Roots Family! The Oakland Roots host San Diego Loyal at 7:00 p.m. at Laney College on Wednesday, April 13. The game will be on ESPN+, but it’s worth the trip to Oakland to avoid rolling the dice on your tv commentators. Even though the team now denies us Mike Geddes’s accent on the PA. Honestly, that’s probably the reason for the dip in form.
For the first time in 2022, we’re seeing an opponent that the Roots not only saw last season, but saw a lot last season. The blog’s first match preview against Loyal mostly involved talking about Landon Donovan. San Diego Loyal are still a relatively new team, having debuted in the shortened 2020 USL season. Loyal first came onto my radar when they walked off the pitch in a match against Phoenix Rising in the 2020 season after a Rising player used a homophobic slur about Loyal-midfielder Collin Martin.
Unfortunately, the club’s politics have gotten less admirable this season. Loyal signed midfielder and Atlanta United drop-out Andrew Carleton, two months after he posted on Instagram about trying to get to the January 6 riot in Washington. The team has clowned themselves going to bat for this guy who is not sorry and so far has barely appeared for them but infuriated at least some of their supporters. I don’t know what to say here. It’s not funny. Welcoming racist traitors back into society was a mistake in 1865 and it’s a mistake now. San Diego could have just not signed him. There really are more important things than winning soccer games.
San Diego’s Last Season
In 2021, San Diego finished third in the Pacific Division, missing out on second by four points, which could pretty fairly be credited to the work of the Oakland Roots. Loyal beat Roots in San Diego in late June 2021, with Roots’ starting Zeus, Mbumba, Saalih Muhammad, and Danny Flores. Roots then drew San Diego at Laney on September 11, and beat San Diego at Las Positas on September 22. The gem of the bunch, and maybe of Roots’ regular season 2021, was the Roots’ 4-3 victory in San Diego crowned by Akeem Ward’s Sportscenter goal:
These dropped points, and Orange County’s frustrating refusal to drop points to Oakland, earned San Diego a trip to San Antonio where they were efficiently dispatched by an SAFC team with goals from Nathan Fogaca in the 14th and Santiago Patino in the 25th.
I highlighted this in my playoffs round-up last year, but the color commentator had this to say about Santiago Patino following his goal:
That’s the poacher, I call him in spanish “raton,” the rat. Looking for the cheese, inside the six-yard box, and the rat found it, raton is on.
San Diego retained much of its talent from 2021, and added Kyle Vassell. Vassell is going to be one of the players I discuss below as a player to watch, in case you’re wondering how that move has played out so far.
San Diego’s Form
Loyal are off to a really hot start, currently sitting on top of the Western Conference.
Google just sort of ignores tie-breakers here, or weighs Loyal’s loss and Switchbacks’ game in hand in favor of Switchbacks. Loyal currently lead USL in total goals with 14 (although per 90 they are not quite first, but still very close). Five wins in six while averaging 2.3 goals per game is good, and the only loss was a mid-week game in Tulsa. Loyal are off to a really hot start, and unfortunately might just be really good.
The shiniest win of the bunch is definitely Loyal’s 3-2 win over Phoenix Rising at Wild Horse Pass. Rising have lost two other home games since March of 2020: San Diego in September of 2020, and RGV Toros in last year’s playoffs. These highlights are worth watching. In particular, Phoenix’s equalizer around the 1:45 mark (of the video) and then the Alejandro Guido winner right after.
Phoenix then beat El Paso 3-2 at Torero Stadium. El Paso somehow has scored 13 and conceded 13 through five games, and had not won a game until this past weekend when they thrashed Monterey Bay in El Paso.
The first goal is set up brilliantly by Nick Moon. It took me a minute to realize why that name was familiar:
The rest of these highlights are kinda dull for a 3-2.
San Diego then put Charleston Battery to the sword 4-1 this past weekend.
Vassell’s name isn’t on the scoresheet for the first goal, but it’s his incredible hold-up play that makes the goal. The third does have his name on it and it’s an exceptional finish from a tight angle.
We’re leaving this section of the traditional preview post structure sparse until I can find a way to be funny about it. Listen to RootsPod.
Players to Watch
Kyle Vassell #9 – The 29-year-old native of Milton Keynes spent his entire career in the lower English leagues before jumping to USL this season. His best seasons have come with Blackpool in League Two, and then the following season after promotion to League One. Vassell has only 42 goals to his name total over 10 seasons as a forward, but his four goals in 4.7 90s this season indicates that the USL may be the place for him.
Alejandro Guido #10 – Guido has taken over as captain since Charlie Adams stopped making the team after three matches (maybe injured?). Guido has played nearly every minute of the season for Loyal so far, and made the USL’s Team of the Week for the Loyal’s road win over Phoenix. Guido is from San Diego, played several years for Tijuana in Liga MX, was then bought by LAFC in 2019 but never made an appearance for the team. Guido was loaned to San Diego in 2020, and then signed with the Loyal after being released by LAFC.
Grant Stoneman #5 –
Score and Lineup Predictions
I think we go back to the Tampa formation. It looked good, and successfully shut down what should be a good offense. It also created a number of chances which have to find the back of the net eventually, right? Loyal are too good for the Roots to dominate. 2-2.
Pretty much what Bloom said, except I’m going Darek Formella in for Lindo Mfeka on the left wing. I’m sticking with my prediction on the pod, 3-2 Roots for their first win of the season. Oakland gets the game-winner in the closing minutes.
Aaron says he agrees with Jon’s predicted lineup, and with Bloom’s prediction about how the game will play out…sort of. 1-1.