Oakland Roots vs. San Diego Loyal – Match Preview (May 27, 2023)

Roots Fans! The Roots host San Diego Loyal at 7:00 p.m Pacific at Pioneer Stadium at CSU East Bay in Hayward for a reverse rematch of the Roots’ ending of Loyal’s 2022 season in the Conference Quarterfinals. That match ended well for the Roots, and consistent with the prior two seasons, Oakland-San Diego is a matchup of teams looking to contend.

I am missing my first home game in a while due to illness, and I am not thrilled about it. With Aaron out of town, this is an all-time RootsBlog low for home game attendance. Jon will be carrying the banner alone.

As a side note, as I wrote this, Dortmund’s title campaign fell apart losing at home to Mainz while Bayern beat Cologne. Bayern lead in the title race for 12 total minutes of the season. This would go down as an all-time historic ending to a league if it was anyone other than Bayern.

San Diego Loyal

The big news about San Diego Loyal isn’t really about San Diego Loyal.

Mohamed Mansour, the primary owner, this year alone has donated 5 million pounds to the UK Conservative Party. The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation is the other primary owner. Per Wikipedia, they have several entertainment ventures, notably a casino, and relatedly donated $5.3m to the “No on Proposition 27” campaign. That’s a lot better than donating to the Tories, to be fair. The celebrity owners are extremely boring except for Manny Machado. I am sure the FO is hoping that SD Loyal are more successful than other teams associated with Manny Machado. At the press conference, Don Garber said “For many years we have believed San Diego would be a terrific MLS market due to its youthful energy, great diversity, it’s eleven months of summer, and plus those bums in USL already sell 5k tickets per game.”

Loyal fans are taking it well.

There are rumors that MLS approached Loyal but that Loyal refused promotion, but the comments say that USL owns a big stake in Loyal and was demanding a $50m buyout. I have no idea if any of this is real.

Loyal’s ownership put out a statement saying they are going to stay and compete, and good for them. I’m really curious if they can keep their attendance numbers up. Miami could not.

The Rivalry

There are really three bullet points in this rivalry.

Point One:

Point Two:

Point Three:

Loyal are a consistently good team and Oakland are 4-2-1 against them.

Loyal’s Form

Loyal started the season with 14 points from their first 7 games including a quality win over Tampa and a respectable loss away at Sacramento. Since then they have lost 1-2 at home to El Paso, beaten Orange County on the road, lost 2-3 at home to Toros, and beaten Miami FC on the road.

There’s a lot to love about San Diego’s broadcasts, in particular the out-of-control homerism of the broadcaster and the subsequent despondency in his play-by-play when things go poorly for Loyal. A new thing I have discovered to love is that their goal replays are sponsored by the IBEW Local 569. RGV went up 1-0 in the mid-20s and 2-0 just past the 30 minute mark, both on some lackluster defending by San Diego. San Diego took one back with an absolute banger by Adrian Perez from outside the corner of the 18-yard box to the far top corner of the goal. Toros re-established their two-goal lead taking advantage of even more half-hearted defending and beating the keeper near post. All of this action occurred within about 15 total minutes. San Diego saved their blushes a little bit with a penalty in early stoppage time, but couldn’t get an equalizer in the remaining five minutes.

Almost everyone thought Miami took the lead on a corner in the 3rd minute that found a man totally unmarked at the back post but he had missed the target wide. Loyal seem to just lose men in and around the box. Grant Stoneman gave Miami the lead with an absolute worldy lofted own-goal over Koke Vegas in the 16th minute. He had to try to intercept the ball–his man had gotten loose behind him and the pass would have found him if Stoneman did not make a play, but he missed low on his attempt to poke the ball out of danger and instead sent the ball about 20 feet in the air, gracefully arcing into the top right corner. San Diego’s equalizer came on some neat interplay in the box with Alejandro Guido springing himself free, putting in a shot that the Miami keeper could only parry, and Evan Conway cleaning up the parry on his late run for the easy goal. You should check out the highlights for the own goal, but keep watching for Kyle Murphy’s go-ahead goal in the 60th. Murphy gets into space when almost everyone thinks the referee is going to award Loyal a freekick just outside Miami’s box, but he does not, and once Murphy gets free he shows why he has been a regular contender for USL golden boot. Incredibly, Miami gave up the lead in the 81st on another no-doubter own goal. Loyal got the winner following a corner, when the ball scuttled out to a Loyal player on their attacking left who scuffed his attempted volley but the ball bounced across the top of the box, behind most of the players on both teams who are spread out across the offside trap line. The ball reached Elliot Collier wide of the goal right, and he laced it through traffic for the three points.

Roots Form

Hard to say “good” after a loss to Sac.

March 11at San Antonio FCL13
March 19at RGV TorosD11
March 25vs Memphis 901?????????
April 1vs New Mexico UnitedW10
April 8at Indy ElevenW30
April 15vs HartfordL12
April 23at LoudounL02
April 29vs Miami FCD00
May 6at Birmingham LegionW41
May 13vs Orb CountyW30
May 20at SacramentoL13
May 27vs San Diego Loyal
June 2at Colorado Springs Switchbacks
June 10at Phoenix Rising
June 17vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds
June 24vs Phoenix Rising
June 28vs RGV Toros
July 8at Tampa Bay Rowdies
July 15at Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside
July 22at El Paso Locomotiv
July 26vs Las Vegas Lights
July 29vs Detroit City
August 4at Charleston Battery
August 19vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks
August 23at New Mexico United
August 26at Louisville City
September 2vs Sacramento
September 9at Las Vegas Lights
September 16vs FC Tulsa
September 23vs Monterey Bay Union F.C. of Seaside
September 30vs San Antonio FC
October 4at Orb County
October 7at Loyal
October 14vs El Paso Locomotiv

I watched this game on my phone while walking around Nashville and then posted up at a hotel bar where I ran into my boss somewhat unexpectedly. Which is to say, I only sorta watched this game, but in my defense, the Roots only sorta played it.

I don’t know what to say about Kevin Wright’s defending on the opener. He got pantsed twice in quick succession, allowing Keko the chance for a shot (that was to be fair still pretty solid). Not sure I want to see Wright starting if Memo is healthy. Holding it to 1-0 for 50 minutes made it seem competitive, but man, again, there were four defenders between Cicerone and Paul Blanchette and none of them could figure out who was supposed to take him out at the knees. Four minutes later Sac secured the points on a goal that unfortunately lacks a good angle for assessing the offside non-call. The referees appear to have decided that Herrera jumped onside just before the ball was sent through, and then outraced Hackshaw to it before beating Paul one-on-one. Hackshaw disagreed. The Roots got one back in the 62nd, and nearly got a second in the 82nd, but the game goes into the record books 3-1; a humbling result for the Roots.

Players to Watch

Evan Conway #9 – Conway made the squad at Union Omaha through an open trial and in his second season netted ten goal on his way to winning USL League One. Loyal picked him up and he played well last season, scoring nine with two assists. He already has four for Loyal this season. Fotmob says that Loyal are running two up top. Speaking of his partner up top:

Ronaldo Damus #8 – Our old friend Ronaldo Damus is back from studying abroad in the Swedish league where he scored five and assisted two in twenty-five appearances for sixteenth place GIF Sundsvall (pronounced like the peanut butter); sixteenth in the Allsvenskan is last. Damus had 14 goals for Orange County in the 2021 regular season, and scored four in the playoffs, including two in OC’s title game win over Tampa. Damus is fast, wilely, and clinical. Luckily our centerbacks are not big lumbering dudes.

Lineup and Score Predictions


I think Noah will not look at 3-1 away at Sacramento as a result that demands a change, as painful a result as that is. I still suspect Diaz is back in the starting lineup. If I was looking for more changes, I might consider moving Mfeka into Gomez’s role, to get Johnny up top and Formella wide left. That’s a big move in an offensive direction, but seems more likely to me than Tamacas going back into centerback, Rito moving back to Right Wing Back, and Johnny taking that spot. That said, despite my usual criticism of this formation, I also don’t think that 3-1 away at Sac is a result that demands a major change. If you believed in the system before that result, I don’t think you should necessarily stop believing in it.

Loyal are good, but I still think at home the Roots will put it together. 2-1 Roots.


No changes for me from the Bloom’s graphic above. My one change from the Sacramento match is Memo Diaz returning at left wingback for Kevin Wright. In my opinion, Diaz’s passing ability makes him a player Oakland needs on the field at all times. Memo has a proven he can connect on passes and he’s always involved in the gameplan for free kicks and corners, even if its just as a decoy. He may not bring the same level of speed as Wright, but Memo is likely the best passer on the team–that alone makes him worthy of a consistent starting role.

I’m just completely piggybacking off of Bloom’s predictions, 2-1 Roots.


Aaron could not be reached for comment. I tried his emergency contact and it redirected to the voicemail of Pep Boys in Bakersfield. Concerning.

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