Laney! Laney! Party Time! Excellent! Oakland Roots host their first home match of the season March 25, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. at Laney College Stadium by beautiful Lake Merritt(‘s weird tidal estuary). The match is “Write Your Roots” Night, where the team inadvisably asks fans to add their verse to the “all-Town epic poetry project” with Chapter 510. “Poetry” is one of those words that you can’t really describe as “epic” without just changing what you’re saying (“Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of
Troy Memphis. Many were the men whose cities he saw and whose mind he learned, aye, and many the woes he suffered in his heart upon the sea…”). Anyway, we’re a lot of fun to hang out with, hope to see you at the game!
I went into some of the background of Memphis 901 in the blog last year. The highpoints are:
- The principal owner also owns Dagenham & Redbridge currently eleven places behind Wrexham in the National League (belated spoiler alert). 538’s soccer rankings argues that Memphis 901 are a considerably better team.
- The celebrity owner is Tim Howard, whose opinions I respect significantly more now that Arsenal are less shitty.
- Roots legend Brandon Allen scored 10 goals in 901’s first season in 2019.
Memphis 901’s first two season in USL were lousy, finishing near the bottom of the table in both, but they made a playoff appearance in 2021 behind Kyle Murphy’s (now of Miami FC) twenty goal campaign. Last season Memphis finally broke out, with a 21-5-8 record, good enough for second in the East one point ahead of Tampa Bay. Memphis were lead by Phillip Goodrum, who tallied 21 goals (none PKs) and 5 assists. In the first round of the playoffs, Memphis hosted Detroit City and the teams played 72 minutes of scoreless football before trading goal in the 72nd and 77th minute. La Merde Rouge could not hold on, however, and conceded in the 88th and once more in the 94th for good measure. The call on the Goodrum goal in the 94th was, I believe, “finds Goodrum. A chipped shot will do it. Here’s a shot from near midfield. Go baby! Go baby! He did it!” Drury-esque.
Memphis hosted Tampa Bay in the Conference Semifinals, and this time went 99 minutes without either team scoring. The teams combined for three shots on target. The match highlights include two from the first half and both are shots that miss the target entirely. When soccer people are like “no, seriously, 0-0 draws can be exciting!” this is the game they hope you don’t see. However, the end of this game was wild and I completely forgot about it. First Memphis earned a penalty two minutes into second-half stoppage time, when Jordan Scarlett just knocked over a Memphis player who was trying to pressure the Tampa keeper, but not particularly close. An utter mental lapse by Scarlett, but it didn’t matter because a combination of an only okay shot by Aaron Molloy and a good guess by Phillip Breno lead to a save. Then two minutes later (the four minutes of stoppage time extended because of the prior penalty) Tampa is awarded a penalty when a Tampa striker is crashing the box, gets mugged by two Memphis defenders (apparently legally), but the ball slips through to another Tampa attacker and the Memphis keeper Muse leaves a foot out (I think distracted by the non-call on the assault he just witnessed) and the Tampa player goes over for a nailed-on penalty. Muse guesses wrong on the penalty and Memphis’s season is over.
Memphis retained Aaron Molloy and Phillip Goodrum from their 2022 team (Goodrum with some drama), and brought in Bruno Lapa (Birmingham Legion 2020-2022) and Sebastian Velasquez (El Paso Locomotive 2021-2022). Memphis also recently signed Bill Hamid, who has something like 275 appearances for DC United and eight USMNT caps. Memphis also acquired Akeem Ward over the offseason, and it seems likely that we will see him this weekend. Glad he found a spot and I hope he gets back to winning ways sometime after March 25.
Memphis 901’s Form
Loudoun were pathetic in 2022, but started their season hot with a victory over 901 in Memphis. Loudoun scored twice in the first eleven minutes, and executed everything perfectly for a third, although it was called for an offside. The call was right, but it’s one where the manager will still be mad at the defense even if the goal didn’t count. Laurent Kissiedou pulled one back in the 37th, chipping the keeper in a full sprint. In the 63rd Kissiedou picked up a straight red for half-heartedly backhanding a Loudoun player. Memphis conceded once more well into second-half stoppage time and the Loudoun player did the Steph sleepytime celebration and imo he needs to take it down a notch.
Memphis hosted Pittsburgh Riverhounds last week and again fell 3-1, again falling behind right off the bat, with Albert Dikwa taking a heads-up pivoting shot on an unpredictable deflection in the box. Two minutes later Bruno Lapa equalized and the game had the makings of a barnstormer. Things calmed down until in the 38th a head-scratching handball by Graham Smith lead to a successful Albert Dikwa penalty. The best of the lot was a Dikwa goal in stride in the 71st to ice the game. I have to assume Memphis were chasing at that point and it left a lot of space, which isn’t what you want against a team with a pacey striker, but Dikwa deserves credit for a hell of a finish.
Memphis are struggling defensively, and I assume that is why they went out and signed someone like Bill Hamid. He only joined the team, we think, on March 20, so he may not be fully settled into the Memphis set-up yet. Obviously he’s massively experienced, but if they do try to run him out on five days of practice, you can hope his communication with his backline will be imperfect.
|March 11||at San Antonio FC||L||1||3|
|March 19||at RGV Toros||D||1||1|
|March 25||vs Memphis 901|
|April 1||vs New Mexico United|
|April 8||at Indy Eleven|
|April 15||vs Hartford|
|April 23||at Loudoun|
|April 29||vs Miami FC|
|May 6||at Birmingham Legion|
|May 13||vs Orb County|
|May 20||at Sacramento|
|May 27||vs San Diego Loyal|
|June 2||at Colorado Springs Switchbacks|
|June 10||at Phoenix Rising|
|June 17||vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds|
|June 24||vs Phoenix Rising|
|June 28||vs RGV Toros|
|July 8||at Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|July 15||at Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside|
|July 22||at El Paso Locomotiv|
|July 26||vs Las Vegas Lights|
|July 29||vs Detroit City|
|August 4||at Charleston Battery|
|August 19||vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks|
|August 23||at New Mexico United|
|August 26||at Louisville City|
|September 2||vs Sacramento|
|September 9||at Las Vegas Lights|
|September 16||vs FC Tulsa|
|September 23||vs Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside|
|September 30||vs San Antonio FC|
|October 4||at Orb County|
|October 7||at Loyal|
|October 14||vs El Paso Locomotiv|
Roots traveled on down the valley to face RGV.
I watched this game at my mom’s house with my entire family present. It’s a big house, but also fourteen people is a lot of people. Dr. Rootsblog and I set my laptop up to watch this game and were joined by my 9-year-old nephew who talked through the entire game, covering, among other things, the 2022 World Cup generally, the World Cup final, the World Cup semifinals, the Japan-Spain game, the Japan-Croatia game, the USA-Netherlands game, his most recent soccer season, highlights from some of his recent games, pokemon cards, the dog, his sisters, his one sister’s recent soccer games, and the failures of the Roots’ attack generally and relative to Argentina’s. There’s surreptitiously taken video of my head in my hands shortly after Oakland conceded and my nephew talking nonstop through it. I won’t be sharing it, because I like him, but the boy can talk. Anyway, this is hilarious:
It’s hard to explain to a kid why that banner is funny.
Anyway, the Roots had a huge opportunity about four minutes in, when Rito sent a beautiful low arced pass up to Pelaez who took a tremendous shot, but not quite far enough from RGV keeper Tyler Deric.
RGV scored on a bouncing follow-up from a free kick in the 14th. I’m not really who should have done better there. Pelaez had a chance to clear, but I don’t think he had reason to think the ball was about to get to him, since about four players went down in some incidental contact.
RGV had another couple of great chances, one a rising shot that just went over the bar, and then in the 41st minute Edgardo Rito saved the defense’s bacon with a last minute sliding challenge from behind that cleared the ball out of play while also hacking down the RGV attacker (but luckily in the right order). Johnny came on for Pelaez in the 65th minute (and the broadcast struggled some with the substitutions). Johnny looked lively, and scored in the 82nd on a chance created by some good defense by debutant Bryan Tamacas and an exquisite curled pass from Edgardo Rito to take the entire defense out of the play and take advantage of Johnny’s speed. After a game that RGV will feel they should have won in the first 60, the Roots barely missed a chance to steal all three points when Rito sent in yet another brilliantly curved low pass, perfectly timed for the Roots attacker (this time Trayvon Reid) to run onto ahead of his marker. Reid got there five yards out from goal but caught the ball on a slight bounce and skyed it up and off the cross-bar.
Some real signs of life from the Roots on this one, but I think I said this on this week’s RootsPod–I think a draw is a good result against RGV on the road. I also predicted a 1-1 draw in last week’s match preview, in case anyone ever tells you I’m just some asshole at his computer (they are correct, I’m just some asshole at his computer).
Players to Watch
Akeem Ward #14 – Absolutely love this guy. He was in the highest echelon of faces of the Roots in 2021, but never fit into Guerra’s system and was moved on before the management change. You don’t need me to tell you that Ward is an outstanding rightback who can contribute in attack but focuses on doing the job defensively, a thing that neither Guerra nor Delgado particularly values in a righback.
Phillip Goodrum #10 –
Goodrum is twenty-five and a native of Nashville, Tennessee, which explains why he wants out of Memphis so badly (I think those cities don’t care for each other? Just assume I know what I’m saying here). Goodrum played at UNC Wilmington. I had hoped there might have been someone else you’d recognize on that team, but I couldn’t find anyone. However, there were two players named “Huntley Munn” and “Max Groover” so I can’t say I wasted the time looking into this. Goodrum was drafted out of college by Atlanta United, and played a couple seasons with ATL 2, but apparently was a free agent when he was signed by Memphis in January 2022, saying “I’m a forward who loves to score goals,” which just has incredible Ricky-Bobby-I-want-to-go-fast energy. Goodrum scored 21 goals last season, none of them penalties, and almost certainly deserves to have been sold to an MLS team, but it’s much funnier that he’s pouting in Memphis.
Bruno Lapa #7 – Lapa already has a goal and an assist in 163 minutes for 901 this season. In three seasons as a regular contributor (but not regular starter) at Birmingham, Lapa tallied 17 goals and 11 assists. Lapa just missed overlapping at Wake Forest with Leeds United’s Jack Harrison, but did overlap with Genk’s Mark McKenzie. In 2017 he and Goodrum played against each other and each tallied an assist in a 2-2 early season game. While researching if Lapa and Goodrum had ever faced in college, I discovered that Lapa’s Wake Forest made the Semifinal of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament where they lost 2-1 to a UVA team featuring Daryl Dike and Irakoze Donasiyano (Cal Jennings, Luther Archimede, and Aaron Molloy all played and scored in this tournament as well). So Saturday counts as a grudge match! Wikipedia describes Lapa as an Attacking Midfielder and Fotmob describes him as a Central Midfielder.
Laurent Kissiedou #11 – The USL website says that Kissiedou’s red card was only a one-match ban (notably in a match preview for last week’s game, not in any kind of published discipline report), so we should expect to see the Ivorian at Laney. Kissiedou has a goal to his name this season, despite only 62 minutes of game time, and tallied 7 goals and 5 assists last season in the central attacking midfield role.
Lineup and Score Predictions
Without Tamacas I think Klimenta comes back in. I think Hackshaw slots in immediately, but with Memo playing well I think there’s less urgency to force Wright immediately into a starting role. I also think the time has come for Reid to start on the left. Roots looked better against RGV than against San Antonio, I think even controlling for quality of opposition. I think continued improvement, a home crowd, and a struggling opposition is enough. Roots take it 2-1.
Overall, I agree with Bloom’s prediction above. Memo has been playing well through the first two games and I think Kevin Wright will have to compete to earn the starting LB job. However, I’m providing Wright in the starting 11 to provide a little differentiation and also because he’s the expected full-time starter. I’m hoping to see how Wright is involved and how similar his role will be to what Memo is executing. I also think Formella has played well at LW, but with Reid being the expected starter, I’m slotting him in for my third straight game. I also like Hackshaw in the starting 11, I’m curious to see how he’s used in Delgado’s system, and I’m also eager to see his epic long-toss from the sidelines.
As for my score prediction, I’m sticking with my guess on RootsPod. Oakland wins 3-1, giving Memphis its third consecutive 3-1 defeat.
No changes to the starting XI for me other than the injury enforced Nane-for-Matsoso swap. You can already guess who the subs are likely to be–Hackshaw, Reid, Wright, Rodriguez–who will come on about 10 minutes later than you would like them to if the Roots are trailing. (Good vibes all around if the Roots are up, natch.) Calling a 3-2 Oakland win here. Memphis will be desperate not to start their season losing three on the bounce, so I expect they’ll be locked in in attack, but I like Oakland to take advantage of Memphis’s leaky back line one too many times.