This is it. The big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for. Five years on from its founding in 2018, Old Glory DC is finally set to make its first appearance in the MLR playoffs, traveling to Mount Vernon to face the New York Ironworkers on Sunday evening.
It goes without saying that this is by far the most important match in Old Glory’s short yet storied history, and it couldn’t have come against a better opponent. Our closest geographic rival, we have enjoyed a bitter rivalry with New York for years, earning our first franchise victory over the Ironworkers in April.
Old Glory have faced off with the Ironworkers twice this season already, coming away with a 1-1 record. The first of these matches is practically ancient history, taking place way back in week three of the season. As an Old Glory side packed with new signings was still trying to find itself, the match proved to be extremely one-sided, ending in a 34-8 victory for New York.
The reverse fixture took place six weeks later and went far better for DC, with the Segra Field faithful powering Old Glory to a 42-31 victory. A brace of tries each from Lautaro Bavaro and Willy Talataina helped us on our way to a bonus point worthy win, helping us on our way to qualifying for the playoffs.
As so much time has passed since we last played, it is hard to say which RNY team will show up at Memorial Field on Sunday afternoon. Since our last meeting, New York have recorded 4 wins and 4 losses, including a narrow 8-0 loss to New England, a 54-19 drubbing of New Orleans, and a dramatic 33-43 defeat on the final day of the season at the hands of the Utah Warriors.
On the flip side, the results of Old Glory’s final eight matches totaled up to four wins, three losses, and one draw, just barely more successful than our Mid-Atlantic rivals. If you’re looking to use these recent results as a barometer, you may be interested to note that the Utah team which battered New York on the final day fell to Old Glory in April by a score of 36-22.
It is also important to note that the Ironworkers have far more postseason pedigree than Old Glory, having qualified for the playoffs in every season they have competed. It’s also worth noting that they won the playoffs in 2022, defeating the Seattle Seawolves in the final, 30-15.
Any athlete or sports fan will tell you that when it comes to elimination play, all bets are off. It is all or nothing and you’ve got to leave everything on the pitch, there are no second chances once the 80 minutes are up. It necessarily follows that playoff rugby will necessitate a different style of play. Given the nervy nature of the game, players will likely be feeling the pressure. Sweaty palms or shaky legs could force uncharacteristic errors. Mistakes could prove to be costly when a result is hanging in the balance, so experience in these squirrelly situations may prove to grant New York a significant advantage.
We come into this playoff game, then, with two very closely matched teams and a huge amount on the line, from team pedigree to bragging rights. It is now time to ask which players might be the one to shift the balance in their side’s favor?
For Old Glory, playing experience will prove to be key, with players such as Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, Danny Tusitala, and Jack Iscaro sure to feature in key roles. Whether Tito Diaz Bonilla starts will be more a question of fitness than skill, but should he feature, his experience at the international level will surely pay dividends.
For New York, one man terrorized Old Glory back in week 3: Jack Heighton. Responsible for three tries and 22 total points alongside 435 kicking meters and 10 successful tackles, the man was formidable, and may be set to repeat that feat should he feature on Sunday.
-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge