Story courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach
The battle between the top two offenses in the GAUNTLET OF POLO® kicked off the second round of the USPA Gold Cup®, producing one of the games of the season thus far with La Indiana (Nico Escobar*, Jeff Hall, Polito Pieres, Michael Bickford) withstanding the late pressure from Scone (David Paradice, Poroto Cambiaso, Peke Gonzalez*, Adolfo Cambiaso) to capture the 13-11 victory. The feature game of the week on the U.S. Polo Assn Field 1 resulted in Pilot’s (Curtis Pilot, Matias Gonzalez*, Gonzalito Pieres, Lucas James) first win of the tournament, defeating Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Mackenzie Weisz, Diego Cavanagh, Julian de Lusarreta) 12-10 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida).
A hard-fought opening game between La Indiana and Scone displayed an elite level of polo on both sides of the ball with scoring opportunities needing to be earned. A six-goal second chukker for La Indiana gave them an advantage that they held throughout most of the game, but the penalty shooting of Gonzalez and Adolfo Cambiaso, converting five of their final six opportunities, brought Scone even during the late stages of the match. A resilient defense from La Indiana, including a crucial final minute backhand from Bickford, along with three goals from Hall in the final two chukkers gave La Indiana the 13-11 victory to remain undefeated.
Scone’s Poroto Cambiaso closely followed by La Indiana’s Polito Pieres. ©David Lominska
The opening chukker set the tone of the game, the two teams were evenly matched, the only goal came from Poroto Cambiaso to give Scone the narrow one-goal lead. Missing two penalty attempts, both from 60 yards, Scone were unable to extend their lead further as La Indiana came alive in a dominant second chukker. A complete team effort resulted in La Indiana scoring six consecutive goals on two penalty conversions and perfect four for four shooting from the field, three of which were assisted by Pieres to stun Scone and leave them trailing 6-2, their biggest deficit at any point in the GAUNTLET. Holding La Indiana to just one goal in the third chukker, Scone fought back to cut the deficit to two after penalty conversions from Adolfo Cambiaso and Gonzalez, leaving the score 7-5 at halftime.
A defensive start to the second half displayed limited chances for both teams as Pieres and Poroto Cambiaso traded goals, leaving La Indiana ahead by two. Play opened up in a fast-paced fifth chukker, producing a combined seven goals but it was Scone who chipped away at their deficit thanks to three goals from Adolfo Cambiaso, pulling within one entering the final chukker. In the opening play of the sixth chukker, Poroto Cambiaso finally brought Scone back into a tie at 11-all, leaving the final six minutes to determine the winner. After determined runs from both teams, it was La Indiana’s defense that stood tall, thwarting multiple Scone runs with a Penalty 3 conversion from Pieres placing La Indiana back in the lead. Peke Gonzalez made one final run for Scone, but Bickford hit a critical backhand in front of his own goal to secure the victory as Hall scored with time expiring to complete the 13-11 victory.
Pilot’s Matias Gonzalez substituted for a second consecutive game. ©Alex Pacheco
The feature game of the week pitted Coca-Cola against a Pilot team without Facundo Pieres and searching for their first win of the tournament. A clean game held Pilot without a penalty attempt the entire game, but in the most accurate performance of the season, Pilot converted 86% of their shots from the field, receiving five goals each from James and Gonzalito Pieres to defeat Coca-Cola. Overcoming their early struggles from the field, Coca-Cola challenged Pilot late but ultimately trailed from the opening goal in the 12-10 defeat.
After scoring 10 goals in his last game, Pieres picked up where he left off scoring a goal in the first chukker, however he added to his performance by using the pass to assist on goals from James and Matias Gonzalez as part of a 3-0 first chukker in favor of Pilot. Pieres’ second goal completed the four-goal run for Pilot to begin the game as Gillian Johnston finally ended the run, leaving the score 4-1. With just four fouls in the first half, the difference on the scoreboard came down to accuracy from the field as Pilot finished with a 7-4 advantage, converting seven of their nine shots.
Coca-Cola’s Mackenzie Weisz lining up a neckshot on the U.S. Polo Assn Field 1. ©David Lominska
Trailing throughout, Coca-Cola set their sights on closing the gap at the start of the second half, beginning to translate their opportunities from the field into goals. Johnston, Weisz and de Lusarreta scored as part of a three-goal fourth chukker to dramatically change the game and pull Coca-Cola within one. Despite recording the first penalty goal of the game, Cavanagh’s Coca-Cola team saw their deficit grow back to three as the duo of James and Pieres continued to take advantage of each run to goal for Pilot. James scored back-to-back goals to begin the sixth chukker, securing the 12-10 victory for Pilot and the honor of Most Valuable Player for his five-goal performance. Best Playing Pony was awarded to Open So Easy, played and owned by Gonzalito Pieres.
*Peke Gonzalez, Nico Escobar and Matias Gonzalez are Active Team USPA Members. 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.