The final leg of the 2018 Argentine Triple Crown starts Saturday in Palermo. La Dolfina and Ellerstina each took one of the opening tournaments (Tortugas and Hurlingham), and they seem destined to collide again in the Argentine Open final. But Las Monjitas is pounding pretty hard on the door, which keeps things interesting.
For the other seven teams, Palermo features a different story line this year. Those teams will be jockeying for position in next year’s Triple Crown. The format is changing for 2019, with the Argentine Open the only tournament providing ranking points. Here’s how it breaks down:
Tortugas 2019: 4-team tournament with top 4 teams from Argentine Open
Hurlingham 2019: 8-team tournament with top 7 in Argentina guaranteed spots and 8th competing against the winner of the qualifying tournament
Argentine Open 2019: 10-team tournament (no change)
So with Ellerstina, La Dolfina and Las Monjitas firmly ranked in the top three, the focus turns to which team will qualify fourth, securing a place in Tortugas. Three teams are really gunning for it, with La Aguada leading the way. A successful Hurlingham Open saw La Aguada win their first three games with a strong possession style before falling to Ellerstina in the semifinals. La Aguada is led by Alejandro Novillo Astrada, who ranked seventh in the Hurlingham Open with 5.3 goals per game. While he anchors the offense, Alfredo Bigatti and Ignacio Novillo Astrada have contributed to the team effort with field goals, leaving Miguel Novillo Astrada to manage the defense. La Aguada has generated offense from their ability to score from the penalty line, ranking third with 3.8 goals per game. But their success may come down to maintaining discipline, as they committed the third-highest number of fouls in the Hurlingham Open (9.8 per game).
Nipping at La Aguada’s heels are Cria Yatay and La Dolfina Polo Ranch. After a noteworthy 2017 Argentine Open that saw Cria Yatay reach the semifinals, they will look to duplicate that performance to qualify for Tortugas. Cria Yatay has been effective in an open, flowing style of play that ranks them fourth in goals per game (11.8), but their success ultimately comes down to two factors: their defense and shooting accuracy. Allowing 14.3 goals per game, Cria Yatay has struggled defensively to slow their opponents, providing pressure on their offense to score at a high rate. While Cria Yatay has produced enough opportunities with two players in the top 10 in shots, an inaccurate 48% shooting places them second to the last among all teams. Joaquin Pittaluga has been the driving force of the offense (tied for fourth at 5.8 goals per game).
La Dolfina Polo Ranch hopes to replicate their performance in the Tortugas Open, where they reached the semis. With Julian de Lusarreta in the line-up, Diego Cavanagh and Guillermo Terrera have pushed forward offensively as a dynamic pair, combining for 8.8 goals per game. La Dolfina Polo Ranch will look to build on that momentum by keeping the game in open play. They commit only 7.0 fouls per game, trailing La Dolfina and Las Monjitas for the fewest number of fouls. With all three teams ranked at either 32 or 33 goals, any of their games can go either way, with a crucial match-up between La Aguada and La Dolfina Polo Ranch highlighting this weekend.
The second element will be the battle between La Albertina and La Ensenada for the final two qualifying spots for Hurlingham. La Ensenada is an up-and-coming team that rolls with the high energy of four talented young players, three of whom each made seven goals in the Hurlingham Open. Juan Britos has been the catalyst, averaging 5.0 goals per game to rank eighth among all players. Despite being the focus of opponents, he continues to produce at a high rate from the field and the line.
Meanwhile, La Albertina hopes to improve upon their performance in the Triple Crown, showing life in close games against La Dolfina and Las Monjitas. No team has produced a more balanced offense, with all four players scoring between 8 and 10 goals in the Hurlingham Open. However, La Albertina has struggled to generate goals, ranking third-last with fewer than 10 goals per game. La Albertina has produced one of the best defenses in the Triple Crown and will need to turn that into offense to set themselves up for next year.
Saturday: Alegria v. La Ensenada; La Aguada v. La Dolfina Polo Ranch
Sunday: La Albertina v. La Cañada Daily Racing Form; Las Monjitas v. Cria Yatay
Photography: Helen Cruden