Photo by Niko Duffy – UltiPhotos.com
The D.C. Current will make their second straight postseason appearance after securing their spot in the 2014 MLU Playoffs with a 22-16 win over the Philadelphia Spinners on Saturday night. The Current moved to 6-1 on the season and remained undefeated at home by utilizing a 10-1 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to break a once close game wide open.
At times this season the D.C. Current have made things look easy on the field with quick scores, dominant defensive pressure and consistent play from everyone on the roster. Inside of the Catholic University of America’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday night that type of clinical play was missing, at least in the first half.
But D.C. accepted the strong challenge posed by Philadelphia, and spanked the Spinners in the second half as the Current’s offense found their flow and the defense returned to their dominant form.
“The game came down to our defense owning it and I want to give big props to my assistant coach Will Smolinski. He’s been working really hard and he spends a lot of time breaking down game film, and a lot of credit deserves to go to him and our guys on defense,” said Current Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer. “Our defense earned this one for us, and you better believe that when our D plays like this and our offense plays the way we’ve been playing we’re going to be unstoppable.”
The game started off brightly enough for the Current as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead when their defensive line scored a pair of break points to open the game. But Philadelphia would find their footing and settle into the game. The Spinners were able to keep D.C. out of the end zone in the final seconds of the first quarter and trailed by a slim 3-2 margin after 10 minutes of play.
The start of the second quarter belonged to the Spinners. Philadelphia strung together four-straight break points, turning careless Current throws into quick scores to open a 6-3 lead on D.C with under four minutes remaining in the half.
“I think we felt a little sluggish,” said handler Markham Shofner. “I don’t think it was any one particular thing but we definitely felt like we were working through mud there for awhile. But it just comes down to spacing and using our legs well, and once we got back on track it was easy the rest of the game.”
While it was a solid blow from the Spinners, the Current didn’t buckle under the pressure. D.C.’s O-line finally found their way back into the end zone on the following possession for a score that seemed to re-energize the team. Shofner collected a pass near midfield and ripped a huck to the end zone and Alan Kolick was able to box out his defender and then skied way up high for the disc and the score. Kolick’s would be the first of four-straight scores for the Current, as D.C.’s D was able to score three break points inside of the final two minutes off of Philadelphia’s sloppy play.
“The teams that have confidence and know they are going to make a run, end up making those runs,” said Moldenhauer. “So at no point was I worried. I had confidence in my guys.”
D.C. led 7-6 at halftime but control of the game was still up for grabs going into the third quarter. Philadelphia started the second half on offense and was able to work the disc into the end zone, as the two sides traded points to begin the third. Knotted at 10, all the tide would turn in favor of the Current, as D.C. notched an O-point to reclaim the lead and then would score two consecutive break points to go up 13-10. Brian Marshall would layout to get a turn on the first of the two breaks before Dominique Gibson would steal a Spinner pass on the next possession which led to another D.C. score.
“The main goal of our defense is just to put pressure on the other team,” said Gibson. “And I think we did a great job of that tonight.”
The Current took a 14-11 lead going into the fourth quarter and would quickly drain any remaining drama from the contest. D.C. began the frame on offense and rapidly worked it up the field ending with Shofner hitting Tom Doi for the score. D.C.’s defense then went to work, as they hung five-straight break points on the Spinners to give the Current a 20-11 lead and punch the team’s postseason ticket.
“We were challenged a bit,” said Smolinski. “We watched the O-line struggle a bit but we knew that we would get a chance and we knew from the last three games we’ve played that we can rack up runs. But I’ve never seen anything like that run in the fourth quarter at this level. I’ve never seen a team just dominate on D and then use the disc so well on offense.”
Kolick (two goals and three assists) and Shofner (five assists) each scored a game-high five points for the Current while Peter Prial and Connor Maloney weren’t far behind their pace with two goals and two assists each. But once again the Current received contributions from nearly their entire roster as 21 different players recorded at least one point in the victory.
While the win ensures that D.C. will make the playoffs, both players and coaches have loftier goals in mind.
“It’s good, but it’s not enough and we’ve been saying that all year,” said Smolinski. “We didn’t start the season by saying getting to the playoffs was enough, so while we are happy about it and it’s good to be the first ones to do it. We still have to go up to Boston next week, and we want to show that we’re here and we are the team that can beat Boston in Boston.”
The Current can capture home-field advantage next weekend when they travel up to Boston to take on the Whitecaps at Hormel Stadium on Saturday, June 7 at 7:00 p.m. ET.