Insanity Fair


“No tactics, just vibes” is normally how we make fun of Manchester United, but today it’s how we celebrate the Oakland Goddamn Roots.

Oakland set themselves a difficult task after drawing Tacoma Defiance on October 20: Win your remaining two games, and also somehow manipulate the universe to ensure that Los Angeles Galaxy Two only secured 1 point from its remaining two fixtures.

I will be honest with you, reader, I have not actually had the pleasure of watching Oakland’s win over San Diego which completed the first part of this quest. When the atmospheric river barged through the Bay Area that morning, I lost power, and early: My lights went out before 10 AM that morning, and didn’t come back on until nearly 9 that evening. At the time the power went out, I assumed it wouldn’t be too long, so I streamed the last 20 minutes of Liverpool-United on my phone, and then browsed through some of the postmatch coverage. That depleted the battery pretty significantly, so by the time kickoff of the Oakland match rolled around I was doing everything I could to conserve battery. I experienced that match by checking in on your tweets and our discord every 15 minutes. Even so, what a freaking rollercoaster. If I understand things correctly, Roots were left for dead after an early Loyal goal, and still looked limp and lifeless after being gifted an own goal, but netted two preposterous goals early in the second 45 before again losing their grip on the game in its closing moments, and then pulled a rabbit out of their ass with the best penalty anyone has taken in USL this year.

That rollercoaster also included following Los Dos’s match against Tacoma. Tacoma went up early (for as much as we dislike Tacoma around these parts, we are big Ray Serrano fans and hope he does well), but Blog dis-favorite Preston Judd netted two second half goals to make us sweat. Tacoma took care of business, though, setting up a dramatic final Saturday.

Reader, years were taken off my life on Saturday. We informed you pregame that Sporting KC II’s back line was…more of a beaded curtain than a wall, and its shambolic nature revealed itself early: Kai Greene lofted a ball over the top to Quincy Amarikwa. Sporting’s back line lost all resemblance to a line, allowing Quincy to sneak in on goal. Sporting’s keeper, Oakland native and Santa Clara graduate, Kendall McIntosh, decided to come out and challenge but that decision was made waaaaaay too late, and ultimately all he was able to do was serve the ball on a platter to Chuy Enriquez.

That was at the end of the second minute. 7:02 pm. There would be no more goals scored at Laney College this USL season. You, astute observer of Oakland Roots football this year, may not believe this, but for the balance of the game Oakland generally controlled the midfield but created almost no chances. But Sporting were full of intent and belief. They looked a side determined not to end their season on a sour note, after shipping nine goals in their previous two matches. Sporting created a handful of chances, but in the final analysis never put a shot on target. Yet in a game—a season—that was balanced on a knife’s edge, every half-chance caused one to hold their breath, and every let off was a moment to exhale, and shout some encouraging words through an increasingly taxed throat.

Oakland finished the match with a one-goal advantage. The full-time whistle blew at 8:59. Roots had done their part in, let’s be honest, the most excruciating fashion. I don’t think you could have drawn up two matches that were rougher on the heart than the final two against San Diego and Kansas City.

As the full-time whistle blew at Laney, Los Dos were on level terms with Orange County Soccer Club, 0-0, in the 65th minute somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area. OCSC is the only squad to win four games out of four against Oakland Roots this season, and are therefore the best squad in the league. But OCSC-LA2 is a derby, where obviously you throw out the records. And Los Angeles almost certainly were informed about Oakland’s “exploits” in the Bay.

At 9:14, LA II’s Remi Cabral gathered what had looked like a wayward clearance along the touch line and lofted a very nice cross into the center of the box, where it found an unmarked Preston Judd. I instinctively grabbed the side of my head. A Los Angeles goal would all but end Roots’ playoff hopes. According to the score bug on ESPN, Cabral obtained possession at 80:13 on the clock, hit his cross at 80:17, and Judd played his header at 80:18. But if I were testifying under oath, I would swear that sequence took an eternity. Time practically stopped when Judd successfully directed his header goalward.
Time resumed when Judd’s header thudded off the crossbar. The score in Los Angeles remained even. The beer I was drinking, forgotten. The voice I normally communicate with, absolutely shot. The sound I made, standing on the bleachers in the cold Oakland night, when Judd’s shot failed to find the back of the net almost certainly could not be identified as human.

The ball continued to ping around the pitch in Los Angeles. Chaos was not our friend, I mused to myself. The universe may tend towards entropy, but we need this game to tend towards OCSC control. The more uncertainty, the more chance for LAII to sneak a stupid one past the Orange County keeper. Our newfound mates from Irvine did not seem particularly interested in helping out with my stress levels though.

At 9:24 we learned that there would be a minimum of 5 minutes of stoppage time in Los Angeles. Five minutes?! What could possibly have happened on the pitch to warrant that?!

But lo, reader, it was good. Four minutes into stoppage time, 29 minutes after the final whistle blew at Laney, 2 hours and 26 minutes after Chuy Enriquez’s winner, the ball still ricocheting around the Galaxy II pitch like a pinball, OCSC managed to loft a ball over the top in the direction of Ronaldo Damus, scorer of goals that should be disallowed. Galaxy II had sent 7 of its 10 outfield players forward in a desperate attempt to make the playoffs. Galaxy’s back 3 were spread all over the pitch. Damus was essentially one on one, but he did everything he could to make a meal of the situation. He was able to carry the ball to the box, and center it, nominally in the direction of Danish international Thomas Enevoldsen, a 67th minute substitution for Sean Okoli. The cross was the kind of cross you hit in the 4th of 5 minutes of stoppage time in a tied match when all you need is a tie. It was, in other words, crap. But so was Adrian Martinez’s defense. He overran the ball, leaving it on a freaking tee for Enevoldsen to smash home.

Elation. OCSC had a lead. Galaxy II would need two goals in the remaining one minute of stoppage time. They, as you know, would net zero.

I attempted to let out a scream. I got out whatever sound my throat could produce. Holy forking shirtballs you guys. Oakland Roots started the season 1-3-8, playing the kind of football that makes you appreciate what Burnley do every weekend. We first broached the notion of the postseason around these parts following Oakland’s August 21 win over Las Vegas Lights. This was equal parts prophetic and foolish: Lights are atrocious, and the win only got Oakland to 3-5-8 on the season. There was no reason even to think about the playoffs at that point. On the other hand…Roots are in the playoffs baby!

We will discuss the freight train that is El Paso Locomotive in the coming days. But for now, let’s enjoy the moment. Roots started 1-3-8. They finished 10-5-5. It was enough—just enough—to make the playoffs. But here we are. Anything can happen.


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