Wellington, FL - Valiente won the 111th U.S. Open Polo Championship in the final match on Engel & Völkers field Sunday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC), defeating Orchard Hill 11-9.
Bob Jornayvaz 2
Alejo Taranco 6
Guillermo Terrera 8
Adolfo Cambiaso 10
Steve Van Andel A
Facundo Pieres 10
Polito Pieres 9
Ezequiel Ferrario 7
When it came to the 111th U.S. Open Final, the third time was a charm for Valiente. For the first time ever, and after an extraordinarily challenging season, the team won the golden key it had lost twice before. If you ask Adolfo Cambiaso, the game was won in the last three minutes. "That's what made the difference," he said. To no one's surprise, Cambiaso was the linchpin. Facundo Pieres had just scored from the penalty line, giving Orchard Hill a two-point lead in what looked to be the last gasp of the game. But then Orchard Hill lost a challenge to a penalty one awarded to Valiente, and Guille Terrera scored, tying the game 9-all.
The hint of an overtime chukker hovering on the horizon, Valiente kicked its "Comeback Kid" routine into high gear. Alejo Taranco scored from the penalty line, starting a seismic shift that became insurmountable. With just a minute left in regulation play, Valiente had a choice to make: Let the clock run down and bank on taking a one-point win (while running the risk of one of the Piereses tying the game), or just go for it. Cambiaso removed the question mark with a sudden do-or-die move that took the field by surprise. He snatched the ball from the pack and made a flat-out gallop for goal, the gap between him and his defenders increasing exponentially. With one huge swing of the mallet, it was game over.
Valiente played a clean game, making 12 fouls to Orchard Hill's 18. And to no one's surprise, Polito and Facundo Pieres made a string of amazing plays throughout the match. Polito Pieres brought Orchard Hill to a two-point lead at the end of the first chukker as he fought off two defenders (one of them Cambiaso). The rest of the first half played more like an extended practice round than a final. Orchard Hill held a slim lead, with Valiente intermittently tying the score. The first half ended with Orchard Hill ahead 5-4.
The real game began in the fourth chukker. Cambiaso came firing right out of the gate for a hat trick, slamming in three successive field goals and moving Valiente into the lead for the first time. A stunned Orchard Hill was scoreless in the chukker, which ended 7-5 for Valiente.
The fifth chukker saw a temporary reversal of fortune, with Valiente scoreless and Orchard Hill making three goals courtesy of the Pieres cousins (two by Polito and one by Facundo). One of Facundo Pieres' goals came when Cambiaso was off the field changing horses. Pieres took advantage of the four-against-three scenario, making a sweeping run all the way to goal. With astoundingly agile, cat-like play, Polito Pieres reached way back to take a pass from his cousin and then surged forward. With two players on his hip (one of them a mach 9 hair-on-fire Cambiaso), Polito Pieres ran the ball straight into goal. Orchard Hill regained a tight lead, 8-7.
A reaching foul gave Orchard Hill a spot hit, which Facundo Pieres turned into the long shot of the day. From 135 yards out, he took the free hit and barreled down the field to score and move Orchard Hill into a two-point lead. Things were looking up for the team in red, until Cambiaso & Company stopped Orchard Hill in its tracks and claimed the game.
All of Valiente's players acknowledged it had been an extremely difficult game. "You know, it's just a huge honor," said patron Bob Jornayvaz after the win. "I hate to call it getting a monkey off our back, but we've been working at it a long time. We were the underdogs today, and having the organizational bench strength and the horses really made a difference. I mean, I wish people could see the grooms and the vets and the farriers and what everyone does as an organization to make it happen because they truly brought us here today."
"We persevered through a lot of injuries, and it's been a rough season. We didn't look very good in the C.V. Whitney Cup or the Gold Cup, and we just persevered. We kept at it and we knew we had the horses to get us to the end if we could get ourselves to the end. And that's where I've got to give Adolfo credit - going to the gym, working through his injuries, keeping our spirits up and making us all believe that it was possible. And at the end, the guy's just amazing."
Pulling his boots off in the team tent, Cambiaso said, "It was a really tight game. They are a really great team. We're happy to win it. I like to win any tournament - the U.S. Open, even better. And the good thing about it is that I won it with Valiente, and that was something that I needed to do. Bob believed in me, he gave all the organization to me, so we did it."
Knowing they would be facing an uphill battle in the final, the Valiente players dug in deep the day before, devoting several hours to watching Horseplay.tv footage of their previous encounters this season with Orchard Hill. Saturday morning after working their mounts, Valiente teammates sat on chairs in the barn aisle with Cambiaso as he stared intently at game replays on his tablet. "See, there!" said Cambiaso, freezing the gameplay on his screen as he pointed to a Facundo Pieres move filmed from above by the Horseplay.tv drone.
Standing behind Cambiaso, teammate Jejo Taranco - whose second child, a boy, had been born less than 24 hours before - leaned his tall frame down to view the screen. Guille Terrera joined in on the quiet, deep-thought moment. Cambiaso replayed the clip again and again until satisfied he had a handle on it.
"The tapes are good for everybody," said Cambiaso afterward. "We watch some plays - not a lot, because I don't like to watch myself. But I like to watch a couple of plays to see more or less how they play." Looking ahead to Sunday's final, he said, "When we played Orchard Hill before this season, they beat us twice. So it will be a tough game for us, but a final is a final, and we are there. I'm just happy to be there."
Taranco was like-minded. "Tomorrow will be a good game. I think it's going to be a really hard game for us, and even for them. Finals are finals - there's nothing to say about the games before. Attitude and motivation are very important, more than the plays and the tactics you can use," he said. "Orchard Hill plays very well. They've had an amazing season, they're well organized and have excellent horses. They have two very good, talented players (Facundo and Polito Pieres) who can do a lot of damage with the ball. It will be very difficult to beat them. But we are very motivated for the game tomorrow, so let's see."
After the win, Taranco said, "I have nothing else to ask for. It was a great game, the best one by far that I've won. For me, playing with Cambiaso, Terrera and Bob against these two animals (Polito and Facundo Pieres) is something I think will never happen again. I'm very happy to be here. We did everything to win today."
Terrera said he was "thankful and grateful for the team," adding, "We were not winning, and things were not happening the way we wanted. Everyone was pushing forward, and that's what's called team spirit. We didn't change anything. We did the same the whole season. The only thing is that in the beginning, luck was not on our side. That's not very good for your brain, your mind. And then when things begin to happen the way you want, everything goes forward."
Cambiaso complimented IPC, which drew eight 26-goal teams and a dozen 20-goal teams in this year's 16-week high-goal season. "I think they're doing a great job," he said. "It's always great to play at a club of this level."
The U.S. Open Championship Final was an exciting end to a magnificent season of polo at IPC. John Wash, President of Club Operations at IPC shared his thoughts about the 2015 season. "At the beginning of the season we predicted this would be the finest season of polo ever," said Wash. "We hosted new teams, had record-breaking spectator numbers and expanded, exciting coverage from the media. It has been an incredible season. We want to thank all the sponsors, patrons, teams and members for a great, if not the best, season of polo ever."
Aspen Valley Wins Hall of Fame Cup
Aspen Valley defeated FlexJet 11-8 in the Hall of Fame Cup on Sunday. The 111th U.S. Open Polo Championship subsidiary, presented by the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame, was hosted by International Polo Club. Juancito Bollini scored three of Aspen Valley's goals and was named Most Valuable Player of the match. His fourth chukker mount was awarded Best Playing Pony.
Aspen Valley Polo Club FlexJet
Grant Ganzi 1 Leo Mandelbaum 3
Juancito Bollini 2 Kris Kampsen 6
Miguel N Astrada 9 Piki Diaz Alberdi 7
Nic Roldan 8 Juan Bollini 5
Ronnie Hayes was honored with the USPA 2015 Umpire of the Year Award
Julian Mannix earned the Patron Sentient Jet Challenge with a huge 41 goals earned during the season.
The Argentine Best Playing Pony was awarded to Boeing, a polo stallion owned by Bob Jornayvaz and played by Adolfo Cambiaso.
Adolfo Cambiaso's mare Romana earned the coveted Willis Hartman Trophy for the Best Playing Pony of the U.S. Open Championship.
Facundo Pieres' Frenchita won Best Playing Pony of the U.S. Open Championship Final.
Alejo Taranco, who contributed four Valiente goals, was named Most Valuable Player of the Final.
International Polo Club Palm Beach Fast Facts:
Created by players for players, the International Polo Club Palm Beach was born out of the dream to build a facility to showcase the incredible skills of the ponies and players that dominate the sport.
Members and guests enjoy panoramic views of the action from field side box seats or lawn and terrace seating. Sponsors and fans convene at The Winners Circle to congratulate the players during the awards presentation following the games.
Gourmet brunches, après polo celebrations and the prerequisite charitable events will take place in The Pavilion. Designed to accommodate large parties, corporate clients, as well as family and friends.