Holding a record of four wins and one loss entering the finals of the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®, La Indiana returned to the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) on Wednesday, claiming the narrow 16-15 victory over the 2019 Gauntlet of Polo® champion, Pilot. Through two years, La Indiana has been the only team to defeat Pilot, capturing narrow one-goal victories in the semifinals of both the C.V. Whitney Cup® and USPA Gold Cup®. After almost a year of rest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, La Indiana featured a new addition to the roster this year, with Nico Escobar replacing Santiago Gomez Romero and scoring the game-winning goal to help La Indiana move into Sunday’s final, where they will face Daily Racing Form on the Home of the U.S. Polo Assn – Field 1.
A mainstay at IPC in recent years, Michael Bickford’s La Indiana organization has competed in the 18, 20 and 22-goal levels, including both editions of the Gauntlet of Polo®. La Indiana has yet to win one of the three major 22-goal tournaments, but has reached the semi-finals in three of those five tournaments over 2019 and 2020. Reaching their first final in the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®, La Indiana will look to replicate the success they have seen on the global stage, having won prestigious tournaments including the 2018 Cartier Queen’s Cup and 2018 Copa de Oro in Sotogrande.
Returning to the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®, La Indiana has booked their place in the final behind a proficient offense that is ranked third in goals per game with 12.0, in large part due to penalty shooting, where they have scored the most penalty goals per game. Finding themselves in a few stop and start games, La Indiana’s ability to get to the penalty line has been offset by foul troubles of their own, a key area to focus on in the final. Defeating Daily Racing Form 13-8 earlier in the 2020 USPA Gold Cup®, La Indiana will look to repeat the result, led by 10-goaler Polito Pieres. The leading scorer in the 2020 USPA Gold Cup® before it was postponed due to the pandemic, Pieres averaged 6.8 goals per game as one of the most dynamic players in the tournament. La Indiana’s offense has revolved around Pieres as he also leads the team with 2.0 assists per game, drawing the attention of opposing teams while also able to find his teammates on runs to goal.
Providing a depth of experience at the back of the game with Pieres, Jeff Hall has been a steady presence, shooting an accurate 53% from the field and working to contain the elite players seen throughout the Gauntlet of Polo®. A key component of La Indiana’s potent offense, Hall is crucial in his teammate’s success at the front of the game, including the new addition Escobar and Juan Cruz Marcos, who filled in commendably for Bickford in the semifinal with two crucial goals in the fifth chukker. Bickford’s consistency on the ball in the #1 position along with his experience in high-pressure finals will be an important factor for La Indiana. Escobar’s youthful energy was on immediate display as he was thrown into a classic game and excelled with three goals to help guide La Indiana to victory. Their attention turns to Sunday’s final as they look poised to stamp their name on the 2020 USPA Gold Cup® trophy and claim the $125,000 prize.
Polo matches are not open to the general public at IPC but the 2020 USPA Gold Cup® championship match can be seen exclusively on Global Polo TV at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 14.