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Q&A: Oakland Roots SC Head Coach Noah Delgado

Note: NorCal Premier Soccer regularly sits down with an influential figure in the youth soccer landscape to pick their brain about a variety of different topics that are relevant in the current soccer environment in the United States. For this edition, we spoke with Oakland Roots SC Head Coach Noah Delgado. A native of Fremont, Delgado grew up playing soccer in Northern California before playing four years at Fresno State. The midfielder turned professional in 2002, embarking on a career that spanned more than a decade where he most notably played for the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Puerto Rico national team. After retiring, Delgado moved into coaching youth soccer before moving to the pro game as an assistant with the Roots in 2021. He also served on the El Salvador staff during 2022 World Cup qualification before being named the interim head coach for Oakland in August. 

NorCal Premier Soccer: How did you fall in love with soccer?

Noah Delgado: I think I started playing organized soccer at 5 in the Fremont Youth Soccer League and my dad played a bit growing up so we always had balls around the house or we were kicking around balls of socks. It just kind of grew from there.

NorCal: What was the youth soccer landscape like growing up in Northern California as compared to now?

Delgado: It was a lot different. My dad was my coach all the way to U16 and we played for Fremont Youth Soccer Club. We had a lot of good players come out of there, like older players like Dominic Kinnear and John Doyle. It was a good, strong club. I also played one year with Juventus and then we made a Tri Valley Premier League team my last two years to play in the Premier League there, but we mostly played in a lot of tournaments. It was so much different.

NorCal: What was it like playing in the lower divisions of US Soccer in the mid 2000s?

Delgado: Again, things were different. We had games on Friday night and then again the next day. Sometimes it was Friday and then Sunday. When I entered (what was then the second division A-League) if you scored more than four goals you got an extra point. The travel was crazy because you’d play a game and then play the next day. And back then we had Vancouver and Montreal in the league too. And I mostly played in Puerto Rico and the trip from Puerto Rico is quite a journey. When we made our run to the semifinals (of the 2008-09) Champions League, we were playing midweek games too so it would be like Puerto Rico to Guatemala to Vancouver and then back to Puerto Rico.

NorCal: What was your experience like in Puerto Rico and with the national team?

Delgado: It’s a beautiful island with very passionate people. We had some success and had a great following of fans – they bought into us and supported us. We made it to the champions league semifinals as a second division team, which was incredible. We won the Caribbean Cup a couple of times and we won a (USSF D2 Pro League) championship. That was an amazing feeling. For the national team, to be able to play in World Cup qualifying for two World Cups and then the friendly where we played Spain was amazing.

NorCal: How did you get into coaching?

Delgado: Towards the end of my career, I was always interested in it. Being with the staff we had in Puerto Rico, I was talking and working with them. When I finished playing I was working with the Puerto Rico youth national teams and spent two years there before deciding to move back to the Bay Area. There I worked with (Sacramento United Technical Director and Oakland Roots SC assistant coach) Gavin Glinton at Impact Soccer Club. I always enjoyed coaching, even when I was still playing I helped coach some of the younger players on our teams.

NorCal: What is it about coaching that you love?

Delgado: First off, I have a love for the game. It’s my life. When you love the game, you have to find another way to be a part of it. There are different ways people can do that. I enjoyed working with the youth, working with professional players as well. It’s a little different, but I just enjoy passing on the information I have and seeing players grow. The competitive aspect of it is also one of the biggest things that draws me in.

NorCal: You were on the El Salvador staff for this last World Cup qualification cycle. Can you describe that experience?

Delgado: It was great to work with Hugo and Gerson Perez, two coaches and great people. Being in those environments playing US, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Canada was amazing. Qualifying windows are such a short period of time. You get there and play three games in a week. It’s a full workload but a great experience. I look forward to seeing the El Salvador national team have success in the future.

NorCal: You’re now with Oakland Roots SC, what are you and the club trying to accomplish with this unique sports venture?

Delgado: As someone from the Bay Area, working with a club like the Roots is exciting. They’re  a community-based club who stand up for so many different rights. It’s a club that reaches out and does so much more than just football – they’re looking at how they can help the community. It’s good working for the Roots because you can feel that energy from the crowd because of the way they want to represent the city of Oakland.

NorCal: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Delgado: Oakland Roots is just such a great organization. They’re coming in here in Oakland and starting something new that’s really gaining some momentum. Overall Northern California has some great coaches and great people. We’re looking for them to come and support Oakland – Northern California has a good squad in the Roots.