The roster breakdown continues with the centers. This position is a mixture of new and old, with the core group from last year returning but a new set of names challenging them for a spot on the matchday roster.
|William Talataina||Fermin Martinez||Simi Moala|
|Thretton Palamo||Marcos Young||LJ Koi-Larbi|
|Doug Fraser||Palema Roberts|
The starters return
The centers see a lot of the same names return. Willie Talataina is back after playing quite literally every minute of last season, which is big. While he didn't seem like much at the beginning of the season Talataina really settled in towards the end and was a key part of Old Glory's late season success. Under-remarked upon in the broader MLR community, he may be one of the best centers in the league, and I'm hoping for a lot from him in 2023.
Oft-injured USA Eagle Thretton Palamo is coming back as well, although whether he sees significant time will be down to his health. He's an absolute powerhouse when he's fit, opening up the back line's options through a combination of size, strength, and accurate passing. He also brings a leadership quality, as he was the co-captain of the team in 2020 and 2021, before his health sidelined from that role in 2022. The last returnee is Doug Fraser, a Canadian international who has also been with the team since the inaugural season. Fraser has played a combination of wing and center for Old Glory, and while he's listed as a center this year, I expect he'll play both positions again this year.
Argentine flair incoming
They will be joined by two new names, both out of Argentina but both with US-eligibility. Fermin Martinez has been a fixture of Argentina's amateur scene and played a lot rugby at one of the best clubs in the country. Marcos Young also comes out of amateur club rugby in Argentina, but he actually grew up in Miami. He has represented the USA at age-grade levels. Both players seem very promising, but both are entirely unproven in a professional setting. As domestic players, both will have the chance to get on the roster and make an impact early.
The draftees depart
The departing names are all players who've seen limited playing time, and most notably include both players from the 2021 draft, LJ Koi-Larbi and Palema Roberts. Koi-Larbi played in three matches early in the season for a total of 13 minutes of match time, but failed to really impress. Roberts, meanwhile, was injured in a preseason match and missed the entire season.
Simi Moala is the other player leaving. He first signed ahead of the 2021 season and seemed promising as a big-bodied back who could crash effectively. However, he never really showed much beyond that, and only ended up playing in 6 matches for just over 100 minutes in his two years.
Predicted depth chart
The safest bet in the centers is that Willie Talataina will start at inside center, but beyond that things get uncertain. If Thretton Palamo is healthy to start the season, the other starting center spot is probably his, with Doug Fraser coming off the bench. However, if his health is questionable for the outset, we may see Palamo take on more of a support role from the very beginning.
There's also a very real chance that one or the other of Fermin Martinez or Marcos Young breaks into the lineup. Both are promising and could oust one of the incumbents. Young could also have an avenue to playing time on the wing. The back three has a lot of foreign players, and with spots very limited, there may be a need for domestic players on the wing.
Expectations for 2023
I'm pretty confident about this group. Talataina really found a good grove last year, Fraser has always been reliable, and Palamo is a real game-changer when he's healthy. Add to that two promising younger players, both US-qualified, and I struggle to see how the centers could be anything but great this year. There are enough knowns to make me confident and enough unknowns to me excited.
Check out the rest of the series: