As we hit the halfway point of the 2018 Joe Barry Cup, some emerging story lines with surprising outcomes have set up games that will be key to deciding the semifinal pairings. Four teams remain undefeated (Modere Villa del Lago, La Indiana, Tonkawa and Travieso), while perceived pre-tournament favorites Pilot and Grand Champions find themselves with 0-1 and 1-2 records respectively. Each bracket sets up differently heading into the final games of the group stage, highlighted by a five-game day this Sunday, January 21 that will be crucial to determining the semifinalist slate.
The only bracket in which each team plays only three games, VDL Modere has taken control with a 2-0 record. Led by Hilario Ulloa’s 4.5 goals per game, Modere edged out two one-goal victories over Colorado and Postage Stamp Farm. Foul trouble has been an issue for Modere (24 fouls through two games), but they just have to defeat Goose Creek to secure their place in the semifinals.
A new team this season, Colorado had Diego Cavanagh back for their second game. Cavanagh and Juan Britos were a dynamic force against Goose Creek as they combined for 11 of their team’s 12 goals. Colorado’s performance in that game showcased how their fast-paced offense can create difficulties for opponents.
Narrow losses for Goose Creek and Postage Stamp Farm have both them standing 0-1. Mariano Gonzalez was a bright spot for Goose Creek (shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the penalty line) and led the comeback against Modere.
While the outcome of Bracket I lies with the Modere v. Goose Creek game, a Goose Creek victory would open up a slew of possibilities: Colorado, Goose Creek and Postage Stamp could all reach a 2-1 record. The potential of a penalty shot shootout between Ulloa and Gonzalez looms, but the game may be decided by the remaining players, as there is an even match-up between Agustin Obregon and Jared Zenni for Modere against Peke Gonzalez and Matias Magrini for Goose Creek.
The talent in Bracket II speaks for itself. La Indiana and Tonkawa lead the way with 2-0 records. La Indiana displayed two solid performances in victories over Coca-Cola and Grand Champions. With Jeff Hall a solid presence in the #4 position, young Toro Ruiz and Facundo Obregon have been noticeably effective for La Indiana. Ruiz was MVP in last Sunday’s feature match. La Indiana has averaged just 9.5 goals per game so far, with their defense the key to their success (allowing only 7.5 goals per game).
The other undefeated team, Tonkawa, sports a new lineup with Julian de Lusarreta, and it has been his work alongside 10-goaler Sapo Caset that has Tonkawa looking ahead. One of the most exciting games so far saw Tonkawa build an 8-1 lead over Grand Champions, only to see that lead disappear in two chukkers. Tonkawa came back for a 9-8 victory.
SD Farms was eliminated from semifinal contention after their second loss. Meanwhile Pilot provides a unique story, as a tough opening loss to Travieso has them on the outside looking in. Facundo Pieres and Gonzalito Pieres are a force of nature for Pilot, with Facundo scoring seven goals in their first game on 5-for-6 shooting from the penalty line.
La Indiana and Tonkawa each have only one remaining game against Travieso, a tough match-up for both. The outcomes will be crucial in determining Bracket II. Containing leading scorer Sebastian Merlos (Travieso) has been a difficult task for any opponent so far. With games against Coca-Cola and Grand Champions remaining, Pilot has the opportunity to find their way into the semi-finals with two victories, something that can’t be overlooked when talking about the Pieres brothers.
The story of Bracket III features Travieso, who emerged in stunning fashion, defeating Pilot on the first Sunday of play. Travieso’s Sebastian Merlos has been the standout player so far, leading all players with 16 goals and 15 throw-in wins.
Following up their first game with a convincing win over SD Farms, Travieso has displayed accurate shooting from the field (61%) and the penalty line (80%).
Entering the tournament Grand Champions was considered a team to watch as 8-goaler Nico Pieres (rated 10 goals in Argentina) joined Mike Azzaro on the backline. After a win in their opening game over SD Farms, inconsistent shooting has plagued Grand Champions as they have given themselves opportunities to score but converted just 33% of their shots from the field. Facing tough teams in La Indiana and Tonkawa left Grand Champions with a 1-2 record, with a tough game against Pilot remaining.
Restoring their lineup from the 2016 season, Coca-Cola has been unable to find their stride, allowing 11.5 goals per game and falling to Tonkawa and La Indiana. Provided with just six penalty shots, five of which have been converted, Coca-Cola’s success has been left to open play, where Julio Arellano has led the way with 10 goals. With an outside chance of reaching the semis, Coca-Cola looks to bounce back against Pilot in Wednesday’s game.
Needing just one win in their final two games, Travieso finds themselves squaring off against undefeated La Indiana and Tonkawa. The defense work of Travieso’s four-man squad has been impressive. Father-son pair Teo Calle and Tony Calle have continually caused havoc for higher-rated players, leaving Merlos and Tomas Garcia del Rio to control play. Containing Sapo Caset will be key in their game against Tonkawa.
Grand Champions and Coca-Cola, facing tough games against Pilot, will need some help to reach the semifinals. With Travieso in the driver’s seat, tomorrow’s game against La Indiana could seal a run for them into the semifinals.
Photos by Liz Lamont Images and David Lominska