After a rocky, but strange, opening to the season in San Antonio, the Roots keep racking up those redundant frequent flyer miles with a trip down the Rio Grande Valley to Edinburg, Texas to face RGV Toros at H-E-B Park on March 19, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. There are supporters group watch parties for the match at Old Kan in West Oakland and at Frank’s in San Leandro. The team is sponsoring a watch party at Hidden Spot. I will not be in attendance because I am in:
I’ll see you all next weekend at Laney.
Last season the Roots met RGV twice, the first on March 12, both teams’ season opener.
Akeem Ward started for the Roots against the team he would end up finishing the season for. He would start the next game, and then never again for Oakland, getting dealt just before Guerra skipped town anyway. The Roots also ran out Taylor Bailey in goal and a front two of Mfeka and Formella, with Karlsson not yet available, so it was very much a first week team. The lone goal came from a pretty awful pass by Alejandro Fuenmayor who, under pressure in the Roots’ box, attempted a long vertical pass towards the center circle, but there was no Roots player particularly close and RGV intercepted, made a couple passes forward, and Frank Lopez went on his left foot, threading the needle between Klimenta and Bailey. Roots had a couple decent chances to equalize, one that Mfeka probably should have made simpler, and one that Nane did not have much time to react to.
The teams met again in June, with the Roots in significantly better form on 3-3-0 over their prior six. The Roots ran out a more familiar roster for this one, with Jose/Mati/Johnsen in midfield and Karlsson up front with Mfeka. Still not the settled roster, though, as future-“remembering-some-guys”-All-Star-deep-cut Benny Diaz lined up between the sticks.
RGV opened the scoring again by intercepting an errant clearing pass, this time from Benny Diaz, playing some clean passes, and then scoring ultimately a pretty simple goal. A long cross from the left found some guy’s head at the back post, and landed cleanly for some other guy about six yards out. Ten minutes later RGV doubled their lead on an Ackwei worldy pivoting volley about 15 yards out, off-center to RGV’s attacking right. Very little the Roots could do about that one except stop giving away easy possession.
Juan Carlos Azocar scored in the 78th and then he and Karlsson got in a shoving match with Ackwei in the goal while trying to get the ball back to the center circle. In the 88th Charlie Dennis equalized on a deflected low shot. Roots ended up with THREE good chances to get a winner in stoppage time, but it was not to be and the teams split the points.
These two results were a pretty fair reflection of how the regular season would go for the teams. RGV’s 2022 regular season ended on 49 points, good for sixth place, three points ahead of the Roots. That earned RGV a trip to Colorado Springs, that went great for them for 80 minutes and very very poorly for ten.
RGV had a mediocre offseason, bringing in notably Haitian winger Christian Francois and Venezuelan leftback Gabriel Benitez, and not much else (unless I missed something (all I did was read USL Tactics)). RGV also returns head coach Wilmer Cabrera, who Edson Ochoa mentioned to us early last year he really believed in. I think there’s good reason for that, as Cabrera took a solid but uninspiring team to the playoffs.
RGV Toros got off to a slow start to their season, falling 1-1 at home to Las Vegas Lights, a team projected to be absolutely awful this season. Vegas broke off their partnership with LAFC, and relatedly lost Danny Trejo and Cal Jennings.
So let’s look at this game.
The opener was an absolutely tremendous own goal by RGV.
RGV’s equalizer in first half stoppage time was legit awesome, Ricardo Ruiz thrashed it in the far top corner from the corner of the 18-yard box.
Erik Pimentel picked up a straight red card for going full horizontal mid-air on a corner kick, and if your question is “why,” I suspect everyone including Pimentel and his manager is asking the same. I am not upset that we’ll see the Roots this weekend against a team without one of their starting centerbacks.
Well, that game could’ve gone better.
The first goal was objectively awful from the Roots. Klimenta was so far up the field, and the defense just got carved up. I think I tagged Niko Hansen as a potential threat in this game? Let’s say I did. Anyway, he just migrated his way across the 18-yard-box until he got to the middle and then shot down the open lane to the near post. So that was annoying.
The glass-half-empty way to look at this game is that San Antonio took their foot off the gas once they went ahead, and the Roots wouldn’t have hung with SAFC if SAFC still needed a goal for the three points. But I don’t know if that’s right–it’s not how the game looked to me.
San Antonio doubled their lead on an overhead kick by Lamar Batista and I’m still extremely red-assed about it. It wasn’t a fluke in the sense that Batista meant to do it, but it was a fluke in that if you give him another 100 chances I bet he hits it about three times. Defense should still have stopped it.
Formella had a chance in first half stoppage time he should have done more with. Rito created a decent chance early in the second half, but put it to Lindo in a difficult position to score. Rito also created the chance (and got the assist) for the Memo goal. The third goal, to basically leach the competitiveness out of the game, was absolutely luck from Batista. Luckily, a second team that disproportionately impacts my happiness couldn’t give up a half-field goal in the same week. That would be too much.
I wish the Roots had looked better, but I’d rather they look unprepared than look prepared and bad. I do not expect the Roots to finish ahead of San Antonio this season.
Players to Watch
Ricardo Ruiz #12 – Ruiz netted RGV’s loan goal on the season from the right-sided winger/wingback position. Ruiz is from Riverside County and played at UC Riverside, before five seasons bouncing around lower-division USL and NISA teams. Ruiz had 35 appearances last season with RGV and scored four.
Jose Francisco Torres #7 – Wikipedia tells me this guy’s nickname is “Gringo,” which I am very much unqualified to offer comment on. The thirty-five-year-old lines up in central midfield and played a number of years in Liga MX and racked up a couple-dozen appearances for the USMNT in the early 2010s, which I suspect resulted in the nickname. Below I predict that Nane starts for the Roots, and I appreciate that he’ll likely be lining up against a guy who is almost as old as him.
Frank Nodarse #15 – lol “Nod-arse”
Lineup and Score Predictions
Tamacas got into training on Thursday, which does not give him much time to settle. I’m really torn on whether he can start, but I’m leaning towards no. Noah did not give Pelaez the start on a similar amount of time to settle. I bet Tamacas gets in off the bench late. After seeing some game time last week, I think Pelaez takes his starting role this week. He had some good looks against San Antonio, and what better time than the present. No day but today. Given the settling with Tamacas, I think the defense remains the same—Rito and Memo were essentially the only two people discussed for man of the match for the Roots, so I don’t see why you’d change that. I think the bigger question is probably Barbir, who looked lackluster, or Murray, who may not be quite ready. I didn’t think Nane would start last week, and while I think he looked pretty good when he was on the ball, I’m not sure he was on the ball as much as you want out of your central midfielder. But if Noah picked him last week I bet he picks him again.
Roots 1 – RGV 1
This is a copy/paste of my opening day lineup guess. Starting up top, I’m going with Pelaez in the 9-role after looking productive his limited time against San Antonio. On the left side, I also think Trayvone Reid was impressive in seven minutes of regulation versus SAFC, and I feel he was enough of a difference-maker to instantly enter the starting 11. Now to the back, Tamacas joined Roots’ training for the first time this week. He pretty much confirmed he’s hoping to get minutes against RGV, so my guess is we’ll see him at some point in the second half.
As for my score prediction, I’m sticking with my 2-nil Roots win prediction on RootsPod. RGV had some bad moments against Las Vegas and my hope is they haven’t worked out the issues in one week of practice.
Looks like there’s general agreement here on who will get minutes, but a hint of disagreement about when those minutes occur. I think Roots have to start Reid. Having speed on the field in addition to Rito is going to be huge for this attack. I think you’ve got to start Tamacas, personally. I’m just sort of guessing at whose spot he takes on the back line, but I think you start him. You don’t often see rotational subs along a back line, so if he’s going to get minutes they’ll be from the off. 2-1 Roots, imo. Lots of chances, still not enough clinicality, but enough havoc created in RGV’s box to see out the win here.