3 Things: MLR Round 4

Each week brings too many story lines to cover in depth. 3 Things is our weekly feature to rectify that, taking a shallow dive into three story lines that deserve more coverage.

What are the SaberCats?

After last year’s horrendous season, a 2-2 start to the year would sound fantastic. Unless you remember last year’s 2-2 start.

Victories over an injury plagued Giltinis and rising Jackals have been tempered by losses to New York and San Diego at home. Its only been a quarter of the season, but what does the back 12 have in store?

This team is undeniably better than last year. The back row is among the MLR’s best. Smit has been a pleasant surprise at 9. We’ve certainly been beating the Dyer drum as well. The question Cats fans should ask is ‘what’s the goal for Houston this season?’

The significant amount of South African imports during the offseason led some fans to believe they’d be the Springboks equivalent to the Wallaby talent that claim a title for the Giltinis. That might be a misguided perception. In a deep West that includes Austin, Seattle, San Diego, and LA, Houston might not be this year’s LA but their cousin Gil-team-i.

Austin Clear the Path

The Austin project is buzzing, and Houston should hope they can emulate it. A downtrodden franchise that found new management. A team that took a year, built a core, and made a playoff push. A team that used the following offseason to keep the core and add the last pieces. A team that is now prepared to chase a title.

The win in Seattle put Austin on the front foot. The path forward is theirs.

In fairness, neither side had their top team. Seattle without Ross Neal is a much weaker side. But Austin chipped away enough at the Seawall to get through.

A full strength Austin will push for a shield, but they’ll need to keep focused on the task ahead. Sam Harris will have the unusual task of managing the hunted. Can he keep the hunter mentality alive?

Can Toronto Hang On?

Toronto picked up a big win, yet the round as a whole didn’t calm many nerves.

New England going to LA and fighting until the end showed the strength of this conference’s top three. Atlanta, New York, and New England have a healthy gap over the Arrows in fourth, and all three teams have a game in hand over their northern counterparts.

Give credit to Toronto for going to DC and taking care of business. There wasn’t much of an opportunity in front of them to impress anyone. They’ll go into the bye 2-2. What does that mean?

Toronto plays seven of their last nine at home. They’re betting that being close at the midway point will leave them ready to strike when the weather warms. That makes the second quarter of the year incredibly important. Trips to New England, Utah, and New York before hosting Atlanta will provide every opportunity for this team to rejoin the pack. Or, if they under-perform, fighting for a chance once the race shifts to Canadian soil.

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