Your Oakland Roots are back home on Saturday, April 2, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific hosting 2021 USL runners-up Tampa Bay Rowdies. The game will be available on ESPN+, but our source at the team says “just come to the damn game.” I told him that I try to get my dad to watch these games, and he’s two time zones away, and the source said I’m not sufficiently committed to the Roots.
Before I get to the normal post, I wanted to raise two important things. The first is that your friend and mine Alfonso Bui announced that he was moving on to other opportunities:
Roots’ social media under Alfonso has been awesome, and it is hard to imagine someone could be better. That said, we wish him all the best in his projects to come.
Second, check out RootsDogs, Michael. Send us pictures of your dog in Roots gear and we will add it to the site.
In back to back matches, the Roots are facing teams that they saw last year, despite being in different divisions. I wrote about the Rowdies in my preview post last season.
I did not mention (re: notice) last season that the Rowdies are owned by the Tampa Bay Rays. You want to see something really funny?
Both teams are probably lying about this, but that is way more embarrassing for the Rays. I was brainstorming funny things about the Rowdies and Aaron suggested we mention the old-timey baseball player in their logo, and I of course assumed he meant Rollie Fingers:
And Aaron was actually talking about Old Hoss Radbourn:
Rowdies are historically a good but not great team, although they were pretty great last season. They handled the Roots last season, so I’m not going to share those highlights. You can find them on youtube. Aaron and Jon wrote about the game here and here, respectively. I watched this game on my iPad in the car on the way up to my inlaws’ place in Auburn and it was probably not worth the data.
They were knocked out of the playoffs by Louisville City in 2019, and got revenge the next (real) season, knocking Louisville City out in the Eastern Conference Final 3-2 after extra time.
If, for some reason, you hate Louisville, this is a hilarious game. Louisville went up in the 10th and doubled their lead on an OG in the 23rd. Remember how I said this game went to extra time? Tampa would not score until the 83rd, when super-sub Lucky Mkosana bagged his first, with his second coming just at the end of the fifth of four minutes of stoppage time. Steeven dos Santos finished things off with a headed goal in extra time.
Tampa then met Orange County in the final, falling 3-1 (worse than the Roots did against Orange County).
Ronaldo Damus scored in the 25th and 38th (this is two more goals than Orange County scored against the Roots), and then Mikko Kuningas (who you may recall from the RootsBlog formal player hater list) pretty much iced the game in the 45th. Tampa scored a consolation goal in the second half, but Orange County would take the title (in an easier game for them than they got from the Roots).
Aaron wrote about Rowdies’ strategy this season here.
Tampa are second in the east with a 2-2-0 record (matching their 2021 draw’s total already). The Rowdies’ four opponents have a combined 1-8-3 record, which gives me some hope, since Tampa has dropped four points to them.
In their home opener, Guenzatti set up Juan David Tejada 35 seconds into the game for the opener, completely shredding Indy 11’s defense. Jake LaCava scored Tampa’s second on a great layoff header assist from Tejada in the 51st. An Indy 11 player made a dumb challenge in the 58th to pick up his second yellow and the game was over.
Tampa only beat Atlanta United 2 by 3-0 in the Atlanta exurbs, but the highlights show you what Tampa does to teams that are not serious about this league. Atlanta 2 actually accounts for the only win among teams that Tampa has played this season, beating Charleston 4-1 this past weekend (Charleston do not appear to be serious).
If you’re looking for reason for hope, the most recent game is a better source. Hartford took the lead on a great distance goal in the 6th minute. Tampa was not doing much wrong there, Hartford’s midfielder just took a great ranged shot. However, Tampa’s equalizer was a silly deflection off of the shins of Jake LaCava who, to his credit, was pressing really well. But the deflection chipped the keeper from about 40 yards and it was basically just luck that it went towards goal. What you can take from this game is that sometimes Tampa don’t play like the class of the league.
Roots are 0-1-3, which is not great. As we discussed on RootsPod earlier this week, the Roots are conceding goals, although the defense is limiting it to mostly set pieces (which, unfortunately, still count). The Roots’ offense looks like is getting better. Two goals against Monterey Bay is an improvement, and two goals against New Mexico is probably tougher than two goals against Monterey Bay. The Roots also looked incredibly dangerous for the first thirty minutes of the New Mexico game, and unfortunately only netted two.
Charlie Dennis’s first was an absolute thing of beauty, and a hero on Reddit made this gem for us:
Dennis juggled the ball in traffic on the edge of the box and put a lobbed ball off the cross bar that would have made it 2-0 in the 34th. Unfortunately, New Mexico equalized just at the death of the first half, and pretty much took over in the second half, including taking the lead. With much of the team turned over on substitutions, the Roots managed to equalize a minute into stoppage time: Dennis’s corner kick missed the scrum just in front of goal, but found Chuy all the way across the box. Chuy settled the ball and placed an inch-perfect cross that Tarek Morad managed to crash his way through to head home.
I had predicted a 2-2 draw against New Mexico, and feel pretty good about that. The offense looked better for awhile, but the wheels came off in a frustrating way. Let’s hope the offense keeps being better week on week–we are likely to need it against Tampa Bay. We all know how dangerous Florida Man is, and Tampa is a whole team of Florida Mans. In fact, Tampa Man might be the among the most dangerous of the Florida Mans (behind Swamp Man and Jacksonville Man, but ahead of Greater Miami-Dade Man and miles more dangerous than Pensacola Man).
Lineup and Score Predictions
The offense will continue getting better. Charlie Dennis is showing flashes, but does not seem to interact particularly well with the other attackers. I think that improves, and I think that the improved defensive solidity from the New Mexico game both (a) lasts longer, and (b) contributes to the attack by making possession safer. I think the Roots play the same lineup as Wednesday. Like I said: the Roots offense will play better, and the defense will play well which against Tampa isn’t enough. 2-2. Up the Roots.
My guess at the lineup is minimal changes from Wednesday with the biggest factor in the second-half from the 2-2 draw, Chuy Enriquez, making his first start of the season at right wing. Although you see a 4-2-3-1 in my take, it’s really a place-holder for what will be a similar back-three from the previous match. Until the club sends a different lineup graphic, I’ll be running with it. It’s hard to decipher Guerra’s current plans for the backline, perhaps Emrah Klimenta gets some time after Danny Barbir and Tarek Morad played a full 90 minutes. With the aggressiveness from Tampa Bay, my prediction is Joseph Nane and Matias Fissore pair for a second-consecutive game in the midfield.
As for a score prediction, sometimes playing the top-teams brings out the best of a squad. They’ll need their defense to bring their best performance thus far, 2-1 Roots.
My biggest prediction is that we’re going to see something unusual in this one. Here’s my stab at a lineup that fits that bill. Mostly, I think we’re going to see a lineup that allows Guerra to adapt to the game state. What I am predicting here is that we’ll start with a defensively minded lineup, and then if it looks like there’s an opening, this can easily morph into the kind of 3-4-3 we saw last week (e.g., take off Ward for an attacker), or even the 4-2-3-1 shape that opened the season (remove one of the CBs for an attacking mid). Two changes that are independent of this weird, mad-scientist prediction: (1) Fissore: He’s played a lot, and his skill set–sweeping up everything in front of the CBs–is a bit of a mismatch for a Rowdies team that likes to go long and down the wings; (2) Dennis: Fantastically skilled, but with a bit of a penchant for sitting on the ball once he gets it in the attacking third. That kind of tempo-killing move could be disastrous against Tampa Bay. I think we’ll see him at half time if the Roots are chasing, or around the 70th if the game is tied. Oakland 2-1 Tampa Bay.