Having taken care of business in the Hoosier state, Oakland Roots are back home in foggy
Oakland Hayward, California to host Hartford Athletic at 7:00 p.m. at CSU East Bay’s Pioneer Stadium, now with beer! Hartford are coming off to a rocky start to their season, and are in the middle of a three-match road trip. The Roots have chance to continue their winning ways and make the league take notice.
Roots faced Hartford last season, so you can check that preview post for my traditional mocking of the club’s badge, stadium, supporters group, and ownership. I actually have a pretty good friend from college who is from Connecticut, and when I reached out to him for comment he initially declined and then said “boring little white people state for white people imo.” Full disclosure–my friend is white.
Hartford are in their second season under Tab Ramos, who accumulated 81 caps for the United States and 121 appearances for the New York Red Bulls nee MetroStars. Immediately prior to joining Hartford, Ramos had an uninspiring two-year tenure leading Houston Dynamo to a 10-21-26 record (a tenure in which he barely gave any minutes to Alejandro Fuenmayor). Last season, Ramos lead a very different Hartford to a disappointing 10-6-18 finish, good enough for 36 points, 16 shy of Detroit City in the last playoff spot (in the west that would have been only two points above last-place Orange County).
The Roots faced Hartford in Hartford in a must-win for the Roots (when Hartford’s season was over) in the second-to-last match of the Roots’ regular season campaign.
Speaking of Alejandro Fuenmayor, he opened the scoring in the 4th with a low banger from about 25 yards out. Hartford equalized just after half, but Ottar took the lead back in the 59th with another low shot from centrally outside the box. Azocar and Karlsson each missed another great opportunity before super sub Johnny Rodriguez scored a 35-yard chip under pressure in stoppage time. I think I recall screaming about this.
Hartford’s off-season was like a mini version of Indy’s, signing a lot of talent from around the USL: Trisan Hodge (COS); Kyle Edwards (RGV); Antoine Hoppenot (DCFC); Elvis Amoh (COS); and Niall Logue (MEM).
Are Athletic Good?
Hartford do not yet have a win this season, and started with a 5-3 loss in Seaside, California (a less embarrassing result than it initially seemed, as Monterey have some respectable results since then), and a 1-1 draw to Switchbacks.
Hartford’s home opener was against Birmingham Legion.
The opener, and only goal, was a low show from about 24 yards outside of the box (a thing Hartford fans must be utterly sick of). Hartford had one pretty good chance in the first half and several good chances in the second half, but the Birmingham keeper got big on all of them (or lucky).
Hartford then hosted winless Orange County on April 1
2022 Golden Boot-Winner Milan Iloski got Orange COunty on the board in the 7th minute with a curled free kick to the near post that the Hartford keeper got to but couldn’t keep out (this makes five goals we have seen Hartford concede so far in this preview and all five were from outside the box). Hartford equalized in the SEVENTH minute of first half stoppage time (four given) with a tight-angle cross from Hoppenot that, I think, missed his target in the middle of the box but found Amoh near the back post who bounced his shot in. The story of the second half, I think, is that the best they could do for highlights is an offside and a shot that didn’t hit the target. For their sins, there were ten minutes of second-half stoppage time.
Hartford then left stodgy New England where goals are frowned-upon as frivolous and visited goal-happy Charleston Battery (but still lost).
Charleston have put a lot of goals past their opponents this season, but they made Hartford’s defense look incompetent in this match, including on the set-piece winner when Charleston were down a man.
|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||W||1||0|
|April 8||at Indy Eleven||W||3||0|
|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|||||||
Oh I don’t hate this one.
Lindo Mfeka’s opener came exactly how you’d expect–on an aerial duel with the opposing keeper. Formella’s assist was exceptional, and improved by Formella’s pre-emptive celebration. I sorta forgot on the second that Mfeka’s wouldn’t get an assist for scorching a shot that bounced so high off the keeper that Formella could play it in off the volley. Great play from Mfeka and Formella, but credit to Johnny for applying the pressure that lead to the turnover. The last is the kind you wonder why Rito can’t just do whenever he wants (because normally the opposition is not committing 11 men forward to try to come back). Plus, it required a pretty excellent ball from Nane into space. Most of all, though, that finish was sensational. I’ve seen center forwards at higher levels blow chances like that. Once the action was over, Klimenta picked up a second yellow to make Noah’s team selection this weekend easier, which is such a team-player move.
Players to Watch
Antoine Hoppenot #29 – Antoine Laurent Hoppenot, who sounds like someone who would’ve changed his name in 1787, is predictably from Paris, but has been playing in the United States since his time at youth level in Princeton. Hoppenot was drafted by Philadelphia Union and managed 69 appearances over four season, scoring seven times, but has been all over USL since then, playing for FC Cincinnati (when that was still true), Reno 1868 (with Lindo), Tampa Bay, Louisville City, and most recently Detroit City. Hoppenot has two season with double-digit assists, including last season, when he had eleven plus seven goals all from open play. Hoppenot has been lining up in the forward left role outside of Amoh and opposite Prince Saydee.
Elvis Amoh #9 – Roots saw Amoh twice last season with Colorado Springs Switchbacks. The tall Ghanaian reached double-digits in goals each of the last two seasons, and looks poised to again with two goals in Hartford’s first five games. Amoh lines up in the middle of the forward line.
Niall Logue #50 – Derry’s own Niall Logue played two seasons at Ohio State before returning to the League of Ireland for a couple of matches with his hometown Derry City before a loan and a full season to Finn Harps in, and this is not a joke, Ballybofey, County Donegal. Presumably disabused of his nostaligia for gray and rainy, Logue moved to FC Tucson for the 2020 season, jumped up to El Paso Locomotive, who immediately loaned him to Memphis 901, and then he returned to Memphis 901 for 2022. Logue faced the Roots in Memphis’ 2-1 win in March of last season. Logue is 27 and 6’4″ and wears the captain’s armband for Tab Ramos’s side, lining up at center back.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I think with two yellows in a game, Emrah has to come out, which means Tamacas in. Hackshaw might sit in favor of Barbir, but I was surprised Barbir got the last start. I really don’t think he starts again unless something big changes. The other big question is whether Matsoso is fit. I think I saw him in the background of some training pictures, so maybe he gets back in, or maybe I’m wrong and Nane stays starting. I’m not that worked up about either spot to be honest. The Roots looked good against Indy and I think Hartford is a more favorable match-up and its a home game that Hartford had to travel a long way for. Roots take it 2-0 and never sweat.
Nearly the same starting 11 as Bloom mentions above, but I’m unsure if Napo is available. In the end, I’m comfortable with how Joseph Nane and Donasiyano played against Indy Eleven. At striker, I think Johnny Rodriguez has earned a shot at starting, but Anuar Pelaez still needs more time to adjust. This is the perfect match to get the Colombian going.
This could be the perfect opponent for Roots after a strong performance against Indy Eleven and it feels like a big game against the league’s worst defense is possible. 3-nil Roots or a +3 goal difference.
I predict the same lineup as Bloom, with Nane and Johnny coming on in the 60th. I’m thinking the Roots pounce early on an overmatched opponent, and then ease off the throttle a bit. An early 2-goal leads to a comfortable first hour or so before a jammy goal, aided by the wonky Harford turf, causes a bit of heartburn. Johnny puts the game away after the 80th minute. 3-1 Oakland.