Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com

The D.C. Current seek to make a major statement when they square off against the defending MLU champion Whitecaps in the nation’s capital on Saturday evening (7pm on MLU Live).

Although much will be different for the Washington D.C. Current heading into their season opener tomorrow, the thrill of yet another closely contested match against the Boston Whitecaps among players and coaches remains the same.

“We know that Boston is a good team and it’s always a good matchup,” said fourth-year cutter Delrico Johnson. “Having them as our first game will be a good test to see how we stack up to last year’s champion.”

“The start of a new season is a clean slate,” Head Coach Will Smolinski said. “We have been working very hard both in the offseason and since tryouts to get this ready to go. Getting ready for the actual competition to start is exciting.”

Excitement defined the Current’s two home games against the Whitecaps last season. D.C. kicked off their 2015 campaign with a 19-18, sudden-death, double overtime win, while Boston came out on top in a 18-17 late-season thriller at Cardinal Stadium.

Third-year handler Lloyd Blake said that Boston “is always a challenge” and felt “glad” that the latest chapter in this heated rivalry will take place in D.C.

The Current intend to use the raucous and supportive confines of the “Dojo” to not only begin 2016 on the right foot with a win, but also to set the tone they want for the season. How the team plays the game will be just as important as whether they win or lose.

“This is part of what we are calling ‘Phase 1’ of the season,” said Assistant Coach Sam McClellan. “This is more about process than outcomes, more focused on learning systems and seeing what works, rather than working tight rotations with the sole focus on winning.”

“This is a long season, and if you are too outcome focused early, that can cause problems later on,”added Smolinski . “We want to get guys reps on both offense and defense. We also want to leave the game with a better understanding of ourselves. That is to say, a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses and our chemistry.”

D.C. will have lots to learn and to understand on Saturday because, in addition to the more than dozen first-year players on the 2016 roster, familiar faces will be in new places. Notably, former head coach Keven Moldenhauer will return to the field as a defensive handler, while cutters Johnson and Dom Gibson will play on offense.

Accordingly, as preseason preparations wrap up, the Current have placed a strong emphasis on how they think about the game and how they support each other on the sideline.

“The coaches have focused on a team-first attitude this season that I expect to take different forms on and off the field,” said assistant coach Jacob Nuxoll. “I expect a wider range of players to score goals and throw assists on the field and I expect players on the sideline to be analyzing their teammates play in order to help them grow.”

The players are confident that they are already on their way to becoming the team they want to be in 2016, physically and mentally.

“I am very excited about the start of the season,” said fourth-year handler Brent Bellinger. “Specifically, we have a great crop of really young guys who were very hungry and worked hard through the tryout process. They have a lot of great energy that is meshing well with the returners and I have a feeling that this season is going to be a lot of fun.”

“I am happiest when I’m playing with a group of people who put forth their best effort both on and off the field, Winning is great, but playing well with a group of people who tried to the best of their ability is what I find most satisfying.”

First pull is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.. Get your tickets here.

Season Ticket Packages are available, here.

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