By Alex Webbe
Wednesday afternoon victories by Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola and Adolfo Cambiaso) and Orchard Hill (Facundo Pieres, Julian de Lusaretta, Juan Martin Nero and Steve Van Andel will send the two teams to the final of the 2016 United States Open Championship at the International Polo Club in a 3pm Sunday afternoon contest.
Dubai earned a berth in the final by defeating Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Freddie Mannix) 13-11 in a 10:30am contest.
Audi’s Gonzalito Pieres scored the first goal of the day from the field but was countered by a pair of goals from Dubai 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso. Cambiaso scored his first goal from the field just a minute after the goal by Pieres, and added another on a 60-yrd penalty conversion at the 2:31 mark for the 2-1 lead. Dubai team captain Rashid Albwardy made it 3-1 with his first goal of the day. Pieres scored on a 60-yard penalty shot with just 1:04 left in the period to trail Dubai, 3-2.
Cambiaso opened the second chukker with a goal from the field, 4-2. Pieres scored the only other goal in the chukker as he converted another 60-yard penalty shot for a goal. At the end of two periods of play, Dubai managed to successfully defend their fragile one goal lead, 4-3.
Cambiaso drilled a 60-yard penalty shot for a goal in the opening minute of the third period, 5-3. Pieres responded with a goal from the field, 5-4. Albwardy scored on a long run with 3:21 left in the period, 6-4. Pieres and Cambiaso exchanged penalty conversions to close out the chukker with Dubai on top of a 7-5 halftime score.
Albwardy added two more goals in the fourth chukker as second half action got underway. Cambiaso added a single goal on a 70-yard shot that blasted through the Audi goalposts. Audi was unable to mount a successful attack and fell behind by five goals, 10-5.
Pieres scored the opening goal of the fifth chukker, 10-6. Audi found themselves in foul trouble, giving up a pair of 40-yard penalty conversions to Cambiaso, 12-6. Pieres got Audi on the scoreboard again with a goal from the field followed by a 90-yard blast for a goal from Cambiaso to end the chukker with a six goal advantage, 13-7.
Dubai eased up on their horses in the final period, giving up four goals to Audi. Andrade opened the scoring in the sixth chukker with a goal from the field, 13-8. Pieres added a couple of penalty goals and Andrade ended the period with an extreme angle shot for a goal off the defender’s end-line for the final goal of the chukker in a 13-11 Dubai win.
Cambiaso led all scoring with nine goals (five on penalty shots). Albwardy added four goals from the field for the victory. Pieres led the Audi attack with eight goals (five on penalty conversions). Andrade scored twice and Mannix added a goal in the loss.
Orchard Hill 9, White Birch 8
In the second semifinal of the day Orchard Hill needed an overtime chukker to down White Birch (Mariano Obregon, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguerre and Segundo Merlos), 9-8, and earn the right to face Dubai in the US Open final.
Hilario Ulloa scored the first goal of the day on a 40-yard penalty shot in the opening minute of the game for a1-0 lead. Ulloa added found himself on the scoring end of a pass from Mariano Aguerre with 5:17 left in the game to move in front, 2-0. Orchard Hill scored the final two goals of the chukker with Juan Martin Nero launched a shot through the goalposts from 95-yards out. Facundo Pieres scored his first goal from the field with just 25 seconds on the clock. At the end of the opening chukker the score was all even at 2-2.
Orchard Hill owned the second chukker. Three goals from Pieres (two on 40-yard penalty conversions) and a goal from Nero were complimented by shutout defense as Orchard Hill took a four goal lead into the third period, 6-2.
Both defensive units were at their best in third chukker action. With only two minutes left on the clock, Ulloa scored the only goal of the period, cutting the lead to three goals, 6-3.
As much as Orchard Hill controlled the second chukker, White Birch controlled the fourth. Ulloa scored all three goals of the chukker on penalty shots. Ulloa opened the period with a 30-yard penalty goal and followed up with another less than two minutes later, 6-5. Ulloa scored the final goal of the chukker from 60-yards put to tie the game at 6-6.
Three minutes into the fifth period, Aguerre gave White Birch their first lead of the day, 7-6. A minute later Pieres converted a 30-yard penalty shot for a goal to even the score at 7-7.
Goals were hard to come by in the sixth chukker with both Orchard Hill and White Birch racing up and down the field in an effort to put their team into the lead. With just 1:41 left in the period Ulloa scored his seventh goal of the game, and putting White Birch in the lead, 8-7, with just seconds left in the game.
A determined Orchard Hill side continued to press the attack, but neither team was able to score in the opening minutes of the final chukker of regulation play. With just 1:41 on the clock, Ulloa scored the go-head goal for White Birch, 1:41. With time running out and just 11 seconds remaining, Pieres drove the ball through the White birch goalposts to tie it at 8-8.
After both teams had returned to the field with fresh mounts in the sudden-death overtime, the battle continued. Each team had a run at the goal to no avail. Orchard Hill had finally staged an effective attack on the White birch goal that resulted in a foul in front of the goal and Orchard Hill was awarded the short penalty shot that was converted by Pieres for the 9-8 overtime win.
Pieres scored four of his seven goals on penalty conversions with de Lusarreta adding the other two goals for the Orchard Hill victory. Ulloa scored seven times for White Birch (three on penalty shots) with Aguerre adding a goal for the loss.
The 2016 United States Open final between Dubai and Orchard Hill is slated to be played at 3pm on Sunday, April 24th at the International Polo Club. Orchard Hill will be returning to the Open final for the second consecutive year while Dubai is making their first appearance in high-goal polo in Florida.