Zacara to face Valiente in Maserati US Open finals

Valiente-Zacarain Maserati US Open finals

ByAlex Webbe

Wins by Valiente and Zacara in Wednesday afternoon’ssemifinals of the Maserati US Open set the stage for Sunday’s 3pm finals at theInternational Polo Club in Wellington.

Valiente hammered Coca-Cola in a 14-8 rout that was overafter the second chukker as they ran out to a humiliating 10-2 halftime leadbefore coasting to a six goal 14-8 win.

Valiente’s Pelon Stirling scored the first goal of thegame from the opening throw-in, for a 1-0 lead. Over three minutes passed with neither team being able to convert on ascoring effort.  At the 3:46 mark, AdolfoCambiaso drove the ball through the Coca-Cola goalposts, 2-0.  With two-and-a-half minutes left in thechukker, Julio Arellano finally got Coca-Cola on the scoreboard, 2-1.  Stirling scored on a beautifully executedbackhander as he rode past the goal.  Thefirst period ended with Valiente on top, 3-1.

Cambiaso and Stirling each added a pair of goals in thesecond chukker while holding Coca-Cola to a single penalty conversion fromArellano.  Valiente was in completecontrol of the second period and raced out to a 7-2 advantage over a strugglingCoca-Cola lineup.

Three more Valiente goals went unanswered in the thirdperiod, with Stirling scoring all three of them.  Every Coca-Cola effort was either turnedaside or shut down before it got started. Bob Jornayvaz stretched the front end of the lineup, Santi Torres wasthe muscle in the Number 2 slot, and the dynamic duo of Cambiaso and Stirlingdid the rest.  The synchronized play ofthe two 10-goalers almost looked as if it were choreographed as they passed andcovered for one another with tactical precision.  At the end of the first half Valiente wasahead by eight goals, 10-2.

Coca-Cola showed a little spark in the fourth, with allthree of their goals coming on penalty shots by Arellano.  Stirling added another goal from the fieldand Torres converted a penalty shot for a goal. After four chukkers of play, Valiente was running away from Coca-Colawith a 12-5 lead.

A scoreless fifth chukker had a frustrated Coca-Colafoursome struggling to find answers to the Valiente defense while Valienteseemed to ease up.  With one chukker leftin the game, Coca-Cola continued to trail by seven goals, 12-5.

Sebastian Merlos and Torres exchanged goals in the firstthree minutes of the sixth chukker with Merlos scoring from the field andTorres scoring on a penalty shot, 13-6.  Arellanoscored his fifth penalty goal of the game at the 2:42 mark, but Cambiasoanswered with a goal from the field with less than two minutes left in thegame.  Valiente seemed to be comfortableallowing Merlos to score the final goal of the game for the 14-8 final.

Valiente’s Stirling led all scoring with eight goals onthe day.  Cambiaso added four and Torresscored on two penalty shots.  Arellanoscored five of his six gals on penalty shots. Merlos added two goals in the loss.

The victory advances Valiente to a finalist’s berth inSunday’s Maserati US Open finals.


Zacara remains the only team in the field that managed todefeat Valiente during the 2013 26-goal season. Zacara knocked Valiente out of the C. V. Whitney Cup with an openinground, 8-7 victory.  They skipped throughthe early rounds of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup before giving up an early lead tolose to Valiente in the finals, 13-9, but they never considered ERG to be amajor stumbling block in their efforts to earn a rematch with Valiente.

All eyes were on Zacara 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, andrightfully so.  Pieres converted a60-yard penalty shot for a goal less than two minutes into the game for anearly 1-0 advantage.  ERG’s EduardoNovillo Astrada responded with a goal from the field. 1-1. Pieres scored with2:44 left in the chukker followed by a goal from the field from MagooLaprida.  An ERG foul sent Pieres to thepenalty line with 26 seconds left in the chukker.  He converted the 40-yard penalty shot for agoal and a 4-1 Zacara lead.

Neither team seemed to get into synch in the secondchukker, with both sides making runs up and down the field.  Zacara held their three goal lead, 4-1.

The tempo was not much better in the third.  With spectators trying to cheer the teamsinto action, short-circuited plays and broken up passes made it a very uglygame to watch.  Pieres and Tincho Merlosexchanged penalty goals and the chukker ended with Zacara leading by threegoals, 5-2.

It looked like there would be no let up by Zacara insecond half action.  Pieres took theopening throw-in and raced downfield for a goal just 14 seconds into play,6-2.  That was when ERG appeared to wakeup.  Merlos scored two goals from thefield, cutting the Zacara lead to two goals, 6-4.  At the four minute mark Eduardo NovilloAstrada made it a one goals game, 6-5, with his first goal of the day.  Pieres scored the final goal of the period ona penalty conversion with under two minutes on the clock.  Zacara held on to the lead going into thefifth.

ERG wasn’t through, as Merlos scored the opening twogoals of the fifth to tie it up at 7-7. A collision on the field involved Zacara’s Magoo Laprida and MikeAzzaro, as both players fell to the ground. A brief intermission ensued allowing time to remove an injured horsefrom the field and get both Laprida and Azzaro back in the saddle, and the gamecontinued.  Pieres got Zacara refocusedwith a goal from the field with under two minutes in the period.  A penalty conversion with 15 seconds left inthe chukker restored the Zacara lead to two goals, 9-7.

A dazed Zacara team (both Laprida and Azzarosuffered bumps and bruises in the fifth chukker collision, and were painfullyattempting to ride out the game) rode onto the field for the sixth chukker, but ERG would have none of it.  Paco de Narvaez cut the Zacara lead to asingle goal, 9-8, on a 60-yard penalty conversion in the opening 35 seconds ofthe sixth chukker.  Two minutes later,Astrada tied it up with his third goal of the game, 9-9.  Merlos gave ERG their first lead of the game,10-9, with 2:06 left in the chukker, but there was just too much time left onthe clock.  An ERG penalty sent Pieres tothe line where he converted the shot for a 10-10 tie, and that was where itstood when time ran out,

After a brief intermission, a sudden-death overtime period got underway with a determined Zacara’s Pieres taking control of theball and racing down the field before a miscue left the ball just yards from the winning score.  ERG reversed the direction of play, but as both parties struggled for control of the ball, the umpire’s whistle sounded just 90 seconds into the overtime, and Azzaro took the penalty shot that was blocked out of bounds by ERG.  A subsequent Safety was awarded and this time it was Pieres who attempted the 60-yard shot that he lofted high above and between the goal posts for the 11-10 overtime win.

Pieres was on fire, scoring seven of his game high tengoals on penalty shots.  Lapridaaccounted for the only other Zacara score. ERG got six gals from Merlos and three from Astrada,  De Narvaez scored once in the loss.

The win boosted Zacara into a rematch with Valiente inSunday’s 3 pm finals of the 2013 Maserati US Open Championship against apowerful Valiente team.