Darlene Ricker | 10/19/17

Tonight, on the cusp of game 1 of the Hurlingham Open “virtual semis” came big news from La Aguada Las Monjitas: Eduardo Novillo Astrada, who has been sidelined with an injury since the first game of the Tortugas Open, will be back in the irons Friday.

That’s fabulous news for spectators—a full serving of Novillo Astradas vs. four Piereses always makes for a killer match. And of course La Aguada LM is rejoicing. But for Ellerstina, it’s anything but cause for celebration. The odds of victory for them shifted a few hours ago, and until tomorrow we won’t know exactly what that means.

The return of Eduardo is just the latest development in what has been a kind of quirky Argentine season. This year has presented a unique scenario in the Hurlingham Open, with four teams remaining undefeated at 3-0 (Alegría, Ellerstina, La Aguada Las Monjitas and La Dolfina) as we head into the “virtual” semis. The winner of each zone (A and B) advances straight to the finals on October 28—which means everything comes down to the outcome of two games: Ellerstina v. La Aguada LM on October 20, and La Dolfina v. Alegría on October 21. Both games take place at 4:30 p.m. local time on Hurlingham field 1.

In Zone A, Ellerstina faces La Aguada Las Monjitas in their first match-up against each other in the 2017 Argentine season. Ellerstina has been dominant so far in the Hurlingham Open, winning by an average of 10 goals, while scoring 17 goals per game. The resurgence of Polito Pieres has been key for Ellerstina, as Polito has averaged 6 goals per game, including the 9-goal performance in his most recent game against Cría Yatay. With Nico Pieres playing a steady back position, it has allowed the other three Piereses to be effective on the attack. Gonzalito Pieres and Facundo Pieres have been scoring at a high rate, making 4.0 and 4.3 goals per game respectively. The work of Gonzalito and Facundo in the middle of the field forces opponents to focus attention there, while Ellerstina capitalizes on a quick passing attack with Polito out front.

With a team handicap of 32 (7 goals lower than Ellerstina’s 39), La Aguada LM faces a difficult task but has continued to find ways to win. The offensive leader for La Aguada LM has been Alejandro Novillo Astrada, with 22 goals (14 of them from the penalty line). With effective defensive players in Miguel Novillo Astrada and Ignacio Novillo Astrada, Alejandro has been able to pressure defense and convert his chances around goal.

A major bright spot Friday for La Aguada LM is the return of Eduardo Novillo Astrada. Initially he expected to be back in the irons for the entire Hurlingham Open, but until now his spot has been filled by subs. First came Alfredo Bigatti, who did great for La Aguada LM—until he, too, was injured. Then Juan Britos stepped in admirably, scoring five goals in just over two games. Displaying a fast, physical style of play in the #2 position, Britos freed up space for his teammates, especially Alejandro on the offensive end.

Having Eduardo back will almost certainly help La Aguada defensively to protect against the Ellerstina passing attack. Eduardo is good defensively and reliably comes forward when needed. That may bring Ignacio more into the game offensively, with Eduardo and Miguel protecting the back end.

The outcome of Friday’s game is likely to come down to La Aguada’s ability to contain the Ellerstina passing attack and keep Polito Pieres from getting behind their back line of defense. With Eduardo back, La Aguada gains a serious edge there. Meanwhile, Ellerstina is looking to continue their momentum and can be expected to rely on the multi-faceted attack that has been difficult for their opponents to stop.