Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots win 4-1 over Loudoun United

What a night. Oakland Roots won 4-1 over Loudoun United to claim their first win of the season, first win of head coach Juan Guerra’s career, and brings Oakland out of the cellar into ninth place with a 1-3-3 record. Guerra mentioned following the 2-2 draw with San Diego on Wednesday that he hasn’t been able to get any sleep; perhaps he’ll now get a good night’s rest.

“I’m happy for the players, they deserved this result. Today was a good performance and a good result. We’ve had some good performances but haven’t been able to get the three points. Tonight, I’ll be able to go to sleep because I know the players are happy. Now I have a half hour to get out of here and start thinking about El Paso,” said Guerra.

“It will click. The goal is to perform better in every game, for our identity to be more clear, and to obviously win games. At the end of the day, a lot of good performances are going to give good results sooner or later. This is what we’re focusing on; strong performances with a clear identity. That’s what I’ve been seeing. To answer your question, I hope to sleep more than six hours tonight but I can guarantee you that I’m already focusing on El Paso.”

It was a “collective performance” from Roots, and despite losing Lindo Mfeka and Charlie Dennis in the 41st minute of the first half due to injury, the system continued to be productive with three second-half goals.

“Everybody is important and everybody is going to be needed. This reflects our character, how engaged guys are, and how much they understand the importance that each of them have. It’s not easy to make two subs in the first half and change players right away, but I didn’t notice a drop in the performance. You see how eager the guys are coming in, and the guys that got subbed sat on the bench right away to start motivating the guys who were in,” said Guerra.

Now the first win off of their back, Guerra continued that success requires time to gel and how glad they were to win in front of an Oakland crowd.

“This is what we want. Processes take time, guys, it doesn’t happen overnight. I knew that when I took the job, and the players understand that as well. We’re going to take this one game at a time. It was a good win, not just for the players and the staff, but for the organization. We were able to give back to these people and the City of Oakland; something that they deserved. Wednesday night was unbelievable to see all of these people in the stadium, knowing a lot of them had to work on Thursday morning; people who are hardworking individuals in the community coming here to buy a ticket and spending money in the stadium. Tonight, we were able to give back, that was my message to the boys before walking onto the field,” said Guerra.

“We can be happy tonight, but after we leave the locker room, I can guaranteed you that we’re all thinking about El Paso.”

Oakland got its first goal in the 26th minute when Emrah Klimenta hammered home a set-piece from Charlie Dennis, with help of a dummy through the legs of Ottar Magnus Karlsson. It was a big moment of triumph for Klimenta, who also came through for the game-tying assist on Wednesday as a late sub. The Roots’ captain on Saturday has been contending for minutes in the team’s talented center back rotation, you could see what each play meant to him.

“Emrah is my team captain. I took the job on December 24 and on December 25, I was landing in Chicago at 7:00 p.m. and called Emrah. I told him that I wanted him back and why I wanted him back. I think he showed today why he’s the team captain and why he’s so important to us. It’s having the ability to compete, having the ability to push when things aren’t going your way, and being humble enough to understand that there’s times you’re going to play, and times you won’t. But when you do play, you make sure that you’re influencing the team in a positive way; that’s what Emrah has done. He does that when he plays, and when he isn’t, he’s pushing to make sure the guys on the field are staying sharp. That’s what I need as a head coach, and what the team needs from absolutely every single player. I’m so happy for him, he deserved the goal and deserved the performances that he’s been having. Those things don’t just happen, that comes from a lot of work and sacrifice, staying humble, and embracing the opportunities he gets,” said Guerra.

Roots SC made it 2-nil in the 53rd minute when Jose Hernandez drew a penalty kick after stealing possession off of Loudoun’s Nanan Houssou, who put in a sloppy tackle attempt to try and recover in pursuit. Karlsson stepped to the ball, burying his fourth goal of the year.

Karlsson, Oakland’s “Big Fucking Viking”, is just two goals behind Jeremy Bokila’s team-leading six in 2021 and is six shots on target behind Bokila’s 13 from last season. He was heavily more involved in Saturday’s game compared to Wednesday’s draw, finishing with 48 touches versus Loudoun compared to just 22 against San Diego.

Another key difference, Karlsson is a 90-minute striker, something devoid from last year’s roster. Guerra pointed out his impact on the lineup.

“Ottar wears out defenders and center backs. As described to you before, he’s just so humble. He doesn’t mind making runs knowing that he’s not going to get the ball; he keeps making runs, he keeps the center backs busy and keeps moving defenders from side-to-side. When 70th, 75th, the 80th minute comes, those center backs are getting worn out. That’s what Ottar does, he’s going to create an opportunity if you give him an inch. That’s what we want to do, we have to make sure that we’re good attacking from wide areas. We know we have speed, we have athleticism, and we have to make sure we keep improving. But we also have to get better in combination-areas through the center of the field, because we have that ability and Ottar gives us that,” said Guerra.

Oakland’s third goal came in the 67th when Edgardo Rito found Juan Carlos Azocar for their second Venezuelan-to-Venezuelan connection in as many games. In the buildup, Rito received the ball on the right wing from Joseph Nane, and then sent a forward pass to Chuy Enriquez in the area. Enriquez flicked it back to Rito, who sent a right-footed cross to Azocar for the goal.

It was a terrific performance from Rito with nifty footwork, speed down the wing, and continuously pressing the Loudoun back line. He nutmegged the Loudoun keeper for Oakland’s fourth goal in the 76th minute. He finished the game with his first Roots goal and padded to his team-leading three assists.

It was all Rito in the buildup toward the fourth goal. He intercepted a pass toward Sami Guediri and dribbled forward to split two defenders as he broke into the penalty box, sending his shot through the legs of Luis Zamudio.

“To me, everybody is important, but Rito is also an important player for us. As you may remember, Rito showed up halfway through the preseason for us, two weeks after that the season started and was out for another week after catching COVID. This is a player who little-by-little is going to start gaining confidence and also getting to his best version. He needs rhythm, games, and minutes, just like every other player. We’re going to start seeing the best version of all our players,” said Guerra.

He continued that Rito’s performance is another reflection of the lineup’s collective excellence on the field.

“We talked about Jose Hernandez a couple of weeks ago, we talked about Ottar in the last game and now we’re talking about Rito. The reason players are reaching their best potential is because the collective is getting better. Little-by-little, we’re improving. Our identity becomes more clear, and then when Rito has players around him doing well like Alejandro Fuenmayor, Ottar making runs, and then Jose [Hernandez], Jojo [Nane], and then on the other side with Azocar, then you start seeing that it’s not just one or two players who are doing well, you are getting the collective. We want the entire team at their best potential, this will put us in a position to compete and be where we want to be. Again, it’s about the collective and not-so-much the individual, but we do try to get everybody to their best potential,” added Guerra.

Loudoun scored the game’s final goal in the 81st minute with 17-year old Abdellatif Aboukoura, who subbed on two minutes earlier.

The Roots now prepare for El Paso Locomotive at Southwest University Park on April 23 before returning home against the Colorado Switchbacks on April 30.

RootsBlog Man of the Match: Edgardo Rito

The RootsBlog official opinion is this could’ve gone to anyone between Edgardo Rito, Emrah Klimenta, or Ottar Magnus Karlsson. But by full time, it became evident that Rito was the biggest difference-maker on the field. His solo run toward goal in the 76th was brilliant, he positioned himself perfectly to set up his assist in the 67th. He also showed individual excellence when isolated in 1-on-1 situations.

In 90 minutes, Rito scored one goal with one assist, recording one shot and completed 23 of 32 passes with three key passes, 1/3 crosses, 1/2 long balls, had 1/4 successful dribbles, won 3/8 ground duels, one interception, six recoveries, and committed one foul.

FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings

1. Emrah Klimenta, 8.6

In 90 minutes, Klimenta scored once with his only shot attempt and completed 42 of 50 passes, 2/6 long balls, had two successful dribbles in as many attempts, won one tackle in as many attempts, 3/4 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, blocked one shot, six clearances with one by header, 13 recoveries, and committed one foul.

2. Edgardo Rito, 8.6

In 90 minutes, Rito scored one goal with one assist, recording one shot and completed 23 of 32 passes with three key passes, 1/3 crosses, 1/2 long balls, had 1/4 successful dribbles, won 3/8 ground duels, one interception, six recoveries, and committed one foul.

3. Juan Carlos Azocar, 8.3

In 90 minutes, Azocar scored once with his only shot attempt and completed 31 of 44 passes, 1/2 long balls, took one corner, had 2/3 successful dribbles, won 4/8 ground duels, one clearance, 10 recoveries, drew two fouls, and committed two fouls.

4. Joseph Nane, 8.0

In 79 minutes, Nane completed 41 of 49 passes, 2/4 long balls, had one successful dribble in as many attempts, won 4/5 tackles, 6/9 ground duels, one aerial duel in as many attempts, one clearance, 13 recoveries, and committed two fouls.

5. Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 7.8

In 77 minutes, Karlsson scored once with one of two shots on target on 48 touches, completed 19 of 27 passes, had one successful dribble in as many attempts, won one tackle in as many attempts, 3/5 ground duels, 2/7 aerial duels, two clearances with one by header, three recoveries, and drew one foul.

6. Jose Hernandez, 7.7

In 90 minutes, Hernandez completed 49 of 57 passes, 3/5 long balls, had 1/2 successful dribbles, dribbled past three defenders, won 3/5 tackles, 11/18 ground duels, six recoveries, drew five fouls including a penalty kick, and committed one foul.

7. Alejandro Fuenmayor, 7.3

In 77 minutes, Fuenmayor completed 31 of 46 passes, 3/8 long balls, won 2/4 ground duels, four Interceptions, six recoveries, and committed two fouls.

8. Charlie Dennis, 7.3

In 41 minutes, Dennis had one assist and completed 11 of 16 passes with one key pass, 1/4 crosses, took two corners, won one tackle in as many attempts, 2/4 ground duels, one recovery, and drew one foul.

9. Lindo Mfeka, 6.8

In 41 minutes, Mfeka took one shot that was blocked and completed eight of 11 passes, had 1/2 successful dribbles, won 3/4 ground duels, one interception, one recovery, and drew two fouls.

10. Danny Barbir, 6.6

In 90 minutes, Barbir completed 38 of 44 passes, 3/6 long balls, won one tackle in as many attempts, 1/3 ground duels, 1/3 aerial duels, blocked one shot, two clearances with one by header, one interception, three recoveries, and committed one foul.

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