Holding a 2-0 advantage is notoriously known as the most dangerous lead in world football, it rang true on Saturday night after Oakland Roots conceded two late goals with San Antonio FC to tie 2-2. The result brought Oakland down to eighth place with 42 points, now one point above ninth-place Monterey.
Walking into the night, Roots fans likely would’ve been comfortable taking a point from the defending champions, but scoring a pair of goals in the ninth and 10th minutes left more to be desired. The full three points would’ve kept Oakland above El Paso in seventh, but are now entering a critical short-week against Orange County, and San Diego before the season-finale against Locomotive on October 14.
Roots have now gone six matches without a win, last defeating New Mexico 2-1 back on August 23. Going against
“We started the game well, that’s something we’ve been preaching. We gave up a late goal and that hurts, we’ll have to look at the film to see what happened. The fight in the first half was good, it was just disappointing to give up the goal at the end,” said coach Noah Delgado.
Oakland’s first-half performance may have been its best all season, playing dominant soccer against the second-place side. Roots went into the half with four shots and three on target, finishing with 11 shots, 6 on net, while also drawing five corners on the night.
“I thought we started the second half good as well, we got a couple of corners and chances in between. They pushed a lot of numbers forward and went direct. They sent players forward and have big, physical players. We’ll have to check the film on that last goal,” said Delgado.
Both of San Antonio’s goals were a product of long balls towards Oakland’s back line. Santiago Patiño scored in the 55th when the Neveal Hackshaw and Emrah Klimenta were caught out of position on a ball over the top, leaving Danny Barbir in no-mans land against Patiño and Nathan Fogaca. The equalizer at 90+5 from Tani Oluwaseyi came on a hail-mary long ball from San Antonio goal keeper Nick Marsman from deep in their own half, eventually headed on consecutively by Ignacio Bailone and Justin Dhillon before being cleaned up by Oluwaseyi.
“It’s following runners after the first ball,” said Delgado. “Teams play more direct towards this time of the year. There’s certain styles for certain teams that play more direct with long balls. That’s something we prepared for, we knew it was going to come. We have to take this and move on to the next one.”
“It feels like two-points lost with the timing of the goal. We’ll look at it, move on, and get ready for the short turnaround.”
Here are our talking points coming from Saturday.
Johnny Rodriguez – RootsBlog Man of the Match
We’ll say it again, Johnny only scores bangers. How about Rodriguez’s magnificence? His spinning kick goal brought back memories of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at LA Galaxy.
It marked his 12 league goal of the season and marked his 19th goal with the club stretching from debut at the club during its time in NISA in 2020. He’s now tied with Ottar Magnus Karlsson for the organization’s all-time lead in goals, while also being two goals short of Ottar’s 12 goals from open play last season.
He finished with an 8.2 FotMob rating with all three shots on target, completed 20 of 30 passes, created two scoring chances, and finished with 4/6 successful dribbles.
Anuar Pelaez & Rodriguez combination
The combination of Anuar Pelaez and Rodriguez put Roots’ two leading goal scorers on the field. Anuar notched his sixth goal of the season, marking his 10th start with 1,016 total minutes thus far. His physicality and pressing ability shined through when stealing possession off of San Antonio’s Ismaila Jome.
“Both of them scored. Pelaez’s pressure to close off [Jome] was great. I thought those two really pressed and worked hard for the full game,” said Delgado.
So, can we expect more of Pelaez and Rodriguez in the starting 11? After both played full games, that may be a tough ask on a short week of rest. Coach Delgado said they need to consider their matchups before committing to the duo again.
“Yeah, I like the combination. They are still learning it; there’s different matchups that we have to look at. The last two teams we played were very direct and it became a very back-and-forth type of game. I think their physicality was something that we needed,” said Delgado.
Is Joseph Nane’s return the final lineup move?
One commonality in all of Oakland Roots six-match winless run is being without veteran Joseph Nane to man the back line. Since suffering his injury against Colorado Springs on August 19, Roots have a goal differential of -4 with eight goals scored and 12 conceded.
With Nane in the lineup, Delgado was able to rotate Hackshaw into the midfield, which led to some of Roots’ best performances this year. Since Jojo’s departure from the starting lineup, Delgado has used a mixed bag of midfield combinations–including four different pairings in the seven games since Nane’s injury.
“I thought the midfield was okay. There were a lot of second-balls today, which was key. Just winning those second balls and getting in position,” said Delgado.
Tarek Morad was able to return from his concussion for Saturday’s match, but his usage in the midfield is a testament to how things haven’t gone as planned in the roster building process. Napo Matsoso has been a serviceable veteran, but not a clear upgrade over Morad or Hackshaw, who are both previous center backs.
Irakoze Donasiyano has shown potential, but injuries has led to a limited 15 appearances without a goal or assist. Danny Gomez was back on the bench after battling back from his own injury.
“I think its everybody,” said Delgado when asked is leaders need to present themselves. “Before the game, I talked about how the subs were going make a big deal in this game. We knew with Jojo out, Gomez coming back, and people coming back that subs were going to come in and make a difference. It’ll make a difference in the last three games as well.”
No Memo Diaz versus Orange County, Njie time?
Starting off, Memo Diaz had a solid performance against San Antonio. His assist to Rodriguez was a perfect long ball over a defender into the area, resulting in his team-leading fifth assist of the season. He finished with FotMob’s Man of the Match with an 8.4 rating, two chances created, and won 4/5 tackles.
However, Diaz’s yellow card will result in him being forced to miss Orange County due to card accumulation rules. Even without the card, Memo suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury in the late minutes of Saturday’s match and was subbed out. Hopefully the time off on Wednesday will help his recovery.
With Bryan Tamacas missing the San Antonio match to rest, Delgado gave Baboucarr Njie his first Oakland start at left back. He finished with a 6.6 rating but had some good moments. Given Memo won’t be available, it will be interesting to see if Njie is capable of playing Wednesday in Orange County after his lengthy recovery from an injury.
“I though Baboucarr did well. It was the longest he’s played in a long time, so we had to watch him. That’s why we took him out just because he’s coming back from injury and he hasn’t played that long in months,” said Delgado.
Teams need to match the fans’ energy
We close with acknowledging the support; they’ve been fantastic in trying to urge this team out of its rut. Saturday’s game brought 5,005 in attendance, bringing the drums and chants for all 90 minutes plus extra time.
The fan-energy has been fantastic throughout the team’s existence and it felt like the results on the field were beginning to match the thriving culture being built in the stands when the club was up to third place. The Function took Roots’ six-match winless run as a challenge to turn up the intensity and find ways to get louder. Pioneer Stadium has felt like a powder keg waiting to explode.
Failing to provide a home-playoff berth feels like failure after proclaiming a home-bid was their goal back in the preseason. The sudden switch to CSUEB has shown an impact on attendance totals compared to Laney through a full season, but it hasn’t held back Roots’ most vocal faction of fans.
The same cannot be said for results on the field, where the team is playing on a much-faster and difficult to play surface. But with Roots’ playoff lives being threatened, certain feelings about the field cannot be an excuse.