Assessing rosters and fixing issues in Major League Lacrosse can be daunting.
Limited practice time and so few games make it difficult to work out kinks and build team chemistry, which is why Lizards coach and general manager Joe Spallina made the type of moves ahead of the trade deadline that paid immediate dividends for a team struggling at 3-5.
He dealt longtime Lizards Dave Lawson and Chris LaPierre to the Boston Cannons in exchange for Long Island natives Will Manny and Joe LoCascio, who combined for eight goals in a comeback win over the Ohio Machine in their first game with the club.
“I know both players’ personality,” Spallina said. “This was not a high-risk situation for me, decision-wise. I know the personalities I was bringing in. I just saw so much upside in it.
“It wasn’t rocket science.”
That it wasn’t. Manny had 30 points in nine games at the time of the trade, and LoCascio was considered one of the league’s breakout stars. He showed that with the game-winning two-point shot with under a minute to play against the Machine.
“I really firmly believe that these guys will be able to galvanize our unit and complete our team, our offense,” Spallina said. “When we were down three goals at 14-11 and the timeout, there were a lot of long faces. To Will’s credit, he came into the huddle and was pumping everybody up.”
That wasn’t the only trade made by Spallina. In his effort to bring in high-character, chemistry-type guys, Spallina completed a trade with the Rochester Rattlers to acquire JoJo Marasco, who had played for the Lizards for four seasons, starting in 2013.
Because there is such little time spent together in MLL, Spallina said he puts extra emphasis on the locker room. It’s there where changes can be made.
“Collegiately, I’m with my team every day and I can develop a team chemistry,” said Spallina, who also coaches the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team. “So, getting JoJo back is good just from a chemistry perspective, where I know he’d blend with the guys.
“A lot of it has to do with the fact that we weren’t playing well. We just didn’t have the right mix. We needed to shake it up.”
Naturally, Spallina said his outlook for the remaining five games on the schedule is bright. At 4-5, the Lizards are a half-game out of a playoff spot with a matchup on Thursday, July 13, against the 4-6 Atlanta Blaze.
“People want to see us fail because we have so much talent,” Spallina said. “The vibe in our locker room, I just have a good feeling that we’re going to go on a run here. Thursday’s game is our whole season; I made that very clear to our guys. This game right now, we’re a half-game back from the playoffs. I’m not sure teams are fired up to see us on their schedule.”