Oakland Roots down to the wire against El Paso; the Western Conference standings, roster decisions, more

It was disaster again for Oakland Roots with its 4-2 defeat at San Diego coming on the heels of its 3-1 loss in Orange County. The loss stretches Oakland’s winless streak to eight matches while it was the third straight game where Roots gave away an early lead. Now in ninth place following the weekend’s results, Oakland enters a do-or-die match versus El Paso on Championship Saturday, October 14 at Pioneer Stadium.

Ivan Ornales recapped Saturday’s loss, where he highlighted the offensive and defensive shortcomings, and the aftermath for the Western Conference.

With that, let’s not harp on the continuous issues occurring on the field. This writer joined the Blog give readers dependable information, so here’s our talking points going into next Saturday.

El Paso and everything all at once

Credit: Oakland Roots SC

Now going into the final game of the season, Roots (42 points) need a win over El Paso (44 points) to get into the playoffs with 45 points. Oakland fans need to keep an eye on New Mexico United (43 points), Monterey Bay (41 points), and Rio Grande Valley (40 points).

  • New Mexico hosts Memphis 901; Monterey hosts Orange County; RGV hosts Loudoun.

Roots can finish as high as seventh with a win and a New Mexico tie or loss. Should Oakland tie Locomotive to finish with 43 points, El Paso clinches seventh and Oakland needs ties or losses to New Mexico, Monterey, and RGV—Roots hold the tiebreaker on head-to-head over New Mexico with 1-0 and 2-1 wins.

RGV holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on Oakland, so if they finish on equal points at 43, Toros get the nod. However, Toros and NMU split their regular season matches, which would equate to a third tiebreaker—Points Per Game vs. in-Conference Opponents. The current PPG for each team is Roots (1.38), New Mexico (1.27), and RGV (1.18).  Oakland would finish with a 1.36 PPG average with a tie against El Paso, while both New Mexico and RGV are done playing Western Conference teams.

A loss and it’s over, simple as that.

Roots will have to play its season-finale without Bryan Tamacas and Neveal Hackshaw for their Nations League matches with El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago. Both play on Friday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 17—so they would return for the playoffs should Roots qualify.

This will likely mean Baboucarr Njie starts at left back with Memo Diaz playing on the opposite side. Tarek Morad should slot into central center back, unless Joseph Nane is finally back into the fold.

Tamacas and Hackshaw’s National Team duties have been a shortcoming of the season. It was a welcomed sight to have players earning starting minutes for their national teams when bringing in Tamacas and Hackshaw, but the downturn in Roots’ quality has made their disappearance a fear for supporters. With Tamacas, for example, Oakland is statistically a full goal better in quality when he’s on the field. His goal against San Diego came on what could be the final day of his Oakland Roots’ season… or maybe his time in Oakland altogether.

A team source indicated the 2024 roster is further along in the building process than the club has ever been. This is evident with players like Njie and Jeciel Cedeño being brought in during the season—with Njie’s availability increasingly important with Tamcas’ National Team duties. Oakland will have several players to decide on for eligible contract options like Memo Diaz, Hackshaw, Lindo Mfeka, Johnny Rodriguez, among many others.

When asked if Tamacas is expected back in 2024, a team source expressed assured confidence the Salvadorian will return. Whether that becomes truth will eventually be determined, but it also means Oakland would commit to Tamacas—a right side fullback—as one of its highest-paid players for a second consecutive year.  

If Tamacas is back, that could spell toward Rodriguez being Oakland’s lead striker for a second straight year. He’s a cost-friendly forward who has proven he can be a top-15 USL Championship goal-scorer; the question would be where does the other investment go? 

But here I am, already thinking about next season with a game to go. Maybe that speaks to just how wretched September and October have been for results. Perhaps it also reflects on the roster’s deficincies that were being glazed over from March through August.

It’s ridiculous how the season has degenerated to its current state. When in third place after defeating New Mexico 2-1 on August 23, Roots’ supporters were flying high and thinking a home-playoff debut was on its way. A two-month span eight-game winless streak later, and the mood has shifted to a toxic place. Throughout 3/4 of the season, Roots looked like it was going to follow through with its home-playoff bid goal.

“A goal we want to have is we want to have a home playoff game. Once you get into the playoffs, you can tell its a new season. It goes quick and it could flip. Seven can go far, any of the playoffs seeds can go high. I think for us, getting into the playoffs is important, but I think it’d be great for the club and community to have a home playoff game and for our team to make history doing that,” said Noah Delgado at preseason media day back in March.

So, is the season a failure for Oakland all that considered?

Missing the playoffs makes that answer utterly obvious. Oakland did make progress towards establishing one of the best defenses in the league, only for a Joseph Nane injury to completely do away with that.

On RootsPod at a time when Roots were in third, I asked the guys if the team was overachieving. Without any additions to the roster from then, coupled with a few significant injuries, the answer appears to be, “Yes,” they were overachieving.

Hopefully Saturday’s game provides the feeling of a re-birth for the team. It could be the last day in a Roots’ uniform for many players, and leading a team to a playoff berth looks much better on a resume than crashing out when near the top.  

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