WHAT A GAME, WHAT A TEAM! The Noah Delgado era has only just begun, and begun with a bang, but the Roots have very little time to come down off of their MASSIVE 3-1 away win over San Diego before heading off for their second(?) away fixture of the season against Sacramento. That match will be at 8:00p.m. at Heart Health Park, although I assume many of you readers have taken the team’s offer to be your designated driver to that match. I am in the process of moving, which is why I will not be going to Sacramento, and also why this preview might not be thorough. The game should be available on both ESPN+ and KTVU Plus.
Around the Western Conference
So the Roots had the only Western Conference game since we last looked at the table, but that result makes the table a lot more appealing. Suddenly the Roots are a point off of a playoff spot with a game in hand. Admittedly, Phoenix and Monterey are close behind with two matches in hand each, but at least they are now four points back, not one. I think mathematically the Roots don’t control their own destiny, but Phoenix/Monterey Bay are no more likely to win out than the Roots are to lose out, so in essence the Roots control their own destiny.
Honestly, I expected Sac’s form to be scarier than it was when I pulled it up. Their Open Cup run is awesome, and if was basically any other USL senior team I would be celebrating it. They had a four-game win streak, including a win over San Antonio, in June, but are 3-4-3 since then. In their last four they have a home draw to RGV Toros, who currently sit last in the Western Conference.
Sac followed that up with a 1-0 loss away to Monterey Bay.
Sacramento had 60% possession, but mustered only two shots on goal. One of those came in the 5th minute and was saved by a huge diving effort from the MB keeper. The winner came on a header in the 14th that was extremely well executed, but not the most exciting highlight. The first two minutes of this two-and-a-half minute highlight video are all before the 26th minute of the match, so I cannot imagine suffering through this one live.
On August 17, Sacramento dispatched Colorado Springs at Heart Health Park.
Colorado Springs remain in third in the table, but they are 3-3-7 since June 24. Colorado Springs are benefitting from the same malaise by the mid-table Western clubs that have kept the Roots in the race. Maalique Foster put Republic ahead right at the eleven-minute mark, pouncing on a spilled save by the Colorado Springs keeper. I don’t have quite the same level of envy, but I think Foster has taken the mantle from Ronaldo Damus as the player I most covet from a rival. He is in a similar mold, as well, as an extremely pacey forward, but with better finishing than the Roots’ options in that position. The second was a very long-range low effort by Matt Lagrassa that I guess the keeper must have lost track of in traffic. Keko put the game away for Sac with basically the same goal in the first minute of first half stoppage time. The Roots get Switchbacks again this season, and it seems the answer is “just shoot, the keeper won’t do anything.”
A week ago, Sacramento fell 2-1 at Las Vegas.
Again, Sacramento mustered only two shots on target. Sacramento were gifted a penalty in the 7th, when the Vegas keeper Abraham Romero just sorta pushed over Duke Lacroix in the box. Honestly pretty funny. It’s the kind of thing that a referee would want to just let go if it happened to Luis Suarez. Vegas equalized in the 23rd on a great breakaway, which is sorta what I thought Sacramento’s whole system was set up to prevent. Seventy seconds into first half stoppage time, Vegas took the lead with some tricky interplay culminating in Iskendrian somehow taking two touches in the box, the first to pop the ball over a prone defender and the second to bury the goal.
Sac’s form is mixed. Their US Open Cup (and gradual rise up the Western Conference) have colored opinions of them, but I think they may just be a team that is extremely well built for cup competition. Even as they have fought their way up the table, Sac are still twelve points behind San Deigo and seventeen behind San Antonio, which is to say, the good teams.
|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|
|8/24||Pweese No Steppy||Away||W||3||1|
Did Roots deserve to win this game? BALL DOES NOT LIE.
I had stepped away from the tv when Loyal went head, so I learned of it through a text message. Was not in a rush to get back to see a highlight, but came back just in time to see the Roots equalize. It says something about Blanchette’s day (and San Diego’s) that even their goal came off of a Blanchette save. The pass from Dennis to Azocar for the Roots equalizer was a thing of beauty. We know that Dennis can make that pass, he just never seems to do it when it really counts, so it was wonderful to see him do it when it counted so much. I thought this might be Dennis’s best game in a Roots’ jersey. Klimenta’s goal to go ahead seemed like slow motion on tv, it must have been agonizing for San Diego. lol. Ultimately it was a pretty simple header, but the awareness to see that the ball was coming to him, and the focus to put the header in a perfect location are a real credit to Klimenta’s professionalism.
The second half was the Paul Blanchette show. He finished the game with nine saves, and few of them were cheap. In the 88th, Memo Diaz hoofed a clearance that he will claim was intended to land where Rito would get their first at midfield with a full head of steam. It is incredible that Rito manages to outrun the two Loyal players when he’s dribbling and they’re not, but he did and then beat the keeper with a professional striker’s finish.
Three points might have been an optimistic prediction for the Loyal-Republic-San Antonio fixtures, and the Roots have secured that.
Players to Watch
It’s Sacramento, my guy, you know which players to watch out for. Don’t let Foster beat you to the long ball.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I don’t know if Karlsson and Enriquez will be available for selection. I hope not (for their sake and their family’s sake). I don’t think that Delgado is likely to make any changes that he doesn’t have to. I thought Nane looked immense when he came on against San Diego, and I suspect he comes in to make sure Fissore doesn’t fall apart. I am not sure if Johnsen is hurt, since he came off in the 61st on Wednesday, so I think Mfeka in that role if Johnsen is out.
I was not optimistic going into the San Diego match. I am not sure how to game this out here. I think 2-2 but maybe the Roots spoil the party this time instead of vice versa.
I’m locking in the same lineup for the third straight game. With the birth of Karlsson’s child just three days ago, I’m doubting he’s back in the States. My one change from Bloom’s lineup is Mati in the midfield just because I think continuity is the approach Delgado is going for. It’s worth mentioning that Jose Hernandez went off late against San Diego for Danny Barbir, so hopefully that doesn’t mean he picked up a knock–same goes for Johnsen. As for my score prediction, Oakland is well aware that they need a win, I’m going 2-1 Roots.
Add me to the chorus acknowledging that it is likely we see the same/a similar lineup here as previous fixtures. I continue to think a change of shape is in order (the CBs are playing *a lot*, Johnsen seems to be wearing down a bit, Formella does so much dirty work in the midfield that it makes more sense to get an additional forward-shaped attacker on the pitch particularly with Karlsson and Enriquez likely unavailable), but whatevs–the squad looked on it against San Diego, so don’t upset the team’s rhythm. I back the Roots to ride the momentum of the last win here, 2-1 Oakland.