Ellerstina plays Alegría in the Argentine Open semifinals Sunday. Here’s what the tournament stats say about what the teams bring to the party and the obstacles they’re up against.
Surviving a close game against La Dolfina Polo Ranch in their second game, Ellerstina bounced back against Cría Yatay, displaying a dominant second-half performance, setting up a rematch of the Hurlingham Open final against Alegría. Led by Polito Pieres’ 7.3 goals per game, third-best in the Argentine Open, Ellerstina has averaged 15.7 goals per game, trailing just La Dolfina and Alegría.
The duo of Nico and Facundo Pieres have been effective at beginning the attack with accurate passes, finding Polito and Gonzalito Pieres for breakaway runs. Able to use their passing effectively to keep possession, Ellerstina has been able to avoid fouling, committing the second least number of fouls, playing to their strengths in open play. Slowing the attack of Argentine Open leading scorer Sapo Caset will be key for Ellerstina, as Caset scored eight goals in their previous match-up.
Polito Pieres has been a dynamic force for Ellerstina, averaging 7.3 goals per game, third highest in the Argentine Open. Polito is active offensively, taking 20 shots through his three games, while converting 60% of those attempts. Taking over the penalty duties from Facundo Pieres, Polito has been just as active from the penalty line, scoring 3.3 penalty goals per game, second most behind Diego Cavanagh. Since the beginning of the Hurlingham Open, Polito has been running to goal effectively and been the key receiver for an Ellerstina team that uses a quick passing attack. In Sunday’s rematch against Alegría, Polito will look to produce at the same rate that saw him score 11 goals in the Hurlingham Open final.
Active in the middle of the field, defending and blocking for his teammates’ attacks, Gonzalito Pieres has found his offensive game in the Argentine Open, scoring 12 goals on 18 shots for efficient 67% shooting. Tied for fourth with teammate Polito at 4.0 field goals per game, Gonzalito has been effective completing his runs to goal, with opponents often focusing on preventing opportunities for Polito and Facundo. In Sunday’s match-up against Alegría, Gonzalito will be tasked with defending the likes of Hilario Ulloa and Facundo Sola, while continuing to display the offensive touch that has helped his team reach a 3-0 record as they look to return to the Argentine Open final.
Facundo Pieres has played more of a distributor role, allowing Polito and Gonzalito to attack. He has scored nine goals himself on 55% shooting. He hasn't attacked as much as normal, but he doesn't necessarily have to, with Polito playing at a high level. Facundo helps Ellerstina with the possession battle, as he is second in throw-in wins with 21.
There has been a heavy defensive focus for Nico Pieres in the Argentine Open. While making four goals on 10 shots, he has been the key player at the back for Ellerstina. Similar to Facundo, he is responsible for starting the attacks for Ellerstina. So although he may not score a lot, he has started quite a few attacks for Ellerstina.
Alegría is attempting to reach their second consecutive final in the Triple Crown and will need to complete an upset in the semifinals once again. The key to Alegría’s success thus far has been their fast, high-pressure style of play. While that has resulted in a tournament-leading 12.0 fouls per game, it has also helped Alegría cause turnovers and high-quality scoring chances, of which they have taken full advantage.
Shooting a tournament-best 69.6% from the field, Alegría’s accuracy at shooting toward goal requires their opponents to place a heavy focus on the defensive end in an attempt to limit the Alegría attack. Alegría has allowed their opponents 11.0 goals per game, a higher average than would be expected for a team with a 3-0 record. Against Ellerstina’s offense (which averages the second most shots per game at 21.0), Alegría will need to protect against the Ellerstina attack and use quick passes from Fred Mannix and Hilario Ulloa to begin attacks of their own.
In his first year with Alegría, replacing the injured Lucas Monteverde, Facundo Sola has played above his 8-goal handicap, playing sound defense while contributing offensively. With the duo of Caset and Hilario Ulloa garnering a lot of attention, Sola has provided effective support to Fred Mannix yet found his opportunities to attack goal, shooting 60% for the efficient Alegría attack. With 12 total field goals, he is ranked fourth. His average 4.0 field goals per game puts him tied for fourth among all players, trailing teammate Sapo Caset and La Dolfina duo of Adolfo Cambiaso and Pablo MacDonough.
From the start of the Triple Crown Sapo Caset has been at the top of the scoring charts, and the Argentine Open is no different, as he is tied for the lead in scoring with Adolfo Cambiaso at 8.0 goals per game. Caset stands out in his efficiency, converting 74% of his shots, second among all players with at least 10 shot attempts. Second in both field goals and penalty goals per game, Caset has taken advantage of his opportunities throughout the tournament. Scoring eight goals in his previous match-up against Ellerstina, Caset’s offensive production Sunday will be key.
With Caset scoring at such a high rate, Hilario Ulloa is playing more of a quarterback type of role and has been passing at a very high level. Quite a few of Caset's and Sola's goals have been the result of a pass from Ulloa. Scoring only six goals through three games is a different role for Ulloa, but he has played it well and stepped up defensively, further allowing Caset to attack.
Fred Mannix had remained steady defensively as always and has found some opportunities to come forward. Mannix leads all players shooting 88% from the field (7/8 shooting) so although he hasn't gotten a lot of chances, he definitely has taken advantage of any opportunity.
Photos by Katerina Morgan