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What to Hope For, What to Watch For, USA vs Uruguay

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What to Hope For, What to Watch For, USA vs Uruguay

Joe Taufete'e thundering ahead against Canada. David Barpal photo.

As the Eagles look to face Uruguay tomorrow there have, of course, been a few hiccups.

Key among those is an injury AJ MacGinty picked up in his team’s tie with London Irish last week. Asked if it was true that MacGinty would be out some weeks, USA Head Coach Gary Gold just shook his head, adding that the flyhalf might rejoin the team for next week’s game in Montevideo.

There was, if course, the usual dribbling in of players from overseas, but Gold said this wasn’t as difficult as it was in the last series, because those players didn’t have to then get into Canada.

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Still, Greg Peterson is on the bench, not starting, which is partly a nod to how well Nick Civetta and Nate Brakeley are playing. 

Uruguay Names Their Lineup
(Click on image to enlarge)

Gold’s select includes a start for former Notre Dame College All American Andrew Guerra, who has shown plenty of potential in his first couple of caps. In flyhalf Will Magie he has a #10 who kicks and passes more than he runs (while MacGinty could be called a running flyhalf). Asked about whether the 50-22 might be in use Gold demurred somewhat, 

“I’m not sure of the logic behind opening up the backlfield to run more is working,” said Gold. “But World Rugby can convince themselves as much as they want to.”

Gold did say it’s something to watch for from Los Teros, but it would also be reasonable to guess that Magie might want to put it into action.

“It is something that we’ve spoken about; again, I’m skeptical of making too much of it,” Gold said, and while he acknowledged that the USA got points from attempting a 50-22 against Canada in Glendale, “it’s also more about the fact that we’re going to have to watch out for it.”

The USA wants to keep the ball in hand, and certainly captain Bryce Campbell wants to. The inside center’s job is to bash through and create gaps for others, and we’ve seen his center partner Tavite Lopeti find a little space.

“We want to play with the ball in hand,” said Campbell. “The kick battle is such a big part of the game but what it leads to is it leads to open field opportunities. And that’s where hopefully Lopeti and I can find ourselves running in some space.”

Aside from Magie, the backline remains largely unchanged, although Mike Kruse comes in for Ryan Matyas on the wing. Christian Dyer made several impressive plays against Canada in Glendale, looking strong under the kicks and taking on defenders. Marcel Brache seemed very comfortable running counter-attacking lines, and the combination of his ability to beat the first defender, thus getting further upfield, and his teammates being quick to support him, allowed the USA to mount attacks (and avoid penalties).

Eagles Name 23 to Face Uruguay Saturday

In the forwards, the front row of David Ainu’u, Kapeli Pifeleti, and Joe Taufete’e was very effective against Canada, and while they’ll have a tougher job in the scrum against Uruguay, there’s optimism in the USA pack.

Against Uruguay you can get’s bogged down in repeated scrums, and you have to watch your discipline because they can hit penalties from almost anywhere. You also have to be patient, not just through the entire game but in little moments. You have a breakaway and somehow you turn the ball over? Don’t act like you can just snatch the ball back and finally score—get into a defensive posture and put aside that disappointment. That’s patience, too.

One new law may well be to the USA’s advantage, and that’s the goalline dropout law. Specifically, when a team is held up in-goal, instead of a five-meter scrum, it’s now a drop-kick from the goalline.

In the past, being held up was a boon to Los Teros. They could take the scrum, collapse it or drive it, get a penalty, and possibly a yellow card or penalty try.

Now, instead, they have to deal with countering on a kick. For the USA, the same situation might work out better for them. The Eagles are more dynamic in open field and a kick from the goalline could result in a counter-attack try … or at least a drop goal.