Dubai earns US Open semifinal berth with comfortable win over White Birch; Valiente over Coca-Cola, 11-7
By Alex Webbe
It wasn’t the game the crowded sidelines of the Number 5 field at the International Polo Club expected with a pair of 2-0 teams facing off for a semifinal berth in the 2016 US Open Championship, but the Dubai team (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola and Adolfo Cambiaso) ran all over previously undefeated White Birch (Mariano Obregon, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguerre and Peter Brant) in a 14-6 rout in an 11am game.
White Birch had the first chance at goal with a Mariano Obregon placing the ball wide in the opening 30 seconds of play. Runs up and down the field were finally punctuated by a goal from Mariano Aguerre off of a Penalty 5 (shot from midfield) by Hilario Ulloa to give White birch the early lead, 1-0. Adolfo Cambiaso leveled the score at 1-1 on a 40-yard penalty conversion for the final goal of the chukker.
The Dubai attack in the second chukker was unstoppable with Facundo Sola taking advantage or penalties to convert penalty shots from the 30 and 40-yard marks for goals, 3-1. Dubai team captain Rashid Albwardy notched his first goal of the game with 4:30 left in the chukker and Sola closed out the scoring with his third goal of the chukker on a shot from the field, 5-1.
Ulloa scored the opening goal of the third chukker on a shot from the field followed by a 60-yard penalty conversion from Cambiaso, 6-2. Ulloa scored on a 60-yard penalty shot of his won, but Sola added the final goal of the chukker to give Dubai the comfortable 7-3 halftime lead.
Dubai extended their lead to five goals with Cambiaso converting a 40-yard penalty shot for a goal to open the second half, 8-3. At 5:23 of the chukker, Ulloa was hit in the elbow with a ball and was replaced by 4-goaler Joaquin Panelo and play continued. Alejo Taranco scored his first goal of the day at the 5:52 mark followed by a pair of goals from Cambiaso (one on a 60-yard penalty shot). After four periods of play Dubai was sitting on an eight goal lead, 11-3.
An offensively-muted fifth chukker saw Taranco and Panelo trade goals for the only scoring in the period. Dubai continued to hold a commanding eight goal lead, 12-4.
An aggressive Aguerre scored the first goal of the sixth chukker with a well-executed neck-shot for a goal and followed it up a couple of minutes later with his third goal of the game, cutting the Dubai lead down to six goals, 12-6, but that was White Birch’s last offensive burst. Sola closed out the game with the final two goals of the game to give Dubai an overwhelming 14-6 win and earning them a berth in next week’s semifinals.
Valiente 11, Coca-Cola 7
Disappointing US Open play had both Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Tomas Garcia del Rio and Alfredo Capella) and Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sugar Erskine, Miguel Astrada and Julio Arellano) taking the field in the third round of play with 0-2 records. Valiente opened the tournament as the defending champion but lost opening rounds to White Birch (11-7) and Dubai (9-6). Coca-Cola was a semifinalist in last year’s US Open and a semifinalist in this year’s USPA Gold Cup, but stumbled against Dubai (14-8) and White Birch (11-10 in OT) coming in to Wednesday’s game.
Miguel Astrada scored the first goal of the game for Coca-Cola for the early 1-0 lead. Valiente’s Tomas Garcia del Rio countered with a goal from the field at 4:29, 1-1. Coca-Cola team captain Gillian Johnston gave her team the go-ahead goal with just 53 seconds on the clock to end the opening chukker with a 2-1 lead.
Two minutes into the second period Alfredo Capella tied the game at 2-2. A minute later Coca-Cola 7-goaler Sugar Erskine took the lead back with his first goal of the game, 3-2.
Valiente leveled the score again with del Rio scoring his second goal of the game in the opening 33 seconds of the third period, 3-3. Astrada converted a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal less than a minute later for a 4-3 Coca-Cola lead. Capella scored the final goal of the first half with over four minutes left to play, but both defenses held firm. The first half ended in a 4-4 tie.
Valiente moved ahead of Coca-Cola on a del Rio penalty conversion at the 5:04 mark of the fourth chukker, 5-4, and Torres made it 6-4 with his first goal of the day. Julio Arellano brought Coca-Cola to within a goal of the lead with 1:32 on the clock but Capella pushed the ball through the Coca-Cola goalposts in the final 36 seconds of the chukker for a 7-5 Valiente edge.
A Coca-Cola foul sent del Rio to the penalty line in the opening minute of the fifth chukker where he converted from 30-yards out to stretch the Valiente lead to three goals, 8-5. Johnston scored her second goal from the field followed by a penalty goal from Arellano that cut the Valiente lead to a single goal, 8-7. With 36 seconds on the clock, del Rio scored his fifth goal of the game, ending the fifth chukker with Valiente in control of a 9-7 game.
Coca-Cola struggled to mount a successful attack in the final chukker of play. Runs up and down the field were fruitless until Capella connected on a well-executed neck-shot for a goal at the four-minute mark. Torres closed the door on Coca-Cola with the final goal of the game with just 39 seconds left in regulation play for the 11-7 victory.
Del Rio led the field in scoring with five goals (two on penalty shots). Capella added four goals and Torres scored twice for the win. Johnston, Astrada and Arellano each scored twice for Coca-Cola. Erskine was credited with a goal in the loss.
Play continues in the 2016 United States Open Championship on Thursday, April 14th at the International Polo Club with a 10am contest between Lucchese and Audi. Both teams enter the game with 1-1records and each will be looking to secure a spot in Sunday’s Mini-Quarterfinals with a win. At 4pm Flexjet (0-2) will face Orchard Hill (2-1). A win for Orchard Hill gives them the top seed in their bracket and a position in Wednesday’s semifinals.