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The USA Men’s National Team was roundly criticized for an unimaginative
attack plan, but most understood it wasn’t the players creating that plan,
it was then Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan.
Generally national team players don’t like to say bad things about their coach, especially in a World Cup year, because they don’t want to be the guy undercutting the team. And even when the coaching staff has changed, players tend to avoid saying what was wrong before.
But they can’t help it now. Players were feeling so tied down by the old game plan, that their new approach has them gushing.
“I think with our new pattern that allows us to express ourselves and actually run with the ball, we can put pressure on [Italy],” said hooker Chris Biller. “When we played them in the last game of the World Cup, we didn’t pressure them other than Paul Emerick’s line break to set up that try.”
“It’s like night and day,” added wing James Paterson. “The way we’re
playing now is great. We can really attack and run with it – we’re
encouraged to. It’s completely different.”
“I love this approach; I feel at home,” said flyhalf Roland Suniula.
“As an outside back I am loving this way of playing,” added center Paul Emerick. “We know we have the players who can run in space and score tries. It’s good to be able to do it.”
The support play and offloads out of contact didn’t just happen – the
players know now that that is what is expected of them. As a result,
slightly risky plays come off because the players are executing with
confidence. James Paterson took a pass off the ground, and not only started
running, he ran in a way that created space for Taylor Mokate to be in
support and get the return pass for the try.
Todd Clever grabbed a ball out of the air and seemingly without looking flipped a pass in one movement (catch and pass) to Paterson.
“It seemed like they closed on my pretty quickly and I didn’t know if they were going to ankle-tap me or something, so I got it to Paterson, who might have a step or two on me. It was a great try,” said Clever.
All of that has come from a team that wants to take the attack to their
opposition, and the players, even battered and tired, are smiling.