US Open Players: In Their Own Words

Looking ahead to their chances in the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship®, players from each of the six teams shared their thoughts with IPC writers Darlene Ricker and Juan Cruz Diaz de Céspedes. Here is what was on their minds before the tournament began Wednesday, April 5 at IPC.
 Facundo Pieres – ORCHARD HILL (defending champion)
“We arrived in good shape for the U.S. Open. We have lot of expectations! Our first objective is to make it to the final and have a chance to win the tournament. That is the most important thing for us. We know that we haven’t been playing our best polo yet this season, and we know that we can play a lot better. We played better in the Gold Cup semifinal than in our other games. I trust in our team. We must win!”
 Gonzalito Pieres – FLEXJET
“We’re a new team, and we’re waiting for Nico (Pieres) to get here. He is coming from Dubai. We will not have a lot of practices, so we will use the first games to find the team. In the brackets we have to play against Audi, Travieso and Valiente. The two best teams go directly to the semis. It would be great to be one of the semifinalists so we could have one week free between the last bracket game and the semifinal. Whatever happens, it will be a competitive tournament.”
 Alejandro Novillo Astrada – AUDI
“I love the way this tournament is organized! The two top-placed teams go directly to the semifinals and the other four teams play the quarterfinals. That makes it possible for teams who don’t do well in bracket play to make it to the semifinals through the quarterfinals. I think that the tournament could go in anyone’s favor. Audi is working well, although we haven’t had many practices. But the U.S. Open system permits us to adjust our team during the first games.”
 Julio Arellano – COCA-COLA 
“We’re in great shape having Memo (Gracida) as our coach for the Open. He has won 16 U.S. Opens! We made it to the Gold Cup final this season, and that was due to him helping organize us. We’re playing well, and I think as long as we keep the horses fresh and lessen our mistakes we have a good chance. We’re going to be playing the big teams in the Open. Obviously Valiente is the favorite—they just won the C.V. Whitney and the Gold Cup.”

 Bob Jornayvaz – VALIENTE
“I’m excited—these are six great teams! There may be fewer teams in the Open this year, but it’s harder to win against six good teams than 14 mediocre teams. We have Adolfo (Cambiaso) this year. He feels good, he’s playing like a kid and just enjoying playing. He’s at a place in his career where he has nothing to prove to anyone in the world. At the same time, when we were losing at halftime in the Gold Cup, he was angry. He thinks like a champion. When you hire Adolfo Cambiaso you get a unique combination: an incredible man, a devoted father and a player who refuses to lose.”

 Sebastián Merlos – TRAVIESO

“There are two very competitive brackets in the Open. All the games will be really hard. We haven’t been able to practice together because during the 26 we have still been playing other 20-goal [tournaments]. So we will have only one practice to play all together with Mariano (Gonzales), Alfredo (Capella) and Teo (Calle). It is Travieso’s first time in the U.S. Open, so we are here to prove ourselves. We will battle it out.”

Game report, stats and photographs provided by International Polo Club Palm Beach.
All Photos © David Lominska

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