Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com
For fans of the Washington D.C. Current, a lot is still unknown heading into Major League Ultimate’s opening weekend.
What will the team look like with so many new players?
How will they rebound from missing the playoffs for the first time in 2015?
What is next for the team?
When the first disc gets pulled this Saturday, these questions will begin to get answered. The new look D.C. Current will be looking to turn over a new leaf for the franchise.
In 2016, there will only be 12 veterans with MLU experience taking the field for the Current. None of them though, will be in the same roles that they were in last year. Guys you saw playing defense last year will be on offense. Cutters from last year will be moved over to handling the disc more and there will be a lot of new faces making a name for themselves.
“We are going to be fluid for the first game,” said Head Coach Will Smolinski. “This idea that somebody only plays offense or defense is silly. With that being said, O-Lines and D-Lines exist for a reason – specifically because when it’s your turn to score you want to make sure you have the best shot at doing it”
The O-line only has handler Lloyd Blake returning from 2015, the rest will come primarily from the defensive side of the disc or from secondary lines. Joining him will be defensive handler, Erik Salmi and young Zach Norrbom. It is expected that the offense will be running through these guys for 2016. Combined they recorded a total of 20 goals and 18 assists last year.
“I am working on getting ready with improving my fitness,”said Norrbom. As a team, “we are working on chemistry between lines at practice.”
Also on the line will be fan favorites Delrico Johnson and Dom Gibson. The team’s two leading blockers (13 and 11 blocks respectfully) will be seeing time on the O-line for a good portion of the season. Having experience on the offensive unit is a priority in order for the unit to get the job done and score on every possession.
“The way we play offense is going to be different. We brought in Sam [McClellan] and she is doing a great job putting an offense together in the short amount of time we have to get reps together,”said Smolinski . “We are looking for the offense to be able to play at different speeds and be purposeful about the speed we are playing at.”
Defensively the team will be anchored by three experienced veterans that have been with the organization since the formation of the league. Keven Moldenhauer, Eric Miner, and Brent Bellinger will be the heads of the defensive units. Together the team wants to maintain their defensive strength, that is what they relied on to make the MLU Championship back in 2014.
“We are the most blue collar defense of all the teams in the East. That has been our calling card and we expect it will continue to be,”said Smolinski .
There will also be rookies that will be called upon to make plays.
Joe Freund, currently a freshman at Virginia Tech, has the poise to make a name for himself after being on the practice squad last season. This year he will get his chances on the offensive side of the disc. Freund’s college teammate, Antione Davis can produce wherever he is put on the team. The quick Mark Flores will bring a veteran presence on the field with his experience from the AUDL’s D.C. Breeze in 2015.
“I am mostly excited to play with my old coach again. Will was my high school ultimate coach and he transformed me as an athlete. He taught me on how to analyze the game, how to hold myself accountable on the field and gave me the foundation to be a pro athlete,” said Davis.
There are still a lot of uncertainties with this team. Midway through the season opener the entire squad may be switched around.
Once the first disc gets put in the air, the coaches will be looking to see who is going to step up with everything on the line. Which players work well together and who can be relied on when we need a quick offensive score or a turnover on defense.
In professional sports, the primary goal is always victories. However, in this transition year for the Current that may not be the first measuring stick of success.
It is going to be difficult “not getting frustrated and keeping our eyes on the big picture. We have brought together a group and are working toward making the D.C. Current franchise great year in and year out, not just for 2016. That can be hard when you are making decisions that are better for the long term, but hurt right now,” Smolinski said.
These decisions are going to be made in the first half of the season. After the first couple of weeks, the Current are hoping to have pulled everything together and done enough in the first half in order to make a playoff push at the end of the year.
“It is going to take some time to get everybody on the same page with how the offense and defense are run. We have a group that has never played together before. We pulled players from lots of different places. Language, chemistry, and theory all take time to get together.”
Once again, Boston and the Philadelphia Spinners are going to be the biggest threats to make it out of the Eastern Conference. The regional rivalry with the Spinners has always produced aggressive games against the Current and vice versa. Philadelphia was the team that knocked D.C. out of the playoffs last year.
The reigning champion, Boston has been developing rival for the past two seasons. Both Boston and D.C. have ended each other’s impressive winning streaks and each time they get together the fans are sure to be in for a show.