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MLR Week Two Preview: It's Party Time

It's party time in Las Vegas this weekend for eight of the teams. Two matches are being played on both Saturday and Sunday at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Beast might be making his debut. And we get our first look at the southern rivalry between NOLA and Rugby ATL.

New England Free Jacks @ Utah Warriors - Saturday 02/15, 2:30pm ET/11:30am PT
Sam Boys Stadium - Las Vegas, Nevada | TV: NESN, KSL,

The New England Free Jacks surprised everyone last weekend with their dominating victory over Rugby United New York. World Rugby even took notice of a Brad Hemopo try that bounced off the cross bar. This week they take on a team that also surprised last week in the Utah Warriors. If the Free Jacks can keep last week from going to their head, they should walk away with the victory.

The Utah Warriors jumped out 16-3 lead before their lack of discipline ended up costing them the match. Utah's set piece had a dominating first half, but like last year they couldn't finish. This week they'll need to play a full 80 minutes against last week's surprising team to have a chance at a victory.

Picks: Aaron- NE (-7), Liam- Potato, Craig- NE (-10), Josh- NE (-6)

Austin Gilgronis @ Rugby United New York - Saturday 02/15, 6:30pm ET/3:30pm PT
Sam Boys Stadium - Las Vegas, Nevada | TV: ESPN+

Both of these teams disappointed last week, but none more so than New York. Almost unanimously picked to beat New England last week, RUNY put on about the worst performance you can imagine. This week they'll have the chance to get back on track against the Gilgronis. New York has some injury problems, but this match gives them a chance to get some young players some time.

The Gilgronis are still the same Austin team we know, just with new branding. A poor set piece performance last week against Toronto resulted in a blowout win for the Arrows. This week they'll have a chance for an improved performance against a depleted New York side. If Austin can take advantage of an injury-ridden side, they could walk away with a victory.

Picks: Aaron- RUNY (-6), Liam- RUNY (-15), Craig- RUNY (-18), Josh- RUNY (-9)

Houston SaberCats @ Toronto Arrows - Sunday 02/16, 2:30pm ET/11:30am PT
Sam Boys Stadium - Las Vegas, Nevada | TV: ESPN+, TSN

The Houston SaberCats won last week against the Raptors and had some strong moments, but it wasn't a convincing win. It was more that the Raptors couldn't get out of their own way. This week the SaberCats will take on a strong Toronto team that is in better form than Colorado was. If the SaberCats want to make it two wins in a row, they'll need to clean up the little things.

The Arrows had an absolutely dominating performance against the Austin Gilgronis. They bullied them all over the field through both the backs and set piece. The set piece should be more even this week, but the Arrows still hold a slight edge. Toronto will just need to continue to play like they did last week to walk away with another victory this week.

Picks: Aaron- TOR (-8), Liam- TOR (-3), Craig- TOR (-11), Josh- TOR (-5)

Seattle Seawolves @ Old Glory DC - Sunday 02/16, 3:00pm ET/12:00pm PT
Cardinal Stadium, Catholic University - Washington, DC | TV: ESPN+, NBCSW, Root

The Seattle Seawolves championship defense campaign got off to a bad start with a loss to San Diego last week. This week, they will have a chance to right the ship against a bad DC team. The Legion were able to frustrate the Seawolves last week and that led to Seattle's ill discipline. This week shouldn't bring the same issues and Seattle should walk out with the easy win.

Old Glory's first season in MLR got off to a horrible start. They lost to NOLA 46-13 and got absolutely destroyed in the set piece. Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira landed in DC this week and is expected to play. Old Glory is going to count on him to stabilize the scrum. If DC can make drastic improvements from last week they could have a shot at the upset.

Picks: Aaron- SEA (-17), Liam- SEA (-12), Craig- SEA (-15), Josh- SEA (-13)

Colorado Raptors @ San Diego Legion - Sunday 02/16, 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PT
Sam Boys Stadium - Las Vegas, Nevada | TV: ESPN+

Just like the Austin Gilgronis, the Raptors are the same team just with new branding. Poor set piece, dangerous in the back line, and multiple handling issues. The Raptors set piece did get better as the match wore on against Houston though. Against the Legion, Colorado will need one of their strongest performances if they are going to leave Vegas with a win.

Ma'a Nonu is already looking like an MVP candidate. The Legion center was one of the marquee signings of the offseason and has lived up to his billing. The Legion's performance last week against Seattle was revenge for the championship match last year. Against the Raptors, they can let up a little and still be able to comfortably win.

Picks: Aaron- SDL (-18), Liam- SDL (-19), Craig- SDL (-15), Josh- SDL (-13)

Rugby ATL @ New Orleans Gold - Sunday 02/16, 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PT
Shrine on Airline - Metairie, Louisiana | TV: CBS Sports Network

The MLR game of the week is the first edition of the southern rivalry between Atlanta and NOLA. Rugby ATL got off to a slow start against Utah before storming back to deny the Warriors a losing bonus point. This week ATL will have their hands full with Cam Dolan and the Gold. Rugby ATL will need to play a complete match against a top NOLA squad to walk away with the win.

The Gold had the best team performance last week against Old Glory. The dominated that match from start to finish. This week, they'll have a stiffer challenge on their hands with Rugby ATL. These two teams faced each other in the preseason, with ATL getting the better of NOLA. But that wasn't with fill strength squads. NOLA should win, but not as easily as last week.

Picks: Aaron- NOLA (-8), Liam- NOLA (-8), Craig- ATL (-1), Josh- ATL (-3)

Week two should start separating the pretenders from the contenders. Or it could keep things just as cloudy as before the season started. We will probably still see some blowouts this week, but the matches this week should be closer than last week.

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

~Josh Fredlund