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MLR Week Three Preview: It's Still Early

Photo Cred: Colleen McCloskey

With the Vegas Weekend behind teams, it's time to move onto week three. It's still early in the season, but some concerning trends are emerging for some teams while other teams are surprising. On the topic of early, here are the playoff seedings entering week three: 
East: 1) Toronto, 2) Rugby ATL, 3) NE Free Jacks. 
West: 1) San Diego, 2) Houston SaberCats, 3) Utah Warriors)

New Orleans Gold @ Colorado Raptors - Saturday 02/22, 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PT
Infinity Park - Glendale, Colorado | TV: FTF, CST, DVNR, & ColoradoRaptors.com

The Gold are coming off a loss to the expansion Rugby ATL side. Weather did play a little bit of a factor, but the ill-discipline of NOLA cost them as they had two yellow cards shown and were lucky to escape with just those two. They should be able to get back on track this week if they keep calm. The Gold almost won at Colorado last season, but lost at the last second. This year should be different as they look the more dominant side coming into this match.

The Raptors aren't looking good at all. The scrum was a week point for them last season and it doesn't look like they have addressed it at all in the offseason. Handling errors and penalties at the breakdown continue to be persistent issues for Colorado. If the Raptors want to earn their first win of the season, they will have to forget about the big play and focus on the fundamentals.

Picks: Aaron- NOLA (-7), Liam- NOLA (-13), Craig- NOLA (-10), Josh- NOLA (-12)

Utah Warriors @ Austin Gilgronis - Saturday 02/22, 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT
Bold Stadium at The Circuit of The Americas - Austin, Texas | TV: ESPN+, KMYU

The Utah Warriors were able to finally finish a match of rugby. Normally the Warriors get out to a quick start and slow down, but this time they were a little slow out of the gate and then came storming back in the second half to earn a victory over the Free Jacks. They shouldn't have a hard time with Austin, but they shouldn't take them lightly either. Utah will need to finish if they want to hold off the Gilgronis.

Austin had a better performance against New York in week two than they did in week one against Toronto. They'll need to take what they can away from the match against RUNY and improve upon it against Utah. Austin seems to have similar problems as Utah, but sometimes they just can't get out of the gate either. The Gilgronis still are awaiting visa clearances and are getting some reinforcements, but they need to show us something.

Picks: Aaron- UTAH (-12), Liam- UTAH (-4), Craig- UTAH (-6), Josh- UTAH (-15)

Old Glory DC @ Houston SaberCats - Saturday 02/22, 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT
AVEVA Stadium - Houston, Texas | ESPN+, NBCSW

Old Glory was a held up call away from losing their first two matches as an MLR team. Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira took a couple scrums to get up to speed. But once he did, he stabilized a scrum that got pushed around by NOLA the week before. The Beast can't be expected to go 80 minutes every match for DC, so their young props will need to learn from him and put those lessons to good use.

Houston was a held up call away from winning their first two matches of the 2020 MLR season. They had a 14 man rolling maul against the Toronto Arrows that was ruled held up as there was no clear grounding. The SaberCats are billing this match as Beauty (Val Lee-Lo) vs Beast. Houston will need to contain the Beast as he brought DC's level of play up a few notches. If the Beast can be contained, the SaberCats should walk out with the victory.

Picks: Aaron- HOU (-3), Liam- HOU (-3), Craig- HOU (-5), Josh- DC (-4)

Toronto Arrows @ Seattle Seawolves - Saturday 02/22, 10:00pm ET/7:00pm PT
Starfire Sports Complex - Tukwila, Washington | CBSSN, TSN

A packed Saturday slate ends with the Game of the Week. The Arrows are riding high on a two match winning streak, though they came close to being 1-1 against Houston in Las Vegas. Toronto will just need to continue what they've been doing. Which has been methodical offense, stifling defense, and stout set pieces. The Arrows will also need to be up for a rowdy Seattle crowd.

The Seawolves titled defense campaign as gotten off to an inauspicious start. They lost to San Diego in a game that didn't seem as close as the final score, and lost to a DC team that got demolished the week before. Something needs to change for Seattle. The Seawolves are a strong side, they just seem a little lost right now. Maybe that can be attributed to the coaching change, however they are on their third coach in three years. Seattle will have a tough matchup against the Arrows, but are perfectly capable of defending their home turf.

Picks: Aaron- TOR (-4), Liam- SEA (-2), Craig- TOR (-3), Josh- TOR (-7)

Rugby United New York @ Rugby ATL - Sunday 02/23, 3:00pm ET/12:00pm PT
Lupo Field at Life University - Marietta, Georgia | TV: ESPN+, 11Alive

We've seen two opposite New York teams through two weeks. Week one, we saw a team that struggled and week two, we saw a team that can put together a decent game plan. Against Rugby ATL, RUNY will need more of the latter. New York has struggled with injuries and is also awaiting visa clearances, so against ATL they'll need to have their young players step up once more.

Rugby ATL has been a pleasant surprise. The expansion team wasn't expected to be a top team this season in Major League Rugby. However, they are currently sitting in second place in the East division. Their unknown status has worked for them for the first couple of weeks, however they now have film on them. ATL will need to continue to show growth if they want to stay on top.

Picks: Aaron- ATL (-7), Liam- ATL (-2), Craig- ATL (-5), Josh- ATL (-6)

New England Free Jacks @ San Diego Legion - Sunday 02/23, 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT
Torero Stadium - San Diego, California | TV: Fox Sports 2

The Free Jacks had a second half collapse against the Warriors last week after a strong showing against New York they week before. Against the Legion, New England will need to be on their game. Ma'a Nonu has shown his championship caliber play and the others around him have compliment him really well. New England was hit with a couple nicks last week. If they don't have a full strength squad, they'll struggle to compete in this match.

Wow! That's about all you can really say about the Legion after the first two weeks of the season. Rob Hoadley has this team performing at a very high level and they are still missing a few starting pieces. If the Legion play this way week in and week out, they'll be favorites in every match for the rest of the season. San Diego's level of play will probably fall back to earth at some point, but if it doesn't, watch out.

Picks: Aaron- SD (-14), Liam- Potato, Craig- SD (-22), Josh- SD (-10)

Week three has some matches that could get interesting. With only the Seattle-Toronto game close to being a rivalry matchup, this week doesn't have a lot of animosity going into it. Every team is going to have to find a way to fire themselves up and push hard for a victory.

For those outside the US, all of this week's matches will be broadcast on the USMLR Facebook page.

~Josh Fredlund