Wellington, Fla. – March 25, 2019 – 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. Aspen’s high-pressure defence and quick counter-attack allow them to create more chances in the game, outshooting Pilot 16-13 along with being awarded two more penalty attempts, but Pilot’s efficiency was the deciding factor, finishing 62% from the field and a perfect 4 for 4 from the penalty line.
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. Dominating the throw-in line 7-1 over that span kept the possession with Aspen, who held Pilot to just three shots in building their lead. Undeterred, Pilot responded by the end of the half in a third chukker where they produced perfect 3 for 3 shooting from the field and converted their lone penalty attempt to bring the game back into a 6-6 tie. 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. Despite the immense pressure, Facundo Pieres converted the penalty, securing the USPA Gold Cup® for Pilot in the thrilling 12-11 victory. Tomas Schwencke claimed MVP honors, while Best Playing Pony was awarded to Facundo Pieres’ One Magnifica.