Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
Cardinal Stadium, home of the Washington D.C. Current, has become one of most intimidating home fields in the league over the three seasons of play in Major League Ultimate.
Located on the campus of Catholic University of America, Cardinal Stadium is currently in its second season of hosting Current home games. The “Dojo” has hosted nine matches in its history and D.C. has walked away victorious from each contest. This weekend the Current will host the Philadelphia Spinners for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings and they will also have the chance to match the Boston Whitecaps’ league record of 10-straight home wins set during the 2013-14 seasons.
The story of the Dojo begins with the very first game D.C. played inside its confines. Matched against defending MLU Champions Boston Whitecaps in the 2014 season opener, the two sides battled in one of the most memorable games in MLU history. With the game tied in the final seconds, D.C. sent a floaty hammer into the sky, Calvin Oung raised up high off the ground and touched down with the winning score in his hand. The win gave notice to the rest of the league that D.C. was a team to watch out for. The raucous crowd inside of Cardinal Stadium set a tone for every home game to follow. And a group of fans from James Madison University’s ultimate team holding signs that said “Respect the Dojo” gave birth to a nickname that stuck.
“The facility is so top notch between the locker rooms, the field and the grounds in total,” said General Manager Matt Dewhurst. “My favorite part might be that first look at the field you get when you walk through the gates. Our ticket booth is a little farther away from the field than most stadiums and as you walk up you get this sense of urgency. It helps build the anticipation and momentum that it’s game day and it’s time to have some fun.”
While that might be Dewhurst’s favorite part of the Dojo everyone has their own opinion as to why the field is so special.
“From solely a player’s perspective, my favorite part of the stadium is the locker rooms. From an on-field perspective, I love how close the fans are to the field and how open the sidelines are,” said D-line cutter David Cranston.
On top of this, the location of the stadium truly allows the team to be playing in D.C. The Current’s previous stadium was located outside of the District in Maryland, making it a tough commute for fans who lived in or south of the Nation’s Capital. The Dojo’s central location is not only enticing for fans to make it out to games, but for the players to conveniently make it out as well.
“The location is great for most of the team. A lot of guys ride their bikes to the stadium while others have only a 15-20 minute drive. The fields are Metro accessible which is great for those who rely on public transportation,” said Cranston.
“Playing at home is always nice. More sleep, less travel, more warm-up time. The biggest advantage is the crowd though. It gets us fired up to hear the roar of our crowd when we are going toe-to-toe with other teams. On long points, and especially defensively, I draw from the energy of the crowd.” said O-line handler Markham Shofner.
All of the players and staff can agree that the fans are the true reason why the team is so successful at the Dojo. Without the crowd, none of what the Current has accomplished would be possible.
“First and foremost it’s our fans. We have one of the most raucous crowds I’ve seen in the MLU and we really feed off that energy. I’ve also heard that opposing teams are generally taken aback by how loud and into the game our fans are. It’s not like we’ve won all blowouts or anything. When a game is tight, it’s the Dojo that helps get us to the winner’s circle,” said Dewhurst.
No one knows how long this undefeated streak at home will last or even if it will ever come to an end. In fact going forward there is only one certainty: There is no fear in this Dojo.