Marbles, friends. This match is for some of them. The Roots host a win-and-you’re-in match against El Paso Locomotive at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 14 at Pioneer Stadium on the campus of CSU East Bay in Hayward. The match will probably be sold out, but if you can’t get a ticket on the secondary market, you can catch the match on ESPN+. This is a rematch of the 2021 Western Conference Playoffs first round when the Roots shocked the Mountain Division champions with a 1-0 win courtesy of a Jeremy Bokila goal. The aforementioned marbles at stake are a trip to Sacramento for the first round of the playoffs.
I can’t find an El Paso or El Paso-adjacent musician I want to feature today, although I did learn something sorta interesting, which is that both Don Bluth (Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven) and Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) are from El Paso and both moved to Santa Monica as adults. Anyway, I have been listening to a lot of Gorillaz recently (since seeing the Flimsy Steve tweet again a few weeks back) and this song whips and features Del, who is an Oakland artist [best I could do, Aaron].
The Roots first saw El Paso in that 2021 Western Conference playoff game, because not every Pacific and Mountain division team played each other:
Blanchette -> Quincy -> Chuy -> Bokila -> back of the net. As I recall, Kai Greene had an incredible game.
With realignment in 2022, the Roots saw El Paso twice, drawing 1-1 in El Paso, and then thrashing the struggling Locomotive 4-0 at Laney.
Jon took this picture:
This year, the Roots again had one of their better offensive performances against El Paso:
El Paso was hot going into this game, but the Roots got El Paso started on a five-game losing streak, from which they have never fully recovered. The teams were even through the half, although primarily thanks to an excellent Benny Diaz save of a Napo Matsoso shot up and off the cross-bar. El Paso took the lead on a deflected shot (credited as an Emrah own goal). Lindo equalized on the most quintessential Lindo goal–calm chip of the keeper while, frankly, barely running. Johnny headed in a cross for the lead and with five minutes left in regulation, Pelaez put the game away with a simple finish of a Prentice cross, completely unmarked at the back post.
In a win-and-you’re-in scenario, the Roots may be the last team that El Paso wants to see from a historical perspective.
Around the Western Conference
I hate it. And you’re going to hate it. But I’m going to post it here because I haven’t posted it in awhile.
Yeah I hated typing that all out. And it’s not even up to date any more. New Mexico won last night, meaning they are on 46 points, and the bottom of the table is pretty straight forward. If El Paso wins or draws, they’re through, although a win puts them through in 7th, a situation idgaf about. New Mexico’s win eliminated Monterey Bay, who can catch El Paso, but only in a circumstance where the Roots jump both for 8th place. Loyal/OCSC and Phoenix/Colorado can jockey for playoff seeding, but first-round home field is locked in, the question is just matchups. Back east there are only a couple of things in question. Louisville needs a win to pip Memphis for 4th and a home playoff game (Memphis lost to NMU last night). Indy and Birmingham in 6th and 7th could also swap around with Louisville in fifth, but all of them are safely above the bottom playoff seed. Miami sits in 8th and Detroit a point behind in 9th. They face Sacramento and Pittsburgh, respectively, both of which have locked the 1st seed in their conferences and have nothing to play (indeed, the Player’s Shield, for most total points, is already locked by Pittsburgh).
Players to Watch
Like I mentioned on RootsPod this week, El Paso’s biggest goal threat is sidelined. With 9 goals, 1/6 of the team’s total, Luis Solignac has not played since August 12. Last time I featured Solignac, Petar Petrovic (#26) and Denis Kostyshyn (#10). Petrovic has three goals since then, Kostyshyn none, Solignac one (before the injury). In that time, El Paso has scored twelve goals in thirteen matches. So who has scored the other eight?
Josué Aaron Gómez Gómez (#7) – This name was familiar to me, pretty sure I had featured him on a prior preview. Let’s see what I wrote:
27-year-old Mexican forward Gomez seems likely to lead the line with Lucho Solignac on a red card suspension. Gomez has six goals this season and a career-high six assists. Three and two of those, respectively, have come in the last six matches (although a goal and both assists came in the thrashing of NYRBII). Gomez’s professional career started with three seasons with FC Juarez, which plays just 1.7 miles as the crow flies from the SWUP where El Paso plays. I wonder if this is closest two stadiums for teams in the top two divisions of different FAs, but I really cannot be bothered to figure it out.
Gómez Gómez has five goals on this season, with four coming since the Roots last saw El Paso.
Eric Calvillo (#6) – Right-footed midfielder Calvillo has eight call-ups for the El Salvador national team, where he has started with Bryan Tamacas at least a couple of times. Calvillo is from Southern California and made his professional debut with NY Cosmos (not quite overlapping with Nane) before signing a multi-year deal with the San Jose Quakes at age 20. Calvillo made some appearances for the Quakes each of his first three seasons there, but mostly played on loan with Reno 1868. His last season was a full-season loan to Orange County in 2021, where he faced the Roots three times (he was subbed off near the end of regular time and did not take part in the penalty shoot out). Here’s a real deep cut I just found–Calvillo played for the US U-17 World Cup team and started the first match, a 2-0 loss to Nigeria, alongside Christian Pulisic, with Tyler Adams coming in off the bench and Danny Barbir an unused sub. Nigeria’s second goal was scored by future Manchester City superstar Victor Osimhen.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I’m going with a front three of Pelaez, Johnny, and Cedeño as the interchangeable piece with Lindo Mfeka. Out outside back, Baboucarr Njie and Memo Diaz start with Bryan Tamacas on national team duty. My midfield is Napo Matsoso and Danny Gomez because I feel it provides the best opportunity to win the ball and hold possession. My score prediction, 2-0 Roots.
Like I said on the pod, I’d change formation for some midfield control and better symmetry/balance up front. I don’t expect that it will happen, and El Paso will exploit the vast spaces left by Roots’ midfield the same way everyone San Diego, OCSC, San Antonio, etc. have. Thankfully, El Paso lacks some of the attacking bite the Roots’ past few opponents have. Roots win because they have to. 2-1.