Last month the Washington D.C. Current re-signed four players who have been with the team from the start.
Heading into the franchise’s fourth season, the makeup of the team will be vastly different from years past. However, there will still be familiar faces on the field for the Current, as Delrico Johnson, Erik Salmi, Brent Bellinger, and Eric Miner have re-signed for the 2016 campaign, bringing along their combined 12 years of MLU experience.
“We have worked together before and are comfortable. They are going to have to help bring new guys up to speed on the language and theory we like to use, especially on defense. Having a core veteran group like this that has bought into their own growth as players and want to take on leadership roles through captainships is part of the foundation we are relying on” said Head Coach Will Smolinski. “Each one brings unique talent, skill sets, and history as a player. These four guys are a pretty good snapshot of what we are trying to do this season”.
Ever since the inaugural season in 2013, Johnson has been a fan favorite with spectacular snags and incredible defensive plays. With his athletic prowess he became the first player on the D.C. Current to make it onto Sportcenter’s Top 10 plays.
Johnson did not stop there, each season he has steadily improved in statistical categories while maintaining the same amount of playing time:
2013: 5 goals, 1 assist, 7 blocks
2014: 7 goals, 3 assists, 10 blocks
2015: 15 goals, 2 assists, 13 blocks
With former teammates no longer on the roster and his three years of experience on the Current, Johnson will be seeing more reps on the O-line in 2016.
“I’ve been joking around and saying ‘RicO-line’ and now I’ll be able to become that all around player; solid on both sides of the disc. I see this as an opportunity to fine tune some things on offense and be a dominant player. It’ll also help with the club season and hopefully get me a spot at the next tryout for Worlds” said Johnson.
Johnson’s signed a two year deal with D.C., the second multi-year player contract in the franchise’s history.
“Two years is truly a commitment. I think it shows no matter what happens I’m willing to stick with the Current through anything. I’m hoping it also allows my teammates to believe and trust in me; that I’ll do everything I can to make sure we play at the highest levels, and that starts with me” said Johnson.
Fans should also expect Salmi to see more time on the O-line this upcoming season. The D-line handler has been one of the anchors on the roster for the past several seasons. Like Johnson, Salmi has improved in most statistical categories from year to year. While he may not put up the highest numbers on the squad, Salmi consistency has stood out among the roster.
“I always make fun of o-line guys because they get the disc without being tired, so of course its easier to play o-line rather than d. But the truth is o-line takes a totally different mentality. O-line has to be steady, even when the pressure is on, even when you are tired” said Salmi. “With the O-line, you have to see every point as a fresh start and just as important as the last one. If our coaching staff asks me to play more offense, it’s an opportunity to practice that focus each point, to execute cleanly and then root for your d-line boys to bring it.”
In terms of reliability, Bellinger is one of those players that coaches love to have on their team. He is versatile and can be put on any position on the field. Over the years Bellinger has transitioned from O-line handler to D-line in a hybrid role. In the opening season Bellinger completed over 200 passes at a rate over 94%. The three other veterans in this wave of signings have not combined for 200 passes total in any of the three seasons of MLU play.
Although he moved to the defensive unit in 2014, Bellinger’s most productive season came this past season with an Offensive Scoring Efficiency (OSE) at 78.6 and a Defensive Scoring Efficiency (DSE) of 20.8. It is fair to expect more of the same from Bellinger in 2016 on both the O and D-lines.
The final third year veteran committed to the squad is Miner. Over his three years with the Current, Astro has developed into one of the top defensive threats on the field.
Career Statistics: 23 games, 11 goals, 4 assists, 5 blocks, 94.5% completion percentage, 6 turnovers.
In his professional history, Miner has played 87% of the time on the defensive unit. While his stats might not reflect it, Miner’s ability to shut down opposing players has kept him as a go-to player for the coaching staff.
“I have learned a ton from Will and Keven [Moldenhauer] through the years and trust them completely to make the best decisions for the team, whether they are coaching or playing. Don’t see a reason why that would change, and I want to keep learning and improving with them, so that is why I am sticking around for a 4th season” said Miner.
All of these veterans have played a pivotal role in the famous DC-D. As a whole, the defense has been a primary reason for the team’s success year in and year out. As these four players emerge as leaders on the Current’s roster, they will have more opportunities to showcase their abilities playing on both lines.
With former players signing elsewhere for the upcoming season, these recent signings show that the Current will continue to build a strong franchise to serve the D.C. ultimate community.
“I said it before and I will say it again, guys need to pick the team that is best for them as a player. Having Alan [Kolick], [David] Cranston, and the other guys sign with the Breeze just leaves us with unknowns. True you can’t just ‘replace’ any of those players, but there is plenty of talent in D.C., Richmond, and Baltimore” said Smolinski.
“These signings mean that [these veterans] believe in what we are trying to do as a team. Several believe in what we are doing so much that they have signed on for multiple years. The eight guys coming back will help us create a culture of selflessness, trusting teammates, valuing the growth process, and a host of other positive traits. Leaders and players like this will put the DC Current in a position to be competitive year in and year out for as long as the franchise exists.”