The Roots are back home after a quick six-point, two-game road trip, to host the absolutely dreadful Las Vegas Lights at 7:00 p.m. on July 26 at Pioneer Stadium on the CSU East Bay campus in Hayward. They are going up against the USWNT, who play the Netherlands at 6:00 p.m. and I have a feeling this game may have Las Positas-level attendance. It’s not totally the Roots’ fault–USWNT major matches should be holidays.
This is especially unfortunate, because tonight is
Ladies Singles Night at Pioneer Stadium. In honor of that, my wife is staying home to watch the USWNT. Loving soccer enough to go to a USL game, and yet prioritizing USL over the USWNT? Real sicko hours. Anyway, see you at the game!
Around the Western Conference
Some helpful results this past weekend. On Friday night, RGV fell 2-1 to Tulsa, with the equalizer coming on a penalty resulting from RGV’s first (but not last) red card. Orange County beat Memphis in a 4-3 slugfest where Memphis also managed to pick up a brace of red cards. Monterey fell in Detroit 1-0 and San Antonio fell 1-0 to ten-man Miami at home. In the two other non-Roots west-on-west matches, New Mexico whipped Sac 3-0 and Juan Guerra drew to Colorado Springs. Vegas fell 1-0 to Hartford, described more below.
Whew, buddy, they are awful. Without their LAFC loanees, Vegas are a team lacking vision, direction, and a budget. There aren’t really good or bad stretches for this Vegas team. They started with four draws, all against teams that are now in the playoff hunt, so that’s something. Their lone win came on the road against Phoenix which might actually be funnier to me than if they had beaten Sacramento. Since that win on May 26, Lights have picked up two points in eight games. Things briefly looked better for a second. On July 4 they drew 2-2 at home to New Mexico United. The equalizer, scored three minutes and fifty-six seconds into four minutes of stoppage time, came on an unbelievable volley by Vegas’s Azriel Gonzalez. Those dropped two points are the difference between the Roots and New Mexico on the table right now.
Four days later, Lights put up three against Birmingham Legion (just over 25% of their season’s goals in two matches) but conceded three as well. None are really remarkable. Birmingham’s defense isn’t great, but it’s not an outlier. Lights’ defense is really bad, though. Total failure to compete for headers in their own box or to clear the ball on set pieces.
This past weekend, Lights fell 2-0 at home to a truly awful Hartford team who only have three wins (including over the Roots–points that the Roots will almost certainly regret dropping). Vegas had two huge chances off of set pieces in the opening phase of the game, both of which were denied by excellent goal-line heroism from the Hartford keeper (and some other guy on the second), but very shortly thereafter Vegas conceded on a long-range, deflected effort from Juan Pablo Torres. In the 81st, Kyle Edwards made it two and the game was all but over.
|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||L||0||3|
|July 12||vs. Memphis 901 (rescheduled)||D||1||1|
|July 15||at Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside||W||3||1|
|July 22||at El Paso Locomotiv||W||3||1|
|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||El Paso Locomotiv|||||||
Well well well well well well well well well.
El Paso are now officially on a skid, but hosting the Roots is, as Jon would say, always where you worry the good team is going to right the ship. However, all of us here at RootsBlog believed the Roots would get a win (don’t bother checking, just trust me), but none of us predicted 3-1 over the third place team in the West.
The Roots returned Hackshaw to the lineup, moving Nane up to pair with Matsoso in midfield, but otherwise the team looked like it did in Monterey, with our pair of diminutive attacking mids flanking Johnny in attack. There were some dicey moments. In the 22nd, Emrah got caught out and couldn’t head a long pass to Petar Petrovic, but luckily Petrovic’s shot was tamely right to Paul’s feet. It wasn’t all one-way, though, as Diaz earned a save-of-the-week nomination with a one-handed save of Napo Matsoso’s shot up on to the cross bar, and managed not to rear-end it into the net from the ground.
El Paso went ahead shortly after half-time on an own-goal that’s in the middle ground of defender culpability. Emrah is doing everything he can to stop the shot, but by sticking his foot and/or ass (it’s unclear) out at the shot, his deflection serves only to put Paul out of the right position to make a save. The Roots had certainly looked likely to that point, and I don’t recall anyone at Binny’s thinking the game was out out of reach. And it most certainly was not.
In the 65th, the passage of play went like this: Hackshaw had the ball central left, about ten yards out from the Roots’ 18-yard-box, under no pressure. He played across to Klimenta, a little ahead of him on the right, also under minimal pressure. Klimenta lofts a long pass down the right to Bryan Tamacas, who sends Jeciel Cedeño forward up the right sideline. Cedeño gets cleared out, but advantage is played, as his pass manages to find Tamacas in stride in the outside right channel. Tamacas has Lindo to his left sprinting down the center, and they have their defender 2-on-1, as the remaining centerback is occupied trying to keep Johnny from being alone to the attacking left. Here is Tamacas spotting Lindo, about two steps before he plays the ball in. Lindo chips the keeper at the red dot, on his first touch with the outside of his left cleat.
A couple minutes later, Johnny laced a shot from distance that, unfortunately, was close enough for Benny Diaz to save, but was at risk of knocking him backwards into the goal. Johnny would not be denied, however, as he headed the ensuing corner in under, admittedly, surprisingly little pressure. Memo’s corner was flawless, and I think everyone, including Benny Diaz, thought the play would be at the front post where both Emrah and the Locomotive defender missed it. Roots put the game away in the 85th. Danny Barbir, well up the field, passed to Trayvon Reid, who slipped a pass into the energetic Wolfgang Prentice. Prentice’s first touch took him almost out of play, but he managed to hoof a cross through the box to Anuar Pelaez for the tap-in insurance goal.
A 3-1 win on the road over El Paso is a better result than a 3-1 win on the road over Monterey, but both back-to-back is both good and probably necessary. The Roots now face, at home, the last-place team in the West (and all of USL) and the 9th-place team in the East (who would be 11th in the West on points).
Players to Watch
Lineup and Score Predictions
I don’t change anything about the attack, although Lindo’s stamina worries me some. I would be surprised if Noah thinks this is a game where he can play anything other than his best 11, as the Roots cannot be dropping points. That said, if he did make changes, the disrespect to the Lights would be merited. I think maybe Morad comes in because Emrah’s legs should also be preserved, even if he’s not as fragile as Lindo or Nane, and I think Gomez comes in for Nane for preservation and because Gomez is not a big step down.
Safe bet: Roots win.
Stretch bet: 4-0.
Reach bet: Noah finally makes subs in the 60th.
Editor’s Note. We last had contact with our man in Bangkok around 14:00 yesterday. His instagram stories have shown he’s been spending a lot of time in jazz clubs, but the reports were coming in on time so no one higher up ever questioned his commitment. There is growing concern that he is dead, or worse, has defected. We’re sending a team to extract, but the mood at RootsBlog HQ is dour.
Update. I received this note by email from an address that is just a string of random numbers and letters at hotmail: “I’m alive, somewhere. I don’t know where, I stumbled here from somewhere else. Everything in Bloom’s lineup except Nane in for Gomez and Emrah in for Morad. Roots 3-1.”
Peter makes some great points about needing to play your best 11 and not really having room to drop points, but also several guys look a little burnt out, and I think you have to approach this one like there’s some margin for error. For instance, Nane should not start. The man appears to be running on fumes. Memo has also played a ton, wouldn’t mind seeing him get a breather. I might even strongly consider running out Taylor Bailey, since Paul always appears to be one dive away from some time off. I think you’ve also got to find some time off for Barbir, Hackshaw, and Tamacas, but maybe those are the three guys to come off during the Noah Delgado Memorial 82nd Minute Initial Substitution. Anyway, I anticipate a lot of rotation, and a very close 2-1 win that no one watches because of the World Cup.