Pilot Rises To The Occasion In Overtime To Claim USPA Gold Cup

Hilario Ulloa of Park Place (left) battles with Facundo Pieres of Pilot (right). Photo by Alex Pacheco

An eager crowd assembled at U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington on Sunday, March 27 to see the highly anticipated conclusion of the USPA Gold Cup between 2019 Gauntlet of Polo champions Pilot and reigning 2022 C.V. Whitney Cup champions Park Place.

Ranking first and second in Gauntlet scoring, the two teams brought firepower from the field to combine for 21 goals. Largely deadlocked for the majority of the second half, a back-and-forth from both teams required overtime to settle the score, as Pilot’s Facundo Pieres led his team back to the podium, scoring the golden goal to secure the thrilling 11-10 victory to raise the prestigious USPA Gold Cup.

Awarding Pilot one goal on handicap, a collision between Park Place’s Cody Ellis and Pilot’s Matias Torres Zavaleta resulted in a double yellow card and Penalty 2 in favor of Pilot. Following a successful Penalty 2 conversion from Pieres, Park Place found themselves trailing 2-0, while facing the challenge of defending Park Place shorthanded for two minutes.

Pieres struck once again for Pilot on their advantage, but the return of Ellis allowed for Josh Hyde to score the first goal for Park Place at the end of the first chukker, but his team remained trailing 3-1. Pilot continued to generate offense from the penalty line with four penalty goals from Pieres in the first half, but Juan Britos helped bring Park Place back within reach, scoring three field goals over the second and third chukkers. A choppy third chukker resulted in two penalty conversions for each team, leaving Pilot ahead 8-6.

As Park Place has done consistently throughout the season, they turned to open play to fight their way back into the game. The two highest-scoring players from the field, Ulloa and Britos, combined for three field goals on perfect shooting to quickly erase the deficit and tie the game at 9-9.

With the two teams now tied in the high-stakes final, the defense tightened and little separated Park Place and Pilot. Trading goals in a crucial fifth chukker, Britos and Pieres continued to push their teams forward, but the score remained deadlocked at 10-10 with one chukker left to play in the second leg of the Gauntlet of Polo.

The two high-powered offensive teams ran into tough opposing defenses, as chances at goal were hard to come by with time ticking down. Unable to produce a significant chance on goal, a scoreless sixth chukker sent the game into overtime — treating spectators to a phenomenal conclusion to the USPA Gold Cup.

In the overtime period, Pilot’s Pieres broke free from the pack once more and carried the ball across the line just 42 seconds in, scoring the golden goal and securing the exhilarating 11-10 victory and earn a return to the podium at IPC for the first time since 2019.

For his 10-goal performance, Facundo Pieres was named Most Valuable Player, while Pieres’ Open Azarenka claimed both Best Playing Pony as well as Argentine Bred Best Playing Pony.

The third leg of the Gauntlet of Polo, the U.S. Open Polo Championship, began Tuesday, March 29 at IPC featuring a record-breaking 20 teams. The U.S. Open will continue until the season’s grand finale on Sunday, April 24. Learn more at www.internationalpoloclub.com.