Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
The Washington, D.C. Current (2-4) survived a fourth-quarter rally by the New York Rumble (2-6) to come away with a 17-16 victory Saturday evening.
Up 16-10 and in the driver’s seat at the start of the fourth quarter, the Current seemed to be well on their way to a blowout victory over their Eastern Conference rival. However, the resilient and persistent Rumble surged back by converting five breaks and outscoring the Current 6-1 in the game’s concluding 10 minutes. The rally fell short as the D.C. offense controlled the clock and kept the disc away from the hard-charging New York defense.
With the victory, the Current take their season series against New York and improve to third place in the Eastern Conference. D.C. still has an outside shot at the playoffs and will need to remain nearly perfect to make a run.
“We like to make it interesting,” said cutter Delrico Johnson. “I’m happy that we made it a full game, a complete game. This is a great way to start the second half. We have big goals. We’ve shown that we can hang with every team and starting off by solidifying this win today puts us on the right track, so I’m happy to see where this goes.”
After playing neck-and-neck to a 5-5 tie in the first quarter, the Current offense scored three goals, while their defense scored three goals of their own and held the Rumble to only two goals, creating separation and giving D.C. an 11-7 advantage at halftime in wet and sloppy conditions.
Two more breaks proved to be the difference in the third quarter as the Current extended their lead by two coming out of the intermission.
Johnson led his squad with 4 goals and a block. The star cutter made yet again highlight reel play in the closing minute of the third quarter when he batted a Rumble swing pass into the air and tipped the disc three times to himself, gaining over 20 yards in the process, before catching it. Johnson then passed to Andrew Ferraro, who then found Erik Salmi in the end zone to put the Current ahead 16-10 after 30 minutes of play.
“[O]ur defense executed really well and we were able to get a lot of turns, run a lot of minutes off the clock,” said Assistant Coach Jacob Nuxoll. “We have to keep doing that.”
After sputtering for two and a half quarters, New York gained momentum in the game’s last five minutes when they scored to close the gap to 17-13 and called a timeout set up a midfield pull. After his pull rolled out the back of the end zone, Marques Brownlee blocked a D.C. pass near the front of the end zone and threw to Justin Carter for the score, giving New York its third of five fourth-quarter breaks.
Making the task of blunting this momentum harder was the absence of D.C.’s star handler and Eastern Conference points leader (29, 7 goals and 22 assists), Lloyd Blake, who left the third quarter with a right shoulder injury and did not return to the game.
“I think we know that New York was going give us something at the end,” said Blake. “I think that’s been the way we’ve played them. And I think, in the first half, things looked good and we built that lead. And then going forward it’ll be a matter of keeping that intensity all the way through.”
New York’s comeback fell short as D.C.’s offensive handlers kept the disc away from their hard-charging defense and eat up valuable time on the clock in the game’s waning moments.
After posting this second straight win over the Rumble coming off a two-week bye, the Current face another tough test when they go on the road to play the Philadelphia Spinners next Saturday, May 28, at 4:00 p.m ET.
“In almost every huddle, [Head Coach] Will [Smolinski] talks about ‘up from here,’ so making sure that anything we talk about from this game is about how we’re going to get better, not about what we did wrong,” Nuxoll said. “And not just what we did right and how can we use that in the games going forward.”