It’s game day again already, Roots family! For the first time, the Roots will face off against USL stalwart Louisville City in Louisville, at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time on August 26. The match will be on ESPN+ and KTVU Plus.
Louisville City’s history sounds like something out of Major League Baseball circa 1910. In 2008, English-born Austin businessman Phil Rawlins, a member of the board of Stoke City, founded Austin Aztex FX. After three season, the team up and moved to Orlando when Rawlins purchased the Orlando Pro Soccer USL rights. The team rebranded as Orlando City SC (“Aztex” would have been stupid in Florida, you see), adopted the primary color purple and the three lions logo.
Rawlins said he would bring an MLS franchise to Orlando. Orlando City won the USL Pro, the highest level at the time, twice in its four year run. At the end of the 2014 season, the team moved up to MLS, and the USL Pro rights were transferred to minority owner Wayne Estopinal, who moved “the team” to Louisville. Louisville kept the purple, but replaced the three-headed lion monstrosity, begging to be put out of its misery, with this architectural monstrosity:
Around the Western Conference
Roots and New Mexico were the only Western Conference teams active this week. Roots climbed back into third, although tied on points with Orange County. New Mexico blew one of their games on hand without making any progress.
Not very good! Louisville has not been able to put together any particularly good runs of form this year, and now, with nine games remaining, you have to consider this a disappointing regular season for Louisville. Playoffs basically give you a second life, and Louisville will almost certainly still make the playoffs. But Louisville sit in fifth on the wrong side of games in hand of several of the teams they are chasing.
After a brutal three game losing streak in July (Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Birmingham), Louisville looked to be getting back on track with a 2-0 home win over Indy and a 3-0 away win over Tulsa (both cusp playoff teams). Then on August 9, a midweek game, Louisville drew at home 1-1 to Charleston, one of the teams Louisville needs to try to catch for a home playoff berth. The following weekend, Louisville drew 2-2 with the pesky RGV. This past weekend, Louisville fell 2-0 away in Birmingham (allowing Birmingham to close the gap to just one point between the two in fifth and sixth).
Louisville’s problem appears to be its offense, which is third worst in the league, ahead of only Detroit City and Las Vegas Lights. No other team in playoff positioning has fewer than 31.
|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||L||2||3|
|August 23||at New Mexico United||W||2||1|
|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|||||
We love a gritty road win, don’t we folks? Apparently the turn-around between these games is so close that the highlights are not available as I am writing this on Thursday night. Unclear if I will have time to update this on Friday.
The Roots ran it back with the ultra-defensive formation that they were forced into using last weekend in Hayward, with Morad in defensive midfield ahead of the usual back three. With Lindo and Johnny still working their way back, Pelaez and Reid started again.
Pelaez kicked the scoring off with another goal (I believe his second) where no matter how often I watch it, I cannot identify the actual contact he makes with the ball. Nonetheless, it hit the back of the net and the Roots took the lead to halftime.
The Roots did not wait long to double their lead in the second half, with Barbir and Reid again doing yeoman’s work.
We were all set to give the man-of-the-match award to Barbir alone, who was just monstrous this game, but in the last ten minutes or so New Mexico forced Paul to do Paul things, and he racked up outrageous save after outrageous save to keep the two-goal lead. That was important, as New Mexico got one back in the 92nd when the Roots couldn’t quite clear the ball in traffic.
Players to Watch
Remember what I said above about Louisville City’s offense being lousy?2 Relatedly, it’s hard to identify players to watch.
Cameron Lancaster #17 – Lancaster has been playing with Louisville for a long time. He joined the team in 2015, and other than a one-season spell with Nashville in 2019 (while Nashville were still in USL), he has played every season for Louisville, including a TWENTY-FIVE goal season in 2018, dragging Louisville to its second consecutive USL title. Lancaster is from central London and came up through the Spurs academy, so he can fuck right off. His lone appearance in the Premier League was as a substitute for Spurs-Arsenal legend Emmanuel Adebayor. Lancaster had a twenty goal season in 2021, but made only one start in 2022 (somehow still accumulating three goals in 196 minutes of game time). Lancaster has been healthy this season, but only recorded five goals, although that is good enough for first on the team.
Wilson Harris #14 – Wilson Harris is a 23-yeard old forward from Los Angeles that Louisville poached out of Sporting Kansas City (where he appeared alongside Danny Barbir for SKCII several times). Harris has not started since July 1, and does not even have a ton of minutes in that time, but picked up a goal on August 4 against Tulsa, his fifth of the campaign.
Amadou Dia #13 – Dia is Fotmob’s highest-rated player on Lou City. Left-back Dia was also picked up out of SKC with the closing of Sporting Kansas City II. Unlike Harris, Dia is not a kid, having featured as a role player for SKC and Montreal Impact, and tacked on a three-year stint at Phoenix Rising. Dia played college ball at Clemson, where the honors program was still named for slaver John C. Calhoun until 2020. Dia has three assists and no goals this season.
Brian Ownby # 10 – Ownby is a 33-year-old forward from Glen Allen, Virginia, who, while not a consistent goal scorer, tallied 10 assists for Lousville in 2021. Ownby has been a regular for Louisville since 2017. He has two goals and three assists for this season, but I mention him primarily because he features what everyone agrees is the preferred look for men.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I think Rodriguez and Mfeka are back in. I think Morad keeps his starting role in defensive midfield, and I think giving Gomez a break is a good excuse to get Donasiyano back in the starting 11. Unfortunately, this lineup means we’re running our starters ragged at both wingback positions, all three centerbacks, and right-sided forward. In light of that, I would not be overly surprised to see Morad spell one of the other centerbacks, and have Donasiyano/Matsoso in midfield. I don’t think we can spare resting Tamacas or Diaz, this is a winnable game and while it’s not a six-pointer, I would not be surprised if other Western Conference games make it feel that way.
Overall, I believe in what Noah is doing, and Louisville are struggling in what I think is clearly an inferior Eastern Conference. But this is a lot for one week. 1-1.
I’m a little stumped here. I think a lot depends on the status of Joseph Nane, who was not on the subs list after suffering an injury against Colorado Springs. If Nane is available, I like Neveal Hackshaw back in the midfield. With Tarek Morad playing 88 minutes on Wednesday, I have Napo Matsoso back in the midfield. It’s worth noting that Matsoso has appeared twice at RW as a sub for Cedeño in recent games, so player-roles could be evolving. I also like Koze getting his first start since his injury, he has a lot to prove over the final stretch of the season.
Roots bring three points back to Oakland, 2-1.
I was a big fan of the thing Roots did against New Mexico where Danny Barbir pushed up alongside Memo while Gomez slotted in on the back line to give him cover. It looked, to me, a lot like a 4-3-3 in attack with Barbir as the left sided midfielder. He is now the second defender to have provided more in midfield than most of our midfielders, so my suggestion for this match is we just go all in on this. Hackshaw has been in midfield recently, so that’s not a big lift, but I’m saying we formalize the shift for Barbir. I’m tentatively envisioning this with Hackshaw in a single pivot, supporting Barbir and Morad in more advanced roles, but I also see Barbir playing further forward than Morad. Morad’s role in this, presumably, would be to fill the space behind Tamacas when he bombs forward. For height reasons, I have Nane and Klimenta in the CB roles, but would I be upset if you told me the center-halves were Matsoso and Gomez behind this beast of a midfield? No, no I would not. Get it done, Noah. 4-2 Oakland.