How the fuck ya doin’, Roots fans?! The Roots have fought and clawed their way to seventh with two matches to go. This weekend they travel to Hartford to face RootsBlog villain Tom Brewitt for a 4:00p.m. Pacific kickoff on Saturday, October 8.
Hartford Athletic are a new-ish team, starting play in 2019. Athletic share Trinity Health Stadium with the New England Nightmare of the Women’s Football Alliance (tackle football). The stadium is, per wikipedia, also used by high school football teams, “including the Bulkeley Bulldogs, the Sport Medical Tigers, the Prince Tech Falcons, and the Capital Prep Trailblazers.” I just spent like 30 minutes whipping up that dogshit photoshop of the Hartford A’s logo and I should have been mocking up whatever a “Tech Falcon” or “Medical Tiger” is.
Absolutely no notes on this meticulously curated “Club Culture” section from the Wikipedia:
I will acknowledge, briefly, that the Oakland Roots are in a glass house when it comes to splitter supporters groups. That said, the entire state of Connecticut is roughly the same geographic size and population as Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties combined. They can calm down.
Hartford Athletic are owned by the conspicuously named Hartford Sports Group, a partnership of owners of a general contractor, a direct mail production facility company, and a “cloud-native technology company focused on digital transformation.” Honest to god, I prefer the genuine crooks to the clubs that are owned by these David Mamet-ass suburban grifters. One owner went to Muhlenburg College, which you’ll never believe I have an opinion on (I can’t remember the opinion, but I have/had one).
When the crest was unveiled, the club said it “represents both a nod to our heritage and a symbol of our aspirations.” I just don’t even know–like what’s the point of calling these people boring if they’re going one-up you by describing that crest as aspirational? Like, aspirational to what? Slowly losing the enjoyment of life despite your nepotism-drive rise up the managerial ranks of the township’s school supply manufacturer? “Come support Hartford Athletic, we also have lost interest in our families!” In terms of their “heritage,” for once I don’t think that’s coded racism (except in the sense that Connecticut broadly is coded racism), and instead it’s a reference to the Hartford Whalers, somehow the greatest sports (men’s professional division) that ever happened in Connecticut. It’s depressing to even mock Connecticut. It’s New England but not that pretty. The state is a waking nightmare.
Around the Western Conference
|11||LA Galaxy II||31||39|
Well, fixtures this week went pretty well and suddenly the Roots are much closer to controlling their own destiny. Strictly speaking they don’t, but results would have to get really weird for the Roots to not secure a playoff position with two more wins. Probably four points is good enough; technically 1-2 could do it.
Last Friday, the weekend started off with a 0-0 draw between Vegas and New Mexico. On Saturday RGV lost at home to Louisville City, and some other results that don’t really affect the Roots occurred. On Sunday Galaxy II took the three points from Sac, which does not matter unless the Roots fuck up real good. Monterey Bay lost at home in the Bay derby, and Monterey Bay players have voted to postpone their next game base on racist abuse that they say they received from Rowdies players.
Midweek RGV split the points in Memphis, which is not a result to scoff at, but they don’t want to be dropping points right now. Switchbacks thumped El Paso in their first game since Hadji Barry formally left, and New Mexico-Galaxy II was postponed after seven minutes.
The Roots kick off the October 8 fixtures and will be nearly done by the time RGV hosts Phoenix. After that, El Paso hosts Orange County, Vegas hosts Miami FC, and Los Dos host the Two (unclear when Tulsa-Monterey will be made up). New Mexico visits San Diego on Sunday, for the only relevant match of the weekend where the Roots aren’t behind the road team (besides the obvious one).
Are Athletic Good?
Well, they have 10 wins and have played Loudoun, RBNYII, and Atlanta II twice this season. That said, they are in pretty good form, with a record of 6-1-2 since August 13. Over those nine matches they have scored 20 goals, a little short of half of their season total.
On September 17, Hartford firmly beat Las Vegas in Connecticut.
Hartford had a couple of good opportunities early. Hartford completely victimized the Lights’ defense for the first and second goals, both in the first thirty minutes. Vegas had some chances, but Hartford avoided any trouble through a combination of luck and last-ditch goalkeeping. Hartford finished the game off with a (ugh) Tom Brewitt flying header off a corner in the 79th.
Somehow Hartford then managed to lose badly away to Loudoun.
The play-by-play guy at one point says that the keeper “trapped that [ball] with aplomb” which might be a new one for me on a save. The game stayed level until right at the 49-minute mark when Theodore Ku-Dipietro flummoxed Hartford centerback Walid Yacoubou then raced in on goal unimpeded for the easy goal. Loudoun scored twice more in the 71st and 73rd minutes to ice the game, both times just ripping up the Hartford back line.
On October 1, Hartford won an absolute barnstormer at home hosting Charleston.
Ariel Martinez opened the scoring in the 10th minute and then doubled the lead three minutes later with an easy goal for Andre Lewis at the front post. Hartford got a third in first-half stoppage time, taking advantage of an utter failure to clear the ball by the anemic Charleston defense. The second half was a 3-3 draw. Augie Williams made it a game with a beautiful strike from outside the 18-yard-box in the 51st minute. Two minutes later Apodaca made it 3-2 when Yacoubou marked him tightly on a looping cross into the box but didn’t, uh, do anything, letting Apodaca control the ball and poke it in. Shortly thereafter Andre Lewis restored the two-goal lead on a racing header to finish a firmly struck shot/pass. Shambolic defending from Hartford allowed Charleston to make it 4-3 in the 79th, but Lewis completed his hattrick when Charleston gave up a dumb penalty around the 85th. Charleston had basically given up when three minutes later Ariel Martinez got his second of the night by running past watching defenders.
|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|
I did not watch this match under the best circumstances for in-depth analysis, which is a convenient excuse for my otherwise dubious analysis.
I rewatched much of this before recording this week’s RootsPod. I thought for the first 25 minutes the Roots just generally looked like the better team, with the only really weak part leading directly to the opening goal for Birmingham. Four minutes in the pass from Hernandez over the top to Azocar running in on goal was just beautiful and it’s a shame it wasn’t finished. Barbir made a lousy turnover and Fuenmayor got caught flat footed and, like always seems to happen to the Roots, his mistake was maximally punished. It’s pretty incredible Blanchette even got a mitt near that shot, but he couldn’t keep it out. But it got better! About 145 seconds later the Roots returned the favor. Azocar sent a scorching cross from distance in towards Mfeka in the box. It didn’t beat the Birmingham defender, but he headed it right into the path of Karlsson who did not give the keeper any chance to save it.
After the equalizer there was an opportunity at either end, and then things got “cagier,” as Aaron described it on the RootsPod. Paul had two brilliant saves to keep things even going into the half.
It took 40 minutes of the second half, but our boys fucking did it. I think Charlie Dennis picked out an adventuring Fuenmayor with a cross-field diagonal ball all the way into the opposing box on the left flank. Fuenmayor controlled the ball and eased it back to Memo Diaz just at the outfield left-hand corner of the 18-yeard box. Diaz got a couple touches, giving Azocar time to ghost his marker, and Diaz put an inch-perfect right-footed curling cross into Azocar for the header from just the other side of the penalty spot crashing into the six-yard box. Legion forced one more heart-in-mouths moment when they had a chance to go clear in on goal and Blanchette adventured out to the edge of the box and just hurled himself at the ball.
An absolutely massive result for the Roots’ playoff hopes, and another good result against a good team under Noah Delgado. Someone is going to sneak into the playoffs in seventh place–this is the kind of result against a talented and well-coached team that lets you believe the Roots could have more than 90 minutes if they get there.
Players to Watch
Ariel Martinez #6 – Thirty-six year old striker Ariel Pedro Martinez Gonzalez leads Athletic with eight goals, despite only playing 930 minutes on the season, with six goals in the last nine matches. He played ten years with Sancti Spiritus, a team based in the city of the same name in Cuba, and jumped to the USL in 2015 where he has played a season for Charleston Battery, a few seasons with then-NASL The Miami FC, a season with Tulsa, a season back with now-USL The Miami, before landing with Hartford this season. Martinez is a little guy whose goals come from quick interplay and pouncing on mistakes rather than overpowering defenders.
Andre Lewis #77 – Jamaican International Andre Lewis came up with Portmore United, the team in Jamaica that plays in the Prison Oval that I mentioned in my discussion of Maalique Foster as a player to watch. Lewis was drafted by Vancouver Whitecaps, and moved to Portland Timbers 2 where he played significant minutes with Roots stalwart Max Ornstil as well as San Jose Earthquakes 2022-goals leader Jeremy Ebobisse and Augie Williams. Lewis spent the last two seasons with Switchbacks and has had a productive year for Hartford with six goals and three assists. Fotmob has Lewis as the highest rated player on Hartford and identifies him as a number ten.
Tom Brewitt #5 – This fucking guy. Twenty-five year old Brewitt is the heart of Hartford’s defense and has the most minutes on the team this season. Brewitt played for Tacoma Defiance last season, where he earned the ire of all Oakland Roots fans by looking like a bit of an a-hole. Despite a full year without seeing him, Tom Brewitt still ranks second on the current RootsBlog Player Hater Rankings, although the list is due for an update.
Players Not to Watch
Corey Hertzog (nee) #12 – Speaking of the Player Hater Rankings, Corey Hertzog was on the list at one point last season for his antics at San Diego Loyal. I think I/we hated his hair which was spiky and annoying. Anyway, Hertzog is also no longer on the roster at Hartford, having terminated his contract to move to Union Omaha. I don’t think I would bother raising Hertzog again, except to say that the preferred nickname for dudes named “Cor(e)y” is “Corndog” and this man’s name is, therefore, Corndog Hertzog. Relatedly, my bivalent booster is hitting like a ton of bricks right now.
Lineup and Score Predictions
Not sure there’s much need to post the lineup prediction, I cannot see Delgado changing anything unless there’s an injury concern or Klimenta is fully fit. I think Diaz has probably earned a starting spot, but I’m just not sure I would mess with anything. Delgado has shown he’s ready to pull the trigger on that tactical change early in the second half, so the cost of starting without Diaz is low. Anyway, I don’t think Athletic are very good, despite their current decent form, and I think Delgado has the boys playing really well right now when they need to most. I think it’s 2-1, which is what I said on RootsPod, but I can’t remember what context I gave there, so I’ll say here I think the Roots never look like losing, but also never really put the game away. I’m probably contradicting myself.
We’re all in agree in the lineup; no changes. I could certainly see Emrah Klimenta back in the 11, but Roots are playing well right now and I think Noah Delgado is a coach who rewards productivity. With just two matches left, I feel he wants changes to be minimal–although I’d love to see Captain Klimenta back with the starters. As for my score prediction, I’m standing on my prediction on RootsPod with a convincing 3-1 Oakland win.
No changes to the lineup, so no need to waste valuable screen space with a new version of the same graphic. Roots look like they’re flying right now, but so do Hartford. My largely uneducated impression is that Hartford are somehow prone to even greater defensive mistakes than Oakland, and I think that makes the difference here. 3-2 to the Roots.