Returning in good spirits for their second match of the Copa de las Naciones Junior Tournament, USA was set to take on Argentina A on Friday, April 27, on Palermo’s Field 1. The American team (Landen Daniels, Bayne Bossom, Kristos Magrini, Lucas Escobar) faced an equally balanced lineup of young Argentines with the home field advantage, Argentina A (Antonio Heguy, Matias MacDonough, Juan Cruz Gallegos, Lucas Criado). Although suffering two unanswered goals in the first chukker, USA struck first in the second with a penalty conversion by Escobar, ending the half 4-1 in favor of Argentina A.

Argentina A's _____ goes for a hard bump on USA's Lucas Escobar.
Argentina A’s Antonio Heguy lays a hard bump on USA’s Lucas Escobar.

Opening the third with three unanswered goals, Argentina A came out strong in the second half, but USA refused to be shut out again. Claiming his second penalty conversion of the game, Escobar capitalized on Argentina’s aggressive plays to earn USA’s second goal before the start of the fourth. Moving into the final chukker 7-2 with Argentina A holding the lead, the American team continued to fight for a field goal. In response to Heguy’s opening goal in the final chukker, Magrini guided the ball between the posts to pick up his first score of the day. Unfortunately, USA ran out of time to close the gap and the game ended 9-3 in favor of Argentina A.

Youth players are all smiles after a competitive international match.
Youth players are all smiles after a competitive international match.

Although not the outcome USA had hoped for, the teammates expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete and learn on the fields of Palermo. “The horses were great,” Bayne Bossom exclaimed. “I couldn’t believe how big the fields were, it reminded me of a putting green. Even though we didn’t win I had such a fun time playing against Argentina on Field 1 of Palermo. It’s an experience I will never forget.”

NORTH AMERICA IMPROVES THEIR GAME AGAINST ARGENTINA

North America: Nico Escobar, Jesse Bray, Freddie Mannix, Jared Zenni.
North America: Nico Escobar, Jesse Bray, Freddie Mannix, Jared Zenni.

Determined to apply what they had learned from the first game, North America, comprised of Freddie Mannix, Jared Zenni, Jesse Bray and Nico Escobar (substituting for injured Julian Mannix), rivaled Argentina’s powerhouse team made up of Juan Martin Nero, Sapo Caset, Manuel Novillo Astrada and Rufino Bensadon, in their second match on Friday, April 27, on Palermo’s famed Field 1. Despite a difficult first half, North America responded to the pressure well in the second half with tactical plays, but the win ultimately belonged to the Argentines 13-8.

Awarded three goals on handicap, North America lost their early advantage after Argentina fired four unanswered goals between the posts. Responding for the first time in the second chukker, North America’s Mannix saw an opportunity to capture the first goal for his team. Competing against two 10-goal players, North America witnessed a strong force by Caset in the third who scored two consecutive goals, ending the half 7-4 in favor of Argentina.

North America's Jared Zenni carries the ball fown the field on Palermo's historic Field 1.
North America’s Jared Zenni carries the ball fown the field on Palermo’s historic Field 1.

Continuing their dominance into the fourth, Argentina aggressively added to their tally. Striking back in the fifth chukker, Escobar completed a strategic play followed closely by Mannix with his second penalty conversion of the day. Entering the sixth and final chukker trailing by seven goals, North America continued their momentum, shutting out Argentina successfully for the first time in the game. North America took charge of the field, exhibiting improved offensive skill, sinking two consecutive field goals from Jesse Bray. Play ended on a high-note for North America who took possession of the ball after executing a powerful interception. Argentina claimed the victory 13-8, moving on to the final match against Colombia. 17-year-old Nico Escobar shared his thoughts on the day following the game. “It was a tough game and we had to work hard. We started a little slow in the first chukker, but we woke up after that. We played against two of the top players in the world, but I think with a few more chukkers we could have caught up to them!”

*Jesse Bray and Jared Zenni are members of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

All photos ©Guadalupe Aizaga