Oakland Roots kept itself in the playoff hunt on Saturday with a 1-nil victory over New York Red Bulls II by way of Ottar Magnus Karlsson scoring in the 76th minute. The win improves Roots’ record to 9-12-9 and 39 points, tied with RGV Toros on points for seventh place but the Toros hold one game in hand and the tiebreaker on Oakland based on head-to-head results.
With four games left, Roots are one point above Monterey Bay after Union’s 5-0 win over Indy Eleven, two ahead of Las Vegas which lost 3-0 to Hartford, three ahead of Los Angeles and one point back of sixth-place El Paso–which squares off with Los Dos on Sunday. Roots are also four points back of fifth-place New Mexico United. Update: El Paso won 3-2 over Los Angeles, extends their lead to four points over Roots.
Interim coach Noah Delgado reflects on the critical victory.
“Home games is something on the calendar to get results and gain points. [It’s important to] start a streak of winning games over and over and, most importantly, two shutouts in a row. So, it’s getting those little details with four games to go now. At home, we’re looking to get our three points,” said Delgado.
Delgado is now 3-0-2 in his five appearances as manager. They have back-to-back clean sheets, two road victories, and a goal differential of +2.
“I’m very happy with two clean sheets, I’m very happy with two road wins against tough opponents. That’s how the season goes, it’s getting road wins and keeping shutouts. And, we have a lot of players who can score goals, so us being defensively solid like we’ve been is important that we keep working on that and harping on those details,” said Delgado.
Oakland arguably made things more difficult than they should’ve against the last-place team in the entire USL Championship. The score was 0-0 going into the half despite having 10 shots and five on target compared to the Baby Bulls’ zero attempts. Delgado thinks that Roots may have been overly pressing for a score and needed to relax.
“I think the boys wanted to get at it right away, you could see their energy and desire at the beginning. New York crept in the game and got energy by us not scoring, they built off of that. Towards the end, we reorganized and then in the second half, I thought we did alright,” said Delgado.
The coach believes that Roots could’ve done a better job at finding ways to put the finishing touch.
“I think they were super hungry and excited, and wanted to score quick. I think maybe on a couple of plays we could’ve made one more pass or take a half a second longer on the finish. But, I think it was more of the boys just flying to go and I told them relax a bit, you’re going to get your chances, just put them away,” said Delgado.
Delgado’s halftime talk was just that; to relax and take advantage of the opportunities they are given.
“I just said, ‘Boys, breathe, relax. You guys are doing some good stuff. I know you want it, everyone here in the stadium knows your desire and how much you want it.’ I told them to relax, be cleaner in the final third, be prepared for counter attacks, but to relax and keep playing. That was mostly the message, the guys want it so bad, they know what time it is, they know all that stuff. Sometimes it happens like that,” said Delgado.
Oakland finished the night with 18 shots, nine on target, two blocked, three big chances and two missed.
“I think we created a lot of chances. I think we need to work on continuing decision making and maybe some quality on our service, a little bit more quality on the final pass. Defensively, keep working on our mid-block and overall, just be ready for the pace that we’re going to see against Colorado,” said Delgado.
Charlie Dennis got his second consecutive start in the midfield, this time alongside usual starter Jose Hernandez. He had the hockey assist on Ottar’s goal when flicking a pass to Edgardo Rito as he broke down the right wing. Delgado admits that they are considering playing him at the position more often.
“We’re looking at that, we have a lot of tools there. Jojo [Joseph Nane] can play there, Matias was injured tonight, Mika [Mikael Johnsen] came in and played there last game. We’re looking at that combination; I thought Charlie did well in Phoenix, so I wanted to reward his performance there. We’re playing with him to see how things go depending on the opponents,” said Delgado.
We named Rito and Karlsson our two RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients for connecting on the game-winning goal. In the buildup, Dennis sprung Rito on the right side, who broke down toward the end line to hit Ottar with his pass on the doorstep. Rito was credited with seven chances created and was FotMob’s Man of the Match with 8.5 rating, while Karlsson had four of five shot attempts go on target and received a rating of 8.2.
It’s worth mentioning that Roots were without two key contributors: Matias Fissore and Emrah Klimenta. Roots’ coach mentioned that they’ll continue evaluating them but could see them returning ahead of the next game.
“They’ll both be evaluated this week but they could both possibly be back to training this week,” said Delgado.
Oakland now looks ahead to a difficult match with Colorado Springs, which just lost 1-0 to RGV. The final home game of the season goes down on October 1 against fourth-place Eastern Conference foe Birmingham Legion, followed by at Hartford Athletic on October 8, and the season-finale at Pittsburgh Riverhounds (fifth-place of Eastern Conference) on October 15.
Games to scoreboard watch over the next week include El Paso vs. Los Angeles (today, Sep. 18), Monterey Bay vs. Phoenix Rising (Sep. 21), and Las Vegas vs. San Diego (Sep. 24).
Roots also celebrated Conoce Tus Raíces night to honor Latin Heritage month. Supporter’s group Los Roots prepared a tifo of the Mexico flag to honor the occasion. Flick through the photo gallery below for more.
FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings
- Edgardo Rito, 8.5
In 90 minutes, Rito recorded one assist and completed 28 of 39, 3/6 crosses, five passes into the final third, created seven chances, had 1/7 successful dribbles, dribbled past two defenders, won 5/13 ground duels, nine recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 66 total touches.
2. Ottar Magnus Karlsson, 8.2
In 90 minutes, Karlsson scored once and recorded five shots with four on targets, completing nine of 14 passes, missed two big chances, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 2/2 tackles, one clearance by header, two recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 33 total touches.
3. Charlie Dennis, 8.0
In 89 minutes, Dennis recorded one shot and completed 31 of 42 passes, 10 passes into the final third, 3/10 crosses, 6/13 long balls, took five corners, created five chances, dribbled past one defender, won 3/4 tackles, dribbled 4/7 ground duels, 2/3 aerial duels, nine recoveries, and finished with 64 total touches.
4. Paul Blanchette, 7.9
In 90 minutes, Blanchette recorded one diving save an completed 14 of 19 passes, 2/7 long balls, eight throws, one high claim, 10 recoveries, and finished with 31 total touches.
5. Jose Hernandez, 7.7
In 90 minutes, Hernandez completed 42 of 48 passes, 3/3 long balls, 10 passes into the final third, created one chance, 3/3 successful dribbles, won 1/2 tackles, 6/7 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, drew one foul, nine recoveries, and finished with 59 total touches.
6. Lindo Mfeka, 7.6
In 80 minutes, Mfeka recorded four shots on target and completed 18 of 28 passes, 3/7 long balls, four passes into the final third, created one chance, had 1/2 successful dribbles, won 1/2 tackles, 4/6 ground duels, one clearance, three recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 43 total touches.
7. Alejandro Fuenmayor, 7.6
In 90 minutes, Fuenmayor completed 58 of 69 passes, 9/17 long balls, seven passes into the final third, had 1/1 successful dribbles, won 2/4 tackles, 8/9 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, two clearances with one by header, six recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 84 total touches.
8. Danny Barbir, 7.5
In 90 minutes, Barbir recorded two shots and completed 49 of 62 passes, 3/11 long balls, six passes into the final third, won 1/2 tackles, 2/2 ground duels, 4/4 aerial duels, four clearances with two by header, one interception, seven recoveries, and finished with 84 total touches.
9. Tarek Morad, 7.0
In 90 minutes, Morad completed 46 of 50 passes, 3/3 long balls, six passes into the final third, dribbled past two defenders, won 1/1 tackle, 3/5 ground duels, 3/4 aerial duels, blocked one shot, seven clearances with three by header, one interception, drew two fouls, and finished with 76 total touches.
10. Juan Carlos Azocar, 6.8
In 80 minutes, Azocar recorded two shots with one blocked, completing 23 of 31 passes, two passes into the final third, 1/2 crosses, 1/1 long balls, had 1/3 successful dribbles, created one chance, one clearance by header, six recoveries, 3/8 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, drew one foul, and finished with 48 total touches.