A huge development occurred on Thursday with Oakland Roots announcing that they have placed coach Juan Guerra on administrative leave. This comes shortly after Phoenix Rising FC mutually parted ways with Rick Schantz on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the blog has been informed that Phoenix has been engaged in discussions with Guerra without permission while he is under contract with Oakland in a manner deemed as disruptive to the organization.
Phoenix Rising reporter Owain Evans cited sources which suggested that the club has been in contact with Guerra, so its clear to see that there’s been communication between the two sides and there was mutual interest in Juan’s return to Phoenix after spending one season as their assistant coach in 2021.
Last month, USL News & Rumors first reported that Guerra was a candidate for the job, and the wheels have seemingly been turning since then.
What’s unclear is how the two clubs will approach Guerra’s contract, which had multiple years left on the deal given he was not operating under a year-by-year basis. In the majority of sports leagues, it is standard procedure for an interested organization to buy out the remainder of an agreement, so we can only assume that a similar process will occur between Phoenix and Oakland–otherwise proceedings are bound to get messy.
Guerra being placed on leave implies that his contract has not been terminated by Oakland, meaning he cannot depart to Phoenix until he’s released by Roots or bought out.
It also begs the question on what tampering standards were breached by Phoenix Rising FC contacting and negotiating a deal with Guerra while he was under contract. USL Championship bylaws states that players, agents, or representatives cannot engage in any contract negotiations other than with the players’ current club in regards to a future deal. The rules state that the league may prohibit the club or player from entering an agreement and may declare a deal null and void. It is unclear if the same bylaws pertain to manager contracts as well.
The USL Championship’s Collective Bargaining Agreement states under Anti-Tampering:
Beginning in 2022, notwithstanding any FIFA RSTP provision to the contrary, for a period of time determined by the League in advance of each Season (but which period may start no earlier than the Sunday prior to the last week of the regular season and end no later than the championship match), neither a Player nor his agents or representatives may engage in any contract negotiations or discussions with any Club in the League other than the Player’s current Club with respect to a future contract. If a Club or Player violates this provision, the League may prohibit the Club and Player from entering into an SPA for the next season and/or may declare null and void any contract entered into between the Club and Player.via: https://uslplayers.org/static/2021_USL_Collective_Bargaining_Agreement-5f2880735ea72eac9bdfcf7ce89b125c.pdf
As for Guerra’s assistant coaches like first assistant Marcos Reina, goal keeper coach Peter Davis, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeronimo Aimar, Head Athletic Trainer Ivan Villaneda, Director of Soccer Operations Dustin Cleaver, and Equipment Manager Neil Falcone–they are all still under contract with Oakland Roots. Should Phoenix want to bring any of them along, they will–theoretically–need to buy their contract from Oakland as well.
The mood at practice this week was described as “tense” by a source, detailing huddled discussions by the coaching staff earlier this week, with some coaches canceling team meetings during the buildup to Thursday’s announcement.
It is unclear who will remain on Delgado’s staff for the remainder of the season, next Wednesday’s game at San Diego will shed more light on the situation.
With nine games left in the season and Oakland four points back of a playoff spot, the announcement couldn’t have come at a more awkward time. Roots center back Tarek Morad voiced some displeasure on Twitter earlier today: “The dogs keep barking but the train keeps moving.”
Chuy Enriquez also expressed himself on Twitter.
There’s an obvious chip on the team’s shoulder going into the final stretch of the season. The players are “pissed” described one source, who noted that players weren’t made fully aware of the situation until Guerra was put on leave.
But it seems that Oakland’s roster is rallying together following the news with another source describing that players have taken the situation “better” than originally anticipated.
Adding to the surprise of Guerra’s departure, the news comes just six days after the team officially transferred Ariel Mbumba to Columbus Crew 2 after the 20-year old struggled to get time this season. Roots also moved Akeem Ward to RGV Toros for the remainder of his contract and loaned Wolfgang Prentice to Northern Colorado Hailstorm in USL League One. It intimates that Oakland was already planning for the future under Juan and did not foresee him leaving anytime soon.
What. A. Day.
New interim HC Noah Delgado
Roots also announced that assistant coach Noah Delgado will take over as head coach on an interim basis.
Delgado, 42, was a member of Oakland’s staff under Jordan Ferrell in 2021 and is the only holdover from last year’s staff. He is also a member of the El Salvador National Team’s staff as an assistant under manager Hugo Perez.
Delgado is a native of Fremont and played collegiately at Fresno State. He has five years of experience on the Puerto Rico National Team from 2008-2012 as a midfielder, scoring nine goals in 25 appearances.
Professionally, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy with the No. 48 overall pick in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft, but was not offered a contract. Delgado quickly signed with the Portland Timbers in the USL A-League before playing for the Syracuse Salty Dogs and Rochester Raging Rhinos the following two years.
From there, he signed with the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2005 and played until their dissolution in 2012, making 174 appearances and scored 16 goals. They made the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals in 2008 and was their captain from 2009-2011. In 2014, Delgado played for the San Francisco Stompers of the NPSL.
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