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Oakland Roots vs. New York Red Bulls II – Match Preview (September 17, 2022)

The Oakland Roots host New York Red Bulls II at 7:00 p.m. at Laney College on Saturday, September 17, 2022, celebrating Conoce Tus Raíces night. As a home match, it will only be available on ESPN+ and will become uncomfortably dark by about the 35th minute. Roots come into this off of the most feel-good win of the season over Phoenix Rising in Wild Horse pass. The Baby Bulls come into this match with a season point-total that Manchester City would consider disappointing over five matches.

Honorable mention here to Catch-22’s “The Spark,” for its Roots theming.

The Club

New York Red Bulls were a founding MLS team under their original moniker the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (I am not above this cheap shot, but the branding was seriously “New York/New Jersey.”) The MetroStars brought in expensive old Europeans, including Lothar Matthaeus, with limited success. Their first real success came after bringing in Bob Bradley as manager in 2003. In 2006 the MetroStars were purchased by the Austrian energy drink company Red Bull, famous for being inadvisably mixed with vodka. RBNY was the second first-division club bought by Red Bull marketing, after (what became) RB Salzburg. They have subsequently purchased a feeder and top division club in Brazil, and in 2009 purchased the league license from SSV Markranstaedt for their new club RB Leipzig. I have mixed feelings about RB Leipzig. Ultimately I come down on the same side as Roots friends St. Pauli. That said, it does not say great things about Germany that there are rarely any first division clubs in the former East Germany. An economic failure of reintegration that I think is hard to separate from the rise of far right politics in the former East.

Speaking of far-right politics: Austrian conglomerates! Red Bull was founded by Austrian now-billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz who expressed in an interview in 2017 that Austria should close its borders to immigration and further expressed a generalized approval for Donald Trump. More like Dietrich Piece-of-schitz. Got him.

Red Bulls II were founded in 2015 as a USL team and they used to even be competitive! In 2016 they won the USL Cup with a 15-goal campaign from Brandon Allen (sigh) and 33 appearances from 16-year-old Tyler Adams. That team also featured Junior Flemmings, who played a number of years in USL before moving to Ligue 2 this past season (and is a regular for the Jamaica national team over the last two years), and Aaron Long who has been a regular for Red Bulls Eins basically since that USL championship. The Baby Bulls only have the one title, but were a double-digit win team every year until 2020, but they have been atrocious since 2020.

Red Bulls II play on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. Aaron and I use to take road trips to go to parties at the house of this obscenely rich guy we kinda knew, and the guy owned several bars, so his house was always stocked with beer he got as promotions or in bulk and wasn’t able to sell. This sounds awesome, but it was Heineken Light, which is NOT AWESOME. Honestly, that’s the story he told us, but in retrospect I suspect he just invested in Heineken Light futures and forgot to and/or was unable to re-sell, so he got stuck with the actual “beer” and was too embarrassed to admit that. The house had a beautiful view of New York City and looked like the Clue mansion.

Red Bulls II Form

Red Bulls II have managed three wins and fourteen point so far this season, good enough for dead last in the Eastern Conference, despite two games each against Loudoun, Atlanta II, and Charleston. Arguably, NYRB2’s form has improved somewhat, in that they are 1-2-4 in their last seven, but I’m not sure that’s a pattern so much as the human brain’s desire to find order in chaos.

On August 31, Red Bulls II hosted Hartford Athletic and put up a (sorta) respectable 3-3 draw.

Red Bulls scored in the 18th second of the game, a give-and-go up the right side between Jonathan Filipe and O’Vonte Mullings brought the ball to the box and the Red Bulls just flooded the box so that, despite a solid save on the first effort, Jesus Castellanos was able to ricochet in the second. Less than two minutes later, a probably-offside Jordan Adebayo-Smith played in Felipe to double the Red Bulls 2’s lead. At the time, these two minutes accounted for 10% of Red Bull II’s offensive output for the season. The vile Tom Brewitt pulled one back five minutes into the second half with a header off of a free kick, but Red Bulls must have thought they’d have their fourth win when Jonathan Felipe completed his brace in the 71st, heading in a sharp cross at the near post that the keeper was helpless to save. Red Bulls had those three points in the bag going into stoppage time, at which point the wheels came entirely off. Just shy of two minutes into stoppage time, Hartford put in a header on a pretty simple cross into the box, and then Hartford equalized at with five-and-a-half of the six minutes of stoppage time gone. The equalizer was an emphatic shot over the keeper’s shoulder from a tight angle. This ends the fourth best game of the season for Red Bulls II.

On September 3, RBII traveled away to Charleston Battery, a team that, at the time, had four wins. With how rarely they have hit the mark this season, they’re really more of a Charleston Assault.

Aidan Apodaca, who the Roots faced twice last year when he was on Orange County, opened the scoring with a clean finish, capping off a devastating breakaway that Charleston forced from a midfield turnover. The second goal came from a penalty, that I guess was awarded for an RBII defender holding a Charleston player in the box on a corner kick? Seems iffy to me. The penalty did not fool the keeper one bit, but he wasn’t quite able to reach it on his dive. Augie Williams scored a third on a breakaway in second half stoppage time and then took his shirt off in celebration. Do we know any teams that have the potential to punish a team on the breakaway from midfield turnovers?

On September 9, Red Bulls II hosted Miami FC and got mauled.

The opener was a pretty slick bit of play by Adebayo-Smith. That was the end of the goods news. Just past the 18-minute mark Joaquin Rivas tied things up. Seven minutes later Rivas put in the go-ahead goal, and in a sense, the remaining <checks notes> five goals that Miami scored did not really mean anything. There’s not much to say about the goals–Red Bulls’ defense could not clear the ball and they were punished every time. Red Bulls picked up a red card but only after the score was 5-1.

Roots Form

DateOpponentVenueResultGFGA
3/12RGV TorosAwayL01
3/19MemphisAwayL12
3/26Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, CaliforniaHomeL23
3/30New Mexico UnitedAwayD22
4/02Tampa Bay RowdiesHomeD00
4/13January 6 Apologists SCHomeD22
4/16Horsegirl UnitedHomeW41
4/23Lokomotiv ProkhodAwayD11
4/30Colorado Springs Troop AppreciatorsHomeL03
5/7Orb CountyAwayD22
5/14AFC Pure Uncut Nevada ChaosAwayD11
5/21Galaxia de Carson, TwoHomeW10
5/28Central Valley RepublicHomeD11
6/1Orb CountyHomeW32
6/4Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, CaliforniaAwayW20
6/11RGV TorosHomeD22
6/15New Mexico UnitedHomeL12
6/22Five Shades of Gray, F.C.AwayD11
6/29“The Two”HomeW31
7/01“The Two” but CaliforniaAwayL13
7/09ExcrementoAwayD33
7/16More like Ex Paso, Right? Is that a thing? What about Lol Paso?HomeW40
7/23AFC Pure Uncut Nevada ChaosHomeL02
7/27PhoenixHomeD00
8/13[Censored] FCAwayD11
8/24Pweese No SteppyAwayW31
8/27Elk Grove RepublicAwayL01
9/3San Antonio All GraysHomeL02
9/10Johnny WarAwayW20

If you’d told us in April that that Roots would cruise to a 2-0 win over Phoenix in September at Wild Horse Pass, we’d have thought the Roots were having a much better season than they are. The Roots lined up a little differently last week, with Dennis partnering with Fissore in the midfield. This was by necessity as Jose’s yellow card accumulation suspension was two games. Up top Mfeka was opposite Formella on either side of Karlsson, and Barbir came in for a an injured Morad.

Folks with the team are constantly telling us how good Mfeka is, and how much of a shame it is that he struggles to stay fit. This game was an absolute beauty from Mfeka.

I disagreed with the other RootsBlog folks (and apparently the rest of the world) about which is the better goal. As Jon pointed out, in addition to Mfeka’s contribution, on the first goal Formella does a great job of drawing Santi Moar away from Mfeka, clearing the lane for Mfeka to release a powerful bouncing shot. The color commentary on this one is lovely:

The desert parts, and the sea opens wide for Mfeka.

You can’t allow it. He will punish you every single time, taking personal offense to the comments just prior.

“I can’t be the one? I won’t be denied? Watch. This. Strike.”

I am pretty sure that each section of this is internally contradictory.

Anyway, on the second, the interplay between Mfeka and Karlsson is just so slick and efficient. I complained about Formella’s performance on RootsPod, and I maintain that he is not bringing as much as I would like, but I will credit him again here for dragging his man wide so Azocar can carry the ball to the center and set up the give-and-go between Mfeka and Karlsson. I think Formella’s movement has also free Azocar to run with Mfeka into the box, and he was available for a tap-in if Mfeka had run out of space and needed to pass instead of shoot.

Overall, the Roots got a little lucky with balls off the wood work, but the Roots also got pretty unlucky with a referee that was afraid to show a second yellow, afraid to award penalties, and essentially guessing on offsides calls. I’m pretty sure Rito was called offside on a pass where he was a good 2-3 yards onside. Just utter insanity. I hate that I miss VAR.

Players to Watch

We discussed this on this week’s RootsPod, but NYRB2 are a very young team. Some of the MLS youth teams I think run out some veterans, presumably either so they have someone to plug-in to the senior team in a pinch, or to help develop the talent as on-field coaches. Red Bulls 2 barely do so. They have only a single player over the age of twenty-six, and five players over the age of twenty-four. Of those five, only one has more than 9 appearances.

Jordan Adebayo-Smith #30 – Twenty-two year-old forward Adebayo-Smith is under contract with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, with whom he played last season. I am not exactly sure the logic of a USL team loaning a player to an MLS developmental team, unless it’s with the hope that he thrives and the MLS team buys him. Adebayo-Smith played in the Lincoln City academy including a loan spell with Boston United (not that Boston). Adebayo-Smith leads Red Bulls 2 in goals, with six, and has also contributed three assists.

O’Vonte Mullings #88 – Twenty-one-year-old winger/wingback Mullings grew up in Toronto and played in the FC Durham (not that Durham) youth setup, before playing college ball for Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers. Mullings was the 20th overall selection in the 2022 SuperDraft, a pick that Red Bulls traded up to secure. Mullings is tall in the winger role, at 5’10”, and pretty clearly has some attacking skills, contributing five assists this season, and scoring 28 times in his college career.

Lineup and Score Predictions

Bloom

This is my prediction, but not my pick. I think I put Hernandez/Dennis in the midfield to try it out, and I think I take out Formella and put in, idk, Johnsen. If Klimenta’s injury was serious, and Morad is not back, I think everything gets changed. Barbir/Fuenmayor with Diaz/Rito outside of them. Then you definitely keep a defensive mid in Nane or Fissore, and put Azocar in as an outside forward, opposite Mfeka. I don’t hate this plan anyway, but I don’t think it happens if there are three of the normal four centerbacks ready to play.

Anyway, Red Bulls II are the worst team in the USL, and even in New Jersey the Roots really should batter them. They make defensive errors, and I think the Roots capitalize. 3-0 Roots.

Jon

My guess here is anticipating injuries from the previous game. With Emrah and Mati dealing with what appeared to be knee issues, my prediction is that they’ll be out of the starting 11. I have Joseph Nane in place of Fissore and Tarek Morad returning from an injury in place of Klimenta. I would also like to see Dennis slotted into the midfield role alongside Jose Hernandez, and I think it could pay out on the attacking end, but I’m unsure if Dennis gets a start above Nane–who has been getting routine minutes. In the attack, I’m reloading the front three from the win in Phoenix.

I’m going with a solid 2-nil Roots clean sheet.

Aaron

I was able to get in touch with Aaron’s counsel, who objected to my request for a prediction on the grounds that it is unanswerably vague and ambiguous, overly broad and unduly burdensome. She further objected to the extent it calls for confidential information of her client as well as her client’s employees, agents, officers, partners, heirs, and assigns. She further objected to the extent that it prematurely seeks the disclosure of expert testimony. Finally, she objected to the extent that this request called for information protected by the attorney-client privilege, the attorney work product doctrine, the common interest doctrine, and other applicable privileges. When I asked if she was directing him not to answer she responded: 3-1 Roots.

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