It was a tough break for Oakland Roots, conceding a goal at the death to Sacramento Republic, resulting in a 3-3 tie at Heart Health Park. The sense of disappointment was clear from the Roots’ roster, kicking and pushing a chain-link fence on dismay as they approached the locker room following the match. Oakland looked the better side on the night, and as coach Juan Guerra put, the squad is aware of what they are capable of after letting one slip away in the waning seconds.
“It was a tough one, we had the game in our pocket. Coming back after those first two goals that they scored, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but the boys kept their front foot forward and they were playing with bravery. We see on the field things that we work on during the week and, for us, that’s the most important thing. It’s about putting together strong performances like we did tonight. At the end of the day, I’m confident the results will come if we keep doing these things,” said Guerra.
It’s still a work in progress for Oakland to finish a full 90 minute performance after conceding two goals via defensive errors in the first half. Guerra can still see some silver lining in how his team played and mentioned their mission for the next 13 games: gain 20 points over the final stretch and finish with at least 45 points on the table.
“It’s a part of the process, and part of our learning process tonight. It hurts but we’ll take a point; there’s 13 games left. I asked the boys that I wanted 21 points in the last 14, tonight we take a point and I put it in my pocket. I tell the guys that we start thinking about the next three home games that we have. In the next 13 matches that we have left, we need 20 points. We want to reach 45 points, we believe that’s the mark that will get us into the playoffs. If we keep playing productively like we did tonight for 13 matches, I believe the boys will get us the points we need to get into the playoffs,” said Guerra.
Roots fought back from a 2-1 deficit after allowing two goals in the first half by defensive errors; in the 11th minute, Tarek Morad skipped a ball off of Douglas Martinez, which went straight to Maalique Foster to feed Rodrigo Lopez for the goal. Then in the 44th with the match tied, Emrah Klimenta misplayed a clearance from Sac that inadvertently rolled by him, allowing Foster’s goal. Guerra acknowledged the defensive miscues but made sure to focus on how his team outplayed Sac for the majority of action.
“We have to keep getting better in defensive moments. Paul made some very big saves to keep us in the game but I feel two of the goals could’ve been very avoidable. My message is that we keep pushing forward, that this is a part of the process. We came to a very hostile environment and played our way with our identity. I’m sure the fans enjoyed the game, I surely did on the sideline. Of course we want to win, we want to win every game we play, but we must understand that we need to minimize mistakes in order to win,” said Guerra.
Despite falling behind 2-1 in the first half, Oakland had a productive first 45 minutes with nine shots , four on target, and 63 percent of possession time. Guerra reminded his team at halftime that they were playing strongly and to continue doing what was working.
“[My message was] that they were playing a great game. Even though they scored that goal, we were dominating. I want to watch the game over, I’ll go over the numbers and the data but what I saw–and I believe most of the people saw–is that we came here to Sacramento to play, go forward, attack, exploit spaces, keep possession, and be vertical. Those are the things I saw in the first half despite the score, but the boys kept believing, kept going forward, and we could’ve had it,” said Guerra.
But Oakland eventually led 3-2 with a pair of goals by Ottar Magnus Karlsson. His first goal in the 55th minute came when Alejandro Fuenmayor headed a pass back toward the Big Fucking Viking, landing a looping header while falling backwards. Karlsson scored his second in the 70th minute when Juan Carlos Azocar whipped a ball toward Sac GK Danny Vitiello, who batted a rebound opportunity right to Karlsson for the volley and goal. It marked Ottar’s 13th goal of the season, back to the lead of the Golden Boot race ahead of OC’s Milan Iloski’s 12.
“It was very good [to get Ottar back on the score sheet]. This week, we had a great talk in the office about soccer and about life. It was good to see him on the field tonight and going back to his scoring ways, and to see him with his wife who was back home and traveled to make it to the game. It’s always good when your number 9 scores goals, but in order for him to keep scoring goals, we have to keep creating chances… That makes us a very dangerous team if we can keep this up,” said Guerra.
From there, Oakland began to sit deeper with its fullbacks to try and maintain the lead. However, a late header goal by Luis Fernandes at 90+6′ continued Sacramento’s unbeaten-at-home streak after Lopez turned Morad inside out with good footwork. Guerra explains some of the changes in the second half that occurred on both sides.
“It’s normal, right, when you’re playing on the road and then you see yourself on top with 15 minutes to go. It’s obvious you give them a bit more space and try to keep your lines more compact and it looks like you defend more, that’s the nature of the game. We always try to stay pressing and keep our lines as high as we could without being exposed or sacrificing space in behind because we know the speed that they have, like with Douglas Martinez or when Archimede goes in and its speed-for-speed. They changed their back-five to a 4-2-3-1, and I think it took us about five minutes to adjust. But we responded well, we gave instructions from the sideline and they responded right away,” said Guera.
We named Azocar our RootsBlog Man of the Match after scoring a miraculous bicycle kick goal in the 27th minute after receiving a pass from Edgardo Rito, flicking the ball up to himself, and landing a well-crafted somersault finish to score.
He moved up to right wing due to Charlie Dennis’ red card suspension, playing productively in his first appearance in the role this season. Azocar, notably, appeared as a striker and winger for RGV Toros in previous years. The coach dove into his close relationship to JCA, reminding that he has experience in multiple roles while cheekily asking if I liked him at the position.
“You like him there? [Laughter]. I’ve known Juan since he was 13 years old; he’s played as a striker, he’s played as winger, he’s played at a right back, he’s played all over and he’s very versatile. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to bring him here because he offers us that. It was good, it was good to have him a little bit higher up the field because, for tonight, it made sense. Sacramento defends very well and they feel comfortable when the ball is in front of them; you explore spaces behind them and if you’re vertical, they don’t like it that much. So having Juan and Mika [Johnsen] in that pocket, Rito out wide and Memo [Diaz] on the other side providing that full width, it allowed us the opportunity to stretch the width of the field and have runners into those spaces,” said Guerra.
Although the tie stung, the Roots’ supporters in the Town Function reminded Sacramento at the final whistle that they still haven’t defeated them–Oakland is 1-5-0 in the series against Republic. Guerra voiced his gratitude for the strong visiting section with around 200 fans in attendance.
“They are unbelievable, they have my complete soul respect. I told the boys that we’re not going to be alone tonight. There was no chance, they never left us alone. When the game was 1-0, they didn’t leave us alone. Even when they went up 2-1, they were loud and still behind us for the whole game. I know it’s going to be like this for the rest of the season. I said since Day 1 that everyone plays a fundamental role in the project that we want to build. I don’t like to call them “fans” or “supporters,” to us they are family,” said Guerra.
FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings
- Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 8.6
In 90 minutes, Karlsson scored twice and recorded four shot attempts with three on target and one blocked, while completing 15 of 21 passes, created two chances, had one clearance by header, one recovery, and finished with 36 total touches.
2. Edgardo Rito, 7.7
In 90 minutes, Rito recorded one assist, had one shot that was blocked and one big opportunity missed, while completing 14 of 18 passes, 1/3 crosses, created two chances, 2/3 successful dribbles, won 2/4 ground duels, one clearance, one interception, two recoveries, and finished with 36 total touches.
3. Juan Carlos Azocar, 7.5
In 85 minutes, Azocar scored once with two shots, one on target and one blocked, completing 16 of 21 passes, 1/2 long balls, created one chance, dribbled past one defender, won 1/2 tackles, 2/8 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, three recoveries, and finished with 38 total touches.
4. Memo Diaz, 7.3
In 90 minutes, Diaz recorded one shot on target, completing 18 of 30 passes, 1/6 long balls, created one chance, won 1/1 tackle, 3/7 ground duels, 2/3 aerial duels, one clearance, two interceptions, eight recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 49 total touches.
5. Alejandro Fuenmayor, 7.1
In 90 minutes, Fuenmayor recorded one assist and one shot on target, completing 59 of 69 passes, 2/7 long balls, created one chance, dribbled past three defenders, won 1/2 aerial duels, four clearances with two by header, three interceptions, seven recoveries, and finished with 79 total touches.
6. Jose Hernandez, 6.6
In 90 minutes, Hernandez recorded one shot attempt that was blocked, completing 57 of 67 passes, 2/2 crosses, 4/5 long balls, took two corners, dribbled past three defenders, created one chance, won 1/6 ground duels, one interception, three recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 79 total touches.
7. Mikael Johnsen, 6.6
In 78 minutes, Johnsen recorded four shots with two on target and one blocked, completing 12 of 16 passes, 2/5 crosses, 1/1 long ball, took four corners, created one chance, won 1/2 aerial duels, five recoveries, and finished with 35 total touches.
8. Matias Fissore, 6.6
In 58 minutes, Fissore recorded one shot that was blocked, completing 36 of 42 passes, 2/2 long balls, dribbled past one defender, four recoveries, won 1/2 ground duels, 2/2 aerial duels, drew one foul, and finished with 44 total touches.
9. Emrah Klimenta, 6.3
In 90 minutes, Klimenta recorded two shots with one blocked, completing 50 of 65 passes, 5/14 long balls, created one chance, had 1/1 successful dribbles, dribbled past one defender, won 1/1 tackles, 2/6 ground duels, 2/4 aerial duels, two clearances with one by header, three interceptions, six recoveries, and finished with 89 total touches.
10. Darek Formella, 6.0
In 12 minutes, Formella took one shot on target, recording 1/3 passes, one clearance by header, and finished with eight total touches.