IC17 Preview: Matchday 3

Treats from Oz

To quote Lucy Van Pelt, and it’s incredibly après pos here seeing as though we’re in Australia, it’s Sydney or the bush.

Well, we’re in Melbourne, but either way, this weekend is very, very important for the two American teams at IC17, with both playing games that will directly affect their chances of playing at the big footy grounds in Melbourne in a week’s time.

On Saturday, the Revos face PNG, arguably their toughest opponent in the group stage of the tournament, at Montrose.  The Freedom ladies face the European Crusaders needing a win to clinch their ticket to the semi-finals.  Sandwiched in between is the Liberty tour match against West Brunswick, where the girls will look to even their series at 2 up and 2 down.

It probably isn’t hyperbole that this is the most massive weekend in US national team history for Australian Rules Football.

Montrose Recreation Reserve, Montrose, Victoria, Australia
Saturday, August 12th, 2017 12pm (Friday 10pm USEDT / 7pm USEDT)
Watch Live: EFL YouTube

Having made the Grand Final in every iteration of this tournament since its inception in 2002, it was a bit of a surprise to see the Mozzies fall to Ireland in the wet in the opening round.  They rebounded in midweek with a 49 point win over Nauru, and looked like the PNG we’ve come to know and love.

The book on them is that they are a similar team to what the Americans saw on Wednesday against South Africa; quick, athletic, and with good tactics.  The Papua New Guineans are a bit more polished and accurate with their skills, and the Revos will need to be at the top of their game if they want to beat them.

Amua Muzza Piprika ran loose in the Nauru match, bagging four goals, and Kyle Johnson and company on the backline will do their best to contain them.  Veteran Stannis Agita has been very good in both games, netting BOG nominations.

The Revos will need another big game from their big men.  Bryan Dragus and David Restrepo share the golden boot lead for the team with four goals each, and the return of Brett Fischer was an innumerable lift for the side.

A win for the Americans will do two things.  First, it will erase an 0-2 lifetime record against PNG, eliminating one of the three teams in IC play they haven’t defeated yet (Nauru and New Zealand are the others, for those of you who keep track of these things).  Secondly, it will put them at 3-0 with only France standing in between them and Saturday morning at the MCG.  Should they lose, they’ll still be alive for the Grand Final, but whether or not they get there will depend on percentage, and you can bet a dozen jelly donuts on the fact that the Revos would rather keep their destiny in their own hands.

Ransford Oval, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Sunday, August 13th, 2017 10am (Saturday 8pm USEDT / 5pm USEDT)
Watch Live: USAFL YouTube

The scoreline may have read 56-1, but it certainly wasn’t for the lack of effort against a talented Monash University team that they fell to on Friday night.  After a day of rest, the Liberty will take to the field against West Brunswick’s seconds side, who are good in skills and should match up well.

Friday night’s game saw another strong performance from Valerie Barber-Axthelm, who once again started in the backline, then moved to the wing, and by the end of the game found herself pinching inside 50 and scored the Liberty’s only point.  Robyn Leslie had another impressive performance, and Leilani Silvio came up with some timely clearances as well.

A win for the Liberty will even their series for the tour at 2-2 with just the game against Oakleigh on Wednesday left.

Melbourne University Oval, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Sunday, August 13th, 2017 12pm (Saturday 10pm USEDT / 7pm USEDT)
Watch Live: USAFL YouTube

The win against the PNG Flames on Wednesday seemingly rejuvenated the Freedom, having dealt with a quick with good athleticism and coming out on top.  That seemed to remove the sting from the Ireland loss and, more importantly, has now set them up with this one last pool game with a chance to make the semi-final.

Their 5.12 kicking performance aside, it was definitely an improved performance, and there were sparkling efforts up and down the ground.  Katie Klatt, who notched her first international goal against PNG, backed up her offensive spurt with a number of timely marks defensively.  Carly Smolak disrupted things in the forward line, Katrina Scherer’s leading was a focal point.  On defense, Bevin English and Rosie Kloh came to the forefront, and they’ll have their hands full against their opponents on Sunday.

Playing on Klatt’s home ground with Melbourne Uni, the Freedom take on a European Crusaders side that is high on talent but just hasn’t seen it translate into any points on the scoreboard.  They’ve fallen to Ireland and PNG by a combined score of 106-0, but that shouldn’t mislead anyone into thinking they won’t present a challenge to the Freedom or anyone else they play during the rest of the tournament.

One familiar face the Freedom will see on Sunday in the blue and gold is Boston Demon Amanda King, who is a dual citizen of the US and Sweden.  Speedy French midfielder Coline Duquet is experienced and wily, meaning the midfielder will have to keep their eyes glued on her.

A win for the Freedom coupled with an Ireland victory over PNG at Hallam secures the Freedom a place in the major semi-final on Tuesday with a chance to advance to the Women’s Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.  Should they get to the semi, they’ll go up against the winner of the Great Britain-Canada game, and either will be a tough nut to crack.


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