By Alex Webbe
In one of the fastest-paced games of the 26-goal season, Lucchese (John Muse, Nico Pieres, Magoo Laprida and Sapo Caset) rallied for three goals in the final chukker to eclipse an impressive Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Agustin Merlos, Sebastian Merlos and Nic Roldan) 13-11 in the opening game of the 2016 United States Open championship at the International Polo Club Saturday morning.
Sebastian Merlos scored the first goal of the game on a long pass from Nic Roldan from the opening throw-in. He connected on a sharp cut shot to make it 1-0, Flexjet in the first fifteen seconds of play. Sebastian took control of the following throw-in and raced down the field where he bounced his shot off of the Lucchese goalpost going wide.
Nico Pieres got Lucchese on the scoreboard with a goal from the field at the 5:48 mark, tying the game at 1-1. Forty seconds later Agustin Merlos converted a 30-yard penalty shot that put Flexjet in the lead, 2-1, followed by a goal from the field from Nic Roldan with 4:07 left in the chukker, 3-1. Argentine 10-goaler Sapo Caset converted a 60-yard penalty shot with under two minutes on the clock, 3-2, and tied it with a goal from the field in the last 24 seconds of the period, 3-3.
Caset opened the scoring in the second period with another 60-yard penalty shot to give Lucchese their first lead of the game, 4-3. Roldan tied it at 5:51 with a goal from the field, 4-4. Caset scored on another penalty shot at the 5:02 mark, but there was no quit in Flexjet. Roldan converted a well-executed neck-shot for a goal for a 5-5 tie. Agustin Merlos scored the final goal of the chukker on a 30-yard penalty shot with 1:15 left to play. The period ended with Flexjet on top, 6-5.
Agustin Merlos scored on a pass from Roldan in the opening minute of the third chukker to give Flexjet a two goal lead, 7-5. During a scramble in front of the Flexjet goal, a second effort by Magoo Laprida cut the Flexjet lead back to a single goal, 7-6. Caset leveled the score at 7-7 with a goal from the field with 3:16 left in the first half. A 60-yard penalty conversion from Caset came at the 2:39 mark of the chukker, giving Lucchese the lead again, 8-7. Agustin Merlos knotted it up again at 8-8 with the final goal of the first half.
Play started to slow down as the second half got underway. Scoring was limited to a single penalty goal from Caset (60-yards) and yellow cards were issued to both Laprida and Roldan. The fourth chukker ended with Lucchese leading by a single goal, 9-8.
Agustin Merlos tied the game for the seventh time on a 40-yard penalty shot in the first fourteen seconds of play, 9-9. Goals were hard to come by with Caset finally converting a 30-yard penalty shot for a go-ahead goal with 2:08 left in the chukker, 10-9. A Lucchese foul sent Agustin Merlos to the penalty line where he scored from 30-ayrds out to close out the chukker in a 10-10 tie.
Two minutes into the sixth chukker, Pieres gave the lead back to Lucchese with a goal from the field, 11-10. Caset followed up with a pair of goals that had Lucchese riding a 13-10 lead with just 2:36 left in the game. Sebastian Merlos scored the final goal of the game with 1:34 on the clock in the 13-11 Lucchese victory.
Caset led all scoring with ten goals (six on penalty conversions). Pieres added two goals and Laprida was credited with a goal for the win. Agustin Merlos led the Flexjet attack with six goals (four on penalty shots). Roldan scored three times and Sebastian was credited with two goals in the loss.
Dubai 14, Coca-Cola 8
Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Sugar Erskine, Miguel Astrada and Julio Arellano) opened like gangbusters Sunday afternoon in the second US Open game of the day at the International Polo Club. Julio Arellano opened with a goal from the field in the opening 45 seconds of play followed by a goal from Sugar Erskine a minute later for a 2-0 lead over Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola and Adolfo Cambiaso). Arellano closed out the chukker with a 30-yard penalty conversion that had Coca-Cola on top, 3-0, after the first chukker.
Dubai finally got on the scoreboard at the expense of a number of costly Coca-Cola fouls. Facundo Sola converted two penalty shots from 30-yards out and a 60-yard penalty conversion. The Dubai defense held Coca-Cola scoreless, tying the game at 3-3.
Arellano got Coca-Cola back on track with a 60-yard penalty goal midway through the third chukker to take a 4-3 lead. A goal from the field from Alejo Taranco and a 3-yard penalty goal from Adolfo Cambiaso came in the final two minutes of the third period, giving Dubai the 5-4halftime advantage.
Sola opened the second half of play with a 40-yard penalty goal followed by a goal from the field from Cambiaso at the 6:20 mark, 7-4. Arellano responded with a goal for Coca-Cola, 7-5. Cambiaso added his third goal of the game with 3:54 left I the chukker for an 8-5 edge, as Coca-Cola continued to press their attack. Gillian Johnston scored on a great individual effort with 2:02 left in the period, 8-6, but it was Taranco with the final goal of the chukker that extended the Dubai lead to three goals, 9-6, with two chukkers left to play.
Thirty-five seconds into the fifth period, Arellano converted a 30-yard penalty shot that cut the Dubai lead back to two goals when Cambiaso broke loose. Cambiaso scored his first goal of the chukker on a breakaway at the 4:06 mark and added two more over the space of one minute, extending Dubai’s lead to five goals, 12-7, with one chukker left in regulation time.
Erskine scored the first goal of the sixth chukker on a shot from the field, 12-8, but that would be the last offensive noise Coca-Cola would make. Sola scored from the field with 2:51 on the game clock and Cambiaso converted a 30-yard penalty shot in the final minute of play for the convincing 14-8 victory.
Cambiaso led the field in scoring with seven goals (three on penalty conversions). Sola scored four of his five goals on penalty shots and Taranco added two goals from the field for the win. Arellano set the pace for Coca-Cola with five goals (three on penalty conversions). Erskine scored twice and Johnston added a goal in the loss.
US Open play continues on Sunday, April 3rd with Orchard Hill (Steve Van Andel, Julian de Lusarreta, Facundo Pieres and Lucas Criado) facing Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Freddie Mannix) followed by a 3pm contest between Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Tomas Garcia del Rio and Alfredo Capella) and White Birch (Mariano Obregon, Hilario Ulloa, Mariano Aguirre and Peter Brant).