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The USA men’s 7s team is under plenty of scrutiny after going 1-10 in their last 11 games.
Head Coach Al Caravelli has come in for understandable criticism as fans and observers have seen the team not produce the victories.
“I would ask the fans to be patient,” Caravelli said this weekend. “We’ve got a young team. We’re headed in the right direction, and we are fixing things.”
The obvious stats show that, too. The results from Wellington and Las Vegas side-by-side (see right).
From 0-5 to 1-4, and three shutouts and two close losses to a win, three close losses, and another loss where the Eagles scored three tries.
Obviously Las Vegas was better than New Zealand. Small errors could be fixed, and those close losses could turn into wins.
But errors are the problem. The USA led all teams in Las Vegas with 4.8 errors a game. An error is defined as a dropped ball, forward pass, or bad pass (such as one that rolls into touch).
Some other stats:
Surrendered Possession: 9.8 per game (7th most)
Red Zone efficiency (tries scored when visiting opposition 22): 67% tied for 6th.
Rucks per try: 4.4 (5th most)
Rucks Per Game: 10.6 (2nd most)
Passes per try: 17.7 (13th)
Tackle completion rate: 88.4% (2nd, behind England at 88.7%)
Restarts Retained: 15% (12th)
Passes Per Game: 42.4 (1st, meaning the most)
Tackles Per Game: 10.6 (15th highest)
Missed Tackles Per Game: 1.6 (fewest)
Errors Per Game: 4.8 (Most)
That’s a feast or famine list.
The USA takes a long time to get to the tryline. They have to be patient, because they pass the ball a lot and go through various phases to work their way toward a try. They don’t normally break through and score – they choose to take contact, work the clock, and have few breakways.
This is contrast to their offense at the Pan-Am Games, where their tries were mostly long-range breakaways.
This is also in contrast to the likes of New Zealand, a team that plays a lot more defense and actually makes more than twice as many tackles per game as the USA, and six more tacklers per game than anyone else.
New Zealand defends, and defends, and defends, and then scores from turnovers. The USA attacks, and attacks, and attacks, and eventually scores.
But the killer for the Eagles has been that ball control offense. When they give up a turnover, that’s when they give up tries. Their defense has been solid – they don’t miss many tackles. But they give up tries due to being out of position or through turnovers. Their error rate, the worst in the tournament, and their awful restart retention rate are what caused them to lose games.
In Wellington the USA scored six tries (four in one game) and gave up 16. In Las Vegas they scored 12 and gave up 14. Reduce those errors by one a game, and you might be looking at three more tries, and possible two victories.
That has to be on the agenda for the Eagles going forward.