WELLINGTON, Fl., April 7, 2016----Audi fell behind early and was unable to rally in the final chukker in its' 12-10 loss to Orchard Hill Sunday in both teams' opener in the 112th USPA U.S. Open at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Audi (Marc Ganzi, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres, Fred Mannix) fell behind 5-0 and was unable to score its' first goal of the game until the 5:54 mark of the third chukker.
After trailing a new Orchard Hill lineup (Facundo Pieres, Julian de Lussareta, Juan Martin Nero, Steve Van Andel) by as many as seven goals (9-2, 11-4, 12-5) Audi came alive in the fifth chukker to score five unanswered goals before running out of time.
"We made a good change in the second half," Ganzi said. "We put Fred to one and put me to back. We started hitting the ball forward and put the pressure on them. I think that changed the tempo of the game. We needed to do that from the first chukker."
On Sunday, Audi (0-1) hopes to rebound against Flexjet (0-1), which lost to Lucchese, 13-11, in its opener, in the noon game at IPC. Both pro teams are based at Grand Champions Polo Club.
"Maybe we will learn a little bit from this and maybe we will get better," Ganzi said. "I hope we'll get better. There's a lot of polo left, three weeks of polo."
Orchard Hill was playing with a new lineup for the first time. Nero, ranked third in the world at 10 goals, replaced Polito Pieres, still recovering from a separated shoulder. His cousin, Facundo Pieres, played with a broken index finger on his mallet hand.
"This was our first practice," Van Andel said. "It's been crazy. First Facundo breaks his finger and then Polito breaks his shoulder. I thought I was going home early."
Van Andel said both teams were trying to figure each other out in the first half.
"I think at halftime they changed things around a little bit, and it definitely worked against us," Van Andel said. "It was tougher in the second half. They put us on the defense the whole second half. We were lucky to hold on to what we had.
"Audi is a tough team regardless of how you do it. Usually they are a second half team anyway. With us they changed in the second half and we kind of kept going the same way. We thought we probably should have changed a little bit, too. But we'll save that for the next game. I am certainly happy we came out on top.
"We are a different team with Juan Martin. I don't know whether it's better or worse than what we had, but it's different. It's still pretty good."
Ten-goaler Facundo Pieres said he still experiences pain in his broken finger while playing. He said the addition of Nero will help lighten the defensive load on him.
"With Juan Martin, the difference is he plays a little bit more defensive and that takes a lot of pressure off and I can go forward," Pieres said. "He is a great player and very fun to play with."
Pieres said Audi's remarkable comeback was a combination of Audi playing well and Orchard Hill not adjusting in the second half.
"They are a great team, but they were having a bad day," Pieres said. "When they were losing by six or seven goals, they started to go for every play. I also think we made a couple of mistakes and we put them back in the game.
"I think our team played very well, much better than our last game. I am very happy because now we have a good team for the U.S. Open."
Orchard Hill got balanced scoring from Facundo Pieres, 5 goals; de Lusarreta, 4 and Nero, 3. Pieres' older brother Gonzalito, scored a team-high 6 for Audi.
Audi dominated the throw-ins, 16-9, kept its fouls at a minimum with five and converted 5-of-5 penalty shots but could not get its offense going until the last two chukkers. Orchard Hill converted 11-of-19 field shots and Audi only 5-of-15.
Audi was coming off a physical and emotionally draining finals loss to Dubai in the USPA Gold Cup.
"We came off a really hard final that we left everything on the field," Ganzi said. "Everyone was down a couple horses today. Hopefully, we get a couple horses back for next game. We'll get back to work and right the ship."
In the second game of the Sunday doubleheader, White Birch defeated Valiente, 11-7. Hilario Ulloa, who scored a game-high nine goals, was named Most Valuable Player after scoring for White Birch.
Melody, played by Mariano Aguerre and owned by Los Machitos, was awarded Best Playing Pony.
In Saturday's U.S. Open opening day action:
Lucchese 13, Flexjet 11: Behind Sapo Caset, Lucchese rallied for three goals in the final chukker. Caset had 10 goals and Tincho Merlos led Flexjet with 6.
Dubai 14, Coca-Cola 8: Coca-Cola started strong but ran out of gas. Top-ranked Adolfo Cambiaso rallied his team and led scoring with 7 goals.
U.S. Open play resumes this weekend with four games: Saturday, White Birch vs. Coca Cola, 10 a.m.; Valiente vs. Dubai, 5 p.m.; Sunday, Flexjet vs. Audi, noon; Lucchese vs. Orchard Hill, 3 p.m.
Since 1996, the U.S. Open has been held in South Florida. Outback won with MVP Memo Gracida winning his 14th U.S. Open title. 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-Orchard Hill game was live streamed and can be seen 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 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
SPECIAL EVENTS: April 13-16, Women's Championship Tournament (WCT) Season 11 Finals and Women's Polo Week.
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 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions 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, email@example.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.