The Roots return home this Saturday, July 16, 2022 to host El Paso Locomotive at 7:00 p.m. at Laney. Roots barely missed the result we all wanted in Sacramento, but still got a pretty good result, especially for playing away from home against a grat defense. El Paso come in sitting 4th in the table, much better than when the Roots played them last, but on mixed form, with two good wins and two mediocre draws in their last four.
(the bit in the image is explained in more detail here).
A Look Around the Western Conference
Not the most exciting week in the Western Conference. The most impactful results generally were probably everyone else’s relief that Sacramento/Oakland and New Mexico/RGV all split the points. El Paso took all three points from Colorado, Galaxy II took all three points from San Diego, and San Antonio was idle, so there was something of a tightening at the top of the playoff hunt, but not much news for the bottom of the playoff hunt. Monterey beat Orange County 2-0 and Phoenix lost 3-1 on the road to Memphis, keeping the race for last in the conference wide open.
|3/23||Las Vegas Lights||Home||L||4||5|
|4/03||San Diego Loyal||Away||L||2||3|
|4/09||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Home||W||5||0|
|4/23||God’s Own Oakland Roots||Home||D||1||1|
El Paso are fifth in the league in goals/90 minutes, with 1.81. El Paso do not concede many, only 1.14/90. Five Thirty Eight has El Paso evaluated about how their record would suggest, with a comparable offense to Oakland’s, but a noticeably better defense. Five Thirty Eight weighs home field advantage highly enough that they have the Roots as modest favorites to win this weekend.
El Paso got their fourth loss on April 3, and have two losses since. A draw against Detroit City in El Paso is a decent result, although the numbers suggest DCFC are not as good as their record. A win over Red Bulls II in El Paso is the expected result, but 5-0 is a pretty comprehensive victory.
RGV had four total shots on goal, and three came in a ten-minute period between the 19th and 28th, with the fourth another ten minutes later. El Paso’s keeper had a save for each, some good and some great, and if shots on goal are your measure, RGV basically threw in the towel. This game is so barren on meaningful highlights for El Paso that one of their three highlights on offense include an offensive foul in the box. They did muster a couple of good chances, including one well into stoppage time while apparently down to nine men, but ultimately this game was destined for no one to leave happy.
When the Roots hosted Atlanta 2 on June 25, Tristan Trager had about 140 minutes to his name this season and no goals. After scoring in the 60th to equalize against Oakland, he scored five goals in his next three matches. El Paso jumped out to a lead in the 4th, pinging the ball around the box off of a corner kick before Solignac got an open shot alone. Then Trager went completely beast mode, scoring a header at the back post right at the ten-minute mark, and then taking the lead in the 17th beating his man on a through ball and then beating the keeper one-on-one. Trager had a similar breakaway in the 62nd and had an opportunity to ice the game and overcooked it, letting the Locomotive keeper come out and take it off Trager’s feet. Seventeen seconds into stoppage time, Eric Calvillo salvaged a point on a scorched low free kick that went through Atlanta’s dubious attempt at a wall.
No real way around it–beating Colorado Springs is a good result. Each team got a red card, but both were well after the El Paso took its lead. In particular, El Paso held Colorado Springs to only two shots on goal. Right around the 13 minute mark, Michee Ngalina wasted, hand to god, one of the best opportunities I have ever seen a striker get. The only goal, Gomez in the 18th, was an absolutely textbook cross reaching Gomez for a long diving header and the keeper completely on his heels. Colorado Springs remain second in the West, games on hand over their closest competition, but they are reeling a bit, having lost four of their last five (the only win a 3-0 drubbing of Sac, lol).
|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|
All gas no breaks.
The atmosphere that the traveling support brought to Sacramento absolutely kicked ass. It was hotter than blue blazes at the, uh, “tailgate,” and there was a solid holdup at the gate while we litigated with Sacramento’s security guards about the definition of “flag” versus “banner,” but ultimately they did let us in with a number of flags (or banners, can’t remember which was okay; this is not an admission of guilt) and we were rocking for the full 90.
The Roots were rocking for about 70 of the 90, with ten minutes off on either end. I brought this up on the podcast, but man Morad really played himself on that first goal. He has some success losing the press with the stepover move that he does, but under that much pressure and that close to his own goal, when Martinez didn’t bite, Morad was completely stuck. The Azocar goal was magic, and the Roots just looked like a different team. It’s not totally clear what Emrah’s mistake was that lead to the second Republic goal, but it was something, but the Roots responded well and kept the pressure on. Karlsson’s header in the second is in some way my favorite of the bunch. Not the sleekest goal, but I feel like I have seen that chance a thousand times and tried to will my striker to be two inches taller to get there, and Karlsson just got two inches taller somehow. Obviously the ending was disappointing, but I’m not going to dwell on it. Roots going pure fuel from here on out. Doesn’t matter if you concede three if you can score four. Roots could’ve had four at Sac.
Players to Watch
Josue Aaron Gomez Gomez #7 – 27-year-old Mexican forward Gomez seems likely to lead the line with Lucho Solignac on a red card suspension. Gomez has six goals this season and a career-high six assists. Three and two of those, respectively, have come in the last six matches (although a goal and both assists came in the thrashing of NYRBII). Gomez’s professional career started with three seasons with FC Juarez, which plays just 1.7 miles as the crow flies from the SWUP where El Paso plays. I wonder if this is closest two stadiums for teams in the top two divisions of different FAs, but I really cannot be bothered to figure it out.
Dylan Mares #10 – I talked about Dylan Mares as a player to watch in my preview of the first half of this fixture. The thirty-year-old has not registered on the scoresheet since June 4, but he anchors the midfield on a team that is getting decent to good results, so no complaints. I checked the citations on Mares’ wikipedia and found a web archive of the Indiana Fire soccer academy listing where graduates have gone on to play college ball, and the first name I notice on the list is Lindo Mfeka, who always seems to pop up in these “who on the Roots has played with the guy I’m featuring as a player to watch”
Nick Hinds #31 – 24-year-old Jamaican-Floridian Hinds is characterized as a left wing or left back, and Aaron told me on the RootsPod that he’s been very good, I think. I am terrible at listening while I’m podding. He has two goals. I’ll be real, I can’t get over that he came up through the academy of a team called “Plantation FC.” Like, it’s something of an excuse that it’s in Plantation, Florida, but it’s not a great excuse. Oof.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I think the Roots stick with the lineup that played most of the Sac game. That attack showed real promise against a stout defense, and I think against a slightly weaker defense at Laney they are going to be even more effective. I predicted 2-0 on the RootsPod, and I will stand by it, but I am feeling more goals. I really liked seeing Karlsson back on the score sheet from open play, and if Johnsen/Azocar are the keys to getting Karlsson open in the box, then by all means, keep playing them up top.
This is a slight wishcast with Juan Carlos Azocar getting his second consecutive start up top because I can easily see Charlie Dennis back in the starting rotation. However, I think JCA was so effective in his role and Memo Diaz has been a difference-maker since entering the lineup–so, as mentioned on RootsPod, I’d like to see Guerra play the hot hand. I think this lineup puts the most speed on the field, and speed kills, so this is the squad I’m hoping for. I could also see Barbir in the rotation, but after guessing him on the last three predictions, I’ll turn elsewhere until proven otherwise. As for my score prediction, I’m revising my RootsPod guess from 2-nil to 2-1 Roots. El Paso is a strong offensive group and it feels like goals on both sides are coming. Up the Roots.
Unlike Jon, this is not a wishcast. I, too, would prefer JCA back in an AM/RW slot, but I think we’ll see a reversion to form for this one. And it’s going to be fine. Well, it’ll be a wild ride, in accordance with the “Pac-12 After Dark” philosophy this year’s Roots team has adopted. But 3-2 Roots, with something bananas happening in addition, like multiple goals ruled out for offsides, or a missed pen.