In front of a packed house, Valiente rallied in overtime to win its World Polo League season-opener Sunday, Feb. 10 in the featured game at the Grand Champions Polo Club. Valiente (Agustin Nero, Santi Torres, Pablo MacDonough and Poroto Cambiaso) defeated Audi (Marc Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan and Pelon Sterling) 8-7 in overtime.
MacDonough scored a team high four goals, including the game-winner with 7:16 left in the overtime chukker and was named Most Valuable Player.
“Sometimes when you see you have a chance, you try to keep the ball and take your chance,” MacDonough said. “To score, you have to shoot. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it goes out. We were lucky it went in.”
The game marked the successful U.S. 26-goal debut of 13-year-old Poroto Cambiaso, son of 10-goal polo great Adolfo Cambiaso. Cambiaso replaced team sponsor and WPL co-founder Bob Jornayvaz in the lineup. It was the first time MacDonough played in a game with Cambiaso.
“He is amazing,” MacDonough said. “He will definitely be one of the best players in the world in maybe four or five years.”
The crowd was mesmerized by Cambiaso stripping Roldan of the ball and weaving his way through defenders twice his size.
Cambiaso and Torres each added one goal for Valiente, which started out with a 2-0 lead on handicap. It was the first time Valiente played together as a team.
“I think the World Polo League is definitely here to stay,” MacDonough said. “It’s the very first year, and it’s already showing some new people who are very interested and coming to watch.”
The evenly matched teams battled throughout the game. After a scoreless opening chukker, Audi bounced back with two goals from Roldan and one from Sterling to take the lead, 3-2. Audi extended its lead to 5-2 in the third chukker before Valiente scored its first goal from the field with 1:40 left on Torres’ great cut shot and another from MacDonough scoring off a high angled goal with three seconds left to trail, 5-4, at the half.
MacDonough lofted another goal through the air to tie the game 5-5 with 4:58 left in the fourth chukker. MacDonough weaved his way through a crowd of defenders to score enabling Valiente to take the lead for the first time, 6-5.
Ganzi converted a 30-yard penalty shot to tie the game 6-6 with 7:23 left. Cambiaso then took off after winning the throw-in to regain the lead for Valiente, 7-6. Both teams had scoring opportunities early in the sixth chukker before Roldan hit a 30-yard penalty shot to tie the game again, 7-7. Both teams had more scoring opportunities before time ran out, sending the game into overtime.
World Polo League play continued this week. Eight teams are competing in bracket play with the final set for Feb. 17 at Grand Champions at 4 p.m.
The World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina. The WPL also includes the Feb. 20 through March 3 Founders Cup, the March 6-24 Palm Beach Open and the March 27 through April 14 Triple Crown of Polo. For more info., visit www.worldpolo.org.