WELLINGTON, Florida – April 21, 2017 -The final of the U.S. Open Polo Championship® this Sunday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach will showcase two elite and legendary teams: defending champion Orchard Hill (Polito Pieres, Juan Chavanne, Facundo Pieres, Steve Van Andel) and 2015 U.S. Open winner Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Matias Torres Zavaleta, Diego Cavanagh, Adolfo Cambiaso).
Valiente is going for a clean sweep of the three 26-goal titles this season to take U.S. Triple Crown honors. Orchard Hill’s goal is to retain the U.S. Open title they won in 2016, having struggled year after year to achieve it—and having suffered a devastating loss to Valiente the previous year.
Sunday’s game features the two best offenses out there and may come down to which team can better defend against the scoring strategy of their opponent. Orchard Hill uses ball control and support from Facundo Pieres and Polito Pieres, while Valiente uses a fast-paced block-and-release strategy led by Adolfo Cambiaso.
Orchard Hill, led by 10-goalers Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres, has a 9-6 record for the year, with a 3-2 record in the U.S. Open, coming off quarter-final and semi-final wins over Audi and Flexjet, respectively. In 26-goal events, Orchard Hill trails only Valiente in goals per game with 10.5 and 37% of their goals coming from the penalty line via Facundo Pieres. Facundo has converted an impressive 81.4% of his 43 penalty attempts, leading all players and providing pressure on any team Orchard Hill plays to avoid fouling.
While the key offensive player is Facundo, who averages 6.7 goals per game, Juan “Jota” Chavanne is crucial to Orchard Hill’s success. He will have to exceed his 5-goal handicap, going head-to-head with Matias Torres Zavaleta. Chavanne has the ability to finish runs himself, scoring 18 goals on the season. Ultimately, though, if he can set picks and block downfield to create space for the two 10-goalers, his impact on the game will be tremendous.
Patron Steve Van Andel has transitioned to the # 4 position and has played a strong back due to good positioning. By staying in the back position, he provides crucial support when Facundo or Polito goes forward.
One of the best players in the sport in attacking goal, Polito is a common passing target for Facundo, scoring 2.5 goals per game from the field. The performance of the two in open play has them ranked first and fourth respectively in shots on goal, leading to a combined 55 goals from the field. However, they face a Valiente team that can match that scoring output.
Valiente has been the strongest team offensively in 26-goal tournaments by a wide margin, scoring 12.6 goals per game, a full two goals higher than the next closest team in Orchard Hill. The result has been a 9-1 record since the beginning of the C.V. Whitney Cup and tournament victories in both the C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Gold Cup®. They use efficient shooting from the field at 58% and mount a balanced offensive attack with Adolfo Cambiaso, Matias Torres Zavaleta and Diego Cavanagh ranking respectively among all players in field goals scored.
Along with being one of the game’s biggest threats in open play himself, Cambiaso has the luxury of strong shooters to pass to with Torres Zavaleta shooting 61% and Cavanagh shooting 65% from the field—a significant difference from the average player who shoots 51%. The ability of Valiente to attack downfield is supported by the work of patron Bob Jornayvaz, who is highly skilled in setting picks and blocking for his teammates, both on ball and downfield.
Any team that faces Valiente must defend against the give-and-go strategy Cambiaso uses so effectively to find his teammates after they block to create space for him. The recognition of Cambiaso to pass downfield or attack himself if left uncovered creates difficult match-ups anywhere on the field. As a result Valiente can force teams into fouling, placing Valiente on the penalty line where they average 4.3 goals per game, with Cavanagh shooting 74%.
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