Darlene Ricker | 12/07/17

No sooner had the 2017 Argentine Open ended than people were already speculating about 2018. But no one could have imagined the list would start with news that Sapo Caset, Hilario Ulloa and Facundo Sola will not be back with Alegría for 2018 and that they are reportedly forming a Las Monijtas team with Julian de Lusarreta of Chapaleufu.

Of course the gossip mill started spinning (and still is) about what the “end of Alegría” will mean for high-goal polo. But hey, not so fast. As usual, when you jump to a conclusion without all the facts, you’re operating on a faulty premise—and you end up with incomplete or incorrect information.

So okay, yes, the 2017 Alegría formation is no more. But as the saying goes, the reports of the team’s “death” are greatly exaggerated. Everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that Alegría as an entity has been forever anchored to its soul, Fred Mannix. And neither of them is going anywhere.

While Mannix confirmed that the team has disbanded, he has no interest in rehashing how that came about. He has already moved ahead in his mind, a predictable reaction for one of the most stoic guys in the sport. After some stabbing disappointments this season (Alegría came within a breath of taking Hurlingham Open title and making it to the Palermo final), Mannix maintained the same unshakable attitude: “Yes, it hurts, but I will recover. Alegría will go on, and we will win the Open one day.”

And that’s exactly where he stands now. “It is true that the current formation of Alegría will not stay together for 2018, but it’s also true that I will continue on and I will do my best to build a competitive team that has a chance to win the Open,” said Mannix yesterday. “Alegría will be back. I’ve never given up, and I don’t intend to start now.”

None of the three departing members of the team would talk about what prompted their decision. Of course money is always the first thing that comes to mind, but Alegría coach Clemente Zavaleta told La Nacion that when Ulloa gave him the news, the 10-goaler assured him it was not about pesos. Rather, said Ulloa, he was leaving because he felt that “the cycle had been completed” and it was time to move on.

One way or the other, it’s no problem for Ulloa, Caset and Sola. If they indeed form a team together, they will have retained 75 percent of a team that directly qualified for 2018 (Alegría). If not, each of those players is certain to be picked up by another team. For Alegría, however, qualification has now become quite a different scenario. They finished third in the 2017 final ranking but now are minus three-quarters of their qualified team.

Still, Alegría hasn’t played all their cards yet. Don’t forget about Lucas Monteverde, who was on the original 2017 Alegria squad until he was seriously injured and was replaced by Sola for the rest of the season. Monteverde is in the recuperation process, and if his improvement continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in a magenta jersey when Mannix finalizes the new squad.