Photo by Sean Carpenter – Ultiphotos.com
The D.C. Current wrapped up the 2014 regular season campaign with their seventh straight victory, as they topped the Philadelphia Spinners 21-19 on Saturday night.
The D.C. (9-1) victory ends the Spinners’ (4-6) run towards a playoff berth and locks in the Boston Whitecaps as the Current’s opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals to take place on June 28 at 7 p.m. inside of Cardinal Stadium.
Tied at 17 with just over three minutes remaining to decide the Philadelphia Spinners’ playoff fate, the best player in the league took over. Alan Kolick received the pull and with no immediate mark pressuring him, Kolick surveyed the field and hucked a flick 60 yards to a streaking Paul Grabowski for the go-ahead score.
“We had been running that same play every offensive point that our line was out there, but most of the times they had been putting somebody deep,” said Kolick. “But on that point I didn’t see anybody there, and Paul is super fast so I just put it out there on a plate for him.”
On Philadelphia’s ensuing possession the Current did a fantastic job of marking the downfield cutters to force the Spinners to play a three man game with their handlers. After struggling to get the disc over midfield the Spinners were within striking range of the tying goal. Only 15 yards from the end zone, Max Thorne looked to reset the disc with a toss to Marcus Ranii-Dropcho, but he failed to see Kolick who poached off of his man and snatched the pass. Kolick set his feet and immediately unloaded a huge backhand that just stayed inbounds for the hustling Dominique Gibson. Five yards from goal, Gibson sent a pass to Connor Maloney on the goal line who then gave it to Lloyd Blake to hand D.C. their biggest lead of the game at 19-17.
“I had been looking to make that poach a couple times throughout the game,” said Kolick. “The first several times it didn’t get thrown, but I was kind of recognizing patterns in the way that they played. That time he just happened to throw it and it was good timing for us.”
Philadelphia didn’t give up as they would score twice more over the final 90 seconds of the game, but their season effectively came to a close after those back-to-back outstanding plays from Kolick.
“I don’t know what it is, I just love playing in that stadium,” said Kolick, who made a layout D in Week 1 of the season to seal the Current’s season-opening win in Philadelphia. “I don’t have anything against Philadelphia, I just decided to get hungry again this week.”
While the game was decided in those final decisive moments, much of the contest was as close as could be. The two sides traded the lead eight times, and the match was tied on 15 different occasions. Neither team held a lead of more than two goals at any point during the game.
The Current started off the day with a line combination that had not been seen before this season, as several D-line players were mixed in to the regular offensive rotation, and similarly several O-line players played many points on defense.
Philadelphia scored a break point on the first possession of the game, their first of six breaks in the contest. But D.C. responded with two points of their own, getting the first on a huck from David Cranston to Dan Kantor and the second on a break point scored by Kolick. The first quarter went back and forth as the teams combined to score five breaks over the 10-minute quarter and traded the lead several times only to go into the second tied at five.
The Current tied the score at nine coming out of halftime, but quickly found themselves down by two goals after Gabe Colton hit a sprinting Matt Paparone to give the Spinners an 11-9 lead.
“I think we had some O-line jitters for guys that were pressing the disc a little bit too much, especially in the first half,” said Current assistant coach Will Smolinski. “We had a couple guys that tried to take over the offense by themselves and try to do more than they usually do because they felt like they had to. But that was by design; we wanted to put guys in that position.”
D.C. was able to knot the contest at 11 just as quickly though when Markham Shofner ripped a pass to Jeff Wodatch followed by a Blake interception that directly led to a Kolick goal.
As time wound down in the third quarter, Philadelphia had a golden chance to take a 13-12 lead. Inches from the end zone, Patrick Earles’ high release backhand floated just out of the reach of Trey Katzenbach and out of bounds. D.C. grabbed the disc and worked it up to midfield and into the hands of Andrew Fickley who unloaded a flick to Glenn Poole in the end zone to give the Current a 13-12 lead, their first advantage since they held a 4-3 first quarter margin.
The Current couldn’t hold on to that lead however. They found themselves trailing the Spinners once again in the fourth quarter after Frederik Brasz converted a careless D.C. turnover into a goal with a throw to Colton to make it a 15-14 contest.
D.C. looked to get that break back, and after the two sides traded offensive points the Current scored with under four minutes to play. Tied at 16 the Spinners turned the disc over on a shot to the end zone and D.C. called a timeout to set up a play that saw Shofner put up a huck from midfield to Eric Miner. Miner boxed out his defender and came down with the goal to give D.C. a 17-16 lead.
Shofner (1 goal, 4 assists) and Kolick (3 goals, 2 assists) paced the Current offense with five points each. Philadelphia’s Patrick Earles led all scorers with seven points on three goals and four assists.
But Earles’ outstanding effort was wasted as the Current proved to be too much for the Spinners. D.C. swept the four game season series and knocked the Spinners out of the postseason.
“We have a lot of respect and we like playing Philadelphia,” said Smolinski. “They put together an end of the season run that nobody called. Everybody said their season was over and how the Pittsburgh guys came to late. They played great.”
D.C. will now host the reigning MLU champion Boston Whitecaps in the Eastern Conference Finals on June 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium.
“We can’t wait to host that playoff game, and we can’t wait to share that with our fans” said Smolinski. “We wish we were playing tomorrow, it can’t come soon enough. But we still have some work to. The season is about instilling and keeping good habits so we can’t let our excitement get to our heads too much.”