The Oakland Roots take a brief trip up I-80 East to Heart Health Park in Sacramento where they will face our ancient rival, 2021-playoff-abstainer Sacramento Republic, F.C. at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, 2022. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+ and KTVU Plus. The Function is sending some folks, I have heard as many as 150, and it might be too late to get tickets via the Function, but you can probably still get GA admission to the game and be there yourself.
(Back On My) General Bullshit
This is the second of three matches the Roots will play against Sac this season, so if you want to read about this club, I wrote more in the prior preview. Wikipedia tells me that Sacramento is known for its “evolving contemporary culture.” Can you imagine being in a covered wagon train and hauling your ass and everything you own across Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and the god damned Sierra Nevadas only to find yourself in Sacramento? How many people do you think just ended it without ever realizing the Bay was real and not an elaborate hoax somehow designed to enrich Leland Stanford?
[In brainstorming this bit I was researching the Pony Express and found this, an instant RootsBlog Top 10 most haunted California History photographs. Zoom in on the standing person, but maybe not if you’re planning to sleep soon]
Did you know someone attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford when he was in Sacramento? Ford is probably too genial a guy to admit it, but I’m sure his first thought was “does she realize I’m not Richard Nixon?”
[The would be assassin was played by Dakota Fanning in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Dakota Fanning’s full name is “Hannah Dakota Fanning,” it is honestly killing me that she could have been “Hanna Dakota” and made a real thing about Miley Cyrus. The world we deserved, but not the world we got, y’know?]
A Look Around the USL Championship Western Conference
Oakland have now played everyone in the Western Conference at least once, except for Phoenix, and the table looks like this:
The Western conference remains pretty evenly matched in the middle, and this past weekend saw a lot of points dropped by the Roots’ playoff rivals. El Paso drew Atlanta, New Mexico drew Monterey Bay, Las Vegas lost to Detroit, Orange County drew Phoenix, and Sac lost to Colorado Springs (discussed in more detail below). On the other hand, San Diego beat Colorado Springs mid-week, and New Mexico beat RGV. San Diego appears to be joining Colorado Springs and San Antonio in the “uncatchable” category–those teams are likely to take a playoff spot even if the wheels come off. Sacramento appears to be trending up, and El Paso and New Mexico are ahead of the Roots with games in hand, and I think would need to seriously stumble to fall out of the playoffs. Unfortunately that leaves only one playoff spot. I think the Roots are better than LA or Vegas, but the Roots can’t catch them without getting results. The Roots absolutely have to start taking all three points from some mid-table teams.
|5/04||New Mexico United||Home||D||0||0|
|5/08||Red Bulls II||Away||W||1||0|
|6/18||LA Galaxy II||Home||W||2||0|
Sac went on quite a tear following their draw to the Roots, until they lost to Colorado Springs this past weekend. The best wins of the bunch were undoubtedly San Antonio and Detroit City, but I can’t recap five games here. The embedded YouTube bandwidth is more than our beleaguered IT staff can handle. Sac beat San Antonio on a 37th minute goal from Douglas Martinez, and limited San Antonio to just one shot on target in the match. San Antonio are first in the Western Conference, but offense is not their stronger unit, and on the road you might not favor them if they concede first.
Sac completed ceded possession in this game, but allowed only a single shot on goal by Galaxy II, although the highlights show two shots off the cross-bar in the first 20 minutes, which I think is spiritually a shot on target. In terms of punishing bad play, the foul that led to the penalty for the Sac opener was legitimate–the keeper had no chance and sprawled out while missing the ball entirely. I am not sure, however, that the keeper actually touched Archimede. The second goal to put the game away in the 69th had no business beating the keeper to the near post. Even if the keeper wasn’t expecting it, the shot had very little power. I discussed this game before the Galaxy II game, and stated my hope that it showed that the Roots could capitalize on a lousy Galaxy II defense. Oh well.
The opening goal to put Monterey ahead was debited to Duke Lacroix as an own goal, although the commentator and Wilmer Martinez both credited the goal to Wilmer Martinez. Lacroix had to try to make a play on the ball and he was busting ass towards goal, so I don’t really fault him either way. Mark Briggs pulled the ripcord in the 65th minute, making a triple substitution to bring on Rodrigo Lopez, Damia Viader, and Maalique Foster. That move paid off with Maalique Foster bagging a 118-second brace in the 74th and 76th minutes (the first assisted by Lopez).
Here’s what we like to see–a humiliating loss. Aaron mentioned on this week’s RootsPod that the folks who calculate xG say this game was much closer than the scoreline. Possession was pretty even, and Colorado converted 1/3 of their total shots, which does suggest they got a little lucky. The first came out of relatively little in the 14th minute with the Sac defense failing to capitalize on a misplay by Michee Ngalina, who put in Elvis Amoh for a cheeky little chip over Daniel Vitiello. Barry’s goal to double the lead in the 35th was an absolute beauty, curling into the top corner from just outside the 18-yard box. Devon Kerr (on commentary) went in on the Sac defense for this one, and as much as I want Sac’s defense to be bad, Barry was marked pretty well and then put in a shot that you rarely see in this league. Barry scored just after half to make it 3-0 with another shot from range, this one low and bouncing and nutmegging his defender. Kerr again got mad at the Sac defense for allowing a shot from outside the box by a man who was tightly marked. For a guy who spends his time upping the USL, he is featured on these highlights slamming a defense that I think was doing fine instead of praising a striker playing out of his mind. To me that’s preposterous.
|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|
|5/28||Central Valley Republic||Home||D||1||1|
|6/4||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Away||W||2||0|
|6/15||New Mexico United||Home||L||1||2|
|6/22||Five Shades of Gray, F.C.||Away||D||1||1|
|7/01||“The Two” but California||Away||L||1||3|
I am going to post these, but I will not be watching them:
I am told that the second yellow on Charlie Dennis was pretty soft, and that sounds right to me. I watched about 20 minutes of this game on my phone at Oracle Park, where the Giants were also crapping the bed, and in those 20 minutes the Roots squandered some great chances. It’s bad that Johnsen is hurt, and with the upcoming game only a couple hours’ drive away, we will not have the airport-travel instagram-post tea leaves to read and figure out if he is back yet. It is good that Rito is back and I like seeing Azocar on the scoresheet again.
The Roots have to get their shit together, and away at Sacramento is a lousy time to need a result, but here we are. What it took last season was needing results, so maybe that’s the trick.
Players to Watch
Rodrigo Lopez #8 – Lopez was Sacramento’s biggest off-season signing, but has produced only 3 goals and 2 assists on the season. I went into somewhat more detail on him in my last preview.
Maalique Foster #99 – Diminutive 25-year-old winger Foster hails from Jamaica and got some playing time for the national team in 2018-2019, including a start in a friendly against the United States. He rode the pine in the 2019 Gold Cup, but has not made an appearance in a competitive match (FBRef does not consider CONCACAF Nations B League to be competitive). Foster got his start with Portmore United, who play in Prison Oval in Spanish Town, Jamaica, so named because it sits on the same property as maximum security Saint Catherine Prison. Foster was on the books for the Costa Rican team Alajuelense from 2018 to 2020, but had loan stints with RGV, another CR team, and an Israeli team in that period.
Matt LaGrassa #20 – LaGrassa partners with Nick Ross in central midfield, and leans defensively. LaGrassa grew up in Elk Grove, and played for the 2017 Reno team that that included USL stalwarts Antoine Hoppenot, Chris Wehan, Brent Richards, Dane Kelly, and Lindo Mfeka, as well us current San Jose starter Jackson Yueill. LaGrassa moved to Nashville SC for the 2018-19 USL season, and then continue to play off the bench for Nashville in 2020-21 in MLS. LaGrassa returned to Sac this season and other than a brief stretch in late-April/early-May, has played most minutes of most games.
Lineup and Score Predictions
This week I am predicting what I think Juan will choose, not wish-casting what I would choose. I don’t hate being forced into playing Chuy, even if I think he might be better off the bench against tired defenses than he is starting. He and Rito will be a ton of speed for Sacramento to have to deal with on their left side. Sac’s defensive midfield is going to be like running into a brick wall, so even if the Roots have possession, I think they are going to have limited opportunities and will need to pounce on those opportunities. I think the reason for optimism is to remember the fixture against Sac at Laney–those first thirty minutes saw some good chance for the Roots. This is not meaningful travel, even if this is a more hostile environment for the Roots than Carson was. I think 1-1.
I have one change from both Peter’s guess above and Aaron’s below. It seems that Mikael Johnsen’s injury last Friday wasn’t severe, so I’m expecting him to be in the lineup. As for my change from Aaron’s take, I have Tarek Morad in for Emrah Klimenta, but can easily see if going either way. Morad has gotten more consistent starts between the two, so I’m leaning that way. I’m sticking with my 1-nil Roots victory prediction on RootsPod; Oakland scores the goal and holds on for the victory.
Looking forward to a frustrating draw this Saturday. By my estimation, Sac has a bit of an edge in central midfield and central defense, while Oakland has the edge up top and on the wings. Whoever makes their strengths matter more wins, but I’m thinking its a stalemate. A frustrating, but entertaining, 2-2 draw.