Finalists were determined Wednesday for the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). In the semifinals, defending champion Orchard Hill took a 10-9-overtime victory over previously undefeated Flexjet, and 2015 U.S. Open winner Valiente defeated Travieso (a team that made their U.S. Open debut this year) 16-6.
Orchard Hill 10-9 Flexjet
The first match of the day featured Flexjet against Orchard Hill. Flexjet demonstrated why they came into the game undefeated as they outshot Orchard Hill 5 shots to 1 to begin the game. Flexjet took an early 3-0 lead behind back-to-back goals from Nico Pieres, along with a goal from Rodrigo Andrade. Flexjet controlled play through the first two chukkers, holding Orchard Hill to a single shot and only fouling twice. The combination of defense without fouling gave Flexjet the edge as the game unrolled.
Orchard Hill started to come alive in the third chukker, shooting at goal four times while holding Flexjet without a shot. However, Orchard Hill was only able to convert 1 of those 4 shot attempts as Facundo Pieres scored his first goal of the game to get his team back within one. They traded one field goal each with Polito Pieres scoring his first and Gonzalito Pieres scoring his second of the game. The fifth chukker was full of excitement from the first throw as Facundo Pieres scored back-to-back goals from the field, while also converting his first penalty attempt to give Orchard Hill their first lead of the day at 6-5. After Andrade tied the game back up at 6, Nico Pieres would drive downfield with time expiring and put the ball through the goal just as the horn sounded to end the fifth chukker.
The game tightened up in the sixth with both teams committing 3 fouls each, allowing Facundo to convert both of his penalty attempts and a total of 3 goals in the chukker. That gave Orchard Hill a two-goal lead with 2 minutes remaining. However, Flexjet would convert twice to send the game into overtime. An extended overtime saw exciting runs and a foul by Orchard Hill, giving Flexjet a penalty 4 opportunity to send their team to the finals. Unfortunately for them, the penalty 4 wasn’t converted as overtime went on. On the next throw-in Facundo Pieres won the ball in the front of the line-up, approximately 200 yards from goal. He used superior horsepower to run downfield and finish off the run with a final tap for his game-leading eighth goal of the day -and his 100th goal of the season- to send Orchard Hill to the U.S. Open Finals to defend their 2016 title.
Score Orchard Hill: 0-2, 1-3, 2-4, 3-5, 6-7, 9-9, 10-9.
Scorers Orchard Hill: Facundo Pieres (8), Polito Pieres (1), Jota Chavanne (1).
Scorers Flexjet: Rodrigo Andrade (3), Gonzalo Pieres (3), Nicolás Pieres (3).
Valiente 16-6 Travieso
The second semi-final match saw Travieso face Valiente to determine which team would face Orchard Hill in the final on Sunday. After their first loss in 26-goal events last week, Valiente bounced back in a big way, dominating play from the first throw-in. Cambiaso found Cavanagh on a nice pass to open the scoring, and that goal was quickly followed by Cambiaso scoring from approximately 70 yards out. Cambiaso wasn’t done there, as he added another goal to give Valiente a 3-0 lead.
Hard work from Cavanagh providing picks and blocks for Cambiaso was making a huge impact as Cambiaso had more space than normal and given the time, there may be no better player at picking an opposing team apart from the back position. To go along with 3 goals of his own, Cambiaso helped set up Cavanagh for two goals from the field as well as Zavaleta for one goal as Valiente stretched their lead. But as a team Travieso was struggling to get to Cambiaso to provide pressure, and when they did he often found Cavanagh or Torres Zavaleta downfield. Valiente continued the pressure to start the fourth chukker as Adolfo shot from over 100 yards out to put one through the post and Travieso had no answer for the balanced Valiente attack that seemed to be moving straight downfield with each attack. A nice goal from patron Teo Calle got Travieso on the board to start the fourth chukker. Valiente was too much from the start as they outshot Travieso 26-9 and never allowed them to make a run.
Score Valiente: 3-0, 6-2, 9-3, 11-4, 12-5, 16-6.
Scorers Valiente: Diego Cavanagh (7), Adolfo Cambiaso (5), Matías Torres Zavaleta (4).
Scorers Travieso: Mariano González (4), Teo Calle (1), Sebastián Merlos (1).
Inbetween the two semifinals AUDI beat Coca-Cola 13-11 and won the Hall of Fame Cup.
The US Open will come to an end next Sunday when Valiente and Orchard Hill face each other in the much awaited final.
Picture Galleries:Orchard Hill vs FlexjetValiente vs Travieso