Team USA beat both Guatemala and Mexico to convincingly secure their spot at the FIP XI World Polo Championship in Sydney, Australia this October.
Winning silver in 2015, this year they will be battling against the world’s best teams for their chance at the gold. Following three weeks of training in Sydney before flying to Florida to compete in the qualifier, USA came out fighting. USA beat Guatemala convincingly 10-6½, but it was Mexico in the Final who gave them a run for their money.
The USA captured the lead straight out of the first line-up with three goals from mid-field. With Mexico close behind, USA surrendered a solitary goal to end the first chukka 3-1. A goal by Mexico’s Velarde narrowed the deficit in the second, but USA countered with two goals; a Penalty 2 conversion from Viana and a field goal from Obregon to widen their lead to 5-2.
An undeterred Mexico team bounced back in the third, shutting down USA’s defence and scoring four unanswered goals to take the lead, 6-5, for the first time. Gonzalez hammered in another goal for Mexico early in the fourth for a two goal lead, 7-5. USA snatched the ball from the throw-in but an attempt on goal went wide by mere millimetres from the left post. The USA team did not lose confidence, as Viana converted a Penalty 3 open goal, followed by an equalising goal from Radcliff, moving into the fifth 7-7. A Penalty 5 spot against USA gave Mexico the advantage with three minutes and 30 seconds remaining in play. A beautiful cut shot to goal from Viana was picked up nicely by teammate Muller, who finished the goal to take back the lead 8-7. In the final moments, a nearside back-hand miss by Mexico, allowed USA’s Viana time to score the final goal, sealing the win for USA 9-7.
With the qualification of USA, we now know five out of eight of the teams going to Sydney (Australia, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand & USA). The European qualifier takes place on Sunday 7 May after which the team line-up will be complete.
The Most Valuable Player of the match was awarded to Felipe Viana and Best Playing Pony was presented to nine-year-old Chili, owned by Del Walton and bred by Gabriel Crespo in Aiken, South Carolina.
FIP Zone A Playoff Final Teams:
USA: R. Muller (3), G. Obregon (4), F. Viana (5) & H. Radcliff (2)
Mexico: J.J Alba (4), A Gonazalez (3), M. Gracida (4) & D. Velarde (3)
Photograph: USA’s Felipe Viana flips the ball on the nearside, Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez riding hard to defend. Courtesy of USPA Polo