My friends, it has been so long since the last Roots’ game that I had to look up my preview formatting. The Roots travel to Hamtramck, Michigan (an “enclave” of Detroit) to face USL newcomers Detroit City FC at 4:30 p.m. pacific time. The match should be on KTVU Plus and ESPN+.
Detroit City have existed for about ten years, in the NPSL for awhile, and then joining NISA in 2020. Long-time Roots fans (lol) will recall that the Roots faced Detroit City in the 2020 NISA Fall Championship. It is no surprise to anyone that 2020 was a weird season, but after finishing first in the Western Conference with a 1-1-0 record, the Roots were the one seed in their tournament bracket, which they won on goal differential, finishing with the same record as Detroit City 2-0-1, with Oakland nonetheless falling to Detroit City. Oakland knocked off Chattanooga and Detroit upset LA Force to meet again in the championship, which Detroit frustratingly also won 2-1.
Some familiar names on the team sheet there. Johnny Rodriguez opened the scoring, and was supported in midfield by Yohannes Harish and Ariel Mbumba, and in defense by Tarn Weir. Detroit City scored twice on questionable defensive decisions. HOW VERY ROOTS-Y.
So who are Detroit City?
“most talked about soccer teams in North America” is a hell of a positive re-frame on “everyone thinks we’re assholes.” I will give it to the Northern Guard Supporters that their big dispute this season with their team’s management is very funny:
“enforcing guidelines regarding profanity” is something that I feel like a front office needs to just mostly not do.
Not sure what that star is supposed to represent. I can only assume the championship that DCFC’s fans assume they have already won. Anyway, the badge is a reference to the downtown-Detroit statute “The Spirit of Detroit.” Bronze statues of jacked dudes are always a little fasc-y, and this one is holding, on the one hand, “a family group symbolizing all human relationships,” and in the other “a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays to symbolize God.” First of all <insert gif of David Mitchell doing the dismissive wank gesture> and second, I’m not sure revering god is consistent with a palm-sized magic orb representing same. So if this statue is channeling “drain the oceans to find and kill god,” then I’m onboard, but I suspect it’s just fucking stupid.
A Look Around the Western Conference
Well, the Roots no longer have a shitload of games in hand, and things are better than they could have been. In fact, things went just shy of as well as they could have gone. El Paso, Vegas and LA have all languished, and the Roots have the games in hand advantage on El Paso now. Unfortunately, Phoenix and Orange County are showing signs of life, and even if those teams ahead scuffle, the Roots are not guaranteed to be the team to take advantage.
I’m not reproducing their whole schedule here. Detroit are 6th in the Eastern Conference, but they have exactly two (2) wins against teams currently sitting in playoff spots. Detroit score some goals, 1.27 per game, which is in the lower part of the middle of the league, but concede fewer than a goal per game (.095) good enough for fourth in the league. On July 16, DCFC were held to a scoreless draw in Seaside.
Monterey Bay turned a decent chance into a major threat when the ball squirted past the prone keeper, but a Detroit defender managed to get back and clear off the line. This game was so bereft of highlights that it includes a long cross for a header that goes a couple yards wide. Detroit had a big opportunity in the 82nd for Pato, who got onto the end of a looping through ball, but he put the ball above.
On July 23, hosting New Mexico, Detroit drew 2-2.
Detroit’s penalty in the 23rd came off a handball forced by a half-dozen short, ineffective passes in the box that New Mexico simply could not clear, with one eventually popping up and hitting a defender’s hand. Wehan’s free kick to even things in the 30th is the same beautiful long-range nonsense we have seen him pull against the Roots, but is worth the price of admission. Wehan had a slaloming run just on the other side of half-time that he also absolutely should have put away. The Deklan Wynne go-ahead goal in the 62nd comes on a quick break with New Mexico’s right back pulled way out of position. Finally New Mexico stole a road point at the end with a goal that may have been offisde. Detroit’s defense certainly thought so.
This past weekend, Detroit fell away to Tampa Bay 1-0.
Within the first ten minutes, Dos Santos had a shot cleared off the line by a defender and Ekra had a brisk snap-shot saved by the keeper. The break-through finally came in the 64th with a long-range effort that the DCFC could only parry away, and Dos Santos was the first to it to loft it over the prone keeper.
|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|
|7/16||More like Ex Paso, Right? Is that a thing? What about Lol Paso?||Home||W||4||0|
|7/23||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Home||L||0||2|
Barely remember that Phoenix game. I bet it was frustrating and one the Roots should have won.
Look at that. Anyway, the Roots need points.
Players to Watch
Maxi Rodriguez #21: Central midfielder Maxi Rodriguez is pivotal to Detroit City. The 27-year-old played college ball at UNC, then two seasons with San Antonio FC, a season with Richmond Kickers, and joined DCFC in NISA before following them through promotion. Rodriguez has give goals on the season, and was featured by USL Tactics this week:
Antoine Hoppenot #29: The 31-year old Paris-born American striker has a full decade in US soccer. Hoppenot played at Princeton and was selected in the MLS supplemental draft by Philadelphia Union, where he spent four season bouncing back and forth between MLS and the Union’s USL Pro squad in Harrisburg. Hoppenot then played on FC Cincinnati (still in USL), Reno, half a season in Tampa and then two and a half season with Louisville City. Hoppenot has five goals and four assists on the season, although has not recorded either in his nine starts since May 21.
Barnabas Tanyi #47: It is not particularly likely that we will see young Barnabas Tanyi, but I did not want any of our dear readers to overlook this top-shelf name.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I haven’t seen our big fucking viking in any training, social, or travel photos from the team in a little bit, and I wonder if he’s not available for selection. I’m tentatively putting Johnny in there, but it could be Formella or a false 9 and then probably Dennis getting into the starting 11. I don’t know if what the Roots needed was a couple weeks off, but they got it, and so we have to hope they come back fresh and will be inoculated from the effects of travel. I need the Roots to do this one. 1-0 Roots.
I’m buying what Peter is putting out there regarding Ottar. I’d also love to see Formella back in right wing instead of Dennis, I think the attack shows better fluidity with him in the lineup. But I have a hard time seeing Juan Guerra going away from Charlie Dennis after a long break, so I’m putting Mac D back in the lineup. My score prediction is a wild 3-2 Roots win with the game-winner being scored in, you guessed it, the final 15 minutes.
I share Peter’s wonderings about whether Karlsson will be available for selection today, but I lost all faith in Arsenal fans reading the tea leaves of social media when they went mad last year thinking that Arsenal had purchased the contract of Jonathan Isak because some random guy from Islington had bought an Aston Martin and gotten a custom license plate. If it turns out Peter is right, my guess is the “center forward” is Lindo Mfeka. If Oakland need some late magic, my guess is you see Memo on for Nane (or Fissore, whomever is the deepest lying defensive mid), moving Johnsen back into the midfield and shifting Azocar up to right wing. Would not be surprised to see Johnny Rodriguez on for Formella, moving Lindo to the wing, at some point.
Anyway, about Detroit, their home games against teams in the Western Conference are reason for hope: A 2-0 loss to Sac, plus draws to El Paso and New Mexico. And as Peter mentioned, DCFC’s playoff-qualifying record is mostly built on wins over godawful Eastern Conference teams. I’m going to guess Oakland has a slow start, as they get used to game speed again after 17 days off. But I think in the end, Oakland’s fresher legs will win out. 3-2 Oakland.