For the first time in a month, Old Glory will be back at home, this time to face a Houston Sabercats team that is flying high. The early afternoon matchup is look like a hot one, with full sun and 90+ degrees predicted in the weather forecast. After seeing OGDC collapse in hot conditions last weekend, hopefully we won't see a repeat tomorrow.

Details

  • When: Saturday, May 21, 2022
  • Time: 1:00pm ET
  • Where: Segra Field (map, tickets)
  • Broadcasts:
  • Weather forecast: 91°F and sunny, with a light breeze
  • Line: OGDC by 2 (from Tackle the Numbers)
  • Curtain raiser:
    • 10:30 pm - Young Glory u23 vs Pittsburgh Forge u23
  • Match theme: Pacific Islander appreciation

Preview

How good are the Houston Sabercats?

Historically, Houston hasn't been a good team. Their first four seasons in the MLR saw them win just 10 of their 56 matches for a dismal 15% win rate as they cycled through three successive coaches. Last year, they reached a particularly low point with just two wins and a 12-match losing streak that puts Old Glory's struggles this year to shame.

The turnaround to this year could not be starker. After bringing in renowned South African Super Rugby coach Pote Human to run the ship, the team has been radically remade. Human brought with him a strong contingent of South African players and a mentality of toughness that the team had been missing. His leadership has brought the team to an 8-5 record and all-but-secured spot in the playoffs. So, in short, the Sabercats are very good.

If there's one word that defines this Houston side, it's relentlessness. They don't necessarily have the same level of raw skill and talent that their conference rivals Austin and LA do, but they make up for it with raw power and unending energy. On attack, every player is aggressive in charging the line, and on defense they put in massive hits.

There are a lot of players worth looking out for. Dean Muir and Juan Pablo Zeiss, internationals for South Africa and Argentina respectively, are dominant in the front row. In the back row Gideon van Wyk, Keni Nasoqeqe, and Malon Al-Jiboori are all playmakers. In the backs, the USA 7's turned 15's international Christian Dyer has been a standout this year, joining top players like Rob Povey and Zach Pangelinan.

What does Old Glory need to do to win?

After a long string of games where they were looking better and better, Old Glory absolutely collapsed against NOLA last weekend. They looked completely out of sorts, falling short in just about every aspect of the game. Step one for the team will be making sure that whatever derailed them in the Gold Mine doesn't reoccur at Segra. If they can rediscover their old form, then OGDC has a shot in this match.

The task will start on defense. While Houston is a good team, probably their biggest flaw is that they are somewhat one dimensional. They play part of the match with the aggression turned up to full volume. That is the key to their success, because it means they gain ground on almost carry, but it also means that they don't really have a plan B. If Old Glory can slow them sufficiently on attack, the Sabercats will be forced to get creative, something they haven't been too successful with so far. Of course, that's easier said than done. It will require OGDC to be eager and dominant in their tackles, something that can be difficult to do while absorbing wave after wave of hard carries.

On attack, the keys will be patience and ball security. The Sabercats are, as should be obvious by now, very aggressive on defense. They always look to hit as hard as possible and be as disruptive as possible, often toeing the line of what's legal. Again, their biggest strength is also their weakness. If Old Glory can make some degree of progress on their possessions while not risking too much, Houston should start committing penalties that put OGDC in prime scoring position.

After the debacle of last week, there have been some changes to the lineup. Kyle Stewart, Rob Irimescu, and Felix Kalapu move to the bench, replaced by Jake Ilnicki, Mo Katz, and Dom Bailey. Meanwhile, Stan South and Luke Campbell leave the lineup entirely, replaced by Api Naikatini and Fintan Coleman. In the backs, the only change is the return of Renata Roberts-Te Nana from injury, who will start at fullback and move Owen Sheehy to the bench. This feels like Coach Osborne's first real move to shake up the lineup since he's taken over, but whether it's due to poor performances last week or his own vision for the team it's hard to say.

Lineups

Old Glory DC

  1. Jack Iscaro
  2. Mo Katz
  3. Jake Ilnicki
  4. Tevita Naqali
  5. Api Naikatini
  6. Dom Bailey
  7. Cory Daniel
  8. Fintan Coleman
  9. Danny Tusitala
  10. Rohan Saifoloi
  11. John Rizzo
  12. Junior Sa'u
  13. William Talataina
  14. Peni Lasaqa
  15. Renata Roberts-Te Nana

Reserves:

  1. Rob Irimescu
  2. Kyle Stewart
  3. Will Vakalahi
  4. Felix Kalapu
  5. Dacoda Worth
  6. John Lefevre
  7. Doug Fraser
  8. Owen Sheehy

Houston Sabercats

  1. Alec McDonnell
  2. Dean Muir
  3. Juan Pablo Zeiss
  4. Marno Redelinghuys
  5. CC Mahoni
  6. Gideon van Wyk
  7. Keni Nasoqeqe
  8. Malon Al-Jiboori
  9. Dillon Smit
  10. Davey Coetzer
  11. Marcos Moroni
  12. Christian Dyer
  13. Louritz van der Schiff
  14. Zach Pangelinan
  15. Rob Povey

Reserves:

  1. Diego Fortuny
  2. Frikkie de Beer
  3. Pono Davis
  4. Will Crawford
  5. Emmanuel Albert
  6. Nick Boyer
  7. Matai Leuta
  8. Kian Meadon