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U.S. OPEN POLO CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL PREVIEW

Apr 22, 2022 6:35 PM

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Geronimo Obregon and La Elina have their sights set on the U.S. Open Polo Championship title as they enter the final on a five-game winning streak.
Geronimo Obregon and La Elina have their sights set on the U.S. Open Polo Championship title as they enter the final on a five-game winning streak.

Story courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach.

The 2022 GAUNTLET OF POLO draws to a conclusion with the U.S. Open Polo Championship final between La Elina (Juan Martin Obregon, Geronimo Obregon*, Facundo Obregon, Jared Zenni*) and Pilot (Curtis Pilot, Mackenzie Weisz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Facundo Pieres) on Sunday, April 24 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). The historic season has featured memorable moments beginning with Park Place (Josh Hyde, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Cody Ellis*) raising the C.V. Whitney Cup and Pilot returning to the winner’s stage with the USPA Gold Cup title.

In a season where 20 teams competed in the U.S. Open Polo Championship for the first time in its 118-year history, 81 games will have been played in the GAUNTLET and two players have eclipsed the 100-goal mark (Hilario Ulloa and Facundo Pieres), it all comes to an end on U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 for the most prestigious trophy on U.S. soil.

Two different roads were taken to Sunday’s final by the two remaining teams, as Pilot has stormed their way through the competition to remain undefeated since a semifinal loss in the C.V. Whitney Cup on February 23. Reeling off ten consecutive victories since then, Pilot looks to recapture the U.S. Open Championship title that they captured in 2019 during the inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO.

Meanwhile, La Elina has faced a tumultuous journey that began in the USPA Gold Cup but truly developed at the start of the tournament when a new line-up of three Obregon’s (Juan Martin, Geronimo and Facundo) joined Zenni. A hard-fought overtime loss to Scone in their first match displayed the potential of La Elina’s new roster and they are unbeaten since with five straight victories, battling through the play-offs to reach the season finale.

PILOT

Facundo Pieres leads the GAUNTLET OF POLO in goals, penalties converted and throw-ins won.
Facundo Pieres leads the GAUNTLET OF POLO in goals, penalties converted and throw-ins won.

10-goaler Pieres has produced an exceptional season at the helm of Pilot’s attack as no player has scored more goals, converted more penalties, or won more throw-ins. Impacting each and every game, Pieres has been the driving force of Pilot’s success, utilizing phenomenal horsepower that has resulted in him singlehandedly winning four Best Playing Pony awards in the tournament with KY Goldielocks, Open Candy Kiss, Open Serenety and Corcha. Elevating the play of his teammates around him, Pieres and the Pilot organization began work in Argentina long before they stepped on the fields at IPC this season, competing with their line-up in the Jockey Club Open in September.

Matias Torres Zavaleta has been a consistent contributor for Pilot on both ends of the ball.
Matias Torres Zavaleta has been a consistent contributor for Pilot on both ends of the ball.

Alongside Pieres at the back of the game, Zavaleta has excelled in his role and provided crucial scoring on efficient runs to goal, including a go-ahead goal in the sixth chukker of their semifinal victory. Working well off the ball while passing accurately ahead, Zavaleta has been the stable presence that has contributed to Pilot’s tournament-best defense that has conceded just 6.8 goals per game.

Pilot's Mackenzie Weisz is averaging nearly 2.5 goals per game on the season.
Pilot's Mackenzie Weisz is averaging nearly 2.5 goals per game on the season.

The emergence of young Weisz, averaging nearly 2.5 goals per game on the season has provided the secondary scoring for Pilot when opposing teams try to slow Pieres. With Curtis Pilot constantly working off the ball to free space, Pilot has demonstrated how they can win in a multitude of ways with scoring outbursts or a stout defense, leaving La Elina with a difficult task in Sunday’s final.

LA ELINA

Juan Martin Obregon leads La Elina in shot attempts with an impressive 62% conversion rate.
Juan Martin Obregon leads La Elina in shot attempts with an impressive 62% conversion rate.

Showcasing a different line-up with two 5-goalers and two 6-goalers, La Elina’s chemistry among their four players has been evident in how quickly they have come together and seamlessly produce a passing attack that places them near the top of open play scoring due to all four players averaging at least 1.7 goals per game. Tied for fifth in tournament scoring at 6.3 goals per game, Juan Martin Obregon has played a true #1 position, leading La Elina in shot attempts and converting at an impressive 62% rate.

Facundo Obregon currently averages 2.7 field goals per game, while adding three prestigious Best Playing Pony awards to his name.
Facundo Obregon currently averages 2.7 field goals per game, while adding three prestigious Best Playing Pony awards to his name.

Utilizing the pass to goal better than any other team, La Elina produces 6.2 assists per game and finds the mismatch on the opposing team at any given moment, with Geronimo Obregon tying for the team lead in assists and making the key plays in the middle of the action. Often directing play from the #3 position, Facundo Obregon has demonstrated horsepower of his own, collecting three Best Playing Pony awards (Sol de Agosto Coneja, Jag Peloncha, Sapphire) and running past defenders to kickstart La Elina’s transition offense, while adding 2.7 field goals per game of his own.

Jared Zenni hopes to reclaim the U.S. Open Championship final for the first time since 2018.
Jared Zenni hopes to reclaim the U.S. Open Championship final for the first time since 2018.

Jared Zenni returns to the U.S. Open Polo Championship® final for the first time since 2018, bringing back memories of Daily Racing Form’s remarkable upset victory against a Valiente team that featured upcoming opponent Facundo Pieres alongside Adolfo Cambiaso. Handing that team their only loss of the year, Zenni and the La Elina team will fight for a similar result as they try to hand Pilot their first loss in two months in a must-see final on Sunday, April 24 at 3:00pm ET at U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1, exclusively on Global Polo TV.

*Cody Ellis, Geronimo Obregon and Jared Zenni are Team USPA alumni. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.

All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.

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