Oof, Roots Fans. Oof.
The Roots host our neighbors Monterey Bay F.C. at 7:00 p.m. at CSU East Bay on September 23. The last time these teams met, the Roots beat Monterey Bay soundly on a foggy evening in Seaside, but there was a sizeable gap in the table between the two. In the meantime, that gap has closed, thanks to Monterey Bay’s solid form and the Roots utter disaster the last month. The time to right the ship is at hand.
The dozen MBFC fans considering traveling up to Oakland are going to be so confused.
Around the Western Conference
We don’t like it. The Roots are in a three-way tie for sixth place with Colorado Springs and Monterey Bay (although Roots have a game on MBFC). Basically everyone except Sacramento has slowed down, so there’s still a lot of ground the Roots can make up, but only if they win games.
Streaky! When the Roots beat Monterey Bay in Seaside on July 15, it kicked off a five-game losing streak for MBFC. They then drew away in San Antonio, a remarkable result, and then won four in a row, 2-1 over Colorado Springs, 2-1 over El Paso, 1-0 over Memphis, and 3-2 over Las Vegas Lights. Not that the Roots have any room to criticize, but there were cracks showing in MFBC’s win over Vegas, since they trailed for 62 minutes before scoring twice. This past Wednesday, the 20th, MBFC sorta did the reverse, securing a two-goal lead in the first half before letting it slip all the way away. Gleadle’s opener is pretty sweet. Baca plays a great pass to him into space and he runs half the field with the ball at a full spring, and beats the keeper with a rising shot to the near post from the attacking right. SD equalized just before half, and MBFC must have thought they’d escaped when they held the 2-1 lead until the 90th minute. But eighteen-year-old Xavi Gnaulati, the San Diego native making only his fourth appearance, came on in the 80th minute and scored in the 90th and 93rd to leave MBFC with <Greg Davies voice> NIL POINTS.
Players to Watch
Last time I talked about Alex Dixon, Christian Volesky, and Sam Gleadle. The thing is, they are still the biggest threats on the team. Dixon (#15) still leads the team with 11 goals. Volesky (#10) has 9 goals and 5 assists, and Gleadle (#23) has 5 goals and 5 assists. So bear in mind those are probably still the players to watch.
Sean “Ugo” Okoli #9 – Big striker Sean Okoli only has two goals on the season, but both of them have come in the month of September, as he has become a much more regular starter. Okoli is from the Seattle area and played in the Sounders system while splitting time at Wake Forest. Okoli got some traction in MSL, with 3 appearances for Sounders, 5 for Revolution, and 16 for NYCFC, interspersed with some USL loans and some loans to the less exciting European leagues (sorry Norway, Sweden, and Austria). During his season with then-USL side FC Cincinnati, Okoli led the USL in goals and won the MVP award. Roots fans will be most familiar with Okoli from his 2021-22 seasons in Orange County.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I like what Aaron is cooking below, but I don’t see Noah actually running it out. We won’t have Mfeka because of his red card, so maybe we get this more minor tweak we discussed on the pod:
With Mfeka suspended, I am picking Cedeño for the big game, taking advantage of having two big targets up top to choose from against a ponderous defense. 3-1 Roots.
Aside from Neveal Hackshaw at center back, I think this lineup provides Oakland’s best attacking capabilities with Mfeka out. You want to keep Cedeño on the field, so the best option could be slating Johnny at LW, allowing both players to rotate into the 10-role.
I’m sticking with my RootsPod prediction of 2-nil Roots.
Earlier this week, as I was doing my daily rumination on the Roman empire, I recalled Rome’s shift from reliance for outlying states for defense to a more aggressive frontier defense. In that spirit, here is a lineup that uses most (all?) of the senior defenders on the roster, but in a theoretically more attacking way (that should be enough to keep MBFC from threatening
Rome Blanchette). This would get real funky, but I would be curious to see Tamacas, Diaz, and Cedeno on the same side just tormenting the Monterey defense. Also, this would see Barbir bombing down the outside, and Donasiyano freed up to move forward. As we discussed on the Pod, I am fully aware that this will not happen. Not only are we allergic to major changes, we’re slow even to make minor ones. And, tbh, its possible MBFC is so outmatched here that you can use this as a get-right game. ON THE OTHER HAND, you could also use it to test out some new looks that might be useful in the remaining games, all of which are big at this point. Anyway, 3-1 Roots.