Photo by Kevin Leclaire – Ultiphotos.com
Playoffs. It is every team’s goal after a long and trying season. It is the chance to play in the second season and contend for a championship. For the Washington D.C. Current, this goal will not be attained for the second year in a row.
The team’s work on the season though is not over.
There are still three games left on the schedule for D.C.; one against the Boston Whitecaps and two against the Philadelphia Spinners. In the final weeks the team will be looking to prove that they can compete with both teams representing the east in the playoffs.
“We still have a lot we can work on,” offensive coordinator Sam McClellan said. “ If we can learn to get over some mental hurdles, we will not only win a few of these last games, but we can use these last games as a way to learn how to win against these teams so we are in a better position for next season.”
Throughout the season there has been a focus on the team’s ‘three year plan.’ The team did not want to accept the fact they would be miss the playoffs with a new-look franchise. The organization still wanted to win in the present.
Expectations were that the team would struggle in the onset of the season, but progress into a strong finish. Hopefully with the strong finish, the team would be in contention to compete for a playoff spot. The team was expecting to be performing at an optimal level.
Reality set in on Saturday night. A 20-16 loss to the Spinners ended D.C.’s playoff aspirations.
“We believed that game was winnable,” Erik Salmi said. “Saturday was a setback.”
It was a setback, not in terms of the playoffs, but for the ‘three year plan.’ The postseason was not an expectation, but neither was a 2-5 record.
“We had one of the hardest working pod workouts on the season this week. Everyone was disappointed,” Salmi said. “This is a team that wants to win and succeed together. Everyone wants to go out and perform this next couple of weeks.”
Going out and getting wins is not necessarily the agenda of the coaching staff. The team wants to put the franchise in the best position heading into the next season. This means making adjustments, broadening the team’s strategy and making opponents uncomfortable.
Younger, and more specially, players that will be coming back in 2017 will be getting more playing time and more touches with the disc. With the injuries of Lloyd Blake, Zach Norrbom, and Joe Freund there will be even more opportunities for different players to get out on the field.
Last week we got to see recent addition, Austin Bartenstein, prove what he can do for the Current. With two goals and two assists, Bartenstein has moved up onto the team’s O-line and will be expected to see more touches in the future.
“I would have taken a win and a shot at the playoffs over anything. That said, I’m glad I was able to help out the team when I could,” Bartenstein said.
He will not be the only player getting more time in the upcoming weeks. Mikey Moses, Gabe Webster, and Cam Barnhardt have had strong performances in the recent weeks. It is anticipated that they see more playing time, in addition to the newer faces already getting time on the top units.
Also it is worth keeping an eye on cutter Kyle Khalifa (17 goals, three assists, and six blocks) compete for the Rookie of the Year honor. He is in a fierce battle with three other front runners, Sean Mott, Ethan Peck, and Greg Martin, for that title in the east. It is not unheard of in MLU history for a player to receive an award despite missing the postseason.
No D.C. player has ever won the Rookie of the Year award.
Awards though are not on the mindset of the team, first is taking care of business against their remaining opponents.
The squad will be back in action next weekend in a doubleheader. The team will travel to play both the Whitecaps and Spinners on back-to-back days. Then the team will return home for the final game of the season on June 18 at 7 p.m. to face Philadelphia.