Rain postponed the remaining quarterfinal in the CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship® on Sunday, but after the skies cleared on Monday, play resumed as Pilot and Aspen/Dutta Corp battled for the last spot in the semifinals. A hard-fought match came down to the final seconds, but a sixth chukker charge for Aspen/Dutta Corp fell a goal short and resulted in Pilot securing the fourth and final place in the semifinals with the 12-11 victory at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
On opposite ends of the spectrum with Pilot entering the game undefeated and Aspen/Dutta Corp playing their way into the quarterfinals with a playoff victory over Santa Clara, the outcome was decided by the narrowest of margins. Aspen/Dutta Corp fought until the final horn, producing just as many shot attempts as Pilot but converted one less opportunity at goal. Gringo Colombres tried to will his team to victory, scoring five goals and adding three assists in one of Aspen/Dutta Corp’s strongest showings of the season, however Pilot produced two stretches of five consecutive goals that proved too much to overcome as time ran out on Aspen/Dutta Corp’s comeback attempt in the 12-11 defeat.
The restart on Monday saw the game pick up with three minutes remaining in the opening chukker and zeroes on the scoreboard until Aspen/Dutta Corp’s Timmy Dutta ended the chukker with a goal off a pass from Colombres. Taking the chukker break to find their footing, Pilot stormed out of the gate in the second chukker, led by the play of Facundo Pieres. Converting two Penalty 2’s, along with a field goal and an assist, Facundo Pieres contributed on all four Pilot goals in a dominant 4-0 chukker that swung momentum in their favor. Aspen/Dutta Corp tried to pull closer by halftime, pressuring Pilot and shooting at goal five times in the third chukker, but inaccurate shooting kept them behind by two, trailing 5-3.
A lightning-quick pace was set at the start of the second half as both teams looked to utilize their horsepower to take control of the game. A goal from Gonzalito Pieres extended Pilot’s lead to three, but it was short-lived due to a proficient attack from Aspen/Dutta Corp that was led by Lucas Diaz Alberdi. Adding two goals from the field, Alberdi quickly brought the game even at 6-6 and provided a spark for an awakened Aspen/Dutta Corp team. Pilot turned to their duo of Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres for a response, scoring back-to-back goals to end the fourth chukker and restore their lead, one which they improved on in the fifth chukker. Completing a run of five unanswered goals, Pilot seemed to secure the victory, holding an 11-6 lead with just one chukker remaining, but with their season on the line, Aspen/Dutta Corp made one more push against the reigning CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship® winners. All four players pushed forward to pressure the Pilot defense, and it was the duo of Colombres and Dutta that began their comeback with a relentless attack. Though Colombres and Dutta scored two goals each, Aspen/Dutta Corp still trailed by two entering the final minutes as they continued to keep the ball in Pilot’s territory. The 30-second horn sounded and Alberdi scored his third goal of the game for Aspen/Dutta Corp, but time expired as Pilot survived the late push and advanced to the semifinals with the 12-11 victory.
After the match, a draw was done for the semifinal match-ups, deciding that Pilot will face Scone, while Park Place will meet La Indiana, with the winners advancing to the CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship® final.
Photo credit ©Alex Pacheco