Hello Roots fans and happy game day! Coming off of a mixed week of results against former Pacific Division rivals, the Roots host Western Conference leaders San Antonio F.C. at 7:00 p.m. at Laney. The match will only be available on ESPN+. The Roots are celebrating Pride on Saturday, including a drag queen show, a march to the match from the Oakland LGTBQ Center, at the northeast end of Lake Merritt, and half-time trivia hosted by Oakland’s own Amy Schneider. Just briefly, I would like to say that I am so incredibly stoked to see the Amy Schneider/Oakland Roots crossover. Dr. RootsBlog and I got very into Jeopardy when we started working from home in 2020 and realized we could DVR it. We were so excited to watch Amy’s trailblazing run, especially the way she represented Oakland. If the Roots can play against San Antonio half as well as Amy Schneider clowned on basically everyone, they’ll take the three points.
Around the Western Conference
With the Roots taking three points off of top-half teams in one week, the damage was not as bad as it could have been. Moreover, the Roots’ game-in-hand disadvantage is more or less gone. The Roots are four points shy of the last playoff spot, and seven points shy (with two games in hand) on the six seed. San Antonio are really good, but even if the Roots don’t get a result, they have six more games to try to pull it out.
San Antonio’s Form
This is possibly the best time to be catching the Western Conference pace-setters. SAFC are 2-2-2 in their last six, a run that started with a 1-1 home draw to Galaxy II, a 3-0 loss in San Diego, and a 2-1 home win over Loudoun. Not the most inspiring stuff.
They followed that up with a 2-0 win over Las Vegas, which is a decent result this season, even if it was in San Antonio.
Patiño really should have scored in the 2nd minute, a header reached him at the post and there was more goal in front of him than not and he somehow put it wide across the face of goal. Nicky Hernandez opened the scoring in the 34th with a pretty astonishing goal from range at at angle that I don’t feel like I have seen much from open play. The second in first-half stoppage time is perplexingly credited as an own goal. The free kick was perfectly curled to the back post and Khmeri headed it emphatically down and into the spine of Alex Lara, from whence it rebounded into the net. The highlights suggest that Vegas was never really in this one, which is pretty incredible since they had 2/3 of the ball away from home.
SAFC then hosted RGV Toros and eked out a 2-2 draw.
RGV started things in the South Texas Derby with a 34th minute shot through traffic that deflected away from Jordan Farr’s gloves. The second like two minutes later was an absolute belter from our lad Akeem O’Connor-Ward. Always rated him. RGV were denied by the post twice early in the second half, and on the second one Eric Pimentel was called offside, which is hard to evaluate with no replay and from the awful midfield camera angle, but idk, man, he seemed well onside to me. This was apparently the wake-up call the All Grays needed, as Shannon Gomez did some great striker hold-up play against Ward and managed to turn and shoot to the far post for the 2-1. The finally five-and-a-half minutes into six minutes of stoppage time, SAFC put in a dubious free kick, but Mitch Taintor hurled himself at it and rocketed the header in across the face of goal for the equalizer.
This past weekend, San Antonio fell 1-0 on the road to Indy Eleven, a team that only has 28 points despite sharing a division with Loudoun, Charleston, Atlanta 2, and Red Bulls 2.
Indy’s came from a good bit of close-control in the box and some surprising indecision by Jordan Farr and the SAFC defense.
SAFC have the second best defense in the league by goals conceded, but I am pretty firmly a believer that the Eastern Conference is much easier, so SAFC may have the best defense in the USL. SAFC concede less than a goal per game, although they have conceded eight over their last six. Their offense (1.54g/90) is almost a dead heat with the Roots’ (1.52g/90).
|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|
|8/27||Elk Grove Republic||Away||L||0||1|
I mean, I have enjoyed games more than this.
I am trying to watch these highlights and basically the only good thing I have to say about them is that Paul Blanchette makes some absurd saves. I said on RootsPod that Sac didn’t impress me in this game, and I stand by that, but their record shows they are pretty good, and I think the positive spin here is that they could only barely crack Oakland.
Players to Watch
Mitchell Taintor #3 – I highlighted Uncle T-Bag in my preview for the other half of this fixture. I am seeing regular calls on twitter for Taintor to be MVP this season, which is remarkable for a centerback and a sign I should probably follow fewer USL accounts. With the goal above, Taintor is up to five on the season. Harry told us on the RootsPod that Taintor is a good guy, and yet twitter tells me he’s a Manchester United fan.
Mohamed Abu #25 – Abu joined Manchester City at age 19, but never made an appearance, apparently repeatedly signing contracts but being unable to get a work permit(?), I don’t really trust Wikipedia here. Anyway, he spent three seasons with a Norwegian first division side, tried his luck briefly in La Liga and Ligue 1 before playing another three seasons back at Stromsgodset in Norway. He did season and a half with Columbus Crew in 2017-18 before again returning to the Eliteserien. The man loves Norway I guess? Makes sense that he would now be completely settled in San Antonio. The 30-year-old Ghanaian anchors the San Antonio midfield. Abu has appearances for the Black Stars, although he has not been called up in five years.
Santiago Patiño #9 – I have gone over the other forwards, Dhillon and Adeniran, in my last SAFC preview (linked above), so it’s only fair I take a look at Patiño’s background. Patiño has five goals on the year, which is a good tally for an Oakland leftback. I think Patiño plays on the right, opposite Dhillon on the left (with Adeniran in the middle). He was born in Colombia and played in their youth set-up, but has never been called up to the senior team. Patiño started at FIU while moonlighting with some lower-league teams in the Orlando area before getting noticed by the Sounders academy and moving to Orlando City for the 2019-20 seasons (although barely getting on the pitch).
Defense – Harry tells us that Fabien Garcia (#4) is probably out for this match, and Carter Manley (#2 –not to be confused with Connor Maloney) might be out for this match. If you don’t see those two on the lineup card, then San Antonio are playing without players that they would like to have.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I think things stay basically the same, with the exception of getting Karlsson back in the starting 11. Could see Mfeka get the start, but I doubt it. I would personally probably start Nane over Fissore, but (a) it’s a close call, and (b) I don’t think the coaching staff agrees with me, I’ve just liked what I’ve seen from Nane mostly in the last couple. As for how the game goes, I think Oakland are going to bounce back and play with energy against San Antonio, taking advantage of SAFC’s busier schedule (they did not recently get a month off) and longer flight with two time-zone changes. We’re told SAFC might still have injuries on defense, and I think the SD game shows us that Delgado can get a performance out of a team he did not build. 2-1 Roots, what the hell.
I’m going minimal changes with Ottar back in the lineup. Although I list Johnsen at left wing, I’m hoping to see Lindo Mfeka in the role. I think Johnsen’s form hasn’t been totally ground breaking and Mfeka is a true leader in the locker room. Also, I’d love to see Lindo get some revenge on San Antonio’s Jordan Farr for mocking his injury back when they last played. My score prediction, like Bloom and Lawson, is a 2-1 Roots win. It’s going to be tough to break San Antonio’s defense despite their possible injuries, but I have confidence in this group.
Gonna predict a small curveball here. Mostly for the lolz (I agree with my compatriots that we’re unlikely to see much change), but here’s a potential explanation: Johnsen has to be on the field to start, I think. Oakland have been using him as a winger, but I think Formella has earned the start on the left, and the Johnson-Rito connection on the right hasn’t really clicked this season. So stick him central midfield. He won’t play a full 90 (he’s only done that twice this season), and you need a dedicated DM I think, so he plays the first 60, and then Hernandez takes over for the final half hour. I like Rito and Azocar on the same side to put maximum pressure on SAFC down the right, and Memo on for the long balls that put pressure on a suddenly-maybe-shaky SAFC backline. 2-1 Oakland.