Maserati US Open quarterfinals set
By Alex Webbe
The final round of preliminary play in the 2014 Maserati US Open Championship was played on Thursday afternoon at the International Polo Club as Alegria (Julian Mannix, Clemente Zavaleta, Mariano Aguerre and Hilario Ulloa) needed an overtime period to assist their late rally and register a 13-12 win against Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sebastian Merlos, Julio Arellano and Facundo Obregon).
The victory gave Alegria a perfect 3-0 record and boosted them into the tournament semifinals.
In the second match of the day previously winless Flight Options (Melissa Ganzi, Eduardo Astrada, Miguel Astrada and Alejandro Astrada) scored an exciting 10-9 win over Audi (Marc Ganzi, Gonzalito Pieres, Rodrigo Andrade and Gonzalo Del Tour), tying Audi and Coca-Cola with a 1-2 record and forcing a shootout to decide which two teams would advance to Sunday’s quarterfinals.
Following the shootout, both Audi and Coca-Cola advanced sending Audi against Crab Orchard (Peke Gonzalez, Magoo Laprida, Facundo Pieres and Paco de Narvaez) and Coca-Cola against Lechuza Caracas (Victor Vargas, Nico Pieres, Juan Martin Nero and Nico Espain).
In the afternoon opener, Alegria showed power early, getting consecutive goals from Hilario Ulloa and Mariano Aguerre (40-yard penalty conversion), 2-0. Sebastian Merlos got Coca-Cola on the scoreboard with a goal from the field, 2-1, with Aguerre scoring his second goal of the chukker with just eight seconds on the clock, 3-1.
Coca-Cola team captain Gillian Johnston opened the second chukker with a goal, 3-2, but Aguerre fired back two minutes later with his third goal of the game, 4-2. Merlos closed out the second period with consecutive goals that tied it up at 4-4.
Merlos continued to play like the 10-goaler that he once was, scoring the opening two goals of the third in just over a minute, 6-4. Alegria ‘s Julian Mannix cut the Coca-Cola lead to a single goal, 6-5, at the end of the first half with his first score of the day.
All six goals scored in the fourth chukker came on penalty shots, with Coca-Cola scoring four times ( two from Merlos and two from Merlos) and Alegria converting successfully only twice (two 60-yarders from Ulloa). With two chukkers left to play in regulation time, Coca-Cola owned a 10-7 advantage.
Ulloa scored on two consecutive penalty shots to open the fifth chukker, 10-9. Facundo Obregon responded with a penalty goal for Coca-Cola, 11-9. Arellano made it 12-9 with a goal from the field. Ulloa scored the final goal of the chukker on a 30-yard penalty sot to bring Alegria to with two goals of the lead, 12-10.
An early foul by Coca-Cola sent Ulloa to the penalty line where he converted the shot for an Alegria goal, 12-11 just seconds into the sixth period. The Coca-Cola offense struggled in vain as a resolute Alegria defense kept them from scoring. The final goal of the chukker was scored by team captain Julian Mannix, tying the score at 12-12 and forcing a sudden-death overtime chukker.
After a brief intermission both teams returned to the field with Alegria going on the attack from the onset. Three early shots at goal went wide for Alegria, but they seemed to have Coca-Cola back on their heels. The pace continued to quicken, with neither team able to score. With 1:53 left in overtime, Coca-Cola fouled near their own goal line and Ulloa converted for the win, 13-11.
Ulloa scored seven of his game-high eight goals on penalty shots. Aguerre scored three times and Mannix added a pair of goals for the win. Merlos led the Coca-Cola attack with seven goals. Arellano added three goals and Obregon and Johnston scored single goals in a losing effort.
FLIGHT OPTIONS 10, AUDI 9
The final match of the day was a physical contest with Flight Options and Audi on the field.
Goals were scarce in the opening minutes of play, with physical checks jarring horse and rider. Audi scored first with Gonzalo Del Tour stealing the ball in front of the flight Options goalposts and scoring with just 2:14 left in the first chukker. With less than a minute on the clock, Gonzalito Pieres made it 2-0 as he converted a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal for the final score of the chukker.
Pieres made it 3-0 n another penalty conversion at the 3:05 mark of the second when a bone-rattling ride-off sent Flight Options 9-goaler Miguel Astrada from the field with an injury. American 8-goaler Nic Roldan was called in to take his place, and play continued. Pieres added another goal for Audi on a shot from the field with less than a minute left in the period. Audi shutout the Flight Options attack for two consecutive chukkers and led, 4-0.
Pieres scored his fourth goal of the game at 5:28 of the third period and Audi was on top of a 5-0 score. Alejandro Astrada finally got his team on the scoreboard with a pair of penalty conversions. The first half ended with Audi in control of a 5-2 game.
Three consecutive goals from Alejandro Astrada (two on penalty conversions) had it all even at 5-5 at the 4:07 mark of the fourth chukker. Del Tour rallied for Audi, scoring twice in the final three minutes of the chukker to give Audi a 7-5 lead with two chukkers left in regulation time.
The first goal of the fifth chukker didn’t come until the 2:28 mark with Pieres converting a short penalty shot to give Audi an 8-5 edge. Alejandro Astrada managed to score form the field with 1:33 left in the period. Audi continued to lead, 8-6.
Nic Roldan opened the sixth chukker with a goal from the field to cut the Audi lead to a single goal, 8-7. Pieres responded with a goal from the field at 5:11 to give Audi a two goal advantage, 9-7. Roldan sent a booming pass down the field to a waiting Eduardo Astrada who scored to cut the lead to a single goal, 9-8.Alejandro Astrada scored on a 60-yard penalty shot for the final goal in regulation time, 9-9, and both teams repaired to the sidelines to prepare for the sudden-death overtime period.
Less than two minutes into the overtime Alejandro Astrada took off on a run and scored, 10-9, for the win.
Alejandro Astrada led the Flight Options attack with eight goals (five on penalty shots). Eduardo Astrada and Roldan added single goals in the win. Pieres scored three goals from the field and three on penalty shots for a team high of six goals. Del Tour added the other three goals as Audi lost, 10-9.
The Flight Options win resulted in a three-way-tie between Audi, Coca-Cola and flight Options, forcing a shootout to determine what two teams would advance to the quarterfinals and which team would go home. Audi won and Coca-Cola finished second.
Maserati US Open competition continues on Sunday with Audi facing Crab Orchard and Coca-Cola going against Lechuza Caracas.