February 2’s media day for the Oakland Roots provided the blog’s first interview with technical director Jordan Ferrell since he re-assumed his full-time front office position after acting as interim head coach last season.
Provided is Ferrell’s 10-minute interview and a transcription of every word.
Compare the organization at this time last year to now?
“One year on, we’re a very different club. We’re more settled, we feel like the energy is equally as positive going into the season last year, but we learned so much in 2021. With 2022, I think we’re primed for a great sophomore season.”
What have been some of the challenges as a technical director?
“The first thing was finding a head coach, that gave us a big project through the season. Last year, I was pretty clear with everybody that I was ever only going to coach on an interim basis. My role as technical director is overseeing the technical department. Stepping down from head coach, returning to my role, I knew it was very important that we had a really good head coach. The process toward getting Juan here was a ton of fun; getting to know him, his ideas. Obviously, we did battle last year a bit, so you have some sort of familiarity with that, but you get to understand how someone sees the game. But more than that, there’s broader football process. With local players as a priority for us, or the core that we had, going through that and reshaping the roster to support him and his vision, and how all that aligns with who we are as a club. That process was really fun…
“Around him as well, it’s not just Juan as head coach, there’s assistant coaches, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coach and other processes; the training facility, all of that. We needed to get from where we were at the end of the season to where we wanted to be to start the next season. There’s still some things that are in process, like the last bit of branding [at the facility]. Same with the team, there’s still a couple more signings and additions that we need to make to round ourselves out for 2022. We’re trying to hit the ground running with a good first week of preseason and continuing on as everything rolls into the season.”
What was your philosophy when building the roster this offseason?
“We finished those last three games, besides conceding three to San Diego, we were very good in defense for the last few games of the season. I don’t think that was something that we really needed to revolutionize, but there was a couple of things about the way we wanted to come out from the back with the ball, or certain things that fit what Juan wanted. We were obviously strong in defense, that’s what got us to where we wanted to be last year, that’s something we want to build the club on. But we also want to be able to create more chances, and some of that starts from the back with the way that we come out and lead the first line together…
“So, there’s a couple of additions at center back, you seen Fuenmayor, you see Danny Barbir; We’re trying to give some balance to the position because we didn’t want all post-peak players, we wanted some younger guys, so the addition of Fuenmayor and Barbir gives us a sense there.
“At the base of midfield, so we bring back JoJo [Joseph Nane] and Mati [Matias Fissore], they were a really high priority for us. And then at outside back, we made the addition of Edgardo Rito. He fits very similarly to Memo [Diaz] in that he wants to get forward, he’s a good one-v.-one defender as well. And then at left back, we feel that have a good starter there in Akeem [O’Connor-Ward] and he’ll be able to fight for that spot, we want to create some competition there as well.”
How important is it to bring in hungry players?
“It’s very important, it’s irrespective of age. We have veterans of the roster, the captains are all three guys who have had long career and have also been a part of teams which have outperformed. Not necessarily won every single championship that was there to play for, but Mati’s experience in the first division of Argentina, Emrah [Klimenta] having won the USL Championship, and then JoJo’s experience in MLS, NASL and abroad as well. Those three give us a veteran group that is very ambitious, and you add to that. I’ve always said ambition is a key character trait, we can stoke that flame but we can’t ignite that flame. And so, as we’ve gone into the market and looked to add, and also to the players we wanted to retain, that type of ambition, desire to do a little bit extra, or maintain themselves as professionals, what they bring to the table has been a really important part of how we’ve done our homework on players.”
Describe the collaboration with Juan Guerra this offseason?
“The number one thing that stood to me when he and I talked was his passion for the game, for players, and for winning, all of that is something I’m very aligned with. Nana [Attakora] has moved from a dual role as a second assistant and director of player personnel into full-time director of player personnel. He has also had an influence on some of the signings and things like that, in terms of how we work together as a staff.
“All of us are well-aware, Juan’s job is to win games on the weekend, and to also develop a first team that gives the light of the top of the pyramid of our club. So, he and I have to be on the same page. It’s been incredible the different conversations and dialogues around players, methodology, and staff, and how all the puzzle pieces work together. We want to support him, we want him to be able to feel like he’s able to have the tools with players, staff and otherwise to really win games and fight for a championship.
“Along with that, with football, you’ll see a very similar intensity. I hope that now we have a few more players and a little bit further developed team that we can have more possession. Possession, not for possession’s sake, but dominating the ball in order to dominate certain spaces and really control the game. That’s something he believes in and I certainly believe in. I think we’ll continue to see the growth of the Roots’ first team, I don’t think it’ll change too much. Obviously, we’ve added some talent, but also added a really strong head coach and staff to bring out the vision of the club.”
How is important having versatile players available?
“I honestly think there’s maybe three or four players in the squad who plays just one position, otherwise, there’s versatility everywhere. All of our outside backs can play another position whether it’s wingback, winger, center back inside, whatever that is. All of our center backs are versatile in that they can play left or right. Barbir can play at left center back in a #4 or move further left as a #3. Versatility is really key toward ensuring you can adapt to the certain circumstance that a game or injury brings you without having to revolutionize or be too rigid with the squad. It’s super crucial, it’s always been crucial in our recruitment. As we brought Juan on, we saw the same thing, he was talking about players who can play inside or outside, talking about players who can play the #8 or the #10. That versatility will always be a hallmark of Oakland and the ethos around here. It’s a big part of the type of players we look for.”
What are some places you’re looking to address with the final spots on the roster?
“I certainly think that we’re not done… We feel that we have a lot of good talent signed and good talent in place, but I think there still needs to be an addition or two. We feel that we have a strong midfield, but there’s opportunities there to reinforce. I think outside back is something that we feel we have three very good guys there, but we want to make sure we have good depth who can challenge for that position as well. Some good opportunities, and we’re not signing anymore center backs.”