Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
The D.C. Current overcame a sluggish start to run away with a Week 8 victory over the Philadelphia Spinners in the second half winning by a final count of 22-16. While there were many standout plays on Saturday, here are just a few takeaways from the Current’s fourth consecutive victory.
Saturday’s contest was perhaps the best game the Current have played all year. This was not the best game in terms of execution, but rather the immeasurable qualities of a championship caliber team like grit, heart and fortitude.
The first half was a rocky ride for D.C. After going up 2-0 to start the game, they then allowed Philadelphia to go on a 6-1 run over the following 10 minutes of game play. This was only the second time since Week 3 in Boston that the Current got outworked and looked overmatched on the MLU field.
But D.C. didn’t panic, knew they had plenty of time to recover and got back to their style of ultimate: quick, direct offense and tough man defense to generate turns and convert them into scores. So while D.C. was down 6-3 with under four minutes to play in the first half, the Current were able to summon enough strength to come back and take a 7-6 lead into the halftime break. They never trailed in the game after that point.
“I think there is a benefit in terms of practicing being down and getting into a mental state where you are being challenged and don’t have a cushion to work with,” said handler Markham Shofner. “So I think it was a relatively good thing. It galvanized us into the second half and we were good to go.”
Before their Week 7 bye, the Current’s offense was operating like a well-oiled machine. Turnovers popped up here and there, but for the most part D.C. was doing all the things they wanted to do with the disc on offense.
That silky smooth offensive operation disappeared in the first half of Saturday’s contest against the Spinners. Whether it was rust or Philadelphia’s defense, the Current’s O-line struggled to find their groove early on.
The Current struggled so mightily that Philadelphia was able to score four-straight break points during their second quarter run, the longest such streak an opponent has been able to string together this season.
D.C. was able to stem the tide and kept the Spinners momentum from crashing down on them by leaning on their star players. Trailing 6-3, Shofner hucked a disc to Alan Kolick who was able to box out and sky over his defender to get the Current back within a pair of scores. That athletic play seemed to provide the spark the Current needed to get going, as D.C. charged back to take the lead before the halftime whistle.
“It was early enough in the game that there wasn’t a dire sense of urgency or anything like that,” said Shofner. “Guys were still playing well, it was just some weird miscommunication stuff or execution issues. But for the most part I think we were all still confident that the game was ours to win. You don’t want to tighten up in those situations because that makes it easy for the other team to keep running off breaks if you change your game. So we just kept playing the game the way we know how to and eventually it just started clicking.”
13. The Current’s D-line scored 13 (!!!) break points on Saturday. Philadelphia’s O-line only scored 10 times. That’s the game. If your team’s D-line outscores your opponent’s offense there is nearly no way to lose. And it’s a recipe that D.C. has been following for several weeks now, as Week 8 was the fourth-straight contest in which the Current rolled off a string of at least four-straight break points.
“They’re disgusting,” said Shofner. “They are so effective with the disc. They are good at forcing the other team into looks they don’t want to throw. It all spurns from our strategy, everyone is on the same page and everyone is trying really hard. We have a lot of big, physical, fast guys and that is very tough to get around.”
It shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it still is rather astounding to see how explosive the D.C. D-line’s offense can be.
“The great part of playing on the D-line is, if you score then you get to keep on playing,” said Current Assistant Head Coach Will Smolinski. “I have to go back and look at the tape, but I think we didn’t produce at least one turnover on only three or four of their possessions.”
String it Together
While the Current were able to overcome an early 6-3 deficit to take a one-point lead into halftime, the game was still up for grabs halfway through the third quarter with the contest knotted at 10. But D.C. would outscore Philadelphia 4-1 over the final three minutes of the frame – part of a larger 10-1 run that lasted well into the fourth quarter – to put the once close game far out of reach.
“We have a lot of confidence in our team,” said Current Head Coach Keven Moldenhauer. “Teams that have confidence and know that they are going to make a run end up making those runs. So at no point was I worried. I had confidence in my guys. I was just hoping that this run would happen sooner rather than later.”
This is the last point of the post, but it might be the most significant:
The D.C. Current are going to the 2014 MLU Playoffs!
The Current’s win on Saturday made them the first squad to secure their spot in the postseason party. But while qualifying for the Eastern Conference finals is an accomplishment, the Current are far from content with their spot and want to ensure that they get to host that pivotal do-or-die game.
“I don’t really care about the playoff berth, it’s more about getting home-field advantage at this point,” said Moldenhauer.
“It’s good, but it’s not enough,” said Smolinski. “We didn’t start the season saying playoffs were enough. So we are happy about it, it’s good to be the first ones to do it, but we still have to go up to Boston next week.”
Ah, Boston… If the Current can become the first team in MLU history to topple the Whitecaps in their home stadium, then D.C. will be locked into the top position in the Eastern Conference and will host the playoff game on June 28. However, if D.C. can’t come away with a victory in Week 9 all is not lost. They can still control their own destiny and can secure home-field advantage with wins over New York and Philadelphia during the final two weeks of the season, or possibly sooner depending on Boston’s results.
While the Current have locked up their postseason bid, there is still plenty to play over the final three-week stretch of the season. Watch the Current on MLU Live this Saturday at 7:00 p.m., and make sure to come out and cheer on D.C. during their final regular season home game of the year June 14 against the New York Rumble. Buy your tickets here.