With the finish line in sight, the Roots head to the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains to face third-ranked Colorado Spring Switchbacks. The match is at 5:00 p.m., and will be on ESPN+ or KTVU Plus. If you want to watch with friends, you can usually find the supporters groups at Ale Industries in the Fruitvale. Both La Brigada and The Function have confirmed they’ll be there.
A Look Around the Western Conference
|11||LA Galaxy II||30||36|
Roots, as we will discuss in more detail, won last weekend. Vegas got thrashed by Hartford Athletic, New Mexico split points with San Antonio, and Phoenix Rising had a rough loss away to San Diego. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Monterey Bay won big over Indy Eleven, RGV took all three against Colorado Springs, and El Paso took the points away at Galaxy II. That allowed Roots to jump Galaxy, but El Paso is still firmly ahead with very few points left available.
In the midweek fixtures Monterey Bay drew 3-3 with Phoenix Rising in a ridiculous game. In the one relevant game that has wrapped at the time of my writing, RGV got the job done away at Charleston, and Roots remain three points back on even games played.
Switchbacks don’t have a point since September 3 when they beat Phoenix Rising 1-0 at home. Their schedule has not been easy since then, and as you can see above, Sacramento has the opportunity to pip Switchbacks for third place. Even before the run of form highlighted below, Switchbacks scored only three goals in three wins, and were blanked in Sacramento the match before that, for a total of four goals in their last seven matches.
On September 10, Colorado Springs hosted Detroit in the rain and fell 2-1.
Detroit scored on a boring header from a corner in the 42nd that you can barely see because the main camera’s lens is completely fogged over. I love this league. Detroit City scored a second in the 59th on a much more impressive goal. Antoine Hoppenot looped in a perfect cross to right around the penalty mark where Deklan Wynne rifled it in on the half-volley. Colorado Springs scored late, and had some other chances, including an incredible miss from Ngalina on the goalkeeper’s parried save, but he headed it off the post.
Switchbacks then traveled to the Rio Grande Valley, where they fell 1-0.
RGV took the lead in the 29th on a give-and-go, where the commentator described Jonas Fjeldberg as having “gotten turned,” which is funny if you imagine this old white dude means “turned up.” Switchbacks had 60% possession in a road game but mustered two shots on goal to RGV’s nine. There are only two attacking highlights for Colorado Springs in that four-minute highlight video. Switchbacks have last season’s golden boot winner and their offense just has not shown up since mid-August.
This past weekend, Switchbacks fell 1-0 to San Antonio FC in San Antonio.
You can’t really fault a team for failing to score against San Antonio, although again Switchbacks mustered only two shots on target. One of those was a free kick in the 15th minute that would have hit the SA keeper square in the face if he had not moved. Like the shot was ripped but, uh, hit it where he isn’t? Our old friend Christian Herrera had some pretty good saves. San Antonio got a penalty in the 73rd on an unlucky handball–the Switchbacks’ player’s arm was in an unnatural position, but the ball only hit it because it took a weird bounce. PC’s penalty was saved but it went off of Herrera’s feet right back into PC’s path on the follow-up for the easy goal.
So this is the form that you’d like to catch Switchbacks in, but unfortunately, they still have a lot to play for. Switchbacks concede 1.58 goals per game, so there are opportunities. Even with their lousy offensive performance recently, their season average is 1.71 goals scored per game.
|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|
|9/4||San Antonio All Grays||Home||L||0||2|
The Roots took their damn time to score against Red Bulls II.
The Roots had a bunch of shots on goal, but it really felt like they were all directly to the goalkeeper’s knees. I am now realizing, though, that Mfeka’s shot in the 38th was much better than it looked from the stands. The second half was better, with Mfeka and Karlsson almost linking up in the 53rd in a move that presaged the ultimate game-winner. Karlsson was juuuuuuust denied by an excellent tackle. Ultimately the winner in the 76th came, predictably, on an Edgardo Rito breakaway and a scrappy finish by Karlsson. The Roots have a game plan, y’know? This was not the walloping that we predicted, but it was three points, which is all the Roots care about right now. Lay the offensive egg in a game where one goal is good enough and learn from the mistakes for the rest of the run-in.
Players to Watch
It has to be Hadji Barry (#10) and Michee Ngalina (#11), even if I’ve talked about them before. Barry has 16g/9a and Ngalina has 9g/8a. Barry did not play in the last game and it doesn’t look like a discipline issues, so it is possible he is hurt. The Switchbacks offense has not been firing even in the games where he featured, but you’d rather face a team without Barry than with him.
Elvis Amoh #23 – Amoh has twelve goals on the season, although like everyone else for the Switchbacks, has not really scored recently. Amoh plays in an attacking forward role, but has impacted games much more with goals than assists. The thirty-year-old Ghanaian’s first senior team was Asante Kotoko S.C., the “Porcupine Warriors”
Amoh was RGV’s leading goal scorer last season, and converted a penalty in that mad cap win over Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs, and scored RGV’s consolation goal in the conference semifinal against San Antonio. Wikipedia tells me Amoh is 6’2″, which might be reliable.
Matt Mahoney #5 – Mahoney plays in the center of Switchbacks’ back three. Mahoney came up with the Red Bulls’ youth system, played college ball at Temple, then bounced around some development/USL teams, including a two-year stint with Sacramento Republic when he shared the field with Dariusz Formella.
Lineup and Score Predictions
Notwithstanding the constipated performance against Red Bulls II, I think this might be Delgado’s preferred attack, so I think we are likely to see Karlsson flanked by Mfeka and Formella, with Dennis and Hernandez in midfield. My one hesitation is that Colorado Springs have great attackers, and you don’t want to be the team that sparks them back into life by going all-in on attack. If Klimenta is healthy, I think he probably starts, which I guess knocks Barbir out. I think the Red Bulls game was the anomaly, and I believe there are goals in this Roots’ lineup. If the Roots can score first I like their chances, but I am very worried if they end up chasing. There’s no prize for being pessimistic and right, so I’m going to say 2-1 Roots.
My one change from the previous match is Joseph Nane in for Charlie Dennis to give the midfield a bit more defensive stability, although I’d love to see Dennis back in the starting 11 after having the hockey-assist in the game-winner against New York. Matias Fissore, I’m told, is still out. I think we see Lindo Mfeka back on the right side and Darek Formella across from him. In the back line is a re-run of the NY game as well with Emrah Klimenta on the med from his knee injury, but he’ll likely come off of the bench. My score prediction, we’re holding onto a wild one—Roots 3-2.
Assuming Klimenta is back (no idea how fit he’ll be), I like Roots to revert to type in this one. Switchbacks have struggled against back 3 formations this season (including in the Detroit and SAFC matches Pete highlighted above) and the squad will obviously want to do everything it can to make sure Switchbacks’ anemic offensive form continues. I’m guessing this is a tight one, but things change when Johnsen comes in for Klimenta to start the second half. A classic defensive error makes the scoreline closer than the game was played. 3-2 Roots.