Valiente Victorious in Their Opening Game of 2018 U.S. Open Polo Championship
Looking to continue their undefeated run through the 26-goal season, Valiente defeated U.S. Polo Assn 9-6 on the Engel & Volkers Field at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The first half brought a surprise performance from U.S. Polo Assn, as they showed off a more aggressive attacking playing style from their previous game, led by the efforts of 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero and 2-goaler Grant Ganzi. The ability of U.S. Polo Assn to create chances at goal kept them even with the ever dangerous Valiente team as they converted 4 of 10 field shot attempts, while Valiente converted a similar 3 of 10 attempts. As has been the case throughout the season, the clever interplay between Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres became the difference as they attacked goal and converted long distance shot attempts. The pressure put on U.S. Polo Assn’s defense throughout the second half also limited their ability to counter-attack and break away for the runs that were needed to keep up with the potent Valiente team. The immese pressure put on from Valiente in the final three chukkas resulted in unforced errors and broken set plays for U.S. Polo Assn as Valiente cruised to the 9-6 victory.
U.S. Polo Assn surprised early in the game with Ganzi scoring immediately from the first throw in on an impressive run along the Valiente back line. This set the tone for the first half with U.S. Polo Assn continuing to create scoring chances behind their early throw-in dominance, winning five of the first six throw-ins. Both teams combined for 0 for 7 shooting from the field in the second chukka as the game remained close due to the low-scoring affair. After Juan Martin Nero scored two goals from the field to give U.S. Polo Assn the 4-3 lead, the score was evened up at 4-4 by half time thanks to a superb safety shot from Facundo that closed out the half. In a reasonably clean first half with just six fouls, the strong defensive effort from Juancito Bollini was noticeable as he made life very tough for Facundo Pieres, giving him little space to work, which forced Adolfo Cambiaso to shoot from distance.
With U.S. Polo Assn matching Valiente stride for stride, a long rain delay put an abrupt end to their momentum as Valiente got the chance to address their issues after being so frustrated in the first half. The game changed in the fourth chukka as Valiente outshot their opponents 5-1 and gained a two-goal lead, behind a goal each from Facundo Pieres and Tommy Beresford. Held scoreless in the fourth chukka seemed to deflate the U.S. Polo Assn team as they were forced to play from behind with Valiente continuing to score in every chukka Valiente extended their lead further as the duo of Pieres and Beresford once again scored a goal each U.S. Polo Assn unable to keep up the intensity of their pressing defence to stay within reach of Valiente.
By the end of the game, there was a total of just four penalty shots between the two teams as the result was decided in open play. Both teams finished shooting 40% from the field but Valiente’s additional scoring chances in the second half, ultimately outshooting their opponents 20 to 15 in the game resulted in the three-goal difference on the scoreboard. The two-man work of Pieres and Cambiaso to control possession and the flow of play proved to be too much for U.S. Polo Assn as Valiente steamroll onwards to the prospect of a triple crown glory.