Orchard Hill defeated Audi 11-10 and Travieso took a 12-10 victory over Coca-Cola in the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship® at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). As a result of Sunday’s games the semi-final matchups April 19 will be Valiente vs. Travieso and Orchard Hill vs. Flexjet.
After losing their initial two games in the U.S. Open, Travieso found their stride in their last bracket game against Orchard Hill last week. As they were hoping, it carried over to Sunday’s mini quarterfinal matchup with Coca-Cola. Throughout the game two distinct storylines emerged. The first was the number of opportunities Coca-Cola created throughout the game, juxtaposed with their inability to convert on those chances. After an amazing opening run by patrona Gillian Johnston to start the scoring, Coca-Cola would only make 3 of their next 12 shot attempts in the first half, allowing Travieso to stay in the game.
The second factor was Coca-Cola getting into foul trouble throughout the game, handing opportunities to a Travieso team that was shooting 82% from the penalty line courtesy of Mariano Gonzalez. Gonzalez converted 2 of his 3 attempts in the first half to go along with one goal from the field, while teammate Sebastian Merlos also added two goals from the field. Travieso survived the first half trailing by a single goal (6-5).
The fourth chukker was critical for Travieso and frustrating for Coca-Cola. Travieso didn’t manage a single shot on goal from the field in the fourth. Nonetheless, they managed to win the chukker 3-1, capitalizing on 5 Coca-Cola fouls that resulted in 3 penalty attempts for Gonzalez. He converted all 3 to give Travieso their first lead in the game. Coca-Cola continued to shoot at goal, shooting 17 times compared to 6 shots for Travieso heading into the final chukker.
After Julio Arellano’s third goal of the game got Coca-Cola back within one, Merlos converted back-to-back shots from the field for his third and fourth goals. That pushed the Travieso lead back up to 2 late in the game (11-9). Although all four Coca-Cola players found the scoresheet, they shot 8 of 21 (38%) from the field for the game, missing the opportunities they had throughout the game. Travieso battled all game long, taking advantage of their 9 penalty attempts and a final run by Alfredo Capella to seal the game and give Travieso the 12-10 win and a spot in the semi-finals.
Earlier in the day defending champion Orchard Hill defeated Audi 11-10 in a game of starkly contrasting styles. Orchard Hill used a strategy of Facundo Pieres and Polito Pieres falling in behind one another, maintaining control of the ball with taps and then eventually having one of those players release downfield. It was effective early as Orchard Hill held Audi to one shot through two chukkers and took advantage of 5 Audi fouls to get off to an early 4-1 lead. The lead could have been more, as Facundo uncharacteristically missed two penalty 4 attempts. He made up for it, though, by scoring all of Orchard Hill’s goals in the first half to bring his total goals to 6 before halftime.
Audi, on the other hand, was playing more of a pass forward style, using their balanced line-up to generate offense. After a slow start patron Marc Ganzi finished off his first two runs at goal, a good sign for Audi if Ganzi could continue to convert in the #1 position. Alejandro Novillo Astrada added a goal in the third chukker, but Audi was having a difficult time containing Facundo and Polito Pieres as they went into halftime trailing 6-3.
Audi began to chip away at Orchard Hill’s lead, thanks to the penalty shooting of Nic Roldan. After missing his first attempt, Roldan went a perfect 5-for-5 on his penalty attempts in the second half. That got Audi back in the game as they controlled possession and limited Orchard Hill to four shots in the second half. Orchard Hill couldn’t miss as they converted all 4 shot attempts from the field, with Polito Pieres scoring 3 goals and Facundo adding 1, while also converting one penalty attempt.
A late penalty 1, followed by a goal at the final horn for Audi wasn’t enough. Orchard Hill held on for the 11-10 victory and secured a spot in the semi-final behind the 8-goal performance from Facundo Pieres and 3 goals added by Polito Pieres.
Photos: David Lominska