By Alejandra Ocampo
And one day, Orchard Hill did it…. It’s not only been the rematch of last year’s final, when they lost to Valiente, but for the first time in their long career, Steven van Andel’s team won the US Open, one of the most prestigious tournaments worldwide and the highest rated, next to the Argentine Open and the culminating competition of the American season in Pam Beach. It was not that easy, though, because they had to face a tough Dubai foursome who, in their first season in American polo, made things quite difficult to the experienced Orchard Hill. Steve and his boys needed an extra chukker to beat Rashid Albwardy and Co. by a 13-12 score, with a golden goal by Facundo Pieres, who, by the way, was the man of the day, scoring no less than eleven out of thirteen goals for the champions.
It was an exciting championship match, with both teams displaying polo at the highest, to the delight of the packed grandsstands at International Polo Club Palm Beach. Definetly, this final was what everybody expected – first of all, it was the battle of the giants once again, with the world’s top polo players on the field – Adolfo Cambiaso, with Dubai and Facundo Pieres, with Orchard Hill. To make things even more interesting, there were two defending champions as well – Cambiaso and Uruguay-born Jejo Taranco were in the 2015 Valiente lineup who won the Open. In addition, it was the first time that Facundo Pieres played in the same lineup with Juan Martin Nero. Last time was in 2010, with Ellerstina, the year before Nero departure to La Dolfina. Ah, yes, this means that Juanma played against his own La Dolfina team mate, Adolfo Cambiaso, today!
Apart from this extra spice, that made the final of the US Open even more special, the match itself was very close, and with much drama. Dubai had a stronger start, and took and early 3-1 lead by the end of the first chukker. Orchard Hill cut the margin to one goal (3-4) in the second episode. They tightened their attack in the third chukker and managed to gain a 7-5 advantage by half time.
Dubai re-took the lead in the fourth chukker, courtesy of Adolfo Cambiaso (2) and Facundo Sola. Orchard Hill replied quickly – Facundo Pieres produced a couple of goals to tie at 8-all. And two thrilling final chukkers would follow…
Adolfo Cambiaso scored twice in the fifth chukker, to secure Dubai a 10-8 advantage. Orchard Hill’s pressure ended up in a goal by Facundo, to close the gap to one goal, 9-10, with only one chukker remaning.
In a nailbiting last chukker, Orchard Hill and Dubai presented a tough battle on the field. Dubai hit first through Cambiaso once again, to widen their advantage to 11-9. Quickly, Facundo produced two more goals to tie at 11-all. But Dubai re-took the lead, with another goal by Adolfo Cambiaso (12-11). And with less than a minute left in regulation time, Facundo Pieres converted a penalty to tie 12-12 and send the match into OT.
And, as it happened in those Ellerstina days, back in 2010, it’s Juanma Nero who passed the ball to Facundo Pieres, who hit a beautiful neckshot straight to the goalposts, to secure Orchard Hill the trophy they wanted for so long – the US Open.
Score Orchard Hill: 1-3, 4-3, 7-5, 8-8, 9-10, 12-12, 13-12
Orchard Hill: Facundo Pieres (11), Julián de Lusarreta y Juan Martín Nero, 1 apiece
Dubai: Adolfo Cambiaso (8), Facundo Sola (3), Rashid Albwardy (1)
MVP: Facundo Pieres
Match scorer: Facundo Pieres (11)
BPP: Diva 2 (ridden by Juan Martin Nero)
Best Polo Argentino Bred: Open Frenchita (Facundo Pieres)
THE CHAMPIONS SPEAK OUT
(The complete interviews will be online on Monday)
Julián de Lusarreta: It’s always better when you come from behind, you play with less pressure. I think we played our best game of the season by far. And Dubai is a great team. Rashid plays very well, he makes a difference with the other patrons.
Both teams played really hard; but when we played the way we wanted, we did it better. Besides, you can expect anything in extra chukker, but if you have Facu and Juanma everything is easier. It was a tough game, but the best of all without doubts.
We’re very happy. This is the most important win of my life. I want to dedicate this win first and foremost to Bautista Heguy, who helped me with the horses; to my mother, my family, my girlfriend, my grooms, and all the people who help me every day
Juanma Nero: We’ll be playing together with Adolfito in UK and Argentina. I’m great friends with him and his family, but today, we had to play against each other.
I’ve never imagined I was going to win the US Open; I was so lucky. Polito was injured and then I came in. But I am happy to play and with within the team.
You never know what could happen in OT and with Adolfito playing against you. Moreover, they almost won in the very first play in OT, when he passed the ball to Rashid and he almost scored. He is so good, that is very difficult to pick on him.
Personally, it was a very positive experience. It’s always nice to win these tournaments, and most with this team. It was a lost of fun playing with Facundo and Negro de Lusarreta. And Steve is great. This organisation is a lot of fun, very relaxed. It’s been a fantastic month.
Steve van Andel: his is a dream come true to me; I wanted to win this tournament for many year, we played this final five times, and fortunately, today we could make it. However, it was not that easy, with Cambiaso on the other side. We had to put pressure, keep pushing and keep playing, whatever the score was.
With regard to the season, it’s been hard, with very competitive teams. It’s many years that the season is not easy at all, you have to work hard during the whole season. Besides, we had trouble with Facu’s and Polito’s injuries. However, the way you play is the most important thing. If you play good, everything will work good. And that’s what we did today.
I don’t know whether to dedicate this win to one specifically person. But thanks to all the polo players around the world for being a part of the wonderful sport.
Facundo Pieres: It’s been so good for us to win after welost this final last year; but these are things that happen. I am happy to have won this tournament again, and for having won with Orchard Hill – that motivated me a lot. They’ve been playing in Palm Beach for a long time, and never won this tournament. Now they did it. This organisation deserved this.
I don’t care having been named MVP; the most important thing was scoring the winning goal in extra chukker.
With regards to Frenchita, I played her in the third chukker and sixth chukker. I played Serpentina and Corcha in extra chukker; I scored the goal on Corcha.
It was very good to play with Juanma. He didn’t know the horses, he arrived just the day before our first match and everything went on very quickly. Playing with Juanma gave me enough confidence, because he always plays on defense, and that helps me to attack. It was a shame that Polito couldn’t play, he deserved this, but he had such bad luck. Obviously, this is dedicated to him; and probably we will be playing together next year