Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
After three-straight wins, the D.C. Current got to kick back, take advantage of their scheduled bye week and and enjoy the holiday weekend.
No matter what happened during Memorial Day weekend in the MLU, when the Current step back on the field for their Week 8 match-up against the Philadelphia Spinners on May 31, D.C. will be in first place in the Eastern Conference – where they have been all season.
It hasn’t always been easy but the Current’s hard work, stretching from their 5 a.m. open tryout sessions to their weekly in-season practices, has paid dividends so far this season. D.C. carries a perfect home record, and has only been bested once on the road so far this campaign. The Current have the highest scoring offense in the league and one of the top scoring defenses in the MLU as well.
“Going into the season we felt like we had the potential to be at the top of the standings,” said Assistant Coach Will Smolinski. “We knew that we could beat Boston and that we could potentially shutout New York and Philadelphia entirely. And we find ourselves in that exact situation now. So really it’s just a matter of finishing up what we started.”
The Current started the season off well and have continued to play at a high level through the first six weeks of the campaign. D.C. opened the year with a quality road victory over Philadelphia, coming out after halftime and burying the Spinners in a hole they couldn’t dig out of (21-18). The Current followed that up with arguably their biggest win of the season – and perhaps even in franchise history – with a win at home against the previously unbeaten Boston Whitecaps on a last-second hammer throw (18-17). The game-ending score came from the hand of former Whitecaps star Peter Prial to the outstretched hand of Calvin Oung, which handed Boston their first ever defeat in MLU play.
D.C. would suffer their first and only loss of the season in Boston the following week (17-12). The Current made uncharacteristic turnovers and didn’t show the same level of defensive intensity that they have displayed in each of their other contests.
The Current rebounded from the loss when they returned home with their second win of the season over the Spinners (25-23). The victory over Philadelphia was powered by the Current’s defensive line as they recorded four-straight break points to help the squad win the third quarter by a 6-1 margin.
The defensive effort continued in Week 5 with a home win over New York (28-15), highlighted by the D-line’s offensive production of 14 goals, which equaled the Rumble O-line output. A rematch in New York in Week 6 followed a similar script. D.C.’s defense was once again dominant, posting five-straight break points to turn a 4-3 first quarter into a nine-point rout (27-18).
“I think we are in a great position, people are sort of looking up at us in the Eastern Conference,” Prial said. “We’re in the lead in the division and people are chasing us, it’s a good place to be.”
The Current seem to be operating on all cylinders at the moment. The defense is not only creating turnovers but converting opponents’ mistakes into points. The offense has been nearly unstoppable as well, with the Current possessing an enviable amount of weapons that defenses are unable to contain. During the 2013 campaign the Current only topped the 20-point milestone once, but in six games this year D.C. has already surpassed that threshold four times including each of their last three contests.
“I think the credit for us scoring so many points the last couple weeks has been the defense,” Prial said. “I think the first New York game they got 14 breaks, which is just a ludicrous amount. I think the offense is working really well and everybody is sort of getting in the groove with the new offense and getting in to a groove with one another, figuring out what everybody likes to do.”
The Current’s offense flows directly from the hand of Alan Kolick. The handler is the engine that power’s D.C.’s offensive machine. Kolick leads the league in throws, completions and catches, and he is tied for the league lead in assists entering Week 7 and ranks fourth in the MLU in points scored.
But Kolick is far from the only offensive star for the Current: Prial is fourth in the league in goals with 16, Jeff Wodatch is sixth in the league with 15 goals and Markham Shofner is tied for third in the league in assists with 18. Five players on the Current have scored 10 or more goals, four players have thrown for 10 or more assists and four players have 100 or more catches this season.
The Current’s 131 goals this season are the most in the league and the team has the best goal differential of +23 with seven players in the top 14 of +/- in the league.
While the offense gets to record most of the statistics, the D.C. defense is putting in work as well. Five different players have recorded five or more defenses this season, and each week a different player seems to step up and provide a game changing play.
“The D-line can play fast and loose and take some chances, because our O-line doesn’t put any pressure on us because they only get broken twice or maybe three times a game,” Smolinski said. “I think one of the things that’s not really being talked about is how deep our D-lines are. I think that we are the only team, except for maybe Boston when they have their whole squad, that can rotate 14 to 16 guys through the D-line. When you look at those string of breaks that come up it’s because we can put a D-line out and get a break and put a new fresh D-line out.”
The Current’s work is far from complete, however. They have four games remaining on their schedule and their place atop the Eastern Conference standings is far from iron clad. Still, the Current have plenty to be optimistic about with a two-game lead over Boston and the only two road wins in the conference, which equals the total number of away victories by every other team in the league combined. D.C. will still have to take two more road trips this season including another eight hour journey up to Boston in Week 9.
“We’re in a great spot,” Smolinski said. “But there is always room for improvement. We definitely have lapses in execution on defense and on offense Keven [Moldenhauer] really wants less turnovers. But we’ve put ourselves in a good position; now we just need to finish the job.”