The Daily Racing Form-DRF Bets Ends Valiente’s Historic Run to Capture the 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship
The highly anticipated final of the 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship saw The Daily Racing Form- DRF Bets (DRF) put forth a nearly flawless performance to defeat the previously unbeaten Valiente 10-9 and capture the coveted championship on the Engel & Volkers Field at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The final game of the USA high goal season lived up to the hype as the two best performing teams of the tournament went head-to-head in an evenly fought contest. A big factor throughout the game, DRF dominated the throw-in battle, winning 15 of 22 throw-ins, which led to back-to-back goals from the throw-in to build an early lead. With a clear game plan to place immense pressure on Facundo Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso, the tireless defence of Jared Zenni and Agustin Obregon were crucial to DRF’s success. The 12 fouls from DRF in the game allowed Valiente to build an attack from their penalty 5’s, but the inability of Valiente to constantly break way for open runs as they have done all season proved to be the difference in the game. Led by a 10-goaler of their own in Hilario Ulloa, who scored four goals despite playing through a facial injury suffered in the fifth chukka, DRF continued to produce a relentless attack that was highlighted by MVP Jared Zenni’s game-winning goal to complete the dramatic and emotional victory.
Early in the game, DRF displayed their proficient attack thanks to dominant first half throw-in where they won 9 of the 10 throw-ins. Despite outshooting Valiente 4-3 in the opening chukka, missed opportunities for DRF allowed Valiente to hold the slim 2-1 lead after the first chukka with Pieres responsible for both Valiente goals. While DRF continued their attacks downfield, their defence became acutely aware of the Valiente counter-attack and kept the duo of Cambiaso and Pieres in check throughout the rest of the first half, with Valiente only shooting at goal two more times in the 2nd and 3rd chukkas combined. Committing seven first half fouls, DRF only allowed two penalty shots with the rest resulting in penalty 5’s, allowing their team defence to pressure the ball before Valiente was able to control possession deep in DRF territory. Ulloa made his presence felt late in the opening half, scoring two goals in the third chukka off throw-in possessions to give DRF the 5-4 lead heading into halftime.
The second half began with a back and forth chukka that saw a combined seven shot attempts, yet each team was only able to score one goal, with Cambiaso and Mariano Obregon scoring for their respective teams. With Valiente’s undefeated run through 26-goal play in jeopardy, they resorted to the individual talents of Cambiaso and Pieres to will their way to victory, but as was the case throughout the game, DRF continued to pressure the duo relentlessly, while often bringing in a second defender to further pressure Valiente on the ball. Just seconds into the fifth chukka, Ulloa received a hardly hit backshot squarely in the face, resulting in a serious injury that saw him bandaged and bruised, but not serious enough to keep him from returning. When play resumed, a fast-paced chukka saw three both teams score three goals, with Ulloa’s teammates stepping up to score a goal each, as DRF continued to match Valiente stride for stride and maintain their one-goal advantage.
Holding their lead with minutes remaining, Zenni jumped on the ball 40 yards out from goal and struck a perfect shot that found its way through the goal to push DRF’s lead to two and increase the excitement around the field. A foul from DRF shortly after saw Facundo Pieres convert his third penalty of the game as time was running out. Racing back to the throw-in, DRF held on defensively, as a shot from distance for Valiente went well wide and the celebration for DRF began as they completed the historic upset to capture the 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship title.