Talking Points: Roots’ offensive decisions, Tamacas & Hackshaw’s impact, Trayvone Reid, Memphis 901 opportunity

Welcome to a new series of RootsBlog, where I expand on some talking points and takeaways following matches. Oakland Roots suffered a rough 3-nil loss at the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, resulting in them slipping to 9th place in the Western Conference standings and currently out of playoff position. Here are our Oakland talking points.

Credit: Oakland Roots SC

The offense needs an answer.

It’s been a rough five-game stretch for Oakland, taking just three points out of the last 15 available. Moreover, the attack has struggled mightily to create and finish opportunities with their goal in a 1-1 tie against Phoenix being the only score over the previous four matches.

Now officially at the midway mark, Oakland’s attack is still looking for consistent answers since transferring Edgardo Rito to Hartford, and the dip in offensive quality could be correlated back to his departure. Their goal differential over the last six matches since Rito’s trade now dips to -4. Roots were flying high in the first game following Rito’s transfer after beating Colorado Springs 1-0, which pumped Oakland’s goal differential to +6 at the time and brought them to 4th place in the Western Conference–but since then, the quality has tapered off, and Roots are now .500 at 6-5-6 and hold a +1 differential.

With Rito, Roots had more of an offensive identity, where they were able to play the ball over the top to utilize the Venezuelan’s game-changing speed. Now when Oakland plays over the top, like they did against Tampa Bay, they connect on a significantly less frequent clip. Trayvone Reid had some effectiveness in that regard at Tampa in his first USL Championship start, perhaps that is Noah Delgado feeling the need for more speed.

Although Oakland recouped Jeciel Cedeño in exchange for Rito, there still has not been an answer in replacing your former first-team All-Leaguer and 2022 RootsBlog Player of the Year. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if things were panning out with Anuar Pelaez and Reid on the offensive end, but both haven’t contributed at a meaningful rate now midway through the season. Darek Formella getting starts in the 9-role is another indicator that roster building has not gone fully as planned, requiring Delgado to divert from some initial expectations from the offseason.

Roots had some opportunities in the five-match winless run, credited with six big opportunities to score, according to FotMob, but only converted one of those. Oakland had two big chances versus Tampa and three in the 1-1 draw with Phoenix, but no big chances versus RGV and Pittsburgh. These all could be taken as a testament to requiring a clinical finisher.

With the offense struggling to create since Rito’s trade, somethings got to give at some point. It’s felt like only a matter of time Oakland would add an offensive-minded player, but with the weeks passing and Roots dropping out of the top-8 at the midway mark, at what point does a transaction become “too little, too late” for the attack?

Does Oakland add another forward? Or do they think Bryan Tamacas and Neveal Hackshaw’s return provides the catalyst the offense needs?

Welcome back Tamacas & Hackshaw

A perfect segue into the next talking point. In his match recap, Ivan pointed out how Tamacas and Hackshaw’s return will help bring the lineup back to its best. It seems assured we can expect them the rest of the way; Roots will certainly need them.

Bryan Tamacas and Neveal Hackshaw returning to the club following El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago’s group stage exits in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup will help get this squad close to full strength. Their absence provided an explanation for the drop off in performances and it’ll be interesting to see the process of getting them reintegrated.

Can the two bring the spark Oakland needs to its offense despite being defensive players? The two bring solid distribution as passers; Tamacas has eight chances created in his 12 USL Championship appearances, while Hackshaw has three in 11 appearances thus far despite playing center back.

The 15 missed points over the last five stings, but you have to wonder how the pair 1-1 and 0-0 ties against Phoenix and Pittsburgh changes if Hackshaw and Tamacas are in.

Can we expect more Trayvone Reid?

Oakland’s offense operated at its best when they were able to play the ball into space for Rito. Can Roots replicate the same strategy with Reid?

One of Oakland’s best looks against Tampa Bay came when a longball was played to Reid in the 16th minute and he squared a pass perfectly to Formella at the top of the penalty area. However, the Polish forward’s shot trailed wide of the net. Reid has struggled to force his way into the starting 11 so far this season, but his potential is clear to see, and it’s felt like he’s an inch or two away from creating magical moments for Oakland.

It’s easy to forget that Reid is just 23-years-old and is playing outside of his native country of Jamaica for the first time in his life. Aside from making an effort to fully transform into a new system, he’s also in a unique position where he must find comfort far away from the only support system he’s ever known. These things require patience and you can only hope Reid is becoming more comfortable with his new life in a foreign country.

The feedback I’ve received in my brief conversations with the front office about Reid is optimistic. They are aware Reid is young and has a ton of raw talent, but he just needs a little more time to develop. The latter half of the season will be big for him.

What Memphis 901 will we see on Wednesday?

Memphis 901 is another opportunity to get on track, but the visitors will be eager to correct their own issues on Wednesday night. Memphis is coming off 6-0 and 4-0 losses to Phoenix and San Antonio, yet still rank fourth in the Eastern Conference.

It’s hard to say who is on the larger downhill slope right now, 901 or Roots? Prior to Memphis’ back-to-back losses, they were 8-4-2 and looking like an undoubted contender for the top of the conference. Before to the Phoenix and SAFC losses, they finished June with a 3-2 win over Charleston (another contender) and 4-0 over Tulsa.

They’ve been leaking goals on the counter with San Antonio holding just 30 percent of possession and Phoenix–usually a heavy-possessive side–finished with 42 percent. If Oakland is going to get the job done, they’ll need to be good in transition and finish the opportunities given to them.

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