Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots drop early lead, fall 2-1 to New Mexico United

The Oakland Roots had its seven-game unbeaten streak come to an end, losing 2-1 to New Mexico United after holding an early lead after 20 minutes. It was NMU’s fifth consecutive victory while marking the official mid-way stretch for Oakland 17 matches into the season, now holding a 4-8-5 overall record.

Edgardo Rito scored on a beautiful run into the box and pulled off his shot through two defenders and past the keeper to the far post, but came off 12 minutes later in the 32nd to force a substitution. Oakland went into halftime leading 1-0, which would’ve sent them to seventh in the standings, but New Mexico began to take control in the second half and turned the momentum.

“We had to make an early substitution starting from that one. I think we slowed down a bit, we could’ve stayed on the front foot and be more aggressive. But I liked our team while we were up in the first half until about the 30-40th minute, I think we were doing a good job. Defensively, we could’ve been more intense and aggressive on the block, we let them get too comfortable in the first half even though we were up, it’s not like they were creating clear chances. But on the ball, they were too comfortable. We have to make sure we learn from this; when you lose, you learn.

“We went up early, at home, and were playing well. I think what changed is we let them get too comfortable on the ball, our block was organized but not as intense as it could’ve been to force turnovers. They were trying to get in behind with their two strikers; they were keeping the ball, keeping possession, and trying to get in behind. But we learn from tonight and move on. We have another battle in three nights and I have to make sure the group is focused. We got to San Antonio now with the necessity of getting a result,” said Guerra.

In the first half, New Mexico had seven shots with two on target, progressing to nine shots, four on target in the second. Both attempts in the second half were goals, Neco Brett scored in the 58th minute when he became unmarked in the area for a right-footed shot. 10 minutes later, Christian Nava found Chris Wehan wide open in the box for a cross, it was a product of New Mexico holding the ball deep in Oakland’s zone.

But Oakland had a chance to go up 2-nil in the 51st with a shot on target by Ottar Magnus Karlsson from close distance. In the buildup, early substitute Memo Diaz played a nice pass to Darek Formella about five yards in front of NMU keeper Alexandros Tambakis, leading to Formella laying off to Karlsson, but his left footed shot went slightly to the right of Tambakis for the clutch stop.

From there, Oakland struggled to create clear opportunities, while their best chances came when Karlsson had a header save in the 90th minute after Mikael Johnsen sent in a long ball from a set piece, while Ottar flicked a header to Johnsen in the waning minutes of stoppage time, but it was too far out in front.

The first half left a lot of optimism that more goals could be coming. Prior to Rito’s goal, Juan Carlos Azocar had a shot on target saved in the 14th minute, while Oakland did a better job to control the pace of the action. Guerra thinks that they “got a bit comfortable” as the game wore on.

“I think we started well today. I think the team was dominating, we were moving side-to-side, finding pockets, we were going forward, found the goal, and created other chances. Then situations happen, and we slowed down a bit. We got a bit comfortable, we allowed them the opportunity to gain confidence as they were moving us from side-to-side. We played a good first half today, but we have to put together 90 minute performances,” said Guerra.

Guerra also recalled a blown-dead corner attempt where Karlsson landed a header in the 57th, but a foul was called while the ball was in the air.

“The first half was not the same as the second half. We were a bit passive on the block; we have to see what happened in the corner and why they called it back, I have to see it again. But, again, those are all external things that we can’t let get in the focus of our players,” said Guerrra.

Unexpected subs have an obvious impact on games. Things seemed to change for Oakland following Rito’s injury in the 32nd minute, Diaz did well to continue their progression down the flanks, but New Mexico began closing out the Roots’ wingbacks on both sides in the second half as they were unable to build similar momentum to previous matches in the 7-game unbeaten run.

“Memo did a great job coming off of the bench, going forward, stretching the field, crossing the ball, and getting into the game right away. It’s not easy to be sitting on the bench and come in to play how he was doing. He did a great job, but obviously, the game changes. They are two different players who have different characteristics. Memo helped us a lot more in possession, he was stretching the field well. With Memo, we don’t get in behind as much, but he has one of the best quality services in the league,” said Guerra.

“But again, of course the game changes. But it’s not an excuse and not why we lost today.”

The Roots didn’t have the same fluidity down the wings, notably with New Mexico shifting defenders to press Azocar and Diaz with two players in the second half. It was a sound defensive adjustment from United after Rito and Azocar were having their way with the back line in the first 45 minutes.

“We shifted to a 4-4-2 and we didn’t have as many players in wide areas. Juan and Memo were the two players who had to handle the width of the field and also take care of the depth to track back. Tonight, New Mexico did well neutralizing those things, but we still got in behind at times. I wish one of those resulted in a shot, but they did well. New Mexico got organized, stayed compact, and were protecting spaces. We found ways to get behind them, but we have to make sure those become more clear chances,” explained Guerra.

Now officially at the midway mark of the season, Oakland is one point shy of the seventh-place qualification zone with one more match played than Los Dos in seventh and four more matches played than Sacramento in sixth with 22 points. Similar to the midway point of 2021, Oakland was three points back of a playoff spot. However, Oakland has already played 10 matches at home, meaning they’ll require a late-season push while playing away a majority of the time.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward one game at a time. I cannot predict the future, but I can guarantee that we’re thinking about San Antonio. We’re going to break down film tonight and we’re going to make sure that tonight’s loss counts for something. If we learn from what happened tonight and we go forward without making the mistakes we made, that means we’re building. We keep building and we keep adding layers. It hurts [to lose] because I felt like we had the game under control and we could’ve thrown an extra punch to go up 2-0, but we can’t let that get us off our focus. Just because we lost, we can’t forget about the things we did well,” said Guerra.

As for the condition of Rito, who we named RootsBlog’s Man of the Match despite the early exit, Guerra said that he still had to determine the severity of his injury and was being examined by the medical staff. He limped off of the field following his early injury, attempted to continue playing, but was on the floor moments later reaching toward his foot.

“I haven’t [gotten a look at Rito]. The doctors are making sure to take a look at him right now and we’ll let you guys know,” said Guerra.

FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings

  1. Edgardo Rito, 7.3

In 32 minutes, Rito scored once with his only shot attempts and completed seven of nine passes, had 1/1 successful dribble, dribbled past one defender, won 1/2 ground duels, one interception, one recovery, and finished with 14 total touches.

2. Darek Formella, 6.8

In 90 minutes, Formella had two shots with one on target and completed 24 of 29 passes, 2/2 long balls, created one chance, dribbled past one defender, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 5/10 ground duels, 3/5 aerial duels, one interception, five recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 42 total touches.

3. Danny Barbir, 6.8

In 80 minutes, Barbir completed 61 of 84 passes, 5/14 long balls, dribbled past two defenders, won 2/4 ground duels, 3/5 aerial duels, one clearance off of the line, blocked one shot, one interception, seven recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 96 total touches.

4. Matias Fissore, 6.8

In 73 minutes, Fissore had one assist and completed 31 of 44 passes, created one chance, won 1/1 tackle, 1/4 ground duels, 1/3 aerial duels, one clearance, three recoveries, and finished with 52 total touches.

5. Emrah Klimenta, 6.7

In 90 minutes, Klimenta recorded one shot and completed 52 of 65 passes, 3/9 long balls, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 2/3 tackles, 4/5 ground duels, 2/2 aerial duels, one clearance, two interceptions, five recoveries, and finished with 76 total touches.

6. Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 6.5

In 90 minutes, Karlsson recorded three shots with two on target and one blocked, completing 16 of 20 passes, created one chance, had 2/2 successful dribbles, dribbled past one defender, won 2/9 ground duels, two recoveries, and finished with 30 total touches.

7. Memo Diaz, 6.5

In 58 minutes, Diaz completed 16 of 26 passes, 2/3 long balls, had 2/3 successful dribbles, dribbled past one defender, won 5/9 ground duels, blocked one shot, five recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 40 total touches.

8. Mikael Johnsen, 6.5

In 17 minutes, Johnsen recorded one shot on target and completed four of seven passes, 1/1 cross, 2/3 long balls, created two chances, won 1/1 tackle, 2/4 ground duels, one recovery, drew one foul, and finished with 12 total touches.

9. Jose Hernandez, 6.4

In 90 minutes, Hernandez completed 44 of 51 passes, 6/7 long balls, dribbled past one defender, won 2/7 ground duels, 2/4 aerial duels, nine recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 56 total touches.

10. Alejandro Fuenmayor, 6.4

In 90 minutes, Fuenmayor completed 60 of 67 passes, 7/11 long balls, dribbled past one defender, won 1/2 tackles, 2/4 ground duels, blocked one shot, five clearances, one interception, 10 recoveries, and finished with 78 total touches.

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