Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots fall 3-nil to Colorado Springs

Well, that was rough. Oakland Roots fell 3-0 to the Colorado Switchbacks under the lights of Laney College Football Stadium, leaving much to be desired after missing out on four big chances, including a missed penalty kick in the first half.

“You need to score to win. We were playing well, we’re outplaying opponents when they come here, but if we can’t put the ball in the back of the net, it doesn’t matter. We have to make sure we capitalize on the chances we have. We’re creating enough chances to win games and we’re just not finishing enough. At the end of the day, I don’t think this is about heart or about character, this is just about that final product. The team keeps playing well, our North is clear, my ideas are not going to shift. The staff and the players are committed and we’re going to keep pushing forward,” said a frustrated coach Juan Guerra after the match.

The match brings Oakland’s record to 1-4-4 and down in 12th with a -3 goal differential under the first-year coach. When reflecting on the early-season woes, Guerra mentioned that its important to prevent frustration from permeating and assure that they are making progress toward developing a potent attack.

“I played for 12 years, now I’m on the sidelines, I know how the players feel… The most important thing right now for me is to make sure the players don’t have doubts. We’re playing well, we’re creating chances, whoever watches the game would agree. We have to keep pushing forward and not create doubts, and understand that we have to improve; that’s a must. We have to capitalize on the chances we’re creating and also defend better. Little-by-little, it will come. Yeah, I’m a young coach, but I’ve been playing for over 18 years, I know how to navigate these moments and we’re not going to shift,” said Guerra.

At halftime, the Roots were looking like the better side with four shot attempts, three on target, and three big opportunities including the stop on Ottar Magnus Karlsson‘s spot-kick. At the 45 minute mark, the hope was Oakland wouldn’t be left to rue its missed chances. But as Colorado struck the back of the net 11 minutes into the second half in the 56th, those thoughts became a reality.

“We played a very good team tonight, Colorado isn’t first place by coincidence. Their front-three are very fast and dynamic but we were able to take away spaces that they couldn’t exploit until the 65th-70th minute, but then it opened up more. By that time, we should’ve been up at least 2- or 3-0. I think the boys are absorbing what we want from them and our identity is clear. We’re creating chances, it’s just a matter of time and finishing. Nobody likes losing, the boys are devastated right now but I’ll protect each one of them. At the end of the day, we need to move on and keep pushing forward,” said Guerra.

Colorado proved its first-place stature in the Western Conference, clinically taking advantage of each giveaway by the Roots’ defense. The lapses from the backline ultimately tell the story over the last two games; versus El Paso, the goal came with Emrah Klimenta and Alejandro Fuenmayor out of position to allow a ball over the top. Against Colorado, the goal conceded at the 56th minute came at the end of a flurry of pressure in the area, enabling Beverly Makangila to send a pass through to Zachary Zandi after positioning himself to the right of Tarek Morad–who was holding a higher line than Barbir to his left and Fuenmayor to his right.

Switchback’s second goal in the 70th came after Charlie Dennis was defended off of the ball in Colorado’s attacking area, leading to a counter attack with striker Hadji Berry–who found Michee Ngalina on the right side with Barbir ball-watching. In a one-on-one situation with Barbir, the Roots center back appears to missed a tackle attempt, allowing Ngalina to take one more step for the close-range shot.

The third goal in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time was the most disastrous. Morad played a pass back to Diaz, who sent a bad pass to Fuenmayor while being pressed. The ball was a few yards in front of Fuenmayor, who had to rush for his pass to Morad. His pass went well behind Tarek and nestled perfectly for Berry, the 2021 Golden Boot winner, who isn’t going to miss a layup from eight yards.

Guerra doesn’t think that a formation change will wave a magic-wand on the defense.

“We have to go in and check the video, sit down, put emotions aside, and see what we did wrong. We should never, ever, give away three goals in 45 minutes at home… I don’t think it’s about if we play a back-three or a back-four, back-five, six-, or seven. Just because you have more numbers in the back doesn’t guarantee that you’ll prevent goals. We have to understand the way we want to defend and to do it well,” reflected Guerra.

Going into halftime, on-lookers would’ve thought that the Roots were on the verge of upsetting Colorado. Switchbacks keeper Jefferson Caldwell was monumental toward the win, putting himself in the right position on every opportunity with four diving saves. He finished with a FotMob rating of 8.9 as Man of the Match.

Oakland’s first chance came in the 6th minute when Charlie Dennis did well to free himself up and find Darek Formella charging his way toward the penalty area unmarked. But Formella’s shot went straight into Caldwell’s chest as he rushed out of net to close out the shooter.

Oakland’s next chance came in the 17th minute when Fuenmayor controlled possession from Roots’ defensive half into the attacking area, finding Edgardo Rito on a well-timed run. Rito sent a pass to Karlsson unmarked right in front of the keeper, whose shot stayed low and straight, allowing Caldwell to pounce on the attempt.

In the 22nd, Roots had another opportunity when Rito tried another feed to Ottar–but his pass was behind the Icelandic striker and pushed out for a corner.

Roots drew its penalty kick in the 30th minute when Formella found Jose Hernandez making a run into the box. Hernandez took one dribble before Makangila put a hard tackle on the Oakland midfielder, drawing the foul. But on the spot-kick, Caldwell didn’t bite on Karlsson’s run-up while the shot attempt only went slightly right of the keeper for the easy diving save.

Right before halftime, Dennis also had a free-kick from about 10 yards above the area trail high of the left post in the 45th minute after Hernandez drew the foul.

Oakland’s fourth big opportunity missed in the 52nd was perhaps a glaring shooting mistake opposed to Caldwell’s brilliance; the goal couldn’t have been more open for Rito. In the buildup, Joseph Nane found Karlsson, who then passed to Dennis charging through the backline unmarked. Dennis sent a pass across the face of goal to Rito, who a nearly completely open goal for his shot. However, instead of targeting the open right-side of net, Rito’s shot curled to the left and straight into Caldwell. It was bad, you have to make this shot when its on a platter.

Roots could’ve tied the match at 1-1 in the 59th minute when Formella found Fuenmayor for a free-header just three yards in front of the net, but his header went wide. It was that kind of night.

From there, Roots had two set piece including Azocar earning a set-piece on the edge of the penalty area on the left side, which led to Hernandez taking a shot attempt where Oakland contended for a hand ball. Oakland had three corner kicks in the final minute of play, but each led to nothing.

After the match, Colorado manager Brendan Burke approached Guerra, saying that the better side lost. Against a clinical side like the Switchbacks, opportunities given are rarely missed.

“They are a good team, they are well coached. It’s a staff that’s been together for over six years going back to their time at Philadelphia. They understand this league very well and the team is playing how they created their system to play. When you give teams like this opportunities, they’ll take advantage of them. That’s what happened tonight,” said Guerra.

Oakland finished with 12 shots, five on target, four big chances missed, completed 441 passes, and held 62 percent possession time. Last night’s attendance was above 5,000 patrons.

“The positives to me are that we keep creating chances and keep playing with a clear identity. We have to get better, it’s hard to walk off the field and try to recover a lot of positives after losing 3-0 at home. This one hurts a lot because of the respect I have for this fanbase and organization. But this is the game, now I get in my car, go home, and start watching Orange County. We’re going to be ready for them,” said Guerra.

“I respect this organization so much. I love it here. I’ve only been here four months and I can call it month. My family loves it here, I love it here. When you love something, you respect it too. The same love and respect I have, the players have it too. It hurts to lose at home. We’re going to fix the things that went wrong tonight and keep getting stronger in the things we’re going well.”

FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings

1. Darek Formella, 7.2

In 90 minutes, Formella recorded two shots with one on target and one big chance missed, completing 26 of 34 passes with one key pass, 1/1 long ball, four successful dribbles in as many attempts, dribbled past one defender, won 1/3 tackles, 9/12 ground duels, four recoveries, 1/1 aerial duels, drew two fouls, committed one foul, and finished with 55 total touches.

2. Charlie Dennis, 7.2

In 75 minutes, Dennis recorded one shot and completed 29 of 36 passes with three key passes, 1/5 long balls, 2/8 crosses, took five corners, 3/4 successful dribbles, won 7/12 ground duels, 2/4 aerial duels, had five recoveries, drew three fouls, committed two fouls, and finished with 58 total touches.

3. Jose Hernandez, 7.1

In 90 minutes, Hernandez recorded one shot that was blocked, won one penalty kick, and completed 44 of 52 passes with one key pass, 7/7 long balls, 1/1 successful dribbles, dribbled past two defenders, won 1/1 tackle, 5/12 ground duels, one interception, nine recoveries, drew three fouls, committed four fouls, and finished with 63 total touches.

4. Juan Carlos Azocar, 7.1

In 90 minutes, Azocar recorded one shot that was blocked and completed 25 of 35 passes, 1/4 crosses, 1/4 long balls, took one corner, 3/5 successful dribbles, won 1/2 tackles, 8/11 ground duels, one block, one clearance, one interception, seven recoveries, drew three fouls, committed one foul, and finished with 61 total touches.

5. Edgardo Rito, 6.7

In 90 minutes, Rito recorded one shot on target with one big chance missed, completed 30 of 35 passes, one key pass, 1/4 successful dribbles, 3/9 ground duels, nine recoveries, committed three fouls, and finished with 47 total touches.

6. Joseph Nane, 6.6

7. Danny Barbir, 6.4

8. Chuy Enriquez, 6.2

9. Johnny Rodriguez, 6.1

10. Tarek Morad, 5.9

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