Assembling on the heralded U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1, the U.S. Open Polo Championship® continued Sunday between Casablanca and SD Farms in the anticipated Feature Game of the Week. Entering their final matchup of bracket play with an 0-2 record, a standout four-goal performance from Valentino Echezarreta aided Casablanca in their early dominant play, as Casablanca held off a late push from SD Farms to capture their first win of the tournament 11-9.
Despite an early field goal from SD Farms’ Felipe “Pipe” Vercellino, Casablanca immediately took control of the first chukker, dominating on both sides of the ball to account for a five-goal scoring blitz. Including contributions from Stuart “Sugar” Erskine, Agustin “Tincho” Merlos and two goals from Echezarreta, Casablanca’s accuracy and confident play carried them to an early 5-1 advantage. Finally halting their opponent’s offensive takeover, a Penalty 4 conversion from Vercellino and additional goal from Pedrinho “Pedro” Zacharias was imminently answered Casablanca’s Juan “Juancito” Bollini Jr. from the field. With all four Casablanca teammates on the scoreboard, their strength as a cohesive unit and gave them a firm 6-3 lead at the break.
Picking up where they left off, Erskine opened the second half of play on a spectacular breakaway to increase Casablanca’s lead to four. Pulling themselves back into contention, Sayyu Dantata escorted the ball between the posts, while the beginning of SD Farms’ comeback featured Vercellino’s second conversion of the day, followed by consecutive goals from Felipe Viana to pull their team back within two goals. In a match with only twelve fouls committed between the two contested teams, a critical Penalty 1 drawn by Vercellino brought SD Farms back into striking distance, but a determined and fiery Echezarreta hit his fourth goal of the match to reclaim a two-goal lead and give Casablanca some much needed offensive separation. Despite one final goal from Vercellino, a driving Merlos found the posts in the final seconds of regulation, as Casablanca was finally able to celebrate the hard-earned 11-9 victory.
For his impressive offensive contributions, Valentino Echezarreta was awarded Most Valuable Player, while Agustin “Tincho” Merlos’ “Flecha” was named Best Playing Pony.
Bracket play in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® concludes on April 11 with Dutta Corp/Show+ against Pilot at 10:00am ET, Polo Training Foundation versus Old Hickory Bourbon/Airstream at 12:30pm ET, Santa Rita Polo Farm battling La Elina at 2:30pm ET, and Cessna is set to face Sol de Agosto to round out the action at 4:30pm ET.
Photo Credit ©Alex Pacheco