The USA Men’s National Team got a bit of a day off Wednesday, after a series of two-a-days starting on Sunday.
For Head Coach Mike Tolkin, those three days may well be the most important of November. From now on he will be managing the players and making sure they don’t get too beat up in practice. For the first three days, he was able to run them hard.
It's a crucial time because this is when Tolkin wants to set forth the game plan, and get the culture right on the team. As Mike Petri said in RUGBYMag.com, the players who went 2-1 in the ARC have brought with them a positive attitude and more confidence, and that, coupled with some new energy from the new assistant coaches, is what Tolkin hopes will stop their seven-game losing streak.
Tolkin is looking for hard workers, and players who can perform under pressure in the international arena. What he found out was that the players at the top of the depth chart will likely stay there, with one or two difficult decisions. Seamus Kelly looks healthy and strong, and seems set to partner with Andrew Suniula in the midfield. Shaun Davies has picked up right where he left off at the ARC.
Other players are showing well, too. Of those, perhaps the least well-known to Tolkin was Kyle Sumsion. The BYU openside flanker came highly recommended by Cougars Head Coach David Smyth, as well as 2013 All American coaches Matt Sherman and Justin Fitzpatrick (also the current Eagles forwards coach).
And apparently all that good word was correct. Sumsion has worked enormously hard in the training sessions and impressed Tolkin and the rest of the coaching staff. Don’t expect him to start, but do expect him to push for some time on the field.
Likewise, Folau Niua is pushing hard for a starting position. He could well be a center starter (although it looks as if it will be Suniula and Kelly), but even if he’s a sub, Niua will get a lot of time this November, he has impressed the coaches that much.
The USA will take on the Maori All Blacks, who beat Canada 40-15 Sunday, at PPL Park, Chester, Pa. Saturday night at 7pm. The stadium, which holds about 18,000 or more, is reportedly sold out.
The game is on Fox Sports 1 on delay, and live on Fox Soccer Plus.