GRR on X  GRR on Facebook GRR in Instagram GRR Vimeo Library GRR on YouTube RuggaMatrix America Podcasts Support GRR on Patreon

Two Changes to Starting 15 for USA as they Face Portugal

irish rugby tours

Two Changes to Starting 15 for USA as they Face Portugal

USA backs hudle up during training. Calder Cahill photo for USA Rugby.

One week removed from a convincing win over Romania in Bucharest, the USA Men’s Eagles have landed off the beaches of Algarve, by way of a short stay in Lisbon, for their Saturday match against Portugal.

A town otherwise known as a vacation destination, Faro will transform into a rugby town for the late-night showdown at Estadio do Algarve. Head Coach Scott Lawrence has made a few changes to the matchday 23 for the second of three tour stops, with two names in line to earn a first cap.

This is also a rematch of the last match of the Rugby World Cup Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai in 2022. In that game the USA needed to win, but were held to a 16-16 tie, a result partly due to, said lock Cam Dolan, the Eagles playing not to lose rather than playing to win. This iteration of the USA team is now looking at a key rankings matchup.

USA vs Portugal kicks off Saturday, 4PM ET and the game is live on The Rugby Network.

Who Are These Guys? The Eagle Summer Tour

Of this weekend's gameday 23, 11 were on the pitch against Portugal in November, including this weekend’s captain, Greg Peterson, who recalls the strong backs the opposing teams will lean on. 

“We know what the opposition can bring, they’ve got a good back three, good kicking and line out that function really well. I think if we do what we did in the first 60 minutes against Romania, stick to our processes and our drills then we can keep the game in our control. That’s been the main focus this week. Similar to last week, very much just focusing on ourselves. Energy has been pretty good this week, the boys are buzzing after a good result, but the want and need to learn and keep the growth mindset is still very much there and present. Energy has been awesome, the intent has been awesome. It’s been a hard week, but the boys just got in and grafted.”

Head Coach, Scott Lawrence reflected on the week: “We spent the first two and half days in Lisbon, it was a nice stop over and I think we got a lot accomplished with the bulk of the work done there, during the early part of the week. We’ve recharged out batteries a bit here in Algarve, so we’re going into the weekend feeling pretty fresh.”

When asked what the primary focus for Saturday’s match will be, Lawrence answered succinctly, “It’s about winning races to the ball.”

Groundwork, Lineouts, and the 2023 Eagles

As for the changes:

In the starting 15 Kaleb Geiger is set to earn his first cap as he starts at tighthead prop in favor of Paul Mullen, who is on the bench. Geiger is a product of the American Raptors program as one of the athletes from other sports given a chance to learn the game and find a future in it. Geiger, who played football and baseball at Concordia University and was also a logger with his father when not at school, started playing in January of 2021 and within a year had a contract with the now-named New York Ironworkers of Major League Rugby. He started out as a hooker and his intensity in the tackle, his strength, and his work rate were obvious.

His play for the USA Falcons in some World Cup Qualifier warmups and was impressive, but didn't get the Eagle callup. One more year of MLR and he has been noticed again—now after a move to prop.

Also in the starting 15 is former Saint Mary's All American Tevita Lopeti. He is in line to garner his 9th cap and replaces Tomasso Boni, who is not in the gameday 23.  Lopeti came on as a reserve in the game against Romania. There are other changes on the bench.

Former Wheeling University All American Peter Malcolm returns to the Eagles for the first time since 2018—he will be the hooker replacement with Joe Taufete'e not in the 23. Former Saint Mary's captain Vili Helu provides loose forward / lock cover instead of Nate Brakeley, and Lauina Futi could earn his first cap, taking the reserve spot vacated by Lopeti.

Futi plays for the Seattle Seawolves and before that played with the Westside Ronins 7s team, Seattle RFC, and two clubs in the Boise, Idaho area. If he runs on against Portugal he will be the 11th new cap selected by Lawrence this summer.