Ten teams will compete in the 124th edition of the Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Championship), which opens this weekend. Zone A plays Saturday, with Zone B debuting Sunday. On opening day La Irenita plays La Esquina at 2 p.m. local time (1400), followed by La Aguada Las Monjitas vs. La Albertina Abu Dhabi at 4:30 p.m. (1630).
With the exception of La Dolfina, all the Zone A teams play Saturday. Here’s a look at the five teams.
The big guns in Zone A are La Dolfina and La Aguada Las Monjitas, both narrowly defeated in the semi-finals of the Hurlingham Open.
Looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season in the Hurlingham semi-finals, La Dolfina will try to win their fifth consecutive Argentine Open with the same magical quartet of 10-goalers: Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo MacDonough, David Stirling and Juan Martín Nero. Always possessing a potent offense, La Dolfina’s back line of Cambiaso and Nero provided the heavy lifting in the Hurlingham Open, averaging 5.5 and 3.0 goals per game respectively. La Dolfina is a scoring machine, but their super-strength comes from their team defense, as they held their opponents to 6.3 goals per game, the lowest of all teams.
The other team to watch in Zone A will be La Aguada Las Monjitas, coming off a strong 3-1 showing in the Hurlingham Open and falling just short of an upset of eventual tournament champions Ellerstina. The trio of Novillo Astradas, along with Alfredo Bigatti, are as strong positionally as any team in the tournament. (As of this writing, La Aguada LM expects that Bigatti will remain as sub for Eduardo Novillo Astrada, who has been out with injury all season and was hoping to return for Palermo.) Miguel Novillo Astrada and Ignacio Novillo Astrada have provided stability in the back two positions, allowing Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Bigatti to attack offensively. Alejandro has paced the La Aguada LM offense, averaging 6.5 goals per game, with 17 of his 26 goals coming from the penalty line. For La Aguada to continue their success, their team defence will need to duplicate the performance that prevented Ellerstina from breaking away for runs to goal.
The remaining three teams to round out Zone A are La Irenita, La Albertina Abu Dhabi and La Esquina Los Machitos.
With the loss of leading scorer Matías MacDonough early in the tournament, replaced by Guillermo Willington, La Irenita found a way to win two of their four games in the Hurlingham Open led by Tito Ruiz Guiñazú and Juan Gris Zavaleta. To be competitive in Zone A, La Irenita has the offensive ability to stay in the game but will need to find a way to prevent higher-rated teams from putting up big-goal totals. Their games against Alegría and La Dolfina resulted in 35 combined goals from their opponents.
Rounding out the teams in Zone A is La Esquina Los Machitos, a team that struggled to find their footing in the Hurlingham Open, going winless in four games while averaging a tournament low 7.0 goals per game. With Mariano Aguerre and Rodrigo Andrade the focus of their opponent’s attention, La Esquina LM is capable of being competitive with a quick offense, but will need exceptional performances from Pascual Sainz de Vicuña and Rodrigo Rueda, newcomers to the Argentine Open.
La Albertina Abu Dhabi had their ups and downs in the Hurlingham Open, displaying an elite team that took Alegría to overtime and only lost by four to La Dolfina. However, they fell to lower-rated La Irenita to open the tournament. Alfredo Cappella was a key player for La Albertina as team high-scorer with 19 goals in the Hurlingham Open. He used the backhand to effectively turn play around and start offense for his team. With Cappella and Santiago Toccalino forming a formidable back line for La Albertina Abu Dhabi, they will need a combined effort with Francisco Elizalde and Ignacio Toccalino increasing their offensive efforts to bring their team into the conversation for the top of Zone A.
Photos by Katerina Morgan