USPA Gold Cup: Round 1 Recap
The second leg of the Gauntlet of Polo™ began at the International Polo Club Palm Beach with eight games over three days, with all sixteen teams in action. Four brackets of four teams results in play within the bracket as the teams jockey for position to qualify for the quarter-finals.
A competitive group of four teams, the first round of play in Bracket 1 played out on Sunday, with Aspen defeating La Indiana in the opening game of the day. After conceding the first goal, Aspen led the rest of the game, with Polito Pieres and Lucas James working successfully together to generate a consistent Aspen attack. Along with the efforts of Tomas Schwencke defensively, Aspen produced a team performance that held La Indiana to just 4 for 11 shooting from the field. Holding a three-goal lead at halftime, Aspen dominated the fourth chukka to extend their lead to six leaving La Indiana desperate for offense with two chukkas remaining. Three late goals from Facundo Obregon wasn’t enough for La Indiana to complete the comeback, falling 11-9 to Aspen.
The feature game of the week produced an exciting match between Park Place and Tonkawa in a game of two halves. Early foul trouble for Park Place resulted in Tonkawa’s Sapo Caset scoring three goals from the penalty line, while also adding a goal from the field to give his team the early 4-0 lead. Throughout the rest of the first half, Tonkawa used an accurate passing attack to dominate possession, leaving Park Place focused on defending and managing just four shots in the half. Holding a 9-4 lead, Tonkawa’s potent offense continued into the fourth chukka with Sterling Giannico scoring consecutive goals, extending Tonkawa’s lead to six. 9-goaler Nico Pieres stepped up for Park Place, providing a relentless offense to score five field goals over the final two chukkers, including a game-tying goal with two minutes remaining. The comeback was short-lived when Sapo Caset and Agustin Merlos scored two goals in quick succession in the final minute to claim the 14-12 victory.
Bracket 2 began play with a youthful Stable Door Polo squad narrowly defeating Coca-Cola in a hard-fought game. With neither team able to separate themselves in the first half, Stable Door’s Henry Porter scored two goals in the second chukka, part of a five-goal performance in the game, to push his team into the three-goal lead. The pace of the game increased over the final two chukkas, with the teams trading goals back and forth, until a double yellow awarded to Santino Magrini in the sixth chukka gave Coca-Cola the opening they needed to reduce the deficit. Gillian Johnston scored to bring Coca-Cola within one goal but that would be as close as they would get with Stable Door hanging on for the one-goal victory.
In possibly the most exciting game of the first round, Las Monjitas put together an incredible second half to claim victory over Postage Stamp Farm. Valerio Zubiaurre was seemingly everywhere for Postage Stamp Farm in the first half, scoring six goals to lead his team to a commanding 8-3 lead. The impact of Zubiaurre was lost in the fourth chukka after he received a double yellow and was forced off for two minutes. Las Monjitas struggled to generate an attack throughout the entire first half but came alive in the second half behind the efforts of Matt Coppola. Scoring two goals directly from throw-ins, Coppola ignited Las Monjitas who fought back into a 9-9 tie by the fifth chukka. A final knock-in goal from Francisco Elizalde completed the comeback and helped Las Monjitas claim the narrow 12-11 victory.
Dealing with the loss of Sebastian Merlos, a revamped line-up for Iconica proved to be a success, defeating Santa Clara 10-8. Gringo Colombres filled in admirably for the 9-goaler, working with Matias Magrini to protect defensively. Iconica dominated possession but foul trouble kept Santa Clara in the game as the score was tied 4-4 at halftime. Peke Gonzalez produced another strong offensive performance, finishing with five goals, including four goals over the second half, leading his team to victory.
A match of contrasting styles saw the offensively minded Equuleus narrowly defeat the defensive Cessna Polo Team. Controlling the first half after a run of five unanswered goals, Cessna held a two-goal lead and were keeping the Laprida brothers, Inaki and Magoo, in check. The second half proved to be a different game, with Cessna struggling to generate any offense, scoring just one goal in the second half. Mariano Gonzalez played his best game of the season, while the interplay of Inaki and Magoo Laprida ultimately wore down Cessna, claiming the 8-7 victory.
C.V. Whitney Cup champion Pilot survived an early challenge from SD Farms, sticking to their strategy that has been successful during the season. SD Farms swarmed Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres in the first half, but Facundo Pieres willed his team to victory in the second half, finishing with eight goals and three assists. The relentless pressure of Pilot in the final three chukkas forced SD Farms into foul trouble, placing Pieres on the penalty line where he finished an accurate 6 for 7. Conceding a run of 7-2 to begin the second half was ultimately the difference in the game, with Pilot defeating SD Farms 13-8.
Lastly, a hard-fought battle between Daily Racing Form and Old Hickory Bourbon came down to the final minutes with Daily Racing Form’s extra scoring chances being the difference. Old Hickory Bourbon grabbed the lead in the first half with efficient shooting, despite fewer opportunities. Daily Racing Form won the possession battle, but their indiscipline with 11 first half fouls led to them trailing 6-4. Agustin Obregon led the charge back into the lead for Daily Racing Form, contributing with two goals and an assist, while avoiding foul trouble. Old Hickory Bourbon’s lack of scoring chances eventually caught up to them, falling by one goal in the close 12-11 defeat.