The DC Breeze have been fortunate in terms of scheduling this season. So far, the team has only had one game a week, with a single bye week taking place earlier in the year. They will face two teams in two days for the first time this weekend, an away game on Saturday and then home on Sunday. Escaping the weekend with a 2-0 record would be a huge boost for the final stretch of the year. The Breeze will travel to Philadelphia on Saturday evening, and then late Sunday afternoon the squad will host the New York Empire in the last of three NY vs DC contests of the 2017 regular season.
First up for the Breeze (5-2) will be the Philadelphia Phoenix on Saturday at 6:30pm, as the two team This will be the first meeting between these two teams in 2017. It will be the first time Nicky Spiva suits up against his former squad, and the Breeze will get their opening impressions of the ‘new look’ Phoenix. In the off-season, the Phoenix made it a priority to bring in higher-tier talent. With the addition of Matt Esser, Greg Martin, Scott Xu, Marques Brownlee, and Trey Katzenbach a new competitive spirit is growing in Philadelphia. As a result, the team won their win in over a season against the playoff contending Montreal Royal.
At only 1-6, the Phoenix are still a handful of steps away from the playoffs. However, the games have been much tighter in 2017, and their point differential is only at -27. They ended last season at -144.
There is no surprise among the Breeze faithful that Spiva is the driving force for Philadelphia. Although the former Breeze star has only played three games this year, he leads the team in completions. He is also second in assists (17) and has not dropped a single pass this year.
As a whole, The Phoenix offense has played over 200 more points than their defense, causing a rather open offensive unit. The key goal scorer on the O-line is Sean Mott, who has record 24 goals and caught 177 passes (both team-highs). At 5’9″ he is a perfect hybrid of both a handler and a cutter that makes him nearly impossible to guard.
Other players to keep an eye on are Mike Arcata (19 goals, 16 assists) and Brownlee (eight goals, six assists, 12 blocks). Brownlee splits his time on both the O-line and the D-line and naturally finds his body around the disc.
The game will be at A.A. Garthwaite Stadium, just west of Philadelphia. A short three hour drive from Hotchkiss Field, it is the closest opponent for the Breeze. Tickets are available on the Phoenix’s website. D.C. is 10-4 all-time against the Phoenix and has not lost a game to them since 2013.
Returning home on Sunday, the Breeze will host New York at 5:30pm to finish their regular season series. The Breeze will look for the season sweep in back-to-back seasons, after going 4-0 last year including a playoff victory. At this point in the year, it is approaching do or die time for the Empire. Halfway through the season, the team is 2-4 after a promising buildup in 2016 and some offseason roster additions. With five of their first six contests at home, the team is a tough 2-3 in New York. Although win or lose they could still make the playoffs, a win against the Breeze would be huge for them..
Shaping up to be a possible upset, the Breeze will be coming off of a game the night prior while the Empire have had a full week to prepare. Last time out for New York they could not complete a comeback at home, falling to the Breeze 28-25.
One player in particular that will be raring for a breakout game will be their superstar, Jeff Babbitt. On the defensive unit, Babbitt has put up some incredible numbers for the franchise. His plus/minus sits at +41 with nearly 80 percent of his time on the other side of the disc. He also leads the team in goals (20) and blocks (22). Against the Breeze, though, he has struggled relative to his general success this season. In two contests he has four blocks, six goals, and a plus/minus of +9. The season average for Babbitt in two games should be seven blocks, six goals, and a plus/minus of +13.
Mike Drost and Mike Auletta have tied Babbitt in goals against the Breeze this year with six apiece. Taylor Brooks has also thrown 11 assists. Defensively the team averaged 10 blocks a game against the Breeze thus far, well below the season average of 14 a game.
New addition Joe Freund will be available this weekend and is on the weekend roster. Although the gameday 20-man roster has not been released for Sunday, see the Saturday roster below. Freund is expected to get playing time in at least one of the games. The team is fully stocked with the most complete 28-man roster for the Breeze all season. Aside from the injured Matt Kerrigan, there are no notable names missing this weekend.