Chicago -- Many are arriving here expecting to enjoy a win over provincial opponent Munster.
Yet the muggy air holds some doubt, provoked by 2007's winless summer.
Much the same can be said for scheduled meetings of the directors and congress. Hopes are high, but there is not much to go on.
Having masterminded the yearlong World Cup buildup, Peter Thorburn's organizational and coaching work is to be evaluated in the season's only home game. Now, players whom he has molded into regulars such as Mark Aylor will be expected to feature.
Several of the back division, including 2003 World Cuppers Mike Hercus and Phil Eloff as well as Chad Erskine, are coming off injuries. All of the squad should refreshed and focused following lengthy squad-building assemblies in Aspen, Colorado, and Muscatine, Iowa.
Munster, the 2006 Heineken Cup champion which contributed 11 internationals to Ireland’s World Cup team, is historically renowned for forward play and therefore a good test for the Eagles. Setpieces, possession, and service were tenuous or worse during the Churchill. The team also has struggled with discipline, taking four yellow cards and a red in its last five games.
On Saturday, USA 'A' will run out against a fortified Chicago Lions side in what is believed to be the first time the Eagles have faced an American club side. Beggars can't be choosers, Thorburn said last week, rather unkindly.
Thorburn’s Eagles can hardly complain of funding problems, having made good use of the IRB’s high performance grant. But USA Rugby’s board indeed has yet to produce the major cash injection needed to recover from Doug Arnot’s ruinous tenure.
Though several of the directors, now seated for over year, are said to be rainmakers, many of the union’s recent business deals are short-term agreements with less than two commas. Sony Bravia and Guinness mirror pacts previously struck with Canada.
The Kevin Roberts-led nine also must conclude a long-running review of America’s competitive structure and sign off on the implementation in earnest of a high-performance plan that has been delayed two seasons.
Chief executive Nigel Melville is further due to present to the congress – essentially the old board – which meets for the first time in a year. Like Eagles fans, they will be looking for more than ‘progress’; they will be anticipating wins.
More than 6,000 tickets have been sold ahead of Sunday's game, according to a union official.