Oakland Roots put together its best performance of the season on Saturday at Laney College, demolishing the visiting El Paso Locomotive 4-nil with all four goals in the first half. They defeat the fifth-place team in the Western Conference in El Paso, which allowed four goals in previous eight games combined walking into the game, improving Oakland to eighth place with 28 points. It felt like this was, finally, the 90-minute performance that coach Juan Guerra was looking for.
“We are performance oriented. Tonight, the result matched the performance. Many games this year, we’ve performed well and created a lot of chances but we didn’t have the opportunity to get the ball in the back of the net. Tonight was different. Tonight, we created a lot of chances and the ball went in the back of the net. This is all because of the players, the hard work they put in, how resilient they are, and believing in what we’re doing. Tonight, it showed, it was a complete performance where everyone did their job and understood what needed to be done. We adjusted and adapted on a few things, and the boys did it well” said Guerra.
“We know what we’re capable of. I told you last time we were here that I know what I have in the locker room, I know how talented our boys are and now we need to keep pushing. This is only three points and we need to start thinking about the next game.”
After the 3-3 tie against Sacramento Republic, Guerra mentioned that the wins will come if the team can match the offensive performance from that away battle on July 9. The coach made sure to mention that the team has performed well on several occasions throughout the year, but the result didn’t match the production. Against El Paso, the execution was at a visible high level from the attack on down through the back line and Roots finished with the three points in hand.
“What we worked on during the week showed on the field, it was executed very well offensively and defensively versus a very good team in this league… When you say performance, you mean result. We can go back a few games, let’s talk about Atlanta, Galaxy in the first half with 11 players, then Sacramento, then tonight; I think the performance has been very equal. Offensively, we’re creating a lot of chances; last game we put three against Sacramento, versus Galaxy was one, Atlanta it was three, and tonight was four,” said Guerra.
Guerra continued that the most important part was “keeping the zero.” After the second goal, Emrah Klimenta leaned to his defensive teammates to urge the clean sheet–it stuck.
“The most important thing about tonight was keeping the zero. The clean sheet tonight, for me, is massive. I would’ve rather finished the game 4-0 than score three more goals in the second half and concede one. Obviously putting the ball in is important, but where we want to go, we understand that we need to be better defensively. I saw a lot of improvement tonight,” said Guerra.
The victory was Oakland’s first four-goal performance in a half, eventually finishing as the largest goal differential in club history. Roots have scored four goals in a game just three times, including earlier this year in its 4-1 win over Loudoun United, their 4-3 victory over San Diego in October of last year, and Saturday’s game versus El Paso. Guerra believes the production is a testament of the talent from his squad.
“It’s because of belief. At the end of the day, it’s because of them. It’s not about me or the staff, it’s about the players. Sometimes I wish these cameras could see how hard we push them from Monday to Friday. You know what’s hard? When things are not going your way, then you show up to work on Monday and you have coaches on top of you demanding and pushing you, it can get very uncomfortable,” said Guerra.
Ottar Magnus Karlsson’s brace increased his lead on the Golden Boot race, now with 15 goals and three ahead of Orange County Milan Iloski’s 12. Guerra feels some reassurance that the scoring output means his system is working.
“Yes, the more chances we create, the more comfortable that it’s going to be. The more chances we create, we know we have strikers that feel comfortable in the box. We have to feed them, we have to go forward, we have to be brave. Our style of play suits Ottar and Johnny very well, I’m very happy for Ottar, and now we have to keep feeding him,” said Guerra.
For Ottar, his performance was exactly what you wanted to see out of your starting striker. He scored on his first touch to put Oakland ahead 1-0 in the 21st, and then scored his sixth penalty kick goal in seven attempts.
When reminded of his lead in the USL Championship goal scoring list, Karlsson mentioned that he’s not focused on his race for the Golden Boot, acknowledging that it does not “get too much in my head.”
“It doesn’t get too much into my head. I have my goals, my vision, so I just try to keep grounded and focused on the rest of the season. And then, yeah, we can talk,” said Karlsson.
Ottar could feel the synergy from the get-go.
“It was, as you say, from the beginning we felt strong. We were intense in our pressing, we felt confidence in every position on the field. We managed to take advantage of them in the positions we created. We were strong in the first half and had a big lead in the second and were able to relax. But overall, very good performance,” said Karlsson.
We named Karlsson one of our two RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients alongside Edgardo Rito. The Venezuelan outside back was amazing on the night, contributing to three of the four goals. He was credited with one assist and and the penalty which led to Ottar’s second goal. In addition, he set up Darek Formella’s goal on a perfect cross into the box. It was a complete night for the right wingback.
Jose Hernandez continued the rout in the 41st minute, jumping on a misplayed pass at the top of El Paso’s own box–taking a strike into the area before unloading with his right foot.
Now, the hope is that this was a catalyst for Oakland’s playoff push. They look ahead to Las Vegas, who sits three points behind them in ninth place with 25 points but four games in hand. It’ll be a critical match to continue separating themselves from a team below them on the table.
“I hope so. The only thing I can tell you is that our responsibility, our work rate, and intensity doesn’t change. The responsibility we have doesn’t shift at any moment or point of the season. The way I’ve worked, I’ll work from Day 1 to until my last day here. That doesn’t change according to how many games we have left. Hopefully next week versus Vegas we can put together another strong performance that leads to a good result,” said Guerra.
Karlsson also wants to be sure they bottle Saturday’s magic and use it over the final 12 games of the season.
“It’s important that we remember how we came to perform on this level and remember the feeling and the intensity. We don’t have to overthink things too much because now we know how it feels to dominate. We don’t have to make things too complicated, but we can keep going on the same track we did tonight,” said Karlsson.
FotMob.com Top-10 Player Ratings
- Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 9.1
In 77 minutes, Karlsson scored twice and recorded four shots with three on target, completing 11 of 16 passes, 1/1 long ball, created two chances, missed one big chance, won 3/5 ground duels, 5/7 aerial duels, three recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 29 total touches.
2. Edgardo Rito, 9.0
In 90 minutes, Rito recorded one assist and completed 25 of 28 passes, 1/3 crosses, 1/3 long balls, created four chances, had 2/2 successful dribbes, won 3/4 tackles, 8/12 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, drew two fouls including the penalty kick, and finished with 49 total touches.
3. Jose Hernandez, 8.6
In 90 minutes, Hernandez scored once and recorded two shots with one on target, completing 26 of 28 passes, 3/3 long balls, took three corners, created one chance, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 2/2 tackles, 4/5 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, three interceptions, seven recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 42 total touches.
4. Juan Carlos Azocar, 7.9
In 77 minutes, Azocar recorded one shot and completed 10 of 15 passes, 1/3 crosses, missed one big chance, had 7/10 successful dribbles, won 1/3 tackles, 11/16 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, one clearance, one interception, four recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 43 total touches.
5. Darek Formella, 7.7
In 76 minutes, Formella scored once and recorded two shots on target, completing 6/13 passes, missed one big chance, dribbles past one defender, won 2/5 ground duels, one interception, four recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 22 total touches.
6. Tarek Morad, 7.7
In 90 minutes, Morad completed 30 of 38 passes, had 1/1 successful dribble, blocked one shot, won 3/ ground duels, 3/3 aerial duels, seven clearances with four by header, three interceptions, five recoveries, and finished with 57 total touches.
7. Emrah Klimenta, 7.6
In 90 minutes, Klimenta recorded two shots and completed 29 of 36 passes, 6/8 long balls, won 3/3 tackles, 3/5 ground duels, blocked two shot, four clearances with two by header, one interception, nine recoveries, and finished with 65 total touches.
8. Alejandro Fuenmayor, 7.2
In 90 minutes, Fuenmayor completed 34 of 43 passes, 7/15 long balls, dribbled past one defender, won 3/5 ground duels, three clearances with two by header, two interceptions, four recoveries, and finished with 54 total touches.
9. Matias Fissore, 7.1
In 68 minutes, Fissore completed 11 of 15 passes, 1/3 long balls, dribbled past one defender, won 2/4 tackles, 4/6 ground duels, five recoveries, and finished with 22 total touches.
10. Paul Blanchette, 7.0
In 90 minutes, Blanchette recorded one save that was inside the box, and completed 14 of 26 passes, 5/17 long balls, four throws, one high claim, five recoveries, and finished with 33 total touches.