This weekend brings a rugged challenge in the next round of the Argentine Open, with a slate of match-ups between the big guns and less dominant teams. Saturday sees La Dolfina vs. La Esquina Los Machitos (2 p.m.) and La Aguada Las Monjitas vs. La Irenita (4:30 p.m.). Sunday is Ellerstina vs. Chapaleufú (2 p.m.) and Alegría vs. Cría Yatay (4:30 p.m.).
Of course any team that goes up against perennial winners Ellerstina or La Dolfina knows the odds are against them. And this weekend’s matchups against Alegría and La Aguada aren’t going to be a cakewalk, either. But don’t write the underdogs off just yet.
The 2017 Hurlingham Open provided a historic upset when Alegría defeated La Dolfina, as well as some close calls when La Albertina took Alegría to overtime and La Aguada fell by 1 to Ellerstina. However, a key factor in those three games that kept them close was the inability of the favorite to shoot a good percentage.
Teams trying to create the upset typically play a very tight, defensive style of game, rather than a fast, open style that favors teams with stronger-skilled players and better horses. The defense typically plays farther back, keeping their opponents in front of them, which in turn tends to give up more shots to goal. But it also allows the defending team to challenge those shots and force their opponents to the outside of the field, creating more difficult shots. That creates the possibility of the difficult shots resulting in lower shooting percentages, as seen in the three Hurlingham Open upsets.
On the other hand a tight, defensive game usually results in more fouls, with an average of 19.7 fouls per game in the three games mentioned earlier. The additional penalty shots need to be converted, along with making the shots they do get from the field count.
The biggest nightmare for a team that has struggled this season is to be matched with either of the two top guns. Here’s a preview of what La Esquina Los Machitos has to do to be competitive against La Dolfina and Chapaleufú against Ellerstina.
The team has struggled to gain traction in the Hurlingham Open and Argentine Open and so far have not recorded a win. They have tried to play a slower, more ball-controlling game with Mariano Aguerre and Rodrigo Andrade carrying the ball often. Against La Dolfina, that would have a dim chance of success because La Dolfina will cause turnovers, and then Aguerre and Andrade will be behind the play as LD quickly transitions to offense.
In their opening game of the Argentine Open, La Esquina LM allowed La Irenita to run right to goal, leaving La Irenita open to shoot 12/17 in the first six chukkers. Their focus Saturday will need to be on trying to minimize open runs to goal and hoping they can get a few chances of their own that they can convert. A smart move may be to use Pascual Sáinz de Vicuña in the #1 position via the pass (he only had one shot attempt in their first game), with Aguerre and Rodrigo Rueda focusing heavily on positional defense. Andrade is the key player to recognize when to go forward or stay back and help defensively.
Having had a frustrating first game in the Argentine Open, Chapaleufú is a better team than they have shown, with no wins to date in the Hurlingham Open or Argentine Open. They shot 1/5 from the penalty line in their first game, which needs to improve to be competitive against Ellerstina.
With Polito Pieres playing at a super-high level, he will push forward constantly, which will force Eduardo Heguy to protect defensively. If Chapaleufú relies on Heguy to produce offense, Ellerstina will capitalize on their counter-attack.
Chapaleufú plays a more aggressive style, with Ezequiel Ferrario and Julián de Lusarreta very active in the middle of the field. De Lusarreta will need to play similarly to Andrade, carrying a big defensive responsibility but being the key player who knows when to attack. Chapaleufú has tended to overextend themselves offensively with Heguy and Lusarreta both driving forward, which leaves them vulnerable to an attack. They will need to be aware of their defensive positioning creating difficult shots for Ellerstina.
Photos by Katerina Morgan