Wednesday's 19-0 defeat against Canada was disappointing, but there were signs that indicate we can definitely turn it around on Sunday.
While the conditions made for a very sloppy game, the U.S. still had plenty of chances to get over the line. The Eagles controlled most of the territory and possession, specifically in the second half, but some staunch goal line defense by the Maple Leafs kept us off of the board.
Heading into Sunday's battle, coach Rob Cain will surely stress the importance of ball retention and continuity. With the forecast calling for sunny skies and 65 degree weather, this should be made a lot easier than Wednesday.
The Eagles have a number of big time running threats around the field, like Katie Johnson, Amy Naber-Bonte, Emily Henrich, Jennine Duncan to name a few. Unfortunately we were unable to get them enough opportunities in space to showcase what they can do with ball-in-hand.
To be fair to Canada, their line speed was also really good and it put the United States under pressure. Perhaps some more strike runners and decoy runners could free up more time for our receivers.
I'm sure Cain will have a plan to address this.
Composure in the 22
So many times on Wednesday the Eagles had an attack stifled just meters from scoring.
Again, credit is due to Canada for fronting up under the shadow of their goal posts, but from an American perspective, these are opportunities you've just got to take.
In the Super Series, we often relied on Hope Rogers to finish off tries near the goal line. She is one of the best finishers in the world, and we certainly missed her scoring prowess on Wednesday.
But there still are enough players in the squad who also have the ability to get over the line as well, we just didn't see it during Game 1.
It seemed that we were just a little too frantic inside the 22, sort of aimlessly pick-and-going into a brick wall and not recycling clean, quick ball.
I think with a bit more composure and organization we can punch in these opportunities and give ourselves a real chance to win.
Canada did a really good job of relieving pressure by clearing their lines when they had possession within their own 22. Their two scrumhalves, Brianna Miller and Lori Josephson, box kicked very well and fullback Alex Tessier hit some really good clearances herself.
The Eagles, meanwhile, tended to keep ourselves under pressure by not using a consistent exit strategy. Sometimes we would try and run it out from deep in our end, which in those conditions rarely worked out.
Other times it looked like we weren't sure if we wanted to clear with a box kick or a pass into the pocket to a first receiver. Canada only scored 19 points, but I think it could have been less if we'd done a better job exiting.
All fixable issues though
Of course I am not the coach, so there are probably other things that Rob Cain and the staff recognized that needs improvement, but from my perspective our biggest issues are all very fixable.
Both teams had to play in the bad weather, so it's not really an excuse, but with a beautiful day in line for Sunday we should see a much cleaner game.
If we can tighten the screws in Game 2, there's a really good chance we put one over the Canadians.