Round three of the 112th U.S. Open Polo Championship® featured all four teams in bracket I. Dubai advances to the semifinals after their resounding 14-6 win over White Birch, and Valiente moves on to the quarterfinals after defeating Coca-Cola 11-7.
Dubai set the tone for the day, winning their morning match 14-6 over White Birch. With both teams having come into the game 2-0, Dubai’s win secured their spot in the semifinals.
Dubai demonstrated their resolve early on, seizing the lead in the second chukker with four consecutive goals and shutting out White Birch for the period. Hilario Ulloa, White Birch’s top scorer, switched seamlessly to defense in the second. He strategically positioned himself in front of the goalmouth when he saw Facundo Sola send a pass to Adolfo Cambiaso, who was on a run toward goal. Cambiaso hit a power drive that looked like a sure goal, but Ulloa plucked the ball out of danger on the doorstep. In the third chukker Ulloa scored twice, while Cambiaso and Sola each contributed a goal, ending the first half 7-3 for Dubai.
Working together in tightly calibrated teamwork, every one of Dubai’s players scored by the beginning of the fourth chukker. Alejo Taranco, who has played lockdown defense all season, maintained his tag-team synchronicity with Cambiaso in ball passing and scored twice from the field, once each in the fourth and fifth. Ulloa, a 9-goaler, was injured in the fifth by a ball to the back, and 21-year-old Joaquin Panelo, a 4-goaler, subbed in. With less than a minute left in the chukker, Panelo snatched the ball out of the air and knocked in a goal. Dubai remained steadfast, with Cambiaso telling his teammates not to change anything and keep playing exactly as they had been before the substitution. When the unexpected happens, he said, “Our job is to keep our focus, finish the game, preserve our horses and win it.”
The final chukker opened 12-4 for Dubai. With Cambiaso trying to get the ball to Taranco, Panelo intercepted and sent the ball to Mariano Aguerre, who scored through the posts on a neck shot. Aguerre again got possession of the ball, faking left and darting to the right for a run downfield. He blasted past Sola in a ride-off and took the bouncing ball straight to goal, bringing the score to 12-6 in favor of Dubai. Cambiaso then sent a pass toward Sola, and just when it looked like White Birch was going to break up the play, Sola hit the ball out of the air and fired it straight into goal. His next field goal ended the game 14-6 for Dubai.