It was just about everything you wanted to see in a preseason opener, a 4-nil win for Oakland Roots over Academica SC; three squad trialists scored goals with Chuy Enriquez the other, Memo Diaz drew a penalty kick, Paul Blanchette is still a wall in goal, and no injuries occurred. All is off and running under new head coach Juan Guerra.
It was a solid first look at the squad under the new gaffer. He voiced similar thoughts to our last conversation at the Roots’ media day on February 2; wanting to see players execute what the staff is teaching and test their system against a live opponent.
Below is a video of his postgame presser and a transcription of his interview.
Initial takeaways after the 4-nil win?
“It was a good day. It was a good day to test things we’ve been doing all week. That’s what I told the guys today; today wasn’t about the result, it was more about performance. I told that during the week, they were given a lot of information, that information then becomes knowledge; when we talk to them, we explain things. Then that knowledge needs to be executed on the training ground, and that’s how we learn. Not just because you have information and knowledge means you know how to execute.
“So, they were given information that became knowledge, they were executing during the week, and today we get tested. We got tested on things we went over during the week, about the offensive phases, about the defensive phases, and that’s what I wanted to see. I wanted to see a collective performance and the result today wasn’t important. What I saw in the collective was good, I still think we need to improve; we need to keep going. We still have another five weeks before we play the first match but I think the foundation has been laid. Now we have to start building and adding layers to that foundation, that’s what’s important.
“Now, we watch film, we go over it, we sit down with the players. We already have the week planned for Ventura next week, and that’s going to give us a good week of work. They have good grass fields, and the ability to have the team in a hotel where you can control their environment; you know what they’re eating, you know that they’re resting, and most importantly—they’re together. That helps them become more of a team.”
Three trialist goals, what does that say?
“It’s important; every player who is here today has been hand-picked. Every player that’s here today is because we watch them and like them, and think they can bring something important to the club and organization. And they get exposure… When I was a player, I’ve been a trialist before and I know how they feel, I know the pressure that they have. Especially after a week of work know that the team is going to travel next week, so I know how they showed up today and I appreciate it.
“It shows that the staff did a good job making sure to bring in people who fit the system and the way we want to play.”
Response to an impressive three-goal second half?
“The systems were the same in the first- and second-half. I think the second half got the rhythm a bit higher, they moved the ball faster from side-to-side and created spaces. There were pockets of spaces that weren’t being exploited in the first half, and we talked to them a bit about that. They found those pockets and they were attacking spaces a lot more intense, aggressive, and brought more numbers in the box. It showed in the scoreboard.
“But like I said to you, to me it was not about the result; it was more about the performance and making sure that we saw a reflection of the things we tried to teach during the week.”