Pilot Claims Overtime Victory Over Tonkawa In Gold Cup Action

Tonkawa’s Matias Gonzalez controls the ball while Pilot’s Lucas Escobar races in pursuit. Photo by Alex Pacheco

For the second time in just three weeks, Pilot and Tonkawa needed overtime to determine the winner, this time in the USPA Gold Cup, with Pilot once again emerging as the victor, claiming the 13-12 victory on U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach on Sunday, March 1.

A déjà vu moment between Pilot and Tonkawa saw them evenly matched in nearly every aspect of the game, treating spectators to a thrilling featured match of the week. Tonkawa was able to hold the advantage by playing a disciplined defense that kept Facundo Pieres off the penalty line, where he had been shooting an impressive 90 percent entering the game. Keeping pace behind their 10-goal duo of Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres, who combined for all 13 goals, Pilot received its first penalty attempt in the sixth chukker, using the opportunity to send the game into overtime and ultimately capture the exciting 13-12 victory.

A lightning-quick pace was set in the first chukker as the Pieres brothers contributed a field goal each, while a penalty two conversion from Sapo Caset left Tonkawa trailing by one. Doubling up Tonkawa on the scoreboard in the second chukker, Pilot’s attack in open play was successful early to push the lead to 4-2, but Tonkawa responded with an organized attack of its own. Despite three missed attempts at goal, Tonkawa continued to pressure Pilot, finishing the chukker on Ignacio Toccalino’s first goal to bring the game back into a 4-4 tie. Conceding no penalty attempts to Pilot, Tonkawa’s third penalty two conversion of the game gave them the team’s first lead, which they held on to at the completion of the first half.

Back-and-forth action highlighted the beginning of the second half, resulting in three goals from each team without the whistle blown once for a foul. Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres continued to account for all of Pilot’s goals, while Tonkawa received two goals from Toccalino, along with Jeff Hildebrand’s first of the tournament to push Tonkawa back ahead by one goal. Increasing pressure on the Tonkawa defense, Pilot forced them into four fouls, but were unable to take advantage of the extra possessions, watching their deficit grow to two for the first time in the game entering the final chukker.

Caset’s seventh goal of the game opened the scoring in the final chukker, leaving Tonkawa ahead by three with just minutes left in the game, but Pilot quickly responded with a run of penalty goals. After consecutive penalty goals from Gonzalito Pieres brought the deficit to one, an attack downfield resulted in a penalty one, tying the score and once again sending the battle between Pilot and Tonkawa into overtime. Just seconds into the extra chukker, Facundo Pieres stole the knock-in and found the goal, securing the 13-12 victory for Pilot and also claiming Sunday’s MVP honors. The horse he scored the winning goal on, Open Chistosa, was named the match’s Best Playing Pony.