Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com
After three close home losses to begin the season, the D.C. Current appear to have a long road ahead of them as they play their first away games of 2016 this weekend.
The Washington D.C. Current will play the Boston Whitecaps in Medford, Massachusetts on Saturday (April 30) evening and then travel to Orange, New Jersey to face the New York Rumble on Sunday (May 1) afternoon.
Despite such early-season adversity and challenges, the Current remain encouraged and confident as they approach the midway point of the season and tackle a new set of challenges and obstacles.
“I think our mindset now is 7-3 [as a season record],” said handler Lloyd Blake. “We know that’s a tough goal, but we believe in it and are working to make that a possibility. The locker room, despite its outbursts of frustration, has remained a positive place and everyone feels like they will be able to play a part in making on-field success a reality.
“Obviously, we were pretty dejected after last weekend’s loss against New York. It felt like one we should have won, but heading into this weekend, I think we are all excited. A two-game road trip gives us a huge opportunity to turn our season around and playing both Boston and New York again, gives us a measuring stick to see if we have progressed any as a team.”
Adding to the challenges that the Current have this weekend, they will be without handler Zach Norrbom and cutters Matthew Barnhardt, Antoine Davis, Jack Field, Joe Freund, and Dom Gibson on this road trip.
Though important, the absences of these players, however, do not present problems, but rather more ways for D.C. to continue their process of familiarizing themselves with their systems. The Current view this weekend as another opportunity to make strides towards becoming the team they strive to be in 2016.
“Traveling up to Boston is always tough, but we have some new procedures in place that we hope will help us be ready to play from the opening pull,” said Head Coach Will Smolinski. “We are doing some mental game work starting this week and we will keep that up for the rest of the season. We obviously have focus and execution errors late in the game. We are taking confidence in the fact that we could be 2-1 right now and we have shown that we can play with any team in the division.”
Coming away with their first victories of the season this weekend will “require [the team] to keep being aggressive late in these games, rather than trying to “hold on,’” said Blake.
Because they held significant fourth-quarter leads in their first matchups against the Whitecaps and the Rumble, the Current see and know that they have what it takes to get and stay ahead physically.
D.C. has either outscored or tied their opponents in 8 of the 12 quarters they have played in 2016 so far.
Mentally, the Current know what they must fix and are determined to not repeat the mistake of thinking too far ahead that has cost them dearly in the early going.
Boston and New York outscored D.C. 8-3 and 10-4, respectively, in the final quarters of their first games.
“We have to be careful not to be outcome-based,” said Assistant Coach Jacob Nuxoll. “I think that that’s a mistake we made against Boston and against New York. We grew comfortable in our anticipation of an outcome — winning. If this league has shown nothing else, it’s that you cannot be complacent or comfortable. Any of the teams in the Eastern Division has the capacity to make a big run. We just need to be focused for all four quarters.”
The players also know how important it is for them to focus on each game one point and one quarter at a time this weekend if they expect to turn their season around.
“We’re not even thinking about games later in the season,” said cutter Delrico Johnson. “It’s a bad path to go down when you’re trying to look at results before you even play. Our goal is still to make the postseason as it was in Week 1. The team has done a great job of striving to get better.
“This time together will be instrumental in our growth,” added Nuxoll. “I think the little things that happen on the bus this weekend will very likely be involved in our successes this weekend.”
The opening pull at Hormel Stadium in Medford is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Saturday and the opening pull at Bell Stadium in Orange is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. Sunday.
You can catch all of this weekend’s action on MLU Live.