The Revos are coached by former Baltimore Washington Eagles coach Matt Bishop who is originally from Maryborough, Victoria; his playing career has included matches with clubs in country Queensland and New South Wales, as well as Brisbane and Sydney. In 2004 was appointed coach to the Manly Warringah Wolves Reserve Grade team while continuing to play with the First Grade side. During his time with clubs in Brisbane, Sydney and Washington, D.C., Matt has been deeply involved with club administration as well as playing and coaching. Matt held many administrative positions and has been recognized by the clubs for his off-field contributions.
Matt joined the Eagles in 2005 and was appointed head coach in 2006. During 2006, the Eagles won the Division 2 National Championship. In 2007 the Eagles continued their ascension to one of the elite teams in the country by going undefeated in and winning the Eastern Australian Football League ("EAFL"). In 2008 Matt took on an assistant coaching role with the Eagles. The Eagles continued their successful run by again going undefeated in and winning the EAFL title. During the 2008 USAFL National Championships, the Eagles again played in Division 1, making the final.
At IC11 Matt turned around the Revolution’s fortunes taking them to the semi-finals. Matt now resides in Sacramento, CA with his wife Amy. They have established men's and women's footy in Sacramento. And he has an unbeaten run as coach against Canada in matches since IC11.
I asked Matt about the fact that the US team always look so super serious during past International Cups (and in the past there have also been media bans) “Given each individual squad member invests about $10,000 in a typical 3-year International Cup cycle there is a good reason they are very serious. Having said that the boys do like a laugh to the point they give out awards for the silliest thing done by a player each day of the tournament. While we haven't had a media ban in the time that I have been coach (since 2009) we do ask players to inform us of all media opportunities to ensure we deliver a consistent and cohesive message. We certainly support all players if an opportunity arises for them to discuss their passion for footy and how it pertains to their country.”
The Country and Australian Football
The United States has a population of over 300 million people. The USAFL, the national body for Australian Football, began in 1997. There are 32 active clubs across the country (and subsets of those teams under the guise of “metro” footy and women’s teams as well as some clubs in formation or recess) the annual National Championship Tournament may still be the biggest amateur Australian football carnival in the world.
New USAFL president Denis Ryan told us "Player registrations are tallied at the end of the season at the Nationals. Last year registrations were 1080 which effectively reflected stagnant growth over the last six years. This was the major reason I ran for the Presidency. We have started some initiatives this year that will rekindle growth, but as these need time to have an impact, expect registration to remain the same for 2014. We are currently on track."
Probably the hardest thing about bringing the Revolution team to the International Cup is dealing with the huge size of the United States. Players are almost evenly distributed across the USAFL's three regions, the East, Central and the West. And bringing them all together is a difficult and expensive task.
Coach Matt Bishop told us “Preparations have been very good including a solid training camp in Austin, Texas, in April. A feature was a game against an all-star Aussie team from Texas, including former Saint Michael Rix. Since then the players have been challenged to get fitter than ever before, to hone their skills, and to play and watch as much footy as possible. Technology has been utlized more than ever to interact with the players to discuss game strategy, etc.”
“The coaching staff has pushed the players hard to improve in fitness (endurance, speed, agility, strength) skills, and understanding of the rules and strategy of the game. You can expect to see an improvement in all these areas.”
US players pay for their trip down under by team fundraising, mainly through donations, as well as through local club or individual donations. In 2011 the team was sponsored by ESPN who had AFL broadcast rights at that time. This time there is no team sponsor.
The level of awareness of the IC in the U.S. footy community is much greater this time due to the fact that so many players from clubs all over the U.S. will be attending and the resultant social media presence.
The US team will attend training at Montrose Football Club (EFL) ahead of their community round clash at Montrose.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Revolution will probably bring one of the biggest and most athletic teams. They will have a good balance of large physical and hard running pace. As always expect them to be big on voice and teamwork, to be hard at the ball and tackle ferociously
Their biggest weaknesses are likely to be their skill execution under pressure, compared to top sides like PNG and NZ who have had more opportunities to play together. Added to this is the team being much older than their opponents. Matt Bishop explained why this is so. “Finding players with enough experience to represent the U.S. at an age lower than 20 is impossible as most players don't find the game until their 20's. Even if they do find the game the chances are that they still hold a dream of playing NFL, NBA or MLB.”
“Compounding this is the drive for talented athletes to secure a scholarship to university so they can enjoy a "free ride". So their priorities won't allow them to continue playing. Having said that we are starting to buck this trend with players like Daniel Lehane and Daniel Dahlquist. Both these lads have been playing for several years despite only being 21 and 19 respectively.”
“Dahlquist started playing Ausball (tag, co-ed) in the San Francisco Bay Area and quickly moved on to play the tackle version via the Golden Gate Australian Football League. He is of a wiry frame and possesses very good athleticism and endurance. He has developed his understanding of the game quickly and can play forward or back.”
“We need to find players like Lehane and Dahlquist at age 14-15 and develop them over 3-4 years before the AFL is likely to look at them for the World Team.”
While they have a number of players who have previously spent time playing in Australian leagues they have had no players playing in Australia this year in advance of IC14.
Having the Freedom (women’s team) join them at IC11 provided a boost with both teams supporting and interacting with each other. The addition of the Liberty has grown the US contingent and consequently grown the support base for all U.S. teams.
Players to Watch
Bryan Dragus - Selected in the World Team at CHF at IC11. Bryan now with the LA Dragons, previously played a season with the Western Magpies in the QAFL. Bryan is very agile for his height will be hoping to dominate up forward providing a real focal point for the Revolution as he did at IC11.
Andrew Werner – Revolution captain, will lead from the front and chip in with some handy goals. Selected in the World Team at IC11 and previously played footy in country Western Australia.
Steve Fashant – Named on the ball in the World Team selection at IC11. Hard at it and will give the Revos their drive with great foot skills putting the forwards at an advantage on regular occasions.
At IC11 the US showed good form but went down to the highly fancied PNG in the semi-final and were then beaten by 35 against NZ. This time around they will again face NZ so on that form and the growth of NZ footy it is hard to see them getting over them. But with three years between cups, the form guide as a predictor of what will happen this time around maybe is a little weak.
In 2008 the US easily defeated Denmark, China and Japan in Melbourne but went down to Nauru and South Africa in Warrnambool. In 2005, the Revos finished third with two wins over the 2002 Champions Ireland. They lost to Runner's Up PNG by a solitary point, but went down to the eventual winners, New Zealand by 32 points in the First Semi Final.
With Canada their only International opponent since the last International Cup it is hard to gauge any change in strength of the US team. Unfortunately due to the way the seeding from the previous tournament panned out the US will again play Canada in the opening day of the tournament.
This year the Revolution have stated they are looking for a top two finish. To get to the grand final this time they already know they will need to get past NZ. Matt Bishop’s thoughts on how the US will match up with the Kiwis “New Zealand will be a challenging game and the squad is very respectful of how the game is developing in that country. The squad has been preparing for three years for another crack at the top 3 sides and they understand that a much more structured game plan is required to defeat them and that all players have to "Play Their P.A.R.T." This is the team motto developed in 2011 - Pride, Accountability, Respect and Team - and has continued to evolve over the last 3 years.”
The US should easily account for Finland in Round 1 and while it will be no walk in the park they should beat their Canadian neighbours that they know so well in Round 2. If everything goes their way and they can indeed play their P.A.R.T and defeat the Kiwis in Round 3 then the MCG and a shot a the title will await if they can keep it all together.