By: Michael Foster, IPA Performance Analyst
Newly crowned East Coast Open champion, Hilario Ulloa, was recently promoted from 9 goals to 10 goals by the USPA National Handicap Committee for the upcoming 2017 USA Season. Based on his overall performance with Villa del Lago and White Birch, the committee came to the conclusion that visually, Ulloa’s polo ability, both offensively and defensively, warranted the highest handicap rating available in the sport. Statistically, does Ulloa perform at a level currently held by only eight other players?
From collecting in depth stats from the 2016 USA High Goal season, it is seen that during open play, Ulloa, a 9 handicap, produced an impressive 3.5 field goals per game on only 5.4 shots per game for an efficient shooting percentage of 64%. The difficulty in defending Ulloa is due to his ability to provide a multi-faceted attack. On shots hit from distances of 40+ yards, Ulloa still converted over 40% of those attempts, placing him among Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres. Furthermore, he also converts over 75% of shots taken from in close. The combination of attacking runs and shots from distance for goals, make Ulloa an offensive threat regardless of where he is on the field. Away from goal, Ulloa initiated 2.7 attacks per game that resulted in a goal for his team. Similar to the variety in his shot making ability, Ulloa initiated attacks individually 46% of the time and through a passing combination 54% of the time, providing the defense with a difficult task of defending him a certain way. In finishing attacking plays for a goal, Ulloa was also in the 90th percentile of all players.
As seen by his proficiency from the field when shooting from distance, Ulloa translates that to a strong performance from the penalty line. Above average from every distance, Ulloa was 96.7% on penalty 2’s, only missing 2 penalties from the 30 yard line in 60 attempts. Ulloa’s performance from the 60 yard line was also impressive, converting 50.4% of his penalty 4 attempts. The combination of scoring from both the field and penalty lines, led to Ulloa producing the most goals per game (6.67) during the USA High Goal season.
The diversity of Ulloa’s all-around game is also seen defensively, where he uses a combination of steals and interceptions to provide his team with an average of 22.1 defensive action per game. Ulloa’s defensive game differs in that he is more aggressive defending on the ball with approximately 70% of his defensive actions coming from ride-offs, hooks, steals and defensive backhands. This high rate of action on ball displays Ulloa’s horsemanship and ability to constantly pressure his opponent to move the ball, avoiding a turnover that can result in Ulloa quickly transitioning into another attacking play.
While wearing the #2 for most of the USA Season, Ulloa’s game reflects that, as he provides constant on ball pressure defensively, and pushes the team forward offensively with a combination of individual and combination attacks. His efficiency both from the field and the penalty line places Ulloa alongside the elite players in polo and seems to support the conclusion of being awarded the highest handicap rating the sport has to offer.