So far the 2017 U.S. Open Polo Championship® has been a tale of tight wins. It began with Valiente’s 12-11 OT victory over Orchard Hill on opening day and continued Thursday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach with a double-header. Flexjet overtook Audi 10-9, and Coca-Cola claimed an 11-9 victory over Travieso on day 2 of the tournament.
Travieso, a new team to the U.S. Open, came “to prove ourselves,” said team captain Teo Calle before the game. Travieso did exactly that, holding their own against the Coke machine all the way through. While Coca-Cola dominated play, Travieso chipped away at their sustained lead to come within striking distance in the final chukker.
When you’re up against an organization like Coca-Cola, that’s easier said than done. You can count on the triumvirate of Julio Arellano, Miguel Novillo Astrada and Julian de Lusarreta to put up a veritable stonewall. Any time one or two of them would drive forward, before you could even blink another circled back to defend. That rendered it nearly impossible for an opponent to make any long runs.
Travieso came prepared with some heavy ammo in the form of Sebastian Merlos, Mariano Gonzalez and Alfredo Capella. An early knock-in for Travieso saw Capella—in his trademark long-hitter form—launch a missile over everyone's heads for Merlos to get a breakaway. That seemed to catch the team in red by surprise, but they quickly adjusted.
For Travieso, Gonzalez seemed caught between a back and forward position. He never seemed to find his place in the game and couldn’t make any goals from the field. Capella concentrated on controlling the back, and Merlos was dribbling a fair amount with the ball. Not utilizing Gonzalez in open play made it more difficult for Travieso to generate offense against a synchronized Coca-Cola defense. Coca-Cola took the win 11-9.
Flexjet Slides Past Audi 10-9
The chemistry of Gonzalito Pieres, Nico Pieres and Rodrigo Andrade showed in the second and third chukkers of the Audi-Flexjet match. The three played smoothly together, getting in a few runs. Audi was a bit slow out of the gate, with a lot of their play going through Alejandro Novillo Astrada, who found himself under sustained pressure from Flexjet.
The score was tied at 3 at the end of the second chukker. Travieso gained some traction in the middle of the game to take a 2-goal lead. Still, as anyone on the sidelines could see, the second half was all Audi on the field. That was particularly true in the fifth chukker, when it seemed the ball never left the Flexjet half (7 shots for Audi in that chukker alone). Audi held Flexjet scoreless in the last chukker and narrowed the gap to 1 with a Nic Roldan penalty goal.
But several missed opportunities for Audi made the difference in the result, as they had more than enough chances to score and take the lead but were unable to come through. The game ended 10-9 for Flexjet.
The U.S. Open resumes Sunday with a triple-header: Orchard Hill vs. Audi (10 a.m.); Coca-Cola vs. Valiente (noon) and Flexjet vs. Travieso in the featured match at 3 p.m. on Engel & Völkers field.
All photography: (c) David Lominska (IPC)