To call Friday a success for the U.S. sevens rugby team would be an overstatement, but there is little doubt the Americans achieved significant improvement after last weekend's disastrous trip to New Zealand.
And now, despite losing 19-12 to Canada and 33-19 to Fiji in the USA Sevens tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium, they still have a chance to emerge from pool play and make the Cup, or main, draw.
By virtue of Argentina's 19-12 win over Canada, the U.S. could make the Cup draw if Fiji beats Canada in their 1:06 p.m. match today and the Americans beat Argentina in their 2:34 p.m. match.
The U.S., which goes by the nickname Eagles, figures to have the edge against Argentina, a team it has beaten all six times over the past two years. It's an especially meaningful match for U.S. coach Al Caravelli, who lived in the South American country for 7½ years, long before South Carolina governors discovered Argentinian senoritas.
"We want to make Cup," U.S. captain Shalom Suniula said. "We want to bounce back from today. If we can come together as a team and put together (strong) performances, we'll be a team to look out for."
A positive showing today would help erase the memories of last weekend's 0-5 appearance in New Zealand in which the U.S. was shut out three times.
The Eagles had their chances to fold Friday before 10,323 fans at Sam Boyd Stadium -- or a crowd UNLV usually expects for a home football against San Diego State -- but showed resolve against one of the world's top teams.
Fiji, which lost in the tournament final here last year and ended the season ranked fourth, took a 28-7 lead early in the second half on two interceptions. The second led directly to rugby's version of a touchdown, called a try.
But the Eagles overcame the sloppy stretch to finish strong and close the gap to 14 points.
"We always talk about playing in the moment," Caravelli said. "Don't chase the game and don't worry about the score and just play what it's in front of you. You made a mistake; flush it down the toilet and get ready to go forward. They're showing maturity when they do that."
Andrew Durutalo, who is from Fiji, said the promising play against his old country should help the Eagles.
"I think we're going to be a little tested going into (today)," Durutalo said.
The U.S. appeared in good shape for most of its opener against Canada, with Zach Test scoring a try within the first minute to give the Eagles, with the conversion kick, a 7-0 lead.
They maintained an advantage throughout the first half, taking a 12-5 lead into intermission. But Canada tied the match within the first 30 seconds of the second half and then won it in the final minute when Taylor Paris broke three tackles to score a try for a 19-12 lead.
The U.S. threatened to tie the match as time expired, but Durutalo was tackled near the goal and lost the ball out of bounds.
"We shouldn't have lost to Canada," Suniula said.
It might not be the last time the countries see of each other this weekend.
"I'm not necessarily saying it's one that got away," Caravelli said. "They're a quality side. I still believe we're the better side. They were the better side (Friday). I thought my guys played really, really well against them. We'd love another crack at them."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.