Mar 11, 2016 9:45 PM

Audi, Flexjet, Dubai and Lucchese Win USPA Gold Cup® Openers

All eight teams made their debuts Thursday in the 26-goal USPA Gold Cup®, with two games played each at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) and Lechuza Caracas. Both in overtime play, Audi defeated Coca-Cola 10-9, and Lucchese won 13-12 over Orchard Hill. Dubai took a 13-7 win over White Birch, and Flexjet beat Valiente 10-8. It was lightning-fast, intense polo, with one or two yellow cards in each game.

Audi Clinches 10-9 OT Win Over Coca-Cola


It was a doubly good day for Grand Champions Polo Club. Both its 26-goal teams in the tournament, Audi Polo Team and Flexjet, won their respective matches. "I'm really happy today. Our entire organization won," said Audi patron Marc Ganzi. "It's so difficult to win one game at this level, but to win two games! I don't think that ever happens." Neither game was a cakewalk, however. "Today was tough. Coke had us," said Ganzi, shaking his head. "They had us on the ropes." Coca-Cola took the field right away with authority, while Audi seemed to be holding back. Coca-Cola led all the way through the first half, which ended 6-3.

The Audi team that rode onto the field for the fourth chukker, however, had converted back into the powerhouse persona it established this season. "We made some really good adjustments at halftime," said Ganzi. "We had to do something! It wasn't working." What worked superbly was Audi's players switching positions so fast that Coca-Cola was hard-pressed to get a handle on them. Audi moved Ganzi up to 1 in the throw-ins, rotated Fred Mannix to 2 and put Rodrigo Andrade in the back. "Rodrigo was wasted in the middle, and Julio and I were wasted in the back, so I figured if I moved up to front maybe I could get the ball to stop there. We won about 80 percent of the throw-ins like that," said Ganzi.

With 2:32 left in the fifth chukker, Gonzalo Pieres tied the game for the first time (8-8) and immediately brought Audi ahead on a penalty 4. Miguel Astrada reinstated the tie in the sixth, and Andrade scored the winning goal for Audi in an excruciatingly long overtime.

Audi Polo v Coca Cola final stats
Audi Polo season stats
Coca-Cola season stats

Lucchese Defeats Orchard Hill 13-12 in OT

Lucchese Defeats Orchard Hill 13-12 in OT

At first it looked like the C.V. Whitney Cup champions were going to ride away with the win. Polito Pieres scored early for Orchard Hill, followed promptly by a 140-yard slammer by Facundo Pieres. In the second chukker Orchard Hill scored on back-to-back breakaways while keeping their opponents scoreless. Sapo Caset scored for Lucchese in the third, and Facundo Pieres answered with two, giving Orchard Hill a 7-3 lead at the end of the first half.

Lucchese came into the second half on a mission. Nico Pieres scored 30 seconds into the fourth chukker, and then he and Caset made a combined two goals. "We had a big comeback in the fourth," said Lucchese patron John Muse. "That put us back in the game, and then it was a constant fight to the end."

The sixth chukker was one of the most exciting and frustrating of the season. Both teams missed shots, with balls deflecting off the goal posts. "The score was not true," said Nico Pieres. "We hit 10 times and hit the pole three." With two minutes left in the game Facundo Pieres tied the score at 12 but missed on a penalty 4 in overtime. Caset tapped a penalty 2 through the posts to give Lucchese the victory. "In overtime they had their chance and we had ours, and it was anybody's game. Luckily I made it and we won," said Caset. "At the beginning we were rushing too much and losing the throw-ins, and they were scoring every goal. We haven't had many games together, so this was hard for us. It was a good game for us and an important game to win."

Luccese v Orchard Hill final stats
Lucchese season stats
Orchard Hill season stats

Dubai Triumphs Over White Birch 13-7

Dubai Triumphs Over White Birch 13-7

Dubai kept their eyes on the prize, wearing White Birch down chukker by chukker. Their 13-7 win was a simple formula: Stick to the plan. "The first thing we were thinking was defense, defense, defense," said Alejo Taranco, who did more than his share of defending, while also making three goals. With a scoring machine like Adolfo Cambiaso at the helm, all Dubai had to do was keep anyone in a white jersey out of his way. "Adolfo is so good, we don't have to practice anything, really," said Taranco with a laugh. Cambiaso outdid even himself this time, making 9 goals, compared to his season average of 5.2.

Dubai captured an early lead and never looked back, keeping White Birch scoreless in three chukkers (second, fifth and sixth). The second half opened with everyone who was on the ball overriding it. Before anyone noticed, Cambiaso jumped on and smashed it 102 yards straight into goal. White Birch rallied to make three goals in the fourth. Hilario Ulloa scored all of White Birch's goals in the game except for one by Segundo Merlos, who subbed for Peter Brant.

Dubai v White Birch final stats
Dubai season stats
White Birch season stats

Flexjet Wins Over Valiente 10-8

Flexjet Wins Over Valiente 10-8

In well-matched play, with never more than a one- or two-goal gap through the first four chukkers, Flexjet pulled ahead in the fifth with three goals from the field for a 10-7 lead over Valiente. Diego Cavanagh carried Valiente, making half of its total 8 goals and bringing the final score to 10-8. (Valiente started with one goal on the board to compensate for its 25-goal handicap.)

"This was a super-important game for us because it was our first game together as a team," said Flexjet's Nic Roldan. "We had a system, and we trusted each other. We knew we would be a little rusty in the beginning, but we got the kinks out. In the last half we played really well and solid. We did what we had to do: Stay patient on defense and try to minimize mistakes."

The games were live streamed by ChukkerTV, a partner of the USPA Polo Network. Live continuous coverage of the 26-goal USPA Gold Cup® resumes Sunday, March 13, with four games at IPC. The first two games are at 10 a.m.: Lucchese vs. White Birch and Audi vs. Valiente. Orchard Hill plays Dubai at 12:30 p.m., followed by the 3 p.m. featured match (Coca-Cola vs. Flexjet). All times are EST.

Flexjet v Valiente final stats
Flexjet season stats
Valiente season stats