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Getting a chance to lift a trophy, even the fourth-tier trophy, the Shield, is always nice, but perhaps the greater significance for the USA Men’s 7s team was that they finished 3-3, and won a couple of games to earn more than the minimum number of points.
But the trophy? That didn’t seem to resonate.
”Did we accomplish something? Yeah, we got three of our really young players out playing. We were able to start the World Series off with three wins and three losses. We accomplished some stuff,” said USA Head Coach Matt Hawkins. “But did we accomplish all that we wanted? No. We wanted to make the Cup Quarterfinals. We didn’t. The Kenya game really let us down. I think if there was one big disappointment it was that Kenya game.”
Hawkins does, however, come out of the tournament having got most everyone on the same page. They see that you need to be consistent throughout a long tournament. They saw that the young guys – Stephen Tomasin, Ryan Matyas, and Patrick Blair – can play and contribute. And they see they need to be better.
“Overall it was a good start for all of us,” said Hawkins. “Now we’ve got to be smart and build on that. We finished by playing two core teams and beating them pretty well. That was good for us.”
Perhaps the biggest change for the USA team for this year is the attacking philosophy. Previous Head Coach Alex Magleby wanted his players to challenge defenses, but there’s a clear attitude shift with this Hawkins team. On turnovers, and on support runs, players are bursting through gaps, and running angled lines to cut through defenses.
This is especially evident on tap penalties, where the Eagles looked to go forward first, rather than wide.
“These days defense really attack the offense, so as an offense you need to attack the defense,” said Hawkins. “Last year we were winning games, but we were allowing the defense to come to us and being as patient for as long as possible and hoping the defense would break down. We’re still not a team that scores off 1st or 2nd phase ball, that’s not who we are. We are a team that breaks defenses down, but there’s a smarter way to do it. It’s a new strategy to the attack, but one that suits us as a team, and the guys are getting it.”