LIBERTY LOOK TO AVOID A BOSTON MASSACRE SATURDAY NIGHT
(Boston, MA- Tuesday, June 21, 2016)
After two lopsided defeats at the hands of Omaha and Austin, the New England Liberty will host the Chicago Bliss, in their first-ever home game this Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH. It’s been over a month since the Liberty last played, but preparations by the players for Chicago were underway immediately following the Austin game. Any expansion franchise takes time to get their legs under them and get the proverbial engine running. Communication, logistics, learning a playbook, and becoming an actual “team” were all items on the Liberty to-do list. All of these have been a tumultuous task for the Liberty thus far.
However, that chemistry has completely dissolved since their last loss in Austin. Being down to thirteen (13) rostered players, Quarterback Alex Drake has been a lynchpin in trying to keep a team together. When I asked Drake what has changed over the last month with the Liberty, she gave a one word answer, “Commitment.”
Multiple players have left the team since the loss in Austin. Quite honestly, this looks like a completely different team than the one I watched in early May. Players would be chomping at the bit to get onto the practice field compared to a now burnt out group struggling down the home stretch. When talking to a few other players about the commitment situation, their answers were diplomatic but still frustrated by recent events. Regardless, the remaining Ladies of Liberty will look to play playoff spoilers for Chicago and Atlanta going forward.
Chicago’s quarterback Jacinda Barclay could pose some problems for the porous Liberty defense. She threw three touchdowns in the Bliss’ season opener, and also ran the ball ten times as well. Tamar Fennell and Chrisdell Harris will also look to expose the weak New England secondary. The Liberty will need consistent pressure up the middle from linebacker Tessa Alexandra. They will also need disciplined defense from Danielle Green and Jessica Johnson, also as they were both exposed at times in the Austin loss while taking bad angles.
The margin for error against a veteran team like Chicago is minimal. The center to quarterback exchange has to be flawless between Rachel Murphy and Drake. Samantha Puckett and Lulu Jackson must protect Drake and the blitz hungry Bliss. Running backs like Cruz, speedster Yanitza Kulian, and Green will have to commit to the hole and run with a purpose. Defensive players like Alexandra, Simons, and McKeon need to remain patient and disciplined.
If the Liberty show any signs of trepidation or fear, the Bliss will capitalize and the game will turn into another bloodbath. Some of the Liberty will be playing “Iron Woman Football” for a majority of the game. This will definitely test the will and heart of a young and beaten Liberty team. For a team name that stands for pride and strength, it is time for the Liberty and their coaches to show a bit of it. If not, we could see a massive upheaval on the player and personnel front this offseason.