Team Profile: Pilot
While there are a few emerging storylines after the opening round of games in the 2019 Ylvisaker Cup, there was arguably one team that stood above the rest due to a dominant performance in their season debut. Pilot (Curtis Pilot, Matias Gonzalez, Lucas James, Facundo Pieres) turned the heads of spectators and tournament opponents with an overwhelming 16-7 victory over Tonkawa, that saw them begin the game on a 12-2 run in the opening half.
The strategic attack of Pilot throughout the first half proved to be a winning formula, with Facundo Pieres on the ball, Gonzalez and James blocking the close defenders and Curtis Pilot blocking downfield. The result was open runs for Pieres into space, leading to five goals in the opening two chukkers for the 10-goaler. The difficulties for Tonkawa defensively magnified even further when Pieres also accumulated assists on the three other goals in the first two chukkers, directly contributing to all of Pilot’s first eight goals.
Pieres returns to the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) after a memorable 2018 season that saw him capture multiple notable tournaments including the C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup, Cartier Queen’s Cup and Hurlingham Open. While, the offensive prowess of Pieres, along with the entire Pilot team was noticeable, their success in the opening game was in large part due to their throw-in dominance. The team effort in the throw-in line-up allowed for Pilot to produce a controlled attack after nearly every goal, continuing the relentless offense that Tonkawa was unable to slow down. The throw-ins nearly mirrored the score, with Pilot winning 14 of 16 throw-ins in the opening half, which ultimately was the downfall for Tonkawa.
Entering Sunday’s feature 3pm game, Pilot enters an intriguing match-up against an undefeated Dutta Corp. Yet to play against a player of Facundo Pieres’ stature, Dutta Corp may be focused on preventing a repeat performance from Pieres, but the game may ultimately be decided by the play in the middle of the game. After joining Pilot for last year’s Carlos Gracida Cup, Lucas James enters this season in a crucial #3 position, acting as a secondary scorer for Pilot along with covering defensively for Pieres when he drives forward. Shooting a perfect 4 for 4 from the field, James executed his role perfectly, converting with accuracy alongside Matias Gonzalez. Representing Team USA in the 2017 FIP World Championships, along with a strong 2018 season in Dubai, Gonzalez enters the high goal season at IPC with valuable experience to provide Pilot with a strong 3-goal player. Gonzalez displayed a high level of play against Tonkawa, scoring four goals on six shots and blocking effectively for his teammates, providing that extra player beyond the top backline of Pieres and James, that can make the difference in a closely matched contest.
Lastly, patron Curtis Pilot enters the 20-goal season for the second consecutive season and produced a strong showing in his opening game, scoring on his lone shot attempt. Often tasked with marking the last defender downfield, the work of Curtis Pilot can go unnoticed, but isn’t without value, as the team depends on the space provided by Pilot to produce their potent attack. Sunday’s game is a highly anticipated match-up with Dutta Corp looking to continue their undefeated run through the 20-goal and capture their fourth consecutive win on the U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1, while Pilot provides a stern test coming off the dominant nine-goal victory.