WELLINGTON, FL—April 21, 2016---In an emotionally-charged game, Audi saw its high goal season end with a heartbreaking 13-11 loss to Dubai Wednesday in the semifinals of the 112th USPA U.S. Open at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Trailing by as many as six goals late in the fifth chukker, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Freddie Mannix) rallied to score four unanswered goals in the final chukker before time ran out.
In front of a packed house and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Audi finished 2-2 in the eight-team tournament, the third jewel of America’s Triple Crown in polo.
Dubai (Rashid Albwardy, Alejo Taranco, Facundo Sola, Adolfo Cambiaso) will make its U.S. Open finals debut on Sunday against Orchard Hill (4-0) in the battle of the unbeatens. Dubai, (4-0), winners of the USPA Gold Cup with a 12-11 win over Audi and riding a nine-game win streak, is making its U.S. debut in polo this season.
In the other semifinal game, Orchard Hill advanced with a thrilling 9-8 overtime victory over White Birch when Facundo Pieres scored the game-winner on a 10-yard penalty shot with 3:19 left. Orchard Hill will make its fifth U.S. Open finals appearance in the team’s history. Last year Orchard Hill lost to Valiente in the final.
Orchard Hill won the 26-goal season-opening C.V. Whitney Cup with an 11-9 victory over Audi.
For Audi, the only team to return with the same lineup from 2015, the loss was a frustrating one.
“It’s disappointing,” Ganzi said. “We didn’t play our best polo today. I played horribly, that didn’t help. I put it on me. I didn’t show up and I wasn’t ready to play polo today and it happens.
“It’s just a really disappointing end to the season. I let the team down. I am a big part of the team and if I don’t show up to play, it hurts the team. They were the better team today.”
Dubai converted 8-of-10 shots from the field while Audi hit only 6-of-12. Dubai was perfect at the penalty line going 5-for-5 while Audi was 5-of-7. Audi edged Dubai in fouls, 14-13, and throw-ins, 19-16.
“They are good, everyone can see that they are a very good team,” Mannix said. “We ran into a really good team. Sometimes in sports that’s how it goes.
“I thought we played well, the other team played a little better,” Mannix said. “That’s just how it’s going to be this year.
“It’s been a pleasure playing with Audi. I enjoy very much playing with my teammates. I’m sad not to have any more games left with them. We really did have a good season on and off the field. We respect each other and that’s what makes it enjoyable to play at a high level. Not everyone can get to that point of a cohesive unit that we created here.”
Pieres scored a team-high eight goals including five at the penalty line. Andrade had two goals and Mannix added one.
“It was really frustrating,” Pieres said. “Our team deserves to be in the final. It is a good team and good organization. We lost our heads. The frustration was bad.”
Cambiaso, the world’s best player, scored a game-high nine goals including five on penalty shots.
“It was a good win for us,” Cambiaso said. “It is the first time for Dubai in America. To win the Gold Cup and be in the final of the U.S. Open is pretty good. Rashid played well today. We didn’t mind them scoring in the sixth chukker. We were looking at the clock and we were six goals up. They didn’t have enough time. We would have had to do everything wrong for them to win.”
Albwardy, the team’s 23-year-old patron, scored four goals.
“We are really happy with the win, we played well as a team, but we messed up really bad the last two chukkers and it got close,” Albwardy said. “We know where we made our mistakes so we are just looking forward.
“In sports I know it happens but when you have a big lead you slow down in the head. Even if you win by many goals, if you play bad and still win, it’s not the same thing as playing well and winning.”
Since 1996, the U.S. Open has been held in South Florida. IPC has hosted the event since 2004. In 2005, Julio Gracida added to the Gracida family’s combined record of 36 U.S. Open Polo Championship wins.
Audi, recently rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
The Audi-Dubai game was live streamed on ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, April, Las Acacias
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions Cup
April 23-24: National President's 4-8 Goal Cup
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
DIRECTOR OF POLO: Juan Olivera, 561-644-5050, juan.olivera @gcpolo.com; hotline 561-373-0073.
INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi and Flexjet. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes a complimentary Argentine asado by Cilantro’s during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.