Before I get into the events of this game, on behalf of RootsBlog I wanted to express how disappointing it is that San Diego Loyal will cease operations at the end of the 2023 USL Championship season. For their four seasons of existence, they’ve cultivated a great culture, fanbase, and team with a beautiful connection to the city that deserves professional soccer. While San Diego will get that when their MLS franchise begins play in 2025, it won’t be the same. San Diego Loyal deserved their shot of representing the community in MLS, but it’s evident that in the current phase of that league, they’re not interested in bringing in USL clubs but creating their own entities. It’s a slap in the face for the hard work all USL Championship clubs have done to foster soccer culture in this country, as well as the writers, podcasters, photographers, and all other people surrounding the club. I lived in San Diego from 2019 to 2021, the longest period of time I’ve spent away from Northern California. I created a connection with San Diego Loyal during my time there, and while Oakland Roots will always be my favorite USL club, my soft spot for San Diego Loyal remains. Props to the entire San Diego Loyal community and may your contributions never be forgotten.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but San Diego Loyal made it look easy in this final encounter with the Oakland Roots barring a playoff matchup.
One Way Traffic
Bryan Tamacas volleyed in the opening goal in the 13th minute from a long throw-in by Baboucarr Njie, but the memories of the Roots’ losses to Las Vegas and Orange County refreshed itself once again. A one-goal lead turned into a one goal deficit in a flash. While it wasn’t quite as quick a collapse this time, it felt even more dramatic because San Diego Loyal scored four unanswered goals before halftime.
First, in the 17th minute, Blake Bodily crossed a ball from the left that Joe Corona headed in. Two minutes later came the first of Ronaldo Damus’ goals, where Roots were even more lax in defending this time around. The ball from deep midfield broke the defensive line easily to get to Bodily again, who collected his second assist when a virtually unmarked Damus tapped it in.
San Diego decided to switch it up for Damus’ second goal in the span of six minutes, coming from the right off the service of Camden Ridley. Roots had more defenders in the box this time, but aside from a diving header a few yards away from Damus, no one was in between him in the goal to prevent the shot. Saving the best (or worst in our perspective for last), Adrien Perez hit one from outside the box and completed Oakland’s humiliation in the 44th.
While Koke Vegas made a few decent saves to keep Oakland Roots from adding to their scoreline, that shouldn’t have translated to the constant collapses in the back.
The second half was largely a non-event as San Diego Loyal did the damage and the Roots continued to stall offensively. Prior to Emrah Klimenta’s consolation goal in the 82nd minute, the Loyal were more likely to score a fifth throughout this period.
A season ago, the Oakland Roots knocked San Diego out of the playoffs. Fast forward to today and even if Oakland makes the playoffs this time around, there’s a huge gulf in class between them and the home team. You could argue any of the top six Western Conference sides would handily beat Oakland Roots in its current run of form–now eight games winless since August 23’s 2-1 win over New Mexico.
The defeat sends Oakland to ninth-place and out of playoff qualification with New Mexico United beating Phoenix Rising 2-0. El Paso Locomotive, Monterey Bay, and Rio Grande Valley are also fighting for the last two spots. Its hard to see Oakland being favored against any of those teams at this point.
What happened to the club that was playing their best soccer in October? The thing I’m most confident in is Oakland Roots fans providing an electric atmosphere for our regular season finale similar to San Diego on Saturday.
Monterey has a chance to overtake Roots on Sunday versus Birmingham, while they face Orange County for the season-finale. RGV has a favorable matchup against Loudoun and could overtake Oakland as well with a win. New Mexico, in eighth, faced Memphis 901. It all spells to a must-win over El Paso, where three points would keep Oakland above New Mexico and Memphis.
OAK (Noah Delgado; 4-4-2): Paul Blanchette; Bryan Tamacas, Emrah Klimenta, Neveal Hackshaw, Danny Barbir; Daniel Gomez; Irakoze Donasiyano, Baboucarr Njie, Jeciel Cedeño; Johnny Rodriguez, Anuar Pelaez
57’ Lindo Mfeka for Njie
57’ Memo Diaz for Rodriguez
74’ Tarek Morad for Cedeno
74’ Trayvone Reid for Gomez
80’ Luis Saldana for Tamacas
SDL (Nate Miller; 3-5-2): Koke Vegas; Camden Riley, Grant Stoneman, Carlos Guzman; Adrien Perez, Charlie Adams, Collin Martin, Joe Corona, Blake Bodily; Ronaldo Damus, Evan Conway
61’ Nick Moon for Perez
62’ Alejandro Guido for Adams
62’ Tumi Moshobane for Corona
76’ Morgan Hackworth for Bodily
83’ Michael Chilaka for Martin