USA earns FIP World Championship tournament berth with win

The United States (Remy Muller, Geronimo Obregon, Felipe Viana and Herndon Radcliff) defeated Mexico (Juan José de Alba, Alejandro González, Mariano Gracida and Diego Velarde) Sunday afternoon, 9-7, at the International Polo Club in the final qualifying game for the XI FIP World Championship, but the victory didn’t come easily.

With Guillermo Steta, the President of the Mexican Polo Association on hand, Mexico watched Geronimo Obregon score the opening goal in the opening minute of play for a 1-0 lead. Alejandro Gonzalez leveled the score at one goal apiece, taking the ensuing throw-in and carrying it through the US goal posts less than a minute later. Herndon Radcliff scored the final goal of the chukker that had the USA riding off the field with an early 3-1 advantage.

Diego Velarde scored his first goal of the day as the second chukker got underway, cutting the USA lead back to a single goal, 3-2. Viana converted a 30-yard penalty shot with 2:20 left in the period and added a goal from the field with just 31 seconds on the clock. The United States displayed their offensive power, as they took a three-goal lead, 5-2.

Mexico exploded for four consecutive goals in the third while holding the powerful USA team scoreless in third period action. Juan Jose de Alba scored the first goal of the chukker on a 30-yard penalty shot followed up by a goal from the field from Mariano Gracida that brought Mexico to within a goal of the lead, 5-4. Gonzalez tied the game at 5-5 at the 3:20 mark followed by a go-ahead goal from Velarde for their first lead of the day, 5-4.

Gonzalez scored his third goal of the day in the opening minute of the fourth period, extending the Mexican lead to two goals, 7-5, when the USA attack stirred. A penalty on Mexico sent Viana to the penalty line where he converted a 40-yard shot for a goal, 7-6. With 50 seconds left in the fourth period, a USA attack saw Radcliff score to tie the game at seven goals apiece.

Mexico’s defense was beginning to show a strain as the gamesmanship of lining up the horses for the fifth and final chukker continued. The teams battled for every loose ball, with neither getting the upper hand. Three-and-one-half minutes into the period, Obregon connected on a well-placed pass to teammate Viana, who sent a pinpoint pass ahead to a streaking Remy Muller who gave the USA the lead once again, 8-7.

“I told Remy (Muller) that he was going to score the next goal,” said Viana just before Muller gave the USA the 8-7 lead.”

The ball went quickly from mallet to mallet to the goal as the US team took the final lead of the game.

“The goal by Remy (Muller) was just what we needed,” said Obregon. The momentum shifted and we were back in control.”

Mexico struggled with an aggressive USA defense in the final minutes of the game to no avail. Viana scored his fifth goal of the day with 3:05 on the clock, and the USA controlled the ball for the balance of the game for the 9-7 win.

Viana led all scoring with five goals, and earned MVP honors. Radcliff scored twice with Muller and Obregon each adding a goal. Gonzalez scored a team-high three goals for Mexico. Velarde scored twice with Gracida and de Alba each adding a goal in a losing effort.

The victory sends the US team to the Sydney Polo Club in Australia where they will join seven other teams from around the world to compete for the XI FIP World Championship from October 21st through October 29th.

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