Oakland Roots suffered a 1-nil loss to Sacramento Republic after giving away a penalty kick in the third minute of action on Saturday night, resulting in Roots falling two positions on the table to sixth-place in the Western Conference standings. Oakland is now one point behind Phoenix Rising while San Diego catapulted above Roots with a win over Birmingham.
Scroll down for everything coach Noah Delgado had to say in our talking points from Saturday’s loss.
Roots had its chances
Oakland had its chances–finishing with 20 shots, six on target, and drew 11 corners on the night. Roots controlled the action with 62 percent of possession, while Sacramento recorded just seven shots and three on target. Despite creating scoring opportunities, Oakland couldn’t find the finishing touch. The majority of attempts didn’t overly challenge Carlos Saldaña, requiring two diving saves on the night.
“I thought the boys showed tons of character, heart, and tactical awareness. They created chances to get back in the game, unfortunately it just didn’t go in,” said Delgado.
The most clear chances came to Lindo Mfeka. Perhaps the best opportunity was in the 28th, when Jeceil Cedeño wheeled possession into the area before sending a pass centrally towards Johnny Rodriguez. The ball deflected into the path of Mfeka, but he couldn’t make square contact and Saldaña was able to make the diving save.
In the 55th, Mfeka pounced on a bad pass backwards, but his shot went straight into the legs of Shane Weidt. Then in the 63rd minute, Roots forced another turnover in Sacramento’s defensive end when Memo Diaz played a perfect outside-boot cross to Mfeka just a few yards in front of the net, but his volley attempt sailed.
In the end, Delgado was pleased with the attacking presence from his side.
“I’m very pleased with the boys. To go down in the first minute, there’s different ways you can react to it. What they did is fight and they fought until the last second. I though throughout the whole game, the boys really showed character. The result was not what we want, but I think this will actually help us as we move forward,” said Delgado.
There have been some commonalities between Oakland’s three recent losses. Roots generated 19 shots with five on target in the 3-2 loss to Colorado Springs, then held an initial 1-nil advantage over Louisville before conceding the equalizer and game-winner. Now, Oakland had a positive night offensively, but couldn’t get it over the line.
“Each game is unique; why you win or why you lose, each opponent is obviously unique. With Louisville, the boys were really tired. After playing in altitude against New Mexico, then traveling and the humidity in Louisville made things hot. We watched film where we made errors and I think we cleaned up some of those errors. My message to the group would be to keep going, keep focusing. We made a couple of little switches in tactical stuff tonight and I thought they worked really well, but we just have to keep pushing,” said Delgado.
Ref decision-making does in Roots again
Oakland supporters are visibly strained by their relationship with referees. Chants against referees are a natural occurrence, but Saturday’s atmosphere became increasingly toxic towards the officials. Sac’s penalty goal came one week after Roots conceded the game-winner to Louisville at a minute above the seven minutes of stoppage time–leaving Roots fans wondering when the pendulum will swing back to their side.
Sacramento’s goal in the third minute by Juan Herrera came after Keko Gontán drew a foul on Napo Matsoso slightly over a foot in the box on the left side. Napo put a tackle in on Gontán and made clear contact with him, but Oakland was never returned the favor despite receiving contact in the area on multiple occasions.
Delgado gave his postgame thoughts.
“Harsh call; giving a PK a minute into the game while [the player was] going away from goal, but its a part of what we deal with week-in week-out… One-minute into the game, moving away from the goal, I don’t know about that,” said Delgado, shaking his head in disagreement.
Saturday’s resulted in Roots falling to sixth in the standings below Phoenix and San Diego–which still has one game in hand on Roots following Sunday’s result. Orange County, meanwhile, is now six-points clear of Oakland following its win over Las Vegas, extending their win-streak to eight matches.
With seven matches left in the season, we’re officially entering crunch-time for Roots to pick up points and keep itself in the home-playoff discussion. Oakland has three favorable matches on the docket against Vegas (Sep. 9), Tulsa (Sep. 16), and Monterey (Sep. 23), making it a critical time to get back into form after dropping three of the last four matches.
Coach Delgado reflected on the importance of the final stretch:
“[They are] important. The performance tonight was alright, but its getting the results… In the final seven games, we want to build a good rhythm getting into the playoffs,” said Delgado.
It’s worth mentioning both Bryan Tamacas and Neveal Hackshaw will miss just one game due to national team duties for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. This means Memo Diaz will shift back to the right side and Wolfgang Prentice will likely fill into the left back role against Las Vegas. Without Hackshaw, Morad should return to the back line.
“They fly out tomorrow. They’ll miss just one game this trip,” said Delgado. “I’m comfortable with everyone. I put in younger players like Project 51O players getting minutes. I think Memo is having a great year, to his credit. So, we’re comfortable with him on the right, you saw his service from there against Louisville.”
The midfield rotation
The midfield rotation continues to be a talking point from Roots’ recent matches. There has been a transformation for several players in this year’s squad, like Joseph Nane converting to center back, Tarek Morad switching from center back to the midfield, and Neveal Hackshaw doing split-duty at both positions.
Delgado explains his midfield depth gives them a lot of choices, which come down to player-form and opponent scouting.
“We have some depth in the midfield. Earlier in the year, we talked about our versatility. [Neveal] Hackshaw can play in the midfield, Jojo [Joseph Nane] can play as a center back, Tarek [Morad] can play both roles. Danny [Gomez] is injured, Napo [Matsoso] had an injury and came back, Koze [Donasiyano] had a longer injury and is still coming back,” said Delgado. “Right now, it’s a unique decision based on what form players are in and a little bit of the opponent we’re playing.”
Gomez has been a big impact in the midfield, supplanting himself as a starter and one of the best options in Oakland’s midfield. He missed Saturday’s match due to an injury precaution, per a team source. When asked if Gomez is alright, Delgado hesitantly responded he could return by next week.
“Yeah [he’s okay].. yeah. He could be back next week as well,” said Delgado.