Summer break is over and the Roots are back in action Saturday, August 19 at 7:00 at Pioneer Stadium on the campus of CSU East Bay in Hayward, California. The match will be on ESPN+. This has been something of a week for modestly interesting Roots news. The Roots signed two 510 players to professional deals: striker Luis Saldaña and midfielder Kieran Bracken Serra. Roots also formally submitted their proposal for Malibu Lot. The Roots are also now sponsored by Comcast, a company everyone loves and no one I know of has ever had anything bad to say about.1
Anyway, what do we think about Colorado Springs? “American pop rock band” OneRepublic [pejorative] is the most prominent band from Colorado Springs [pejorative].
It’s too late for me to apologize for reminding you about this song. However, I did identify a non-FIF Denver ska band who I think you should check out if that sentence doesn’t pain you to read.
Around the Western Conference
Some stuff happened, and it was overall pretty good for the Roots. After the Roots’ Friday night win over Charleston, El Paso lost 4-0 in Miami, New Mexico lost 2-1 in Hartford, and Monterey Bay fell at home 1-0 to Sacramento Republic. Orange County won 3-1 on the road in San Diego, a result that is probably a wash for the Roots (draw would have been better), and somehow RGV lost 2-1 in Vegas. San Antonio also beat a short-handed Phoenix Rising (but played up a man and down a goal for 66 minutes before equalizing and then winning seven minutes later).
Midweek Colorado Springs drew with Tulsa at home and San Diego beat Loudoun 2-1 in San Diego.
On the Roots’ bye week the results were even better. Sac drew 1-1 at Birmingham, Monterey Bay got blown out 4-1 at Tampa, RGV drew at Louisville City (a respectable result, and a gritty draw to earn on the road). New Mexico fell 3-0 at home to San Antonio and importantly San Diego let it slip 1-0 hosting Memphis. Phoenix mauled El Paso 5-0 in Phoenix. Midweek this past week, Orange County continued their hot streak with a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh. OCSC has five wins on the bounce and 10 wins in their last 12. San Antonio beat a now bedraggled RGV 2-1 in San Antonio.
Roots still sit third in the table and no longer are surrounded by teams with games in hand. Orange County are on fire, but San Diego have fallen off, leaving the Roots in pole position to finish the season in third. There’s a lot of soccer left to be played, though.
Hard to evaluate! Switchbacks are 10-3-11 on the season, but nearly half their losses come from a five-loss stretch in May and early June (their last loss in that stretch the 1-0 to the Roots). In their last five they are 1-2-2, which does not sound like a team rounding into playoff form, but they remain only four points off of the Roots in third. That five-match run-in started with a 5-0 shellacking by Loyal in front of the Switchbacks faithful. They then seemed to write the ship with a 1-1 draw away to Phoenix, but followed that up the following week with a 2-0 loss to Loyal again, this time in San Diego.
Switchbacks hosted Birmingham Legion for a Friday night fixture and won 2-1. The sides basically split possession, and registered five shots on target (Switchbacks) to six for Legion. In the 11th, Switchbacks managed to get the defense to concentrate on them on the left side of the field, and then sprung Deshane Beckford free on the right side through the offside trap for a pretty great one-on-one finish. Birmingham equalized in the 58th on a tremendous bicycle kick from Neco Brett. Time-stamped in these highlights.
In the 84th, Colorado Springs got the winner with a back-post header by Juan Tejada.
Five days later, Birmingham hosted Tulsa, the 8th seeded team in the East. Switchbacks made their Wednesday night crowd sweat, too. Despite dominating possession and shots on target, Switchbacks could not convert despite a number of sweet shots from Deshane Beckford. Then in the 42nd, Tulsa went ahead on a goal that went off of both posts.
Not exactly a worldy, but also not a goal you’ll see every week. Switchbacks are a slightly better than average defense, but in their last two matches have conceded on a goal you can’t prevent and a goal that is pretty unlikely (although they maybe should have shut the move down before that shot was ever taken). Juan Tejada had a shot cleared off the line by a defender’s header in 52nd. In the 79th, Switchbacks equalized on a pivoting high-kick shot by Jonas Fjeldberg. Just watch the highlights above, they’re worth it for each goal individually.
Based exclusively on the highlights, I think that Switchbacks may have been unlucky here not to score more.
|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||W||1||0|
|July 29||vs Detroit City||D||1||1|
|August 4||at Charleston Battery||W||1||0|
|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|||||
The Roots came into the Charleston match 3-2-0 in their last five, inching their way up the league power rankings. Most of those results had come against teams that are fading in the home stretch of the season or were never that good at all. Charleston is a different story. They have their weaknesses, but they are firmly top-three in the East. Delgado picked an interesting lineup. With Tamacas unavailable, he moved Memo right (as he always does), put Nane in at centerback and put Hackshaw in at central midfield paired with Danny Gomez. Up front, he had Reid in place of an injured (but returned to the bench) Lindo Mfeka.
I think the Hackshaw/Nane switch worked reasonably well, even if this game was not an easy one for the Roots. I think at the moment Hackshaw may be the more comfortable player with the ball at his feet under pressure. He is also one of the Roots’ best players at picking out longer passes. On the other end, Nane is an easy option for starting the build-up from Blanchette, and has the defensive instincts to play at centerback, as long as he does not get stuck in a footrace. Roots opened the scoring with Danny Barbir emphatically heading in a beautiful looping cross from Memo Diaz. Barbir’s header may have been going wide, or may have been heading into the path of one of the two trailing Roots runners, but it took a deflection from a defender that made it unsaveable for the Battery keeper. Battery had some big chances after going down, but the Roots defense stood tall, including a clutch pick-out by Klimenta with Paul helpless, and a chested save by Paul. Ryan Her got thirty minutes of game time and looked competent, which is good as I think we will probably see him some more this season.
Players to Watch
Last time we saw Switchbacks, I highlighted (#9) Romario Garfield Williams and (#17) Jairo Henriquez. Henriquez got a goal and an assist a week after the Roots saw him, then featured in five matches for El Salvador alongside Bryan Tamacas in the Gold Cup pre-tournament friendlies and then all three matches of the group stage. He has not scored or assisted in three starts and a sub appearance since then. Williams has three goals and three assists since these teams last faced, and continues to be the fulcrum of the Switchbacks’ offense. So who else should you be looking for?
Deshane Beckford #11 – Beckford is twenty-five and got one appearance last year for the Jamaican national team. He moved to USL on loan from Montego Bay United to RGV for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and then to Switchbacks for the 2021 season. He was then signed outright for SAFC and made fourteen appearances, contributing one goal to SAFC’s league winning season. Beckford plays on the right side of the attacking front and likes a laced low shot from distance. Beckford only has two goals on the season, but one came against Birmingham on August 4, and he has had some great looks at goal in the two games in August.
Juan Tejada #27 – Like Beckford, Tejada has a single national team call-up, Tejada’s coming for Panama. Tejada moved to the US at 17 to develop at the IMG Academy. Tejada did college at a place I’ve never heard of in St. Pete and when straight into a four-season run for Tamp Bay Rowdies followed by a two-year stint with Indy Eleven. Tejada has never quite made the jump at the USL level from roleplayer to starter, but he has started every match since June 24 and has three goals in that time. Tejada plays opposite Beckford on the left flank. He has large hair and per his college bio “enjoys relaxing.”
Lineup and Score Predictions
If Johnny is fit, he starts up top. I am being a little pessimistic here. I think Jon may be right that when Koze is back, Delgado tries him out in midfield with Napo again. But I doubt Koze starts straight away again when he’s fit. However, I think that central midfield is the big question mark (and Hackshaw moves back into CB if Delgado has two players he likes more at CM). I waffled on the pod between 2-0 Roots and 3-1 Roots and don’t remember where I came down on that. Either way, I think a two-goal win for the Roots, who benefit from a little break and some extra time to gameplan.
I’m going with my suspected lineup to take this team into the playoffs. Although there are some question-marks over Johnny Rodriguez tonight, I’m hopeful the two weeks was enough for him to get right. In the midfield, I’m going with a return of Irakoze Donasiyano alongside Napo Matsoso. I could see Danny Gomez getting the nod, but I think Napo provides a bit more of a boost defensively. I’m going Roots 3-1.
[editor’s note: transcribed by Bloom from a text message because Aaron is “not near a computer” and “doesn’t understand why you couldn’t get this together earlier in the week.”]
Two weeks off to work on some things, so I suggest some wrinkles to try and throw COS off the scent. Some things I’d like to see: Barbir as a target man up front. Can get on a cross and we know he can hit one from outside. Invert Tamacas and let him and Cedeño cook together in the box. Hackshaw in a single pivot. Wolfgang in a midfield role rather than as a sort of lost child playing in the wingback role. (Downside: further for Wolfie to run to the sideline to wipe the gallon of sweat off his face). 1-0 Roots.
- One day I will be part owner of the Roots and can say anything I want without jeopardizing Jon’s media credential. ↩︎