Undefeated GSA took to the field at the Greenwich Polo Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, for the final of the 2017 East Coast Open (ECO) on Sunday, September 10. Their opponents, powerhouse Audi with only one defeat on their record to GSA in the opening match of the tournament, were not to be underestimated. The final match mirrored the first, with the addition of Francisco Mera, substitute for injured Nick Manifold who was unable to play following the first game. Boasting remarkably similar stats, it was anyone’s game in this rematch between two dominant teams.
GSA’s Toro Ruiz goes for the nearside, Audi’s Mariano Aguerre riding hard to defend. ©Marcelo Bianchi
GSA comprised of three young up-and-coming players led by 8-goaler Matias Magrini began the game with a hefty three-goal advantage off of handicap; GSA cumulatively rated at 17 goals against 20-goal Audi. A difficult place to start, Audi hurriedly attempted to even the score, confidently executing team plays but missing the goal on three separate occasions. In an unusual low scoring first two chukkers of play only two goals were made. Audi’s apparent strategy to slow down the game and control the ball was proving fatal as GSA racked up two unanswered goals in the third; one from Matias Magrini and the other from Toro Ruiz—a beautiful carry of a bouncing ball atop chestnut mare Tanya with a gorgeous nearside finish. Trailing by five at halftime 6-1, Audi was in desperate need of a new game plan.
Audi did not disappoint in the fourth, opening up the game with a long-distance goal by Francisco Mera directly out of the bowl-in. GSA, known for their aggressive style of play, then relinquished several penalties, two of which Audi was able to capitalize to close the gap 6-4. Mariano Gonzalez having an unfortunate and uncharacteristic day from the penalty line, was finally able to sink his first conversion of the day on dapple gray Knick-Knack. Back on his game, he was able to exploit another Penalty 2 in the fifth as Audi chipped away at the GSA lead.
Audi’s Francisco Mera with a shot downfield, Henry Porter of GSA in pursuit. ©Marcelo Bianchi
Despite foul complications, GSA would not be subdued, bouncing back with three tremendous field goals. Matias Magrini backed an incredible pass to son Santino Magrini for a father-son score, while back-to-back goals from Ruiz on bald-faced mare Rosita rocketed them back into a comfortable four-goal lead 9-5.
Valiantly battling for the comeback, Audi dominated the sixth chukker instantly scoring back-to-back goals to bring them within two 9-7. Four minutes remaining in regulation play, Audi suffered a disappointing setback, surrendering a Penalty 3. Ruiz converted to maintain GSA lead by three. Forging ahead, Audi managed two more field goals to bring them within one, but time ran out and the possibility of overtime was erased as the thirty second horn blew on a 10-9 score. Three members under the age of 21, Magrini senior doused the newly minted East Coast Open Champions in champagne but enjoyed bubbly by himself, as one of the youngest teams in the history of the trophy victoriously raised the Perry Cup.
Most Valuable Player Matias Magrini of GSA on the ball. ©Marcelo Bianchi
Matias Magrini was awarded Most Valuable Player for his exceptional defensive play, along with general achievements coaching and mentoring the young team. Machitos Tere, owned and played by Mariano Aguerre in the fifth chukker, received Best Playing Pony honors.
Best Playing Pony Machitos Tere. Owned and played by Mariano Aguerre. ©Peter T. Michaelis.