Roots are back in the Bay and host Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 7:00 p.m. at Pioneer Stadium on the campus of CSU East Bay. Roots are coming off of a disappointing draw away to Phoenix Rising, and this weekend host Pittsburgh Riverhounds who lead the Eastern Conference. The match will be on ESPN+ but let’s be real–you’re going to be at the game.
As a quick aside, I would encourage essentially anyone I know and like to check out A Soldier’s Play at the Altarenta Playhouse in Alameda. https://www.altarena.org/2023-season-announcement/a-soldiers-play. A buddy of mine is in it, but I wouldn’t plug it if I hadn’t really enjoyed it. I know you might be thinking “is a play about difficult race relations performed in Alameda going to make me deeply uncomfortable?” and I don’t know that the answer will be “no” for you, but it was “no” for me, and I will say they put together an incredible cast of Black actors, despite being in Alameda. There’s one weekend of shows left.
I went deep on the Riverhounds when the Roots faced them at the end of last season in a must-win game that the Roots did not win and still made the playoffs. The important thing to remember is this.
Every mascot is equally beautiful and valid and worthy of love. Even the repurposed McGruff costume that keeps sneaking into promotional shots with Pirate Parrot, Iceburgh, and David Hodo.
Distressingly good! Pittsburgh haven’t lost a game since April 22 and haven’t dropped a point since May 5. The first in their five-game win streak was Birmingham, who have five straight losses and appear to be shattered. The second was Las Vegas Lights and the third was Loudoun, who have fallen off from their early-season success. The two more recent games do probably say something, though.
These highlights were in last week’s preview, for obvious reasons. The goal was a well-executed header off of a free kick from a corner kick-like location, albeit with a slightly more favorable angle. Neither team could conjure another. 1-0 over Phoenix in Pittsburgh is worth more points than 2-2 against Phoenix in Phoenix, but I’m not sure the Roots would have dropped those points with the home crowd.
Charleston are fourth in the East, although could fall to fifth if Louisville wins its games in hand. Pittsburgh got on the scoreboard in the 22nd second. Captain Kenardo Forbes broke free on the right side and, with the defense on its heels, fed the ball to Junior Etou right in the center of the box for an emphatic finish. It took Pittsburgh 80 minutes to muster another, but they got it when Tola Showumni dribbled around Muse and got the easy finish on the open net.
Pittsburgh are definitely good, but to put it in some perspective, with one more game played, Pittsburgh only have a five point lead on the Roots. They have scored the same number of goals the Roots have (20) and have conceded three fewer.
Still more good than bad!
|March 11||at San Antonio FC||L||1||3|
|March 19||at RGV Toros||D||1||1|
|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||W||1||0|
|June 10||at Phoenix Rising||D||2||2|
|June 17||vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds|||||||
|June 24||vs Phoenix Rising|||||||
|June 28||vs RGV Toros|||||||
|July 8||at Tampa Bay Rowdies|||||||
|July 12||vs. Memphis 901 (rescheduled)|||||||
|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|||||
I’m torn between the frustrating way that the draw occurred, and the fact that an away draw against a team you’re rivaling for playoff positioning is an okay result. Draws on the road and wins at home gets the job done. Still, the Roots had this one.
Formella’s opener in the 9th minute is the kind of goal I recall him scoring before he came to Oakland. Late runs where he shoots when the defense is turned around, and goals from that medium angle to the side.
The equalizer was the kind of skill in the box that made Danny Trejo seem like he had a future in MLS. The Roots defenders could not get near the ball. The one redeeming feature of this is how mad Trejo is that Varela got the goal.
Speaking of funny, Kevon Lambert had a barnstormer of a game, and got a round of applause in the 66th when he won a battle with Formella on the edge of the Phoenix box to recover possession. He passed the ball to Armenakas, and while the crowd was still applauding Lambert, Aremenakas passed horizontally in his own defensive third, always a questionable decision, Renzo Zambrano totally fluffed his lines, and Napo pounced, winning the ball in the box and playing in Mfeka completely unmarked for the Roots’ second.
Rising nabbed an equalizer just after the 88-minute mark on a corner kick that Hackshaw didn’t rise quite high enough to clear. It reached the back post where Morad was facing the wrong way, and Formella couldn’t get a touch (and didn’t really have anywhere to put it if he did), allowing Arteaga to poke it in. Conceding on an un-cleared set piece is supposed to be what happens to Guerra’s team, not what they do to other teams. Anyway, a frustrating end.
Players to Watch
I don’t usually feature keepers here, given the way that they contribute to games, but it’s noteworthy that Pittsburgh’s first choice goalkeeper, Jahmali White, will miss this game as he is featuring for Jamaica at the Gold Cup. Only one other player has featured in goal for the Riverhounds this season, and that’s Christian Garner, who played one game in March. Yesterday, Pittsburgh brought in DC United’s third choice keeper, Luis Zamudio, on loan to bridge that gap. I assume that means Zamudio is intended to start, rather than to back up Garner. Could be interesting and an opportunity to capitalize on a lack of organization.
Kenardo Forbes #11 – Thirty-five year old midfielder Forbes has played for Pittsburgh Riverhounds since 2018, and has been their captain since halfway through is first season, which is admirable consistency for a USL team. Forbes is from Kingston and got his start in the Jamaica league, getting three appearances for the national team, although none recently. In 2015 he moved to the Rochester Rhinos and from there secured his move to Pittsburgh. Forbes never scores more than a handful of goals per season, and has only one so far this season, but he had ten assists last season and is on track for double digits again.
Nate Dossantos #6 – Canadian centerback Dossantos was drafted by Orlando City in the 2022 MLSW Draft, but ended the pre-season unsigned and was picked up by the Riverhounds. Dossantos is coming off of a Team-of-the-Week bench spot.
Albert Dikwa – Dikwa leads Riverhounds with 9 goals, tied for the league lead, but he has not appeared in the last three matches with a clavicle injury. Even if he is in the squad against Oakland, I doubt he would will make his return in a starting position on a West Coast trip.
Lineup and Score Predictions
Well, no Hackshaw and Tamacas means there are some changes.
I’m worried about this game. Pittsburgh are good and Roots are missing two key players to their recent good form. Morad is a solid replacement, but I think Wright needs to show us more this season. That said, I liked the attack with Nane feeding the front three, and that should be consistent from last weekend. Pittsburgh are traveling cross-country for this one, and are due for an off-day, plus won’t have their preferred keeper, but I don’t think the Roots will fully capitalize. 1-1.
I’m in agreeance, once again, with Bloom’s prediction above, I’m not expecting any big surprises out of Delgado’s starting 11. With Tamacas and Hackshaw on Gold Cup duty, I’m thinking Klimenta at right center back and Morad returns to the middle. In the midfield, I have the rotation of Nane and Napo as well. If there are any changes in the midfield, it would likely be Jeciel Cedeno getting the nod.
As for my score prediction, I’m going with a grueling 1-nil Roots victory.