A Closer Look at the USA Men's 7s Team At Q4G
A Closer Look at the USA Men's 7s Team At Q4G
Here's a closer look at the USA Men's 7s players and what kind of players they are.
We look at their high school and college backgrounds, and also give you some thoughts on what they've been dealing with, or what they need to do to get to Tokyo.
As Mike Friday said in our interview with him earlier this spring, you could probably name nine of the players right off the bat, but it's those final two or three that will drive you crazy.
It's a tough job for Friday made perhaps a shade easier by the fact that Nate Ebner can't go due to an injury he was unable to shake. Ebner brought an attitude that certainly was good for the team as a whole, but at 32 he's been playing a LOT of football.
There have been other injury questions. There have been serious concerns that Perry Baker and Folau Niua would not be fit to play in time. Both suffered very serious leg injuries. Both were breaks but it turned out that Niua's was potentially much more serious. Baker got his set and was on his rehab quickly. Niua, who has been out, now, for about two years, could have had some serious long-term issues. Fortunately for him the delay of the Olympics game him time to be patient.
Both men will be under the microscope to see if everything works. Can Friday afford to have a player, even the caliber of these two, on the Olympic squad with the hopes they will be fit?
Niua is an asset who is enormously difficult to replace. He has been to the Olympics before. He has played in more World Series tournaments than any other member of thw Quest For Gold squad. His understanding of how the team ticks is crucial.
Many of these players have had time off due to COVID. Yes there were some tournaments, but the measure of an person if often how they behave when no one's looking. Coming back to full assembly the one player who had embraced the time away to become better, stronger, fitter, was Martin Iosefo. Already an excellent player, Iosefo has entered pre-Olympic training more focused and more physically prepared than he has ever been.
One other player who made the most of the non-competition time was Joe Schroeder. The long-striding forward also entered preparation time in excellent shape.
Here's a closer look at each of these players:
|Player||HS Rugby||College Rugby|
|Perry Baker||Player for Daytona Beach Men's Club as a teenager|
|Two-time World Rugby Player of the Year, Baker needs to show he has the speed and, especially, the change of direction after coming back from his injury.|
|A powerful presence, Barrett needs to show he can bounce back from each explosive moment to have more moments.|
|Pat Blair||Tacoma||Central Washington|
|Is there a better culture guy in the program? Hard to imagine it. He's not the most athletic guy, but Blair will do anything you ask of him until he drops.|
|Not crazy-fast speed but he can run and he picks good lines.|
|Maceo Brown||Tempe||Grand Canyon|
|We don't have an heir apparent to Baker or Isles, but he do have some guys coming through who are elusive, quick, and understand the game well ... Brown is one of those.|
|Gavan D'Amore||Brookline HS||AIC|
|A candidate out on the wings (theatrically speaking), D'Amore has won major championships in college and club, and can provide kind of a tweener player for the USA.|
|Christian Dyer||Jesuit Sacramento||Cal|
|Still perhaps realizing the he doesn't have to carry it all on his shoulders. An intriguing type of player with backline skills and size and strength to be a 7s forward too.|
|Malacchi Esdale||Naples||Central Florida|
|The USA's finishers are, for the most part, players who run around you, not through you. Esdale can do both—he's a bit more Fijian in that way. If he can show that off at The Dig then you could see a place for him. But it's Esdale or Thompson ... unlikely to be both.|
|Naima Fuala'au||Peninsula Green||Life West|
|Very elusive playmaker as a halfback. Speedy and exciting, but the thing about the guys who kick restarts is that no matter who kicks, they have to be consistent. That's an important thing for him.|
|Madison Hughes||Wellington College UK||Dartmouth|
|The captain, and expected to make the Olympic team of course. The thing he does really well when he's on is defend. He scores his tried up the middle, and he keeps the ball moving.|
|As we said, showed up physically and emotionally ready to take on the world. Poor world.|
|Such a hard time for Isles with the death of his brother and not too many chances to deal with that through competition. He has not slowed down despite being 31 (Baker is older), and remains unique in World Rugby.|
|Matai Leuta||Fiji||Monterrey Peninsula|
|Easy to overlook but could well become a key big man for the USA.|
|Great for team unity, good leader, precise and predictable (in a good way) with the boot. Can keep a nervous team settled.|
|Folau Niua||East Palo Alto||None|
|As we said, he's enormously important, and just coming back from injury.|
|Ben Pinkelman||Cherry Creek||Colorado State|
|THE hard-working big man on the team. Potentially the best player in the Olympics. No, seriously. He will run himself into the ground, and won't stop.|
|Joe Schroeder||Royal Irish||Cheerleading|
|Basically a new Ben Pinkelman. Personality-wise he's a bit less serious and more easygoing but that doesn't mean he lacks effort. At 6-5 the tallest of the USA players.|
|An off and off again athlete who has all the pieces. But injuries have been very cruel to him. So now, healthy (?), and really targeting this one major event rather than thinking ... will he be ready for the the World Series? This Q4G tournament could be his chance to show all of the things he is capable of. The fastest of the USA big men.|
|Stephen Tomasin||Santa Rosa/OMBAC||San Diego State|
|Another guy with a massive engine and tons of desire. Deceptively quick, really good over the ball, and a leader. He can also play almost any position.|
|Marcus Tupuola||Belmont Shore||Notre Dame College|
|An elusive and dynamic attacker, can he find room with Baker and Isles?|
|A big unit, as tall as Pinkelman but about 20 pounds heavier. He has a tough job ahead of him to carve out some space on the plane to Japan. But he can do it. He just can't afford to wait for chances; he has to find them.|
|Kevon Williams||Football||New Mexico Highlands|
|Brilliant player who is versatile and almost as quick as the really quick guys. Hard to imagine he isn't going to Tokyo.|