Roots fans it’s game day! The Roots travel east to visit our old friend Charlie Dennis at his new home in suburban-Gulf Coast, Florida. The match will be at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time, and broadcast on KTVU Plus and ESPN+, and on SiriusXM Radio (if you’re my father-in-law and literally no one else). There will also be an official watch party at Line 51 near Jack London Square.
This will be manager Neill Collins’ last match with the Rowdies after three seasons as a player 2016-18 and seven seasons as manager. I have nothing against Collins but it would be so so funny if the Roots spoiled his going away party.
This week’s cover image is brought to you by my lack of sleep this week.
Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Rowdies have existed since 2008, although claims the history of an erstwhile NASL team of the same name, that competed 1975-1993. The Rowdies, to their credit, have actual fan culture, although less twitter shitposting than you’d hope for. Here’s an incredible photograph, courtesy of this facebook account.
This gentleman is dressed as “Ralph Rowdie,” the team’s mascot. Per the facebook post caption, this was at the Rowdies’ “Fannies Day,” which is an absolute hell of a choice to call your fans in a sport played mostly by Europeans. The Rowdies play in Al Lang Stadium, which is a beautiful field and location.
Sure that water looks ominously close, but you have to remember that Florida is known for its tranquil waters and lack of regular devastating storms.
This is a down year for the Rowdies, in that they’re only tied for first place in the Eastern Conference. Tampa has 18 goals this season from three players, none of whom were on the team last season: Seven from JJ Williams (Tulsa), six from Charlie Dennis (ROOTS BAYBAY), and five from Cal Jennings (LAFC/Las Vegas). Of that group, Dennis is the only player over 1,000 minutes on the season. Tampa are tied for the third best goal differential in the league, on 29 total goals and 19 conceded, which is a slightly worse defensive record than the Roots, but just about an extra half a goal scored per game. Tampa had a rough run of form to start the season, going 1-2-4, but have not lost a game since April 23.
Tampa gave up a 10th minute goal to a struggling Loudoun side, but equalized in the 31st. They conceded again 10 minutes into the second half as well, and this time only took fifteen minutes to equalize. They were not done, however. This equalizer and the go-ahead goals were classic poacher’s goals by Cal Jennings, and after Jennings induced a Loudoun player to pick up a red to stop a breakaway, Jennings also earned Tampa their fourth with a great break and full feed sprint, before laying the ball perfectly into the path of LaCava for the tap-in. It is… possibly concerning to see Cal Jennings finally playing for a competent team.
Speaking of Las Vegas–they are still bad!
Jennings scored again to put Tampa up early in this one, with a smashed strike, on the break, into roof of the net. Vegas equalized ten minutes later minutes later when Tampa utterly blew their offsides trap and some guy for Vegas still managed to almost blow it by heading the ball straight into the Tampa keeper’s chest. However, the ball fell kindly to another Vegas player who couldn’t miss. In the 86th JJ Williams got the winner from about 25 yards out, under essentially no pressure, with a shot at about 140 miles per hour.
We’re not talking about this.
|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||D||0||0|
|June 24||vs Phoenix Rising||D||1||1|
|June 28||vs RGV Toros||L||0||2|
|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 don’t want to write it and you don’t want to read it. Highlights are available on youtube if you hate yourself.
Players to Watch
JJ Williams #9 – JJ Williams is a 6’4″ 25-year-old striker who couldn’t quite put things together at Columbus Crew, who drafted him, or at Atlanta United where he moved next. Williams has been more effective at the USL level, although less than you’d think for someone who had MLS potential, scoring 5 for Birmingham in 2021, and a total of 12 over the course of 2022, transferring mid-season from Tulsa to Phoenix. Per Wikipedia, Williams was on his high school bass fishing team. Roll Tide.
Charlie Dennis #14 – Charles “Entertainment” Dennis is a 27-year-old midfielder from Brighton who most recently played for the Oakland Roots. Dennis played in the Southampton youth setup and then split his college between two colleges I’ve never heard of in Georgia and Florida. The Georgia one, Shorter College, is in Rome, Georgia, and I have to share this:
In 1928, the American Chatillon Company began construction of a rayon plant in Rome; it was a joint business effort with the Italian Chatillon Corporation. Italian premier Benito Mussolini sent a block of marble from the ancient Roman Forum, inscribed “From Old Rome to New Rome”, to be used as the cornerstone of the new rayon plant. After the rayon plant was completed in 1929, Mussolini honored the American Rome with a bronze replica of the sculpture of Romulus and Remus nursing from the Capitoline Wolf.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome,_Georgia
Anyway Dennis played in USL League 1, and the Roots identified him as having USL Championship potential, which he certainly had. He was solid for the Roots in 2022, although I think he might not have quite fit Guerra or Delgado’s system (Guerra also might just be a lousy coach–jury is out). Dennis is thriving with Tampa in an attacking midfield role, I think in the conversation for player of the season for the league.
Cal Jennings #26 – Given Cal’s importance, their regular meetings, and how awful the rest of the Lights lineups were, I think Cal is probably the most featured player in this section in blog history. Like Williams he was a high draft pick but could not even get out of pre-season with FC Dallas. He did alright for Memphis 901 and earned himself a contract with LAFC, but also could not secure the jump up out of their (then) B-team Las Vegas Lights. Jennings is fast and has a good shot on him. I think his weakness might be that without space to run into he can’t do all that much (and I’m not sure about his hold-up play), but he’s a decent poacher in the box, so he’s never not a threat.
Lineup and Score Predictions
We think Hackshaw and Tamacas will be available for selection on Saturday, but I don’t think that Noah starts Hackshaw unless he’s sure he’s doesn’t need the rest. I don’t think Tamacas starts either way, just because of the running that position requires. I do think both make it into the game if they are in the 18.
I’m calling for Wright to get another shot at wing-back, with Prentice having struggled some. This remains our best three up top until Pelaez finds some form.
I’m not optimistic for this game. I think I said 2-0 Rowdies on the RootsPod and frankly I think it could be worse with the jetlag.
Edit: I like Aaron’s suggested lineup a lot, but I don’t see it getting utilized.
I’m not sure if Tamacas or Hackshaw will play, though both should be available after returning from the Gold Cup. If they are ready to play, then by all means, Tamacas and Hackshaw should start, but I feel a similar lineup to the previous few games is more realistic to expect. I’m also going with Wright on the left and Memo on the right; I think Kevin gives more defensive stability than Wolfgang Prentice was. Up top, I’m going with the usual suspects of Johnny, Formella, and Lindo. But I would definitely like Aaron’s lineup below, I think it gives more firepower with Pelaez and Johnny combining.
I’m sticking with my RootsPod guess of a 2-1 Roots win, obviously. The match carries on tied for a while until Oakland scores a late winner.
I don’t think our international stars are back for this one, personally. Both probably need a break, too, anyway. For players in top domestic leagues, I think international duty is a step down in intensity. For our guys, though, I’m guessing its a step up (except maybe for Trindad’s match against St. Kitts & Nevis). So we don’t see them. As regular readers to the bottom of the preview article know, I prefer a move away from the 3-4-3. That’s even more so without Tamacas and Hackshaw. We’ve been struggling to locate a suitable LWB behind Memo, and I feel like the answer is “don’t have a goddamn wingback.” Wright can play fullback, let Prentice stay further up the field, so the defenders don’t get as upset with him. Give us 4 actual bodies in midfield so TBR doesn’t overwhelm the Roots in that part of the pitch. Just something different. Because the current system is sputtering. Anyway, 3-1 Rowdies.