RH Polo enters the Queen’s Cup final as the most dangerous team due to a few factors, the obvious one the impact of Adolfo Cambiaso. However, in contrast to the 2017 U.S. season with Valiente (when he had Diego Cavanagh to control the penalty line), Cambiaso has led RH Polo to a 5-0 record based on their dominance of open play. All told, they have outscored their opponents 43-27 from the field. This stat takes on a greater significance when you bring in the fact that RH Polo has not been fouling throughout the entire tournament, only committing 5.4 fouls per game, while their opponents average almost twice as many fouls at 10.0 fouls per game.
The constant attack and transition from defense to offense for RH Polo puts a lot of pressure on the defending team and leads to either a scoring chance or a foul. In the case of a scoring chance, RH Polo converts their chances better than any team, shooting 60.6% from the field, ranked first among all teams. The semifinal against El Remanso featured the elite performance of Cambiaso, who scored an incredible 13 of his team’s 14 goals on perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the penalty line. RH Polo has struggled from the penalty line in the tournament at only 56.7% (ranked last among all teams) and could become a factor in Sunday’s final.
RH Polo can’t expect another 13-goal performance from Cambiaso, so Rodrigo Andrade needs to have an impact. After a quick start to the tournament, Andrade has only scored twice in his last three games, a big difference from the 13 goals he had in the first two games. He will have a tough task of defending against La Indiana’s Nic Roldan and Tincho Merlos, and his impact will likely be felt in that area of the game. Tommy Beresford has stepped up offensively the past two games, scoring 5 times, and the additional scoring for RH Polo could really benefit them if La Indiana effectively keys on Cambiaso throughout the game.
Consistently one of the best teams in the UK the past two years, La Indiana find themselves back in the Queen’s Cup final behind strong performances from Agustin (Tincho) Merlos, ranked second in goals among all players. Merlos has arguably been the most efficient player so far in the UK, shooting 72.4% from the field (ranked second) and 76.9% from the penalty line (ranked fifth). His efficiency was highlighted in La Indiana’s semifinal matchup against Murus Sanctus, where Merlos scored 11 goals (5/5 from the field and 6/6 from the line) on perfect shooting for the game.
La Indiana uses efficiency to score, only trailing RH Polo in shooting average at 59.4%. This year La Indiana replaced Julian (Negro) de Lusarreta with Luke Tomlinson, who has made his impact felt in the #4 position. He has played exceptionally well defensively, taking the defensive burden away from Merlos and allowing him and Roldan to attack more freely. Being tasked with a high level of defensive responsibility can be difficult, but Tomlinson has performed well, only committing 2.0 fouls per game, while starting numerous attacks the other way. While unexpected, if Merlos falters from the penalty line, Tomlinson can step in; he has gone 6/6 on his attempts. Look for La Indiana to really push the pace on the attack with Merlos and Roldan, with Tomlinson protecting the back end.
The backstory coming into the game is that RH Polo rarely fouls (lowest fouling rate), and La Indiana is the best penalty shooting team at 84.2%. If La Indiana can put pressure on RH Polo and force them into committing more fouls than normal, La Indiana can reap a big advantage. However, if RH Polo continue their ways and leave the outcome of the game to the team that can best score from open play, La Indiana is going to be in tough against them. La Indiana wouldn’t mind a foul-ridden game, as that plays to their strengths. It would put RH Polo on the penalty line, where RH have the lowest percentage, rather than allowing them to score from the field, where they have the highest percentage. With both teams ranking first and second on field shots, expect both teams to convert any chances they get.
Photography: Snoopy Productions & Helen Cruden