We touched on these on the Pod, but here in all their gory details are the Bloggers’ predictions for the Oakland Roots 2022 season.
On RootsPod, I went screaming that Oakland would win the cup. Literally everything would have to go their way to achieve that, but the focus around the organization is to reach the playoffs with a higher seeding—so they need to be championship-minded from the jump.
Roots won’t be able to sneak into the postseason in 2022 given their last 11 matches of the season includes seven playoff teams from last year, not including an improved Sacramento side. There are two more matches and one less playoff spot than 2021; the would-be No. 7 seeded team in each conference would’ve been the West’s RGV Toros (47 points) and Memphis 901 (50 points) in the East over 32 games. Adding six more points, we’re starting with around +50-55 points as our base to qualify.
The first four matches are achievable, yet will be good measuring-sticks. RGV made the playoffs but had extensive roster turnover, Memphis lost six of its top-ten but returned considerable talent, and you have to expect a win over newbies Monterey Bay, while New Mexico United provides the biggest obstacle. As Bloom mentioned on the pod, you’re hoping for 10 points to start the season strong.
The next five USLC games are Tampa Bay, San Diego, Loudon, El Paso, and Colorado Springs. I’m going must-wins over Loyal, Loudon and you hope to take at least a point in the other three. Let’s say they take 6-7 to make it interesting.
In May, must-wins are Vegas and LA, and a statement-win over rivals Sacramento at Laney. A first-ever win against OC on May 7 would be great and 9-10 points provides a solid month, but we’ll keep it at 7-10—putting Roots between 23-27 into June.
For June, Roots host OC, travel to Monterey Bay, host NMU, head to San Antonio, and host ATLU. Must-wins here are Atlanta and Monterey, and you want to at least take points in the other three. Let’s jot down 6-9 points, now at 29-36.
Oakland is at LA, Sac, and hosts El Paso, Vegas, and Phoenix in July. Roots must sweep LA and LV Lights, and are likely happy taking a point in the other three; 6-7 points to make it 35-43.
The challenging final 10-game stretch from August-October includes DCFC, San Diego, Sacramento, San Antonio, Rising, NY, Colorado Springs, Birmingham, Hartford, and Pittsburgh; nearly each team will be contending for a playoff spot.
Let’s say losses occur to San Antonio, PHX, Birmingham and PITT, while obvious must-wins are NYRBII, Detroit, and Hartford—putting Roots at 44-52 points and leaving three playoff contenders SD, SAC, and COL as more achievable wins. Taking all nine would put them at 53-61, which could be enough, but shows that Oakland cannot make any mistakes this season and must make some upsets along the way.
In the end, my guess is Roots get +55 points and the No. 6 or 7 seed in the playoffs.
I believe in the Roots’ project for this season. We don’t necessarily know what to expect from Juan Guerra, but I think he was set up for success by coming into a team with a strong technical director and that already has a platform (defense) to build on. The defense might not be able to repeat what they did in the back half of last season, but if they are 75% of what they were down the stretch then the team will have an opportunity to win most games. I also like Fissore in central midfield, either paired with or deputized by Nane.
The big question remains the attack. At times last season, the Roots’ attack seemed to just be trying any available piece and see if it got the ball in the back of the net. The preseason has not shed much light on what unified theory of attack Guerra will implement, but on paper I like the available pieces better.
I think the Roots’ floor this season is “pretty good.” If the injury gods are kind, and the attack comes together, then I think the Roots could be very good, although I think would still need rivals to collapse to finish first in the West. I am going to predict that the attack comes together, but rivals don’t collapse, and the Roots finish fourth in the West, but are contesting for third until the last few weeks of the season. I think this means 60-ish points. Roots then make the second round of the playoffs but are eliminated in another game they could win. Phoenix wins it all.
The way I see things, you could divide last year’s Western Conference into basically four tiers. Tier 1 teams, Phoenix Rising and El Paso Locomotive, were a step, sometimes two, ahead of everyone else. Tier 2 teams (OCSC, San Antonio, Colorado Springs, San Diego Loyal) were flawed but consistent sides who could win any game (useful for knockout scenarios) but couldn’t keep pace with Phoenix and El Paso over the whole season. Tier 3 teams (Oakland, RGV, New Mexico, Austin Bold, Tacoma Defiance, Galaxy 2, Sacramento) were flawed and inconsistent. Many of these squads also experienced quite a bit of flux over the season. Tier 4 teams (Real Monarchs, Las Vegas Lights) were simply dreadful.
Last year, Oakland found the formula that worked for them, and added enough pieces to the roster to take advantage of the fact that they were in the Pacific Division. (Roots’ 41 points would have finished 7th in the Central.) This year, I think they need to play more like a Tier 2 team to make the playoffs. But I also think it’s going to happen.
It looks like Phoenix will remain the dominant team in the West this year. El Paso lost its coach, plus a small handful of contributors, and may have been playing a bit over its head last year. They might not be able to keep pace this year. OCSC, on the other hand, finished last season white hot after making a midseason coaching change, and may be poised to knock Phoenix off their perch. Of the teams I placed in Tier 2, San Antonio continues to look solid. Colorado Springs saw a lot of turnover in the offseason, and they now employ Christian Herrera, so for Jon’s sake I will not predict continued success for them. San Diego was already in a tenuous position before they decided to ram down the barricades protecting the locker room environment. TBD on what they look like this year.
So what I’m saying is I think there are 3 playoff spots genuinely up for grabs, and I would put Oakland near the top of the pack vying for those spots (which in addition to CS and SD, includes New Mexico and Sacramento). The Roots’ roster building has been inspired, upgrading the roster in the places it fell short this year. I am confident these efforts will pay dividends.
As for specifics, I see Roots earning 53 points this year (14-11-9), going away in the first round of the playoffs to El Paso again, beating them again, and then taking Phoenix to extra time at Wild Horse pass before losing by a goal.
Ultimately, I think we finally get the Phoenix-Tampa Bay championship matchup that covid denied us two years ago, with Tampa Bay taking the title.