4.4 throw-in wins per game. Extremely difficult to take the ball from, Andrade is effective near goal, scoring 10 goals on 18 shots (56%). He also does a lot of work blocking and riding off opponents to open up space for Gonzalito and Nico. Gonzalito Pieres hasn’t quite hit his stride from the penalty line, converting 57% of his chances, but he is still an offensive force for Flexjet with 4.8 goals per game thus far in the 26-goal season. Nico Pieres made his 2017 debut Wednesday, flying in from Dubai to add to a strong Flexjet team. Nico consistently hit long balls from the #4 position to his teammates downfield and was able to convert two goals of his own in the opening game. The trio of Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Nico Pieres will be a tough combination for any team to defend against.
Travieso (Teo Calle, Sebastian Merlos, Mariano Gonzalez and Alfredo Capella) is a newly formed team that made their debut in their opening game against Coca-Cola. Teo Calle was active throughout the game, including an amazing tip-in for his first goal on a safety that was going wide. Available downfield, Calle can be effective in finishing off runs for goals. Sebastian Merlos often controls the flow of play for his team. He is a force of nature with the ball and knows when to drive forward or pass downfield. He shoots approximately 50% from the field and penalty line and wins close to 4 throw-ins per game, making him a player to watch for Travieso. Mariano Gonzalez joins Travieso after a strong season with Goose Creek. One of the best penalty shooters in the game at 73% for the season (including an impressive 61% on penalty 4s), Gonzalez often plays above his 7-goal handicap. He uses efficient play to help his team, as evidenced by his 56% shooting from the field as well. Along with Merlos, Gonzalez has also been exceptional on throw-ins, averaging 5.9 throw-in wins per game, one of the highest rates among all players this season. Alfredo Capella comes in at 9 goals, and his impact can be seen by his powerful shot that often carries close to 150 yards. He can provide instant offense from the back position, setting up breakaways for his teammates. He also showed his ability to drive the ball himself, finishing off a long run in the sixth chukker of his opening game. Travieso will need to limit the impact of the Pieres brothers in the back to be successful Sunday.Game report, stats and photographs provided by International Polo Club Palm Beach.