Photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com
D.C.’s 2015 roster is beginning to come into full view. The squad recently re-signed three players from last year’s championship winning team, in addition to several newcomers.
Nate Castine, Eric Miner and Freddie Tsai have re-signed to help the team capture a second straight MLU title.
Castine and Miner will be entering their third season with the Current, while Tsai has signed on for his second. Castine handled on offense and defense, and Miner and Tsai cut and handled on defense, respectively, last season.
“Having Nate for a full year will be amazing,” said General Manager Matt Dewhurst. “He’s a great leader on and off the field and one that will never let a sideline be quiet.”
Speaking about re-signing Miner and Tsai, Dewhurst said, “I’m very excited. Freddy and Astro are two young talents in the sport and to have them back means a bright future for the Current.”
Known as “Astro” to his teammates, Miner was an instrumental part of a defense that yielded the third fewest scores in MLU (174) and helped D.C. have the league’s best goal differential (+42) in 2014. The Current’s D-lines scored a break point on over 33 percent of their pulls last season and recorded at least four straight break points during a four-game stretch.
“Astro became one of the cornerstones of our defense last year,” said Head Coach – Defense Will Smolinski. “His ability to limit great throwers is something we depended on all season.”
D.C. is eager to see the defensive difference in a healthy Tsai, who missed half of last season because of an ankle sprain.
“After an ankle injury last year, Freddie did not contribute as much as we know he could have,” said Smolinski. “He can run the D-line formation in transition [and] has some of the best defensive footwork on the team.”
The Current have also brought back Jonathan Neeley, who handled on defense during the team’s inaugural season in 2013. Neeley spent 2014 in the AUDL with the D.C. Breeze.
“I really like working with Jonathan Neeley,” Smolinski said. “I’m glad he will be back in 2015. The guys love playing with him.”
Neeley said his return to the Current was “a pretty easy call.” He added, “I want to be around the group as much as possible as we put effort into building the D.C. ultimate program, and the Current’s the best way to do that.”
Like many Current players, Neeley is a member of the D.C. open team, Truck Stop.
Taking the field for the Current for the first time in 2015 will be John Agan, Danny Dennin, Kevin Healey and Gabe Webster.
“I’m very excited about the new guys we’ve brought on so far,” said Dewhurst. “Being a team in a transient city such as D.C., turnover is always going to happen, but I think we’ve filled our roster with guys who can really help us compete for another title.”
Agan, though new to the roster, is already familiar with many of his teammates and the team’s systems. He practiced with the Current last year and plays for Truck Stop as well.
“[Agan] is an incredible teammate and we are very happy to have him,” said Smolinski. “If I were a cutter, I would hope that he was not guarding me because he plays hard from the second the pull goes up until the point is scored.”
Dennin is no stranger to professional ultimate as he has played for the Breeze the last two years. Based on his AUDL and club experience with Medicine Men, a Baltimore and D.C.-based open club team, the coaches believe Dennin can make an immediate impact with his new team.
“Danny is a player that I have had my eye on for awhile and has shown that he is ready to play with D.C.’s best team,” Smolinski said. “He is going to be a solid defender on our defensive rotation.”
Healey, who plays for the D.C. area’s John Doe, stood out among a group of 50 of the top players in the greater Washington region at the Current’s open tryouts on February 8 and 15.
“His attitude and commitment to work and getting better is what set him apart at tryouts,” Smolinski said of the former University of Rhode Island distance runner. “[Healey] has the potential to be a player like Astro who minimizes the impact of handlers or [covers] cutters.”
Healey remarked, “Keven and Will’s systems fit my playing style and I look forward to thriving in [them].”
Healey’s John Doe teammate Webster also impressed at open tryouts and earned a hard-fought roster spot.
“We made a point to sign some young talent and Gabe is an investment into 2015 and beyond,” said Smolinski. “He is a talent on offense and defense and we need to figure out what his role is going to be.”
“Kevin, Danny and Gabe are young players that are athletic and ready to take their game to the next level,” Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer said. “Expect to see significant improvement between Week 1 and Week 10. All are able to make plays in the air and have solid throws.”
After these signings the Current’s roster sits at 21 players and will be fully filled out following the squads final invitational tryout.
Dozens of prospects competed for the remaining seven roster spots at invite-only tryouts at the Total Soccer Arena in Landover, Maryland over the March 1 weekend.