An unusual Friday night fixture for the Oakland Roots, who travel to Colorado Springs to face the Switchbacks at 6:00 p.m. Pacific at Weidner Field. The match will be available on ESPN+ or KTVU Plus.
I talked about Colorado Springs in last season’s first preview post. I’m not about to move to Colorado Springs, but to their credit they just elected their first non-republican mayor in generations. I was going to feature a song by a Colorado artist, but instead today we’re celebrating an East Bay legend.
Roots and Switchbacks dodged each other entirely in the 2021 season, so we can only take so much of a longview of this rivalry. The first faced each other in 2022 after the reshuffling of the conferences.
On April 30 last season Colorado Springs came into Laney flying with a 7-0-1 record and despite a strong defensive first half from the Roots (offensively not so great, with a missed penalty for Ottar), Colorado Springs put up three in the second half for a comfortable 3-0 eighth win.
When the teams met again in late September Colorado Springs’ form had cooled somewhat but they were still 16-4-12 and Elvis Amoh got the home team on the scoresheet in the first minute. Ottar had a chance to redeem himself with a penalty in the 57th, which he converted, and the teams split the points.
Colorado Springs’ Form
Colorado Springs were 5-1-2 at the end of April, with quality wins over New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Loudoun (when they were good), Charleston, and El Paso (when they were bad). Losses to San Antonio and Sacramento are defensible as well. But my god the wheels came off. It looked like Switchbacks might be the same team they were last year when they had Hadji Barry, but now perhaps not. I, for one, say “good riddance.”
On May 5, Colorado Springs lost 3-2 at home to El Paso, who are on an incredible run of form. A week later, Colorado Springs lost 2-1 away to Memphis, another team that has turned things around from some early bumps.
The Indy goal was beautiful, with Sebastian Guenzatti controlling a high cross, turning and laying a pass into the path of the onrushing Bryan Rebellon, who sweetly curved it in while also apparently destroying his hamstring. Despite their struggles, Indy’s defense is okay, but Colorado Springs had a long time to try to muster something in response and from the highlights it looks like they came closer to losing 2-0 than to finding the draw.
I watched some of this game live because I’m slipping further into complete USL madness. Some Roots alumni-on-alumni violence in this one, with Charlie Dennis’s olympico denied by Christian Herrera slapping the shot into his own goal. JJ Williams doubled the lead for Tampa shortly before halftime. Jairo Henriquez got a sympathy goal in stoppage time at the end of the game with a beautiful curving shot from outside the box.
No one likes losing to Sac, but 9 out of 12 points is playoff-home field pace.
|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||L||1||2|
|April 23||at Loudoun||L||0||2|
|April 29||vs Miami FC||D||0||0|
|May 6||at Birmingham Legion||W||4||1|
|May 13||vs Orb County||W||3||0|
|May 20||at Sacramento||L||1||3|
|May 27||vs San Diego Loyal||W||2||0|
|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 ran out a pretty typical lineup, except Johnny came back in, pushing Formella to the bench, Klimenta started in place of Morad (neither of which is a formation change) and Joseph Nane got his first start in awhile paired with Daniel Gomez. I really thought if Nane came back in it would be in place of Gomez, so I found that interesting. I think Gomez has largely played well, but at this point he seems like Delgado’s first choice in the 8 role, which is impressive for an academy graduate (if not exactly a kid–Gomez is 23).
Roots got what would be the only goal for much of the match in the 7th minute. Hackshaw, under no real pressure, absolutely hoofed a ball long to Memo, who had successfully beat his man, but the ball came up short and Memo was only able to play it because his marker, uh, fell over Memo’s back. Memo picked out Johnny sneaking in behind his man about eight yards out from goal and under immense pressure, Johnny controlled the ball, passed from his left foot to his right foot, and scooped his shot past the young stand-in keeper for San Diego.
I don’t recall the game being one-way traffic after that, but the highlights suggest that for an extended period of time the Roots’ blushes were saved by Paul Blanchette’s preternatural shot-stopping. I do recall the Roots were at one point utterly robbed of a second goal by a Loyal defender’s flopping in the box, but otherwise my fragile convalescent health prevented me from recalling more details. Deep into stoppage time, a Loyal midfielder made a howler of a mistake trying to control Blanchette’s long freekick, and played Pelaez in on the Loyal goal. For everyone’s sake, but especially Pelaez’s, I’m really relieved he managed to put away the golden opportunity to make it 2-0.
Players to Watch
Romario Garfield Williams #9 – Williams leads the team with four goals, one of which is a penalty. Williams was drafted by Montreal Impact out of the UCF Knights soccer program, and was on the periphery of MLS until 2020 when he was dealt by Columbus to Miami FC. He parlayed this into a move to Al-Ittihad of the Egyptian Premier League (not the team of the same name in the Saudi League that just signed Karim Benzema). He then played for Qadsia SC in Kuwait City, before swapping deserts for New Mexico United for the 2022 season. Williams has thirteen caps for the Jamaica national team, but only has two call-ups since 2018. Williams’ wikipedia specifies that he is named after Brazilian football legend Romario, and specifies his middle name but offers no explanation.
Jairo Henriquez #17 – Henriquez has two goals and an assist for Switchbacks this season. The twenty-nine-year-old has thirty-one caps for the El Salvador national team, including several recently where he featured with Bryan Tamacas. Prior to joining Switchbacks in 2022, Henriquez played most of his career in the Salvadoran league, with a two-season break in Liga de Expansion MX. He spent one season with Municipal Limeño, and you have got to see this badge:
Lineup and Score Predictions
With Aaron going full Herbert Chapman, I will propose what I think Delgado will actually do, which is the same strategy as previous weeks but some personnel rotated back in:
Colorado’s offense really isn’t as good as you might think based on last year, and their offensive players. I think the Roots keep their good form going, despite playing on the road, and win 2-0. Goals from Johnny and another from Pelaez, just like last week.
For the second straight game, I’m in complete agreement with Bloom’s starting 11 above. The one change from the previous game would be Napo Matsoso in for Joseph Nane. I’m still unsure of the pecking order in the midfield department, but one side seems to be a rotation of defensive-minded midfielders–Napo and Nane–and another creative facilitator, which is Danny Gomez and Donasiyano. With Koze out and still no timeline on his return, Gomez is making the most of his minutes.
I’m switching it up from the podcast, 3-1 ROOTSBAYBAY!
I will continue to attempt to manifest different lineups until I see the current strategy help the Roots put together several decent performances in a row. Instead of a back 4, today I’m manifesting the ol’ W-M. Johnny, assuming health, has to start at this point. The man is putting in more than a goal per 90, which is just a preposterous return. Also I guess we’re sticking with Rito in the RW spot. The wrinkle here is more of a midfield box than a deep double pivot with wingbacks. I’m proposing to invert Tamacas, but moving him in field would allow him to slot in as a CB when needed regardless. He appears to be the team’s most technically proficient player, so let’s maybe put him in the middle of the field! I think the other virtue here is that you don’t need Paul to play anything long at any point. Anyway, I don’t expect this. For serious lineup predictions, see above. But I continue to think something needs to change formation wise to unlock this team’s potential. Serious score prediction, though: 1-0 Roots.