Despite a rough season, the 2013 D.C. Current made it all the way to the first ever MLU Eastern Conference Final. However it is not what the Current did in the game that shaped the future of the franchise, but rather what happened afterwards.
A buzzer-beating cross-field flick from Markham Shofner had found a wide open David Cranston in the back of the endzone to end the 2013 Eastern Conference Final. Unfortunately for the Washington D.C. Current it was to end a 23-15 drubbing from the undefeated and eventual MLU Champions – The Boston Whitecaps.
D.C. finished the inaugural season of Major League Ultimate with a 4-7 record albeit starting the season at 1-4. The team had made a push towards the end of the year going 3-2 and forcing a winner-take-all matchup against the New York Rumble in the final week of the regular season. Calvin Oung had an incredible outing with three goals, seven assists, and throwing a perfect 32/32 in the game.
The D.C. Current’s Inaugural season ended at the Eastern Conference Finals against the undefeated Whitecaps, a disappointing ending to what proved to be a strong finish to the 2013 campaign. Boston had not only dominated the season series against D.C. but the entire Eastern Conference as well. This left many teams questioning the future of their organizations and how anybody could go up against the Whitecaps.
The D.C. Current knew that something had to be done.
Things happened extremely quickly in 2013 to bring the Current organization together. The team primarily consisted of the elite D.C. club team, Truck Stop, but it is one thing to get players, another to form a franchise.
“I originally was very much against the pro leagues. Jeff [Snader] came down and did a pretty good job selling the idea to the guys on Truck Stop. They needed a coach, and since I was possibly going to retire, I thought I would give it a shot,” Keven Moldenhauer said.
That retirement talk though may had been a little premature, as Moldenhauer went on to serve as a player-coach in the opening season. A player-coach was not uncommon in the league during the inaugural season, the Seattle Rainmakers doing the same on the West Coast.
Joining Moldenhauer on the sideline as the only assistant on the team was local youth coach, Will Smolinski.
“I originally had two criteria for an assistant. First, he had to have the same passion for Ultimate that I have had over my career. Second, I wanted someone that I felt would work with me to turn D.C. Current into something special. Will easily met both of those criteria,” said Moldenhauer
Smolinkski was new to the elite level ultimate scene. Up until that point he had never coached above the teenage/youth level.
“My initial reaction was that I needed to learn as much as I could with this opportunity, both about Ultimate and the players,” Smolinksi said. “The game of Ultimate itself was secondary, and in some ways still is. I was flattered and intrigued by the challenges.”
At the reigns of the D.C. Current was none other than Dusty Rhodes, the team’s first general manager.
Rhodes, presently a league analyst and writer helped get team started. Coming into the position, Rhodes had a plethora of ultimate experience, including six Club Nationals appearances.
“Dusty was great for our first year and getting things off the ground,” said Smolinski. “Dusty will tell you that he was not suited for the position long-term.”
Immediately after the 2013 season, Rhodes would begin working internally with the MLU, finding himself in the position he is at now – one of the most prolific writers and analysts for the league.
Replacing Rhodes would be Maryland-native Matt Dewhurst. A graduate from Salisbury University, Dewhurst developed his passion for ultimate while at school. At Salisbury, Dewhurst meet Moldenhauer, who was coaching the women’s team. The men’s team, Buzz, was just coming off a back-to-back run to Nationals led by Moldenhauer and former Whitecap Danny Clark.
Moldenhauer was the one who reached out to Dewhurst, who was involved in different levels of sports media once the position was available.
“I knew he would be perfect for the job,” Moldenhauer said. “He had already been involved with various sports teams and I knew his love for the game and sports in general was a perfect match. I had very high expectations for him.”
And he was up for the task.
“I told him he must be crazy. I hadn’t followed elite ultimate in years, but knew I could probably manage the logistics and game day side of things,” Dewhurst said. “While I was pretty intimated, I was fired up. I mean, how often to you get a chance to be a GM of a pro team in your hometown for a sport that you love and work with a guys that helped teach you the game?”
As the general manager, Dewhurst got straight to work re-signing the team’s returning core of players going into 2014. In arguably the biggest move of the 2014 MLU offseason was adding Peter Prial from Boston.
This would set the team up months before tryouts with a nearly full squad of experienced veterans.
At that time, Mark Evangelisto would also join the leadership of the Current. The former Philadelphia Spinners general manager, came to the Current as a part of the ownership group.
Moldenhauer would appear to retire once again from playing (although it was not for long) and assume the full responsibilities as the head coach. Smolinski remained on as well, with his responsibilities focused on the defensive side.
During 2014, the Current would accomplish many feats throughout the season:
-End the Whitecaps 13-game winning streak, handing them their first loss in franchise history.
-Set the second best record in league history with an 11-1 mark.
-A nine game winning streak to end the season.
-League MVP (Alan Kolick), Championship Game MVP (Shofner), and Spirit Award (Prial).
The 2014 MLU Championship title was just the capstone of a transitional year for the entire D.C. Current organization.
Two years later the main pieces of the puzzle are still with the team. There are some new pieces, including two new assistants, a roster full of new players, the ageless Moldenhauer back on the field, and Smolinski as Head Coach.
Many may feel that the D.C. Current may be a new look team in 2016, do not be mistaken. The true faces of the franchise are on a path for their second MLU title.
See all of the Current in action for the Season Opener against the Boston Whitecaps at Cardinal Stadium, less than a month away on April 9th at 7pm.
Grab your 2016 Washington D.C. Current Season Tickets, here.