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.
East Coast; Beast Coast
Last year, the Western Conference consistently looked better than its Eastern counterpart. this year, the winds have shifted.
New York, Atlanta, and New England have earned their places among among the more established teams. With NOLA and Toronto starting to find their form, the conference may not be the cakewalk it initially appeared to be. while last year’s Easter Conference had significant parity, the best of the East were still behind the best of the West. Between LA taking a step back and improvements within the top Eastern sides, there is a real chance that a championship shield could finally go to the other side of the Mississippi.
Consider this weekend. Both Austin and San Diego, the top two in the West, fell to Eastern teams on the road. Dallas hosted NOLA and fell as well. A return fixture might have a different result, but there’s no reason to automatically bet against the younger siblings anymore.
Not to be forgotten is the age of teams. While five of the seven Western Conference teams were founding members of the MLR, only NOLA can claim that title in the East. Yet, the younger sides have made the move towards the top and joined the established sides. For Atlanta and New England, it remains on their second season, while New York plays its third. The maturity has happened quickly, even if it was faster for one of last year’s expansions…
Are This Year’s Giltinis Last Year’s Legion?
Giltinis fans should start wondering what’s next for this team.
The story surrounding 42 year old player-turned coach-turned player again Orene Ai’i is fun, but it highlights the struggle this side has had at 10. Matt Giteau’s calf has lingered longer than expected, while Luke Carty could miss most of the year after a pectoral injury. Luke Burton’s pregame injury against Austin cost the team a third top level flyhalf. LA was the best prepared team in the MLR for this situation, yet injuries have become unmanageable.
The talent throughout this roster is incredible. compared to last year’s San Diego squad, LA is healthy. Whereas the Legion saw top players at several positions fall to bumps and bruises, LA has been decimated at one particular spot. It just so happens to be the most important spot on attack.
The story of LA’s season is still being written. They could be incredibly dangerous in a playoff run, but if it takes too long to get a true flyhalf on the field they may miss it altogether.
At least they added a massive name in the front row…
The Eagles Are Returning to the Nest
Kotter Joe Taufete’e…
I’ve strongly criticized those that insist American players must play in the MLR. Its not the responsibility of any individual player to sacrifice career opportunities in the name of helping a broken system. That only makes it more satisfying to see American talent returning by choice.
The returns of Malon Al-Jiboori (Houston), Paul Lasike (Utah), Marcel Brache (Austin), and Will Hooley (San Diego) were big moves. Taufete’e’s return (LA) immediately dwarfs all of them. Other Eagles remain abroad. Psalm Wooching and Michael Baska remain in the French ProD2, while Ruben de Haas, Greg Peterson, and AJ MacGinty are still in the English Premiership with Saracens, Newcastle, and Sale, respectively.
The fact that Major League Rugby’s appeal has grown enough to pull back players with other opportunities is vital. The overall level of the league needs to grow to attract the better talent, which then raises the level of the league further. When better talent starts committing to the project, we should all feel good about the direction of the League.