Facundo Peres powers Dubai to US Open title
By Alex Webbe
Steve Van Andel’s Orchard Hill team (Facundo Pieres, Julian de Lusarreta, Juan Martin Nero and Steve Van Andel) scored a 13-12 win over Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola and Adolfo Cambiaso) Sunday afternoon in the final of the 2016 United States Open Championship at the International Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, but it took an overtime goal to do it.
With three of the world’s top rated layers on the field (Dubai’s Adolfo Cambiaso rated at Number 1 and Orchard Hill’s Facundo Pieres and Juan Martin Nero rated at Numbers 2 and 3 respectively) fast exciting play was anticipated and no one was disappointed.
Facundo Pieres scored the first goal of the game in the opening 30 seconds of play for the early 1-0 lead. Facundo Sola countered with a goal from the field at the 5:57 mark, 1-1, and added a 40-yard penalty conversion with 4:32 left in the chukker that gave Dubai the lead, 2-1. Adolfo Cambiaso surgically drove the ball through a number of horses legs from 30-yard line that ended the period with Dubai on top, 3-1.
Ain second chukker play, a 30-yard penalty conversion from Pieres, 3-2, was followed by a goal from the field from Rashid Albwardy, 4-2. Pieres scored with less than a minute on the clock for Orchard Hill but Dubai continued to lead, 4-3.
Julian de Lusarreta scored on a deep neck-shot to open the third period for a 4-4 tie. Nero responded with a 100-yard shot from the field to give the lead back to Orchard Hill, 5-4. A pair of penalty goals were scored by Pieres midway through the game, 7-4. Cambiaso scored the final goal of the first half but Orchard remained in the lead, 7-5.
A refocused Dubai team rode onto the field in the fourth chukker on a mission. Sola scored his first goal of the day followed by a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal from Cambiaso. A penalty goal from Pieres ended the fourth chukker in an 8-8 tie.
“We started well,” said Argentine 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero, “but they came back and killed us in the in the fourth chukker. Once the game opened up, we made a comeback and managed to hold on for the win.”
Cambiaso took the ball from the throw-in that opened the fifth chukker, and raced 100-yards down the field to score and take the lead back for Dubai, 9-8. Two minutes later Cambiaso scored on a short penalty shot to make it 10-8. Pieres scored the final goal of the chukker on a 30-yard penalty conversion that cut the Dubai lead down to a single goal, 10-9.
Cambiaso converted a 60-yard penalty shot for a goal at 5:48 for an 11-9, two goal advantage. A Dubai foul sent Pieres to the penalty line where he converted the shot from the 30-yard mark, 11-10. Pieres made a run from the middle of the field that resulted in the tying goal, 11-11, with 3:20 on the clock. Cambiaso gave the lead back to Dubai, 12-11. With time running down in regulation play, Pieres broke through the Dubai defenders with just 48 seconds on the clock, 12-12, forcing a sudden-death overtime period.
Dubai took control of the throw-in. deep into the Orchard Hill end of the field, but were unable to score. Each team had a number of opportunities to get on the scoreboard until Orchard Hill found themselves deep in the Dubai end of the field. A backhander from Nero to a centering Pieres was all the action needed as the waiting 10-goaler confidently drove it through the goalposts for the 13-12 victory.
Pieres led the field in scoring on the day with 11 goals, eight on penalty shots, and was named MVP for his efforts. De Lusarreta and Nero each added a goal for the win. Cambiaso scored only two of his team-high eight goals from the field. Sola added three goals and Albwardy was credited with one goal in the loss.
The final of the United States Open signals the end of the winter high-goal season at the International Polo Club with players flying to California, Argentina and England as tournament play continues to grow around the world.