Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com
Earlier this season, both teams claimed their first victory of the year against each other, New York’s in Week 3 and D.C.’s in Week 4. This time around both teams will be playing for third place in the conference and a long distance chance to battle for the playoffs.
The Current are coming off a two weekend bye after playing their first five games of the regular season without a break. The last team they faced was the Rumble on the back end of a doubleheader road trip, resulting in their only win on the season.
With the extended time off, it gave the team time to rest and recover in order to prepare for an end of season push.
“The last two weeks have been great because we weren’t focused on New York, we were focused on us. We got to work on some system details that were rushed or needed multiple practices to iron out,” head coach Will Smolinski said.
In addition the Current are coming off their first road trip of the entire season, in which they went 1-1. Throughout the league, road trips have always been important in the fundamental makeup of the team. It not only shows who can perform in a high pressure environment, but also keeps the players together for an extended period of time.
“I don’t know if playing on the road helps the team bond, but being on that bus sure does. It was fun getting to know everyone as people and not just as Frisbee players,” offensive handler Lloyd Blake said.
With the college season concluded for all of these players, the boost of their return will surely benefit the team. Many are anticipating that the team will see these players improve without college ultimate taking away some time.
“Having our full roster will help us stay at top speed the entire game. In our last game against New York, we were definitely feeling our shorter roster towards the end,” cutter Kyle Khalifa said. “We’ve been working at practice to get players who missed games during the road trip caught up on how our game plan has evolved.”
This regular season series has featured two players being considered for East Rookie of the Year, Sean Mott (13 goals, 13 assists, one block) and Khalifa (14 goals, one assist, and five blocks). Mott, who leads the Eastern Conference in points (26), introduced himself to the Current with an appearance on Sportscenter Top 10 plays. In that game at Cardinal Stadium, he would total five goals, and two assists.
“It’s not about shutting down, it’s about limiting,” Smolinski said. “We know Mott can go off if you let him run free deep but also can generate breakside flow well because he’s a lefty.”
For Khalifa, two of his best games of the year have come against New York. The last time these two teams played, Khalifa broke out with five goals and a block. His total in their series is eight goals and two blocks.
“A key to our game this weekend against the Rumble will be playing fast and following our system,” Khalifa said. “Our offense works best when we are playing fast and creating openings for each other to cut. Our defensive-offense has been working on playing fast break after getting a block.”
Now that it is ‘phase three’ of the season for the Current, the expectations are even higher for the team. In this game, and for the remainder of the season, D.C. will be working on the execution of the team’s system and consistency from the entire roster.
The playoffs are not entirely out of the picture for the Current, but a win is vital this weekend for the team. As the season has progressed the team is confident they have yet to play their best ultimate and that the team “is fundamentally in tune at this point” Mark Flores said.
This week, the Rumble is recovering from a west coast road trip that was the first cross-divisional game in Major League Ultimate history. New York would dominate and come away with the victory 22-19 over the San Francisco Dogfish.
New York is currently battling for their playoff lives. If the Rumble were to fall on Saturday they would be eliminated from postseason contention in the east.