Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Las Vegas Lights was a disaster for Oakland Roots, watching its record drop to 11-7-10, currently sixth-place in the USL Championship’s Western Conference. It handed Light’s its third win of the season, while Roots are now uncomfortably close to the eighth-place spot.
Here are our talking points coming out of Saturday’s loss.
The skid continues
Saturday’s loss marked Oakland’s third straight defeat, going 1-0-4 over the last four matches. It’s been a downturn for Roots after being on a high prior to entering its two week break at the start of August. Roots went from third-place in the Western Conference and tied for points with second-place San Antonio, now down to sixth-place and three points from eighth place. Ninth-place El Paso, meanwhile, is just four points back of Oakland—meaning potentially missing the playoffs has entered the discussion.
The result marked Roots’ sixth game to drop points from a winning position with the recent results to Las Vegas and Louisville being the only losses.
So what has gone wrong over the recent skid?
Against Colorado Springs, Roots similarly allowed three-stellar goals. Oakland also led in its 2-1 loss to Louisville City, while Roots also controlled possession in its 1-nil loss to Sacramento while failing to put challenging looks on target. Versus Las Vegas, Roots finished with 64 percent of the ball but never registered a shot on target in the second half.
Perhaps the best look of the game from open place came in the 55th minute when Irakoze Donasiyano sent a driven pass to the feet of Johnny Rodriguez, but Johnny couldn’t redirect it on target. Rodriguez also had a shot trickle wide in the 60th minute, but that was about it other than a shot wide by Emrah Klimenta in second-half stoppage time.
With just six matches left in the season, Roots must find the answer because with each game, a home-playoff draw is beginning to feel more like a dream than an expectation.
Tarek Morad’s injury
Tarek Morad took a scary knee to the head in the 15th minute, taking him several minutes to leave the pitch under the assistance of head athletic trainer Ivan Villaneda and teammates—looking woozy with every move. Trayvone Reid entered the match, pushing Wolfgang Prentice and Memo Diaz a bit deeper.
We haven’t gotten an update on Morad’s head injury but he’ll be evaluated early this week—likely today (Monday). He was spotted on the broadcast walking around and encouraging his teammates on the field, which is at least a positive sign.
Morad’s injury in the 15th seemed to be a turning point for Roots. They had to change shape, but also got abused down the left side on both goals in the 56th and 57th. Azriel Gonzalez’s goal came with Roots’ defense tracking backwards with Prentice giving ample space as his nearest defender. You’d think Morad would likely have more defensive stability at that moment.
Then in the following minute, Prentice was playing more forward like he typically does, but a turnover played out wide to Gonzalez—requiring Wolfgang to sprint back in position, making him unable to get a foot on Gonzalez’s cross to Daniel Rios at the far post.
Oakland will get back Neveal Hackshaw and Bryan Tamacas from International team duties, allowing Memo to shift back to the left side with Tamacas on the right. If Morad is unable to play on Saturday, Hackshaw would likely wedge back into the central CB role.
Can we see changes?
Roots ended the night in what looked like a 4-4-2 with the players listed below, which I thought was an intriguing shift when Anuar Peláez and Baboucarr Njie entered in the 82nd minute
Peláez combining with Johnny is something I’ve been aching to see. They only yielded eight minutes of regulation together, but Anuar recorded a shot that trailed high in the 85th minute. That likely isn’t enough to reward a second-go of it at the start of next Saturday’s match against Tulsa, but its a duo I’d love to see more of given Johnny (11 goals) and Anuar (five goals) are the current scoring leaders on Oakland’s roster.
Let’s say Roots go with a variation of the 4-4-2 against Tulsa and Morad is able to play. Also listed below is what Oakland’s lineup could look like with Peláez and Johnny in a 3-4-3.
I honestly really like what that 4-4-2 would look like; it gets Jeciel Cedeño on the field, has a pretty strong midfield, and defensive stability with Neveal Hackshaw and Napo Matsoso. Over to the 3-4-3, the main issue is Cedeño not being included, and I think Noah Delgado wants him on the field.
In the end, Oakland’s A-lineup is considered to be Lindo-Johnny-Cedeño in attack with Hackshaw in the midfield alongside Napo Matsoso or Danny Gomez.