The focus in Zone B of the Argentine Open will be this season’s Hurlingham Open finalists, Ellerstina and Alegría. Both are looking to dethrone reigning champion La Dolfina. The rematch between the two power-teams will have to wait until the final game of the group stage on November 26.
With the exception of Ellerstina, all the Zone B teams play this Sunday: Cría Yatay v. Chapaleufú (2 p.m.), and Alegría v. La Dolfina Polo Ranch (4:30 p.m.). Times are local. Here’s a breakdown of the five teams.
Ellerstina will build on their momentum from their recent win and hope Facundo Pieres is able to recover from his injury in last Saturday’s Hurlingham Open final. Polito Pieres has taken his game to another level, finishing second in the Hurlingham Open with 33 goals and leading his team to victory. Nico Pieres has taken pride in his defensive game, playing a consummate #4 position and being a key factor in Ellerstina outscoring their opponents by 33 goals in their five games. If Facundo Pieres is able to return, look for the effective passing attack of Ellerstina to continue with all four players fully capable of taking over a game.
The story of the Hurlingham Open, Alegría survived close back-to-back overtime games, including an upset of La Dolfina. They fell just short in their bid to upset Ellerstina as well. Sapo Caset has been the driving force of Alegría, scoring 38 goals to lead all players. With Hilario Ulloa and Facundo Sola controlling possession for Alegría in the middle of the field, Caset has been freed up to continuously attack downfield. Another factor in Alegría’s success is Fred Mannix’s defense as his ability to prevent any player from getting in behind for a breakaway, always allows his team to defend and force difficult shots. If Alegría continues to play at the level they are, look for them to make more noise as they challenge for the Argentine Open title.
The other three teams in Zone B are Cría Yatay, La Dolfina Polo Ranch and Chapaleufú, all looking to enter the conversation with Ellerstina and Alegría at the top of the zone.
Last year’s semi-finalist, Cría Yatay, finished with a 2-2 record in the Hurlingham Open, displaying flashes of the balanced team offense that was successful last year. A tough overtime loss to La Aguada Las Monjitas showed that Cría Yatay, led by Christian and Ignacio Laprida, can compete with the top teams and provide difficult games for the teams in the top of the group. Similar to La Irenita, Cría Yatay has struggled defensively when facing the top echelon of teams, allowing 16 goals per game in their games against Ellerstina and Alegría this season.
After a slow start in the Hurlingham Open, La Dolfina Polo Ranch was impressive in their final outing against La Esquina LM, winning 14-6 behind impressive offensive performances from Diego Cavanagh and Guillermo Terrera. The capability of those two offensively can keep La Dolfina Polo Ranch in any game, but their ability to defend will determine their success in the Argentine Open, as they allowed 14.7 goals per game in their three losses.
Zone B is rounded out by Chapaleufú, a team that went winless in the Hurlingham Open but could have easily stolen a couple of games. Narrow losses to La Irenita and La Albertina Abu Dhabi, along with staying within six goals of Alegría, shows Chapaleufú can surprise people in the Argentine Open if a few more bounces go their way. With #3 and #4 players Julián de Lusarreta and Eduardo Heguy carrying the bulk of the offense, it has affected the Chapaleufú defense as they allowed over 10 goals in each game they played. With more defensive support, Chapaleufú can win some games in Zone B and provide a difficult match-up for the top couple of teams.
Photos by Katerina Morgan