“That Remy goal!” said a wide-eyed Geronimo Obregon, laughing so hard he could barely get the words out after Team USA won a spot in the 2017 FIP World Championship on April 30. “It was the icebreaker!”
The US needed some icebreaking right about then. With the score tied at 7 in the fifth chukker, Remy Muller came through, finishing off a three-player goal for the US. Obregon generated the play of the day, which jolted the stadium; spectators sprung from their seats as though someone had hit the eject button. Obregon slid across the centerline, looked up and found US captain Felipe Viana open and on the run toward goal. Obregon sent the ball on a back shot to Viana (MVP and high-scorer with five goals on the day). Viana catapulted the ball nearly 100 yards directly to Muller, who was perfectly positioned in front of goal. With a tap Muller turned the game on its head, restoring the US to their first lead since the third chukker.
Mexico gave the US a good share of scares throughout the match, leading 6-5 at the end of the first half. The Mexican team played in tight formation, punctuated by Alfredo Capella-style long-range missiles from power hitter Diego Velarde.
Viana wrapped it up for the US with a goal in the last moments of the five-chukker match, giving the US the 9-7 victory. On his way to the awards ceremony, his resolve had already fast-forwarded to the October final in Sydney, Australia. “We’re going for revenge,” said Viana, referring to the US’s devastating overtime loss in the last World Championship final (Chile 2015), in which both he and Muller competed for the USThe 2017 playoff final made for a curious scene at the venerable International Polo Club Palm Beach, which looked at first glance a bit like an auction. To ensure both teams had an equal opportunity to compete the best horses (all of which were borrowed or leased), each pony’s left rump sported a large yellow number from 1 to 50 for identification purposes. “Chili,” a 9-year-old played by Mexico (owned by Del Walton and bred by Gabriel Crespo), was selected Best Playing Pony.The tournament began with two games last week at Port Mayaca Polo Club. Mexico squeaked past Guatemala 10 to 9.5 and the US defeated Guatemala 10 to 6.5.
All Photography: D.Lominska (IPC)