The thrilling final of the USPA Gold Cup on the U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 required overtime with Pilot ultimately defeating Aspen 12-11, claiming the second leg of the Gauntlet of Polo, the $125,000 prize and keeping their hopes alive to win the $1,000,000 prize at the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
A battle between the two remaining undefeated teams in the USPA Gold Cup featured a back and forth affair that saw Aspen have Pilot on their heels in the first half, with Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres bringing their team back into the game. An organized strategy for Aspen had Tomas Schwencke and Stewart Armstrong relentlessly pressure Facundo Pieres which led to uncharacteristic turnovers for the 10-goaler, but Pilot stuck to the game plan that has left them undefeated in the Gauntlet of Polo, using a two-man game that proved to be effective late in the game.
Usually claiming the early lead, Pilot found themselves trailing to Aspen over the first two chukkers, with Polito Pieres producing an impressive performance with four goals and an assist to impact all five of Aspen’s goals and push his team into the 5-2 lead. When finding open space, Gonzalito and Facundo Pieres were effective for Pilot, but Aspen continued to work tirelessly to limit the freedom for the high-profile duo to run with the ball.
With the outcome to be decided in the second half, the defences tightened up for both teams, resulting in zero goals from the field in a hard-fought fourth chukker. That changed in a lightning fast fifth chukker with just one foul in end-to-end action. Lucas James found Polito Pieres with a pass for both of Aspen’s field goals, but Pilot responded with three goals of their own, two from Facundo Pieres and one from Gonzalito Pieres to gain a slim-one goal lead; their first at the end of a chukker. Two quick goals for Aspen propelled them into the lead, with Pilot’s undefeated record on the line, but Facundo Pieres fought his way to goal, scoring from 40 yards out to send the game to overtime. Inside the first minute of the extra chukker, Pilot forced Aspen into two consecutive fouls, placing Facundo Pieres on the 60-yard line for a penalty shot worth $125,000.
USPA GOLD CUP FINAL: PILOT 12-11 ASPEN
Pilot: Curtis Pilot 0, Matías González 3, Gonzalito Pieres 9 (4 goals), Facundo Pieres 10 (8). Total: 22.
Aspen: Tomas Schwencke 2 (1 goal), Lucas James 7 (1), Polito Pieres 10 (7), Stewart Armstrong 3 (1). Total: 22.
Score Pilot: 1-2, 2-5, 6-6, 7-7, 10-9, 11-11, 12-11.
MVP: Tomas Schwencke.
BPP: One Magnífica, played by Facundo Pieres.
SAWGRASS SUBSIDIARY CUP FINAL: CESSNA 11-9 SANTA CLARA
Cessna: Chip Campbell 2, Francisco Elizalde 8, Felipe Márquez 6, Felipe Viana 6. Total: 22.
Santa Clara: Nico Escobar 3 (Lucas Escobar 3), Mariano Obregon 6, Cubi Toccalino 8, Luis Escobar 5. Total: 22.
MVP: Francisco Elizalde.
BPP: Machitos Marvin, played by Cubi Toccalino.
The Gauntlet of Polo will resume on Wednesday with the start of the US Open Polo Championship, the peak of the American polo season. Sixteen 22-goal teams are set to compete.