Friday, February 24, 2017

Preview: Eagles Head To Chile

The Eagles have a chance to close out their test portion of the Americas Rugby Championship with a perfect record if they can get past Chile on Saturday. They will close out the tournament against an Argentina XV but that is not a cap match. Chile have been the weakest team in the competition so far scoring hardly any points and not being able to stop their opponents from racking up the points. That said, the last time the Eagles went down to South America for the ARC they came away with two losses, including an embarrassing loss against Brazil. That will certainly be in the back of head coach John Mitchell's mind and the player's minds as they face Chile.

Being able to go 4-0 and set up a winner take all match against Argentina will be huge. With World Cup qualifying on tap this summer and two tough matches against Ireland and Georgia awaiting them this summer earning another win against a team they should beat is a must. Not only should the Eagles beat Chile but they should probably do it by a large margin. They are coming off a big win over Brazil and then an even bigger win against Canada. This is a U.S. team on a roll and it has to continue against Chile. It's easier said than done, however.

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The Eagles have been forced into some changes before heading down to South America. They still have some overseas pros like Cam Dolan, Tony Lamborn, and David Tameilau on the roster but in other areas they are blooding some new players. All along the matches in South America have been viewed as more developmental. That means things might not go as smoothly as expected for the Eagles but in the end if they can show developed depth that is what the tournament is all about.

The Squad

As mentioned, Mitchell has had to make some changes. The consistent lock pairing of Nick Civetta and Nate Brakeley have returned to their clubs. That means that the young lock pairing of Matt Jensen and Siaosi Mahoni will be given a chance. We in particular are keeping an eye on the pairing because they are both great athletes and are two to watch for the future. By the time the World Cup rolls around in two years they could be major players in the lock conversation.

Other changes to the roster include Ben Cima getting another chance at flyhalf. Will Magie has done very well at the position over the last few weeks which will put pressure on Cima to make an impact against Chile. They are a great opponent to get a run out against and we expect Cima to do well.

The rest of the roster sees little change from what was expected. Ben Tarr will get the start at prop in what is a big match for him. Additionally, Spike Davis will start again on the wing. On the bench is Calvin Whiting who we think can do big things.

Where the match may turn very positively in favor of the Eagles is in the back-row. The trio of Todd Clever, Tony Lamborn, and Cam Dolan should run rampant over Chile.

Fowards: Ben Tarr, James Hilterbrand, Chris Baumann, Matt Jensen, Siaosi Mahoni, Todd Clever, Tony Lamborn, Cam Dolan

Backs: Shaun Davis, Ben Cima, Nate Augspurger, JP Eloff, Bryce Campbell, Spike Davis, Mike Te'o

Bench: Peter Malcolm, Tony Purpura, Ollie Kilifi, Hanco Germishuys, David Tameilau, Will Magie, Calvin Whiting, Andrew Turner

The Opponents

Chile have made a number of changes once again as they look for some combination that will work. Like other teams in the ARC they have players with experience and a lot of younger players. Some of their top players are also either injured or suspended for the tournament. Last year Matías Nordenflycht was arguably their best player against the Eagles but he's hurt this year. PRO Rugby fans will notice that former San Diego Breaker Nikola Bursic is on the roster for Chile. Look for him to lead the Condors. 

Forwards: Vittorio Lastra, Manuel Gurruchaga (C), Jose Tomas Munita, Mario Mayol, Nikola Bursic, Arturo Seeman, Anton Petrowitsch, Manuel Dagnino

Backs: Sergio Bascunan, Francisco Moller, Tomas Ianiszewski, Simon Pardakhty, Franco Velarde, Matias Contreras, Pablo Verschae

Bench: Rodrigo Moya, Sebastian Valech, Ernestro Ugarte, Nelson Calderon, Eduardo Orpis, Beltran Vergara, Jorge Castillo, Mauricio Urruita

Head to Head

The U.S. and Chile have played only three total times. Outside of last year's ARC match the other two have been in World Cup qualifying. The U.S. has won twice and lost once but that loss came over a decade ago. The most recent meeting was last year's ARC 64-0 win for the Eagles. Chile are currently ranked 30th in the world and the U.S. are ranked 17th. 

Keys to the Match

Dominate: We're not going to go overboard on keys to the match this go around. The match against Chile is pretty simple--do what you've been doing and don't play down to Chile's level. Good teams, the Tier I's of the world and the more consistent Tier II countries like Georgia, don't relax when they go up against teams they should beat handily. Think about the Eagles being beaten by New Zealand a few years back. That is exactly what the Eagles need to do to Chile. That is what they did last year and they need to do it again. It starts by dominating possession and the breakdown. The rest will take care of itself. 

Kicking: We'll add one more. Chile are going to try and kick for territory against the Eagles. They didn't face much of that against Canada last week and it allowed Mike Te'o to excel. A lot of eyes will be on him to see if he can handle Chile's kicking game this week. 

The Takeaway

We expect the Eagles to win this match and win it comfortably. Given the changes in the roster it probably won't be as clean of a match as they had against Canada but at the same time they have enough veterans to take over the match if they need it. Those veterans should provide cover for the younger players who win think step up. Momentum is an important thing and right now the Eagles have it. 

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