Week 9 Preview: what you need to know

Emotional highs and lows


We haven’t had a chance to watch Wednesday evening’s game, so there has been no Player Ratings or Diving Deep post. Probably just as well. So we rush headlong into the weekend’s action with a fairly quick preview.

The most important part

Be aware: the 7:30pm Saturday game against the Oakland Roots will not be a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, Oakland are just 2-3-2, but they are by no means an easy out. They have a habit of hanging in there and being potentially surprising. Moreover, their most recent game was a 0-0 draw with Miami, so there’s that.

In fact, their season to date looks very much like Miami’s: low scoring but also low goals allowed. Their primary striker is Dariusz Formella, a Pole who was previously with Sacramento Republic. He only has 2 goals so far this season, but that does not mean he’s not dangerous. Their defense similarly runs a 3-man back line, anchored by Neveal Hackshaw. You may remember Hackshaw from his last appearance at Protective Stadium, when with Indy Eleven he was shown a red card thanks in part to some excellent theatrics by Alex Crognale. Doubtless he has not forgotten that. That being said, he is a bit of a hothead.

The Roots’ biggest weapon by far though is goalkeeper Paul Blanchette. He has 3 clean sheets and 30 saves to his name in 7 games, 3rd in the league in the former category and 1st in the latter. He is not easy to get past. Not at all.

Prediction: The big question about this game is whether the team rests a few starters ahead of the midweek US Open Cup clash with Memphis 901. Having utterly failed to collect points against Miami, is it important to do so against Oakland? The Roots are out of the Cup, by the way, having lost 0-1 to Sacramento. Also, how many minutes do you want Neco Brett and Tyler Pasher to get ahead of that game? I frankly have no idea. All that being said, I expect a low-scoring draw.

Best of the rest

There are 4 games tonight, all out west and none before 8:00pm. 2 of them involve Eastern Conference teams. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds head to Monterey Bay in what could be a good game at 10:00pm, but the more important one is Las Vegas Lights v. Charleston Battery (10:30pm). That will almost certainly leapfrog the Battery into 1st in the East. Of the other two games, Rio Grande Valley v. New Mexico United (8:00pm) matches two teams currently out of the playoff spots, but later at 9:00pm is Colorado Springs Switchbacks v. El Paso Locomotive, the 2 teams with the best records over the last 5 games, sure to be a good game.

On Saturday, all but 1 game clash with the Legion game. Fortunately, the only team that can catch the Three Sparks, Louisville City, is on a bye this week, so you don’t need to be too concerned about keeping up with things elsewhere. Of those games, likely the most interesting would be Tampa Bay Rowdies v. Phoenix Rising (7:30pm), who are each 7th in their respective conferences. The only game that doesn’t overlap with the Legion game at all is Orange County v. San Diego Loyal (10:00pm). The OC just parted ways with head coach Richard Chaplow and the Loyal are as strong as usual. Not much to miss there.

However, you should be aware that Area Code FC play at Hartford (6:00pm), if for no other reason than to see who they rest.

One game on Sunday, and you have to feel for the Lights, who just two days after playing Charleston have to face San Antonio (6:00pm). That’s a sadistic piece of scheduling.

Back in the Old Country

The Blues lost once more last week, this time 0-2 at promotion-chasing Coventry, who now need 1 point from their final game at Middlesbrough to guarantee a playoff spot (Boro have already done that). The Blues finish the season against Sheffield United (Monday May 8th, 9:00am; no ESPN+) in a meaningless game for both teams; United have clinched 2nd place and Birmingham is unlikely to move from 17th regardless of the outcome.

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