Reflecting on Oakland Roots’ 2022 season

Oakland Roots’ season came to a close on Friday night, losing 3-0 to San Antonio FC. Oakland went into halftime trailing 1-0 after an early goal by Sam Adeniran in the second minute of action, and although Roots had some good chances in the first half, the same couldn’t be said in the second–conceding goals in the 75th and 90th minutes, both by Santiago Patino.

San Antonio looked very much like the No. 1 seed; forcing Oakland into difficult looks, long crosses from the wings, and playing stout defense. Adeniran, meanwhile, scored his seventh career goal against the Roots, including four this season. And Oakland had its chances, like Danny Barbir’s header sailing high in the 31st minute, Ottar Magnus Karlsson’s shot going straight to Jordan Farr three minutes later, while Farr also stopped Mikael Johnsen from his knees later in at 88′.

It’s easy to get swept up in the negatives for a one-sided score and focus on what went wrong. But just reaching the playoffs and making it to the USL Championship Conference Semifinals undoubtedly required so much to go right, and in no way was it easy.

When reflecting on it all, all the factors working against Oakland seemed insurmountable. The season started with a new coach, Mr. Juan Guerra, beginning his takeover of the roster, which included three starters from last year’s team eventually shown the door in Kai Greene, Akeem Ward, and Ariel Mbumba. Nine of last year’s starters faced reduced roles while Guerra converted Roots’ system from a back-four to his preferred back-three.

Oakland started the season 0-0-3 and were 0-3-3 before their first win, 4-1 over Loudoun. After 10 games, Oakland was 1-5-4, just two points from the bottom of the table–struggling to keep its footing on playing an effective 90 minutes. At some point, Peter and I mentioned on RootsBlog that we didn’t expect to make the playoffs, while Aaron pointed to the climb in 2021 and Roots would get the job done. Gold star, Lawson.

Roots whittled away and still sat outside the top-seven with a 5-10-6 record after a 3-3 tie with Sacramento Republic on July 9. After the match, Guerra said that they targeted 45 points as their mark to make the postseason with 13 matches left at the time. But just a month and four games later, Guerra made the decision to spurn Oakland for the head coaching job at Phoenix Rising on August 18.

It was seemingly the turning point of the season, requiring the players to come together against adversity and a total disruption of operations. Noah Delgado took control of the club with a match at San Diego just six days later, resulting in a triumphant 3-1 win over the Loyal. In his first interview with the Blog, Delgado commented that his goal was to give Oakland “stability” and help push toward a postseason berth.

“Just trying to create some stability with within the club, give them ideas. We still have a lot of games to go and the playoffs is something that we’re shooting for. It’s more just, let’s get on track, let’s start going,” said Delgado following a 1-0 loss to Sacramento.

After losing 2-0 to San Antonio at home on September 3, Delgado knew it was go-time for the club in order to reach the playoffs.

“We’re still in it. We put our heads up, go to sleep, and recover. We check out our injuries and see where we are at, and then we keep fighting and get ready for the next one. It’s just that one, the next three points are that important. I checked all the results and some of them went our way, so we just keep going. Now it’s winning games outside of home as well and most importantly, my first game at Laney as well,” said Delgado after the loss to San Antonio in September.

From there, Roots went on a five match unbeaten run including wins over Phoenix, New York, Birmingham, and Hartford. The victory over Birmingham on October 1 gave Oakland it’s first positive winning percentage all season and briefly catapulted Oakland to sixth. Although they finished the regular season with a loss to Pittsburgh, Roots qualified for the playoffs after Los Angeles and Las Vegas tied 1-1.

When asked about who was the glue to help keep things together through all the turbulence, Delgado explained that it couldn’t be just one person, but an entire team effort to keep the ship going in the right direction.

“From the start, it was a team thing. They met and talked about what they had to do and that they had to keep working; they know that. They welcomed me with open arms, it’s been good, it’s a transition. I think the core players have been a big part of it, but I don’t know, there’s a lot. I can’t really pinpoint a couple of them, it couldn’t be just one or two–it’s a lot of them coming together, understanding the situation. It’s like a family, you’re going to have great moments and others where there’s going to be back-and-forth. But we all have the same goal in mind,” said Delgado after the win against Birmingham.

Delgado ended the regular season at 5-1-3, coming just one victory short of tying Guerra’s total amount of wins while with Oakland this season. But Roots weren’t done, defeating San Diego Loyal 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs to provide one of the largest wins in club history. After his sixth win at the helm, Delgado commented on the character of his players.

“They just face adversity. They are ready to work, they come into work and trainings are super intense; they’re getting at each other. We’re fighting for one goal and united in fighting for that goal–to win the next game,” said Delgado after the playoff win.

Charlie Dennis praised Delgado and the perseverance the roster required to turn things around despite all of the factors working against them.

“I think it speaks volumes. It shows the character that we have in the dressing room. It comes from coach Noah, his messages that he gives across to the lads and we went out there and executed,” said Dennis.

But it wasn’t just a season of perseverance for the Roots’ roster and staff, but eight months of building a community off of the pitch. We named The Function our RootsBlog Man of the Match following the playoff exit for this very reason given their efforts to create a passionate fanbase and culture in such a short amount of time. An amazing 400+ people turned up to Friday night’s watch party at Line 51 Brewery.

There are a lot of fans who get praise around the USL–San Diego, Phoenix, New Mexico, Tampa Bay, and Sacramento often get the most headlines for its large group of fans. But from one sitting close beside The Town Function, it’s difficult to put in perspective just how much growth the club has seen off of the field.

It started prior to the first game with members of the supporters groups gathering at Faction Brewery in Alameda to create the Huey Newton tifo that was unveiled at the home-opener on March 26 against Monterey. And then versus San Diego on April 13, the Radicals prepared a tifo of a classic Oakland sideshow and handed out pamphlets to call attention to multiple incidents of racism occurring at CIF prep-sports.

On May 28, the Radicals prepared another tifo, this time recognizing the uprising in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd which read, “Never Forget What We Can Do Together,” which ironically could be the slogan for what the 2022 Roots’ team accomplished.

Then on June 28 following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, the Oakland 68s prepared another banner with a uterus flipping the bird. On July 16, the 68s made another stand against the Supreme Court’s ruling with a banner of the Gasden Flag, reading “Don’t Tread On Me” with a uterus replacing the snake.

The newest supporters group, Los Roots, made their presence known at the September 17 Laney-finale with a giant tifo of the Mexican flag to honor Latin Heritage Month and Mexico’s Independence Day.

The group quickly became one of the many faces of the franchise with their collection of Lucha Libre masks and an arsenal of songs that has swept through The Function like wildfire. Their group started with just three people midway through the season, exploding to what they are now.

It wasn’t just The Function’s artistry that set them apart from other supporters groups around the USL Championship, but the willingness to create a traveling culture.

At the Monterey Bay FC game on June 4, Roots estimated 400 visiting supporters making the drive down–overpowering the home crowd’s chants for a full 90 minutes. It was the largest visiting faction to an away league match. Next up was visiting Sacramento on July 9, where over 200 Oakland fans made the trek out. Even more fans showed up in the second meeting at Sacramento on August 27, this time over 300 fans showing up by the busload.

The playoff turnout in San Diego may have been the epitome of the culture Roots are building within its fans, showing up with over 200 supporters to pack sections 111A and 111 right next to it. As Loyal staff and support told the Oakland visitors, it was the loudest and deepest traveling sect they’ve encountered at Torero Stadium.

What a season it was for Roots SC and its supporters. It was so much fun to be a part of.

FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings

  1. Jose Hernandez, 6.6

2. Charlie Dennis, 6.5

3. Joseph Nane, 6.5

4. Emrah Klimenta, 6.4

5. Lindo Mfeka, 6.4

6. Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 6.4

7. Juan Carlos Azocar, 6.3

8. Edgardo Rito, 6.3

9. Danny Barbir, 6.3

10. Johnny Rodriguez, 6.2

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