KINGSTON, ONTARIO -- The first game of the Mike Tolkin era is over, and it’s a 28-25 loss to Canada.
In addition to Tolkin’s first match as head coach, Saturday saw four new caps handed out, a new attack pattern implemented and scrum coach Derek Dowling and attack coach Tony Smeeth experience their first games on the USA coaching staff.
“We have a starting point. We have material to work with. We have a look and see what we need to do to make our game better and to get wins out of it.” Tolkin said.
The new-look Eagles did show spurts of quality play, which was promising, given the new attack pattern. However, too many times the ball was dropped.
“We’ve been calling it a new era for us, and coach Tolkin wanted us to play with the ball,” said Wyles. “We feel we’ve got some attacking, athletic players, so that’s what we tried to do today, but too many mistakes.”
“We were inconsistent today. In phases where we would play well, it was good, but we would lose the ball after the line breaks, so it was inconsistent,” added Tolkin.
“That’s something that can’t be coached. It’s something that’s just a mindset – you cannot lose the ball. We’ve made the gain line. You’ve got to do everything you can. It’s just too valuable to turnover and that’ll make the difference in the game.”
Defensively, the Eagles missed too many tackles and left too many holes open for Canada to run through.
“Our systems will be fine. Defensively, we’ll get that together with the new guys, but the opportunities we had to possibly put them away, we didn’t take, and that’s what we have to learn going forward,” Tolkin added.
The loss was USA’s fourth in a row to Canada, and it was the eight in the last nine games against Canada. But it was a close loss, closer than the last three, and the Eagles were in the match until the end.
“We haven’t been in a game down to the end in a while,” said Tolkin. “The three losses out of the last four have started to trail away towards the end. It was disappointing – we put ourselves in a position to win but not after playing particularly well.”
But the closeness of the loss hasn’t softened the sting for the players.
“Yeah, that doesn’t really matter to us,” said Chris Wyles. “We want the victory.”
“The expectation’s to win every match and do so with pride and passion,” said Taylor Mokate, one of the four new cap winners. “I felt like at points we had pride and at points we had passion, but we just couldn’t get it together at the same time.”
The USA's next chance to do so is Saturday June 16 against Georgia in Glendale, Colo.