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Despite letting a three-try lead slip away against Canada, the United States is still in good position heading into Saturday’s final pool match with South Africa. A Canadian loss or tie against Wales would see the Eagles through to the Cup Quarterfinals, as would an American win over South Africa.
Even if the Eagles lose, they have a significant head start in the point differential category. Canada is at -26, while the USA is in the black by seven. So it would likely take both a big Canadian win and a lopsided American loss to prevent the USA from advancing. Still, the mood within the team was grim after the draw to end day one.
“Everyone is in their own corner right now and trying to regroup kind of deal, but we’ve just got to find away to come together,” said Perry Baker, who put in a shift with two tries.
“So right now we’re just letting everyone be themselves. Everyone’s upset of course, because we just blew this lead like we did last tour in Sydney when we lost in the quarters to Kenya, so the same thing now. Everyone is trying to regroup and get their minds together.”
The Eagles had a prime opportunity to sleep easy with a Cup berth already booked, but instead they still have work to do.
“If you can start well day one, you can get out of the traps with a win and back that up in game two, then Saturday the pressure releases and it’s a different type of pressure and that anxiety of knockout is gone and now it’s about performance. It’s a funny feeling, different emotions, and you can nurture that in different ways,” said USA coach Mike Friday.
“You can take stock, you can address your all injuries and knocks overnight, you can put people back together, and you kind of know where you are on day two if you’ve done the job day one. That’s why day one is so, so important in Vegas.”
The Sin City tournament always provides the USA its lone opportunity all season to play on home soil, and for the American fans to see the team up close and personal. With that comes added expectation. Baker says that wasn’t to blame for a dodgy day one.
“I don’t think we get caught up in the pressure, because day in and day out it’s only us together. We can’t get caught up in the outside, because when we go through training, we go through the hard parts, we look around it’s just us,” he said. “We definitely like the support and everything that we have, but you can’t get caught up in the pressure. I just think that as long as we can kind of stay together and figure this out, we’ll be alright.”