Roots look to extend their winning streak to two when they host failed-MLS expansion team Sacramento Republic this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Laney. The match will be available on ESPN+. This is the first match-up against Republic this season, and the first since Emrah Klimenta’s headed goal took Oakland above Sacramento in the table last season:
Sacramento are a historic USL team, making it even funnier that they finished 7th of 8 in the Pacific Division last season behind good teams AND two MLS development squads. They had four players whose goals tally would have been first on the Roots, but managed to end the season with two losses and four consecutive draws and put themselves well and truly out of the playoffs. This would be funny if they were any other ostensibly professional USL team, but it is especially funny because they spoiled the Roots’ 2021 home opener by complaining about the pitch at the last possible moment before kick-off. We’ll let Wal Fall summarize how we feel about that:
Sac were supposed to be good this season, revamping the midfield entirely, particularly through Rodrigo Lopez, and bringing in Douglas Martinez for goal-threat. I wonder how that’s going?
|5/04||New Mexico United||Home||D||0||0|
|5/08||Red Bulls II||Away||W||1||0|
Sure, that’s good for four wins, but it’s only 11 goals in 10 games. They are 1-3-2 since April 2 and have tallied only five times in those six matches. They are three points clear of the Roots, with two games in hand, but they have more ship-righting to do than Oakland at the moment.
Sacramento drew Las Vegas 1-1 on April 30 in Sacramento, somehow tallying 25 shots with 10 on target. Irish Centerback Dan Casey scored Republic’s lone goal, and somehow accounted for five shots.
Based on the highlights, it looks like Casey got his shots because the LV keeper did not catch a single god damned thing, instead opting to tepidly parry the ball into penalty box.
I will not be subjecting you to highlights of a 0-0 game this early in the season. It is hilarious that Sac were awarded a penalty in the 86th when New Mexico’s keeper completely laid out the oncoming Republic attacker. Republic talisman Rodrigo Lopez skied his penalty and the game ended 0-0.
Sacramento went on the road to
New York City Montclair, New Jersey and beat NYRBII 1-0. As we know, coast-to-coast travel is a nightmare for these teams, but Red Bulls II are absolute garbage. Red Bulls have scored fewer goals than Ottar in the same number of games.
It took just over 87 minutes, but Republic did finally score on a breakaway by Luther Archimede, who drew the attention and then put in Maalique Foster. At first glance it looks like they almost blew the chance, but the Red Bulls defender, in fact, goes to ground without getting particularly close to either the ball or Foster.
Sacramento’s last USL match was May 18, when they traveled to El Paso and fell 1-0.
Sacramento did not register a shot on target, but only lost the clean sheet in the 75th on a weak shot off of a corner kick that the Republic keeper scooped back out from a good six inches over the line. El Paso defender Andrew Fox then got his own rebound and slammed it back in over the prone keeper. It is entirely not clear if that goal was going to be given on the first effort. The visible AR was (you’re not going to believe this) out of position, and neither the AR nor the referee makes the call on the first ball. Five minutes later the wheels came off entirely, when Douglas Martinez earned himself a straight red for violent conduct for elbowing Yuma in the face after Yuma dragged him down. Martinez leads Republic in goals (tied) and assists (alone), with two each, so we are not disappointed that he should be riding the pines for the Roots match.
I guess we have to acknowledge that Sacramento beat San Jose 2-0 in the US Open Cup on Wednesday. It is great that Sacramento should be tired when they come to Laney. We’re still relatively early in the season, and they did not play last weekend, but essentially Republic’s entire preferred 11 are playing Wednesday-Sunday, which can’t hurt the Roots. Here are the highlights:
I regret to inform you that the Rodrigo Lopez goal in the 84th is an absolute banger. Both goals had pretty milquetoast efforts from the Quakes keeper, but credit to Lopez for striking the ball nonetheless.
|3/26||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Home||L||2||3|
|3/30||New Mexico United||Away||D||2||2|
|4/02||Tampa Bay Rowdies||Home||D||0||0|
|4/13||January 6 Apologists SC||Home||D||2||2|
|4/30||Colorado Springs Troop Appreciators||Home||L||0||3|
|5/14||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Away||D||1||1|
|5/21||Galaxia de Carson, Two||Home||W||1||0|
That game started painful because the Roots could not convert their damn chances, and ended painful because a 10-man rear-guard action with a debutante keeper is REALLY SOMETHING.
Galaxy ended up with more possession, 52/48, and had 3 shots on target to the Roots’ 4, but this was really one game before Diaz got sent off and a different game after. The penalty on Dennis was pretty soft, but the Roots have had a lot of hard-luck moral victories and I am ready for some un-earned good luck victories. Plus they completely ran the show for 70 minutes. No question that Diaz earned the red that ended the Roots’ ascendancy. It’s not obvious that Galaxy II were going to do anything with that breakaway, and Diaz came a long way out of his goal to try to stop that attack. I mean, he obviously did, as he was so far out it wasn’t a penalty. With hindsight it turned out fine, but that was just not a nailed-on goal opportunity for Sac. I have only rewatched the highlights, not the entire game, so I don’t know if it was actually a nerve-wracking final 20, or if I was just a nervous mess. Anyway, three points and local boy Timothy Syrel picked up a professional win before he picked up a high school diploma. Not bad.
Players to Watch
USL last issued a discipline report in July of 2021, so we are only pretty certain Douglas Martinez will not be playing. Here are the non-Martinez players to watch:
Rodrigo Lopez #8 -Thirty-four-year-old central midfielder and team captain Lopez has played everywhere, man. Guadalajara youth, Chivas USA, Ventura County Fusion, Cuervos Negros de Zapotlanejo, Queretaro, Portland, Ventura County, Orlando, Los Angeles Blues, Sac, Celaya, Toluca, Veracruz, Sac, RGV, and now back to SAC again. Lopez is Sacramento’s top-rated player on Fotmob with two goals and five yellow cards, but man of the match performances against Monterey Bay (for which he also made the USL team of the week) and El Paso (when El Paso were bad).
Duke Lacroix #14 – Lacroix is a favorite of mine based wholly on his name. He made the USL team of the week in Sac’s 1-0 win over NYRB2, I assume as a reward for successfully getting out of bed after the cross-country flight. Lacroix is 28 and hails from New Jersey, which he understandably left. Lacroix played for Reno 1868 in the 2018-2019 seasons, which means two seasons with Lindo Mfeka and a season with Emrah.
Dan Casey #5 – Dubliner centerback Casey came up through the Sunderland youth system, but never made the big kid club, moving to play in the Irish leagues from 2017 to 2020. Casey was the rock of the 2021 Republic (a dubious honor), just behind Lacroix for the most minutes of any player, including keepers. Casey made the USL team of the week bench in week 8, I assume for his five-shot one-goal performance in Republic’s 1-1 draw with Vegas.
Lineup and Score Predictions
Maybe the time to switch to a back four is not when we are having to change keepers unexpectedly, but if Fuenmayor is still hurt (who knows) and Fissore is ready to start, I think the Roots should take the opportunity to change things up. I am wishcasting to an extent here, I think there is a good chance Jon is right in his prediction below.
As for the score, I stand by my 2-0 prediction from the RootsPod. Narrative demands that Formella score tonight. Sac should be tired and should be missing their biggest goal threat.
My crack at the starting 11 is nearly a copy/paste from last week’s match against Los Dos. A lot is hinging on whether Alejandro Fuenmayor is back to full health, but after holding a clean sheet against LA–I’m keeping things in tact. Plus, a former-Republic combination of Emrah Klimenta and Darek Formella provides an enticing matchup. Another big question is the move in goal with Benny Diaz out due to a red card suspension, which opens the door for Paul Blanchette or Tim Syrel to get their first start. My guess is Blanchette returns. As for my score prediction, I’m scaling back my 3-2 guess on RootsPod down to a 2-1 victory for Oakland; goals by Karlsson and Formella.
I think Oakland will shift to a back 4 at some point, but since these predictions don’t matter I’m sticking with the same lineup until such time as things actually change (with adjustments for red cards). Fingers crossed Republic are due for a letdown after their midweek win, but I’m skeptical. The guess here is that Republic come out fast and score a couple goals, but Roots eventually wake up and the only question is do they wake up in time to win, or just draw. 3-2 Oakland.