Pilot Wins In Overtime To Claim Gold Cup And Continue Gauntlet Run

Team Pilot — Facundo Pieres, Gonzalito Pieres, Matias Gonzalez and Curtis Pilot — with the USPA Gold Cup. Photo by Alex Pacheco

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 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, claiming the second leg of the Gauntlet of Polo, the $125,000 prize and keeping their hopes alive to win the $1,000,000 top prize.

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 the ropes, 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. Aspen’s high-pressure defense and quick counter-attack allow them to create more chances in the game, but Pilot’s efficiency was the deciding factor, finishing 62 percent from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from the penalty line.

Usually claiming an early lead, Pilot trailed 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 to a 5-2 lead. Dominating the throw-in line 7-1 over that span kept the possession with Aspen, holding Pilot to just three shots. 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 a lone penalty attempt to bring the game back to 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 defense tightened up for both teams, resulting in no 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. Two quick goals for Aspen propelled them back into the lead. With Pilot’s undefeated record on the line, 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 pressure, he converted the penalty, securing the USPA Gold Cup for Pilot in a thrilling conclusion. Tomas Schwencke claimed MVP honors, while Best Playing Pony was awarded to Facundo Pieres’ One Magnifica.

Pilot now joins the other teams in an attempt to secure the final leg of the Gauntlet — the U.S. Open Polo Championship.