Photo by Pete Krautscheid – Ultiphotos.com
The D.C. Current hit the road this weekend for a doubleheader, facing off against the Whitecaps and Spinners.
Three games are remaining on the schedule for the Washington D.C. Current (2-5) in 2016 and two of them will take place this weekend. On Saturday the team will travel up to play the Boston Whitecaps (6-2) and on the return trip home will play the Philadelphia Spinners (7-1) on Sunday.
Doubleheaders are never easy for any team. In the D.C. Current’s history they are only 2-4 in weekends that they have played multiple games. Adding to the pressure, the Current will be taking on the top two teams in the conference that will represent the east in the playoffs.
“Get a win in each city now, I think that is one of the team goals,” handler Keven Moldenhauer said. “A perfect weekend is obviously is us going 2-0.”
The team has already won in New York this season and in order to accomplish this task the team would need to win in both Boston and Philadelphia this weekend. These two games mark the final road games on the season. This is easier said than done because D.C. has not beaten either of these teams all season long.
In fact it has been over a year since the Current have beaten either of these teams; Philadelphia on June 6, 2015 and Boston on April 19, 2015. It will also be the first time D.C has played both of these franchises in the same weekend.
A challenge with doubleheader weekends is always the roster depth. Earlier in the season D.C. had eight players, four of them on the top offensive and defensive lines, miss both games.
This week will be much different.
The team is expecting a full roster, with only Joe Freund listed as out on the weekend. Freund injured his hamstring two weeks ago and will still be recovering this week. Meanwhile Zach Norrbom is listed as probable after his injury against the Spinners, and Lloyd Blake is questionable for the second straight week. Click here for the full injury report.
With a fuller roster it is still expected for there to be open lines for squad this weekend.
“We are going to be more flexible in adjusting lines than we have been in the past,” head coach Will Smolinski said. “We will put our D-Line in for offense sooner if they start to struggle. We will pull guys over from the offense sooner if we need breaks.”
Being more flexible allowed lesser known players, like Austin Bartenstein, to shine and move into a larger role on the team. The same can be expected this week.
“Austin is a solid player and really made some crucial throws last week,” Smolinski said. “He threw into some tight windows and was a solid alternative once Zach and Joe were out of the game. We are excited about him just like we are a lot of the new guys on the squad.”
Open lines do not necessarily result in wins. The Whitecaps and Spinners are two completely different teams. Boston has been extremely successful with their defensive unit going on runs to put games out of reach. Philadelphia’s offense meanwhile has been one of the most consistent in the league and only requires a few breaks to win a game.
To combat these teams the Current will be moving up on their three year plan.
“The players requested that we pushed that plan forward now,” Moldenhauer said. “There are very specific things in very specific ways that we are trying to do to increase the space. This was probably going to be implemented going into next year.”
Moving ahead obviously bodes well for many Current fans wanting wins, but changing the system or even tweaking it can lead to issues. The team, specifically the players, feels that they are ready for the next step
“We are a young team, not just with some of our ages but also with the amount we have played together. We have done a ton so far this season,” Smolinski said.
Lost in all of this is rookie Kyle Khalifa who is in the running for the Rookie of the Year award. Last doubleheader weekend, Khalifa carried the team with nine goals, an assist, and two blocks in two games. His performance immediately jolted him into consideration for the honor.
“A lot of what I have been able to achieve this season is due to the hard work of the entire Current organization, and I’m happy that I have found a place that I can fit in well,” Khalifa said. “We’re all hungry for a strong finish to the season, and it would definitely feel great to end with some wins.”
The first game of the weekend will be on Saturday at 7:30 as the team takes on the Whitecaps. On Sunday, first pull against the Spinners will be at 4:00. This marks the second road doubleheader for this team on the season, joining the Whitecaps as the only teams with more than one. Both games can be watched on MLU Live and be sure to follow the game by following our Twitter.