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It’s almost time. We’re a couple of hours from kickoff at the Gold Coast 7s, and I’m eagerly anticipating the USA’s first match against Canada. I usually get excited when the Eagles play, but I’m a little more amped this time. Here’s why.

We are playing the Canucks. Losing to Canada sucks. Beating Canada is much better. Mike Friday has the opportunity to become the only head coach in Eagles history with an all-time winning record over Canada (this is a completely unofficial claim, but it might be true. Apologies if it’s off. The point is, none of our coaches, 15s or 7s, have done exceptionally well against Canada). The rivalry is magnified, as it’s Olympic qualification time, and those pesky Canadians stand in our way.

It’s Mike Friday’s debut. He is the first newly hired head coach in the time I’ve been paying attention to the Eagles that has a proven track record on the circuit. He’s an impressive guy to talk to. He’s confident, and the players are bought in. He also has them fitter than ever.

It’s the Speedstick’s debut (I’ll have to check if it’s one word or two. One reminds me of deodorant). Perry Baker is as exciting a talent as Carlin Isles, and he lit up the Gold Coast in his international debut two years ago. If the Eagles can get to the Olympics, win a few games and get some Bob Costas love on NBC, I can see Perry being right up there with Carlin as one of Rio’s darlings. 

Insane athleticism. Danny Barrett’s explosion, Baker’s elusiveness, Isles’ speed, Maka Unufe’s elusiveness and speed, Andrew Durutalo’s and Garrett Bender’s power, and Madison Hughes’ everything, make the Eagles as potent as they’ve been. All that, and I didn’t even mention the team’s best player – Zack Test.

While I’ve got high hopes for this team, they’re tempered because it is the first tournament under a new coaching staff, inexperienced players are being relied upon, and we are still the underdog. The floor can only be so low, though, and the USA’s starts to the last two Series were near that level. This time, the ceiling seems much higher.