Oakland Roots sign midfielder Napo Matsoso

Oakland Roots announced that they have signed former Louisville City FC midfielder Napo Matsoso to a contract on Thursday.

Matsoso, 28, marks the first incoming signing for coach Noah Delgado’s squad and presumably fill into the role vacated by Jose Herndandez. He is a native of Lethoso and a member of its national team.

Matsoso graduated from the University of Kentucky and has a Green Card, meaning he counts as a domestic signing for Roots.

Following his college career at Kentucky, Matsoso was the No. 31 overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution, but never made an appearance in New England. After a brief stint with Mississippi Brilla FC of USL League Two, he signed on with Louisville City in September of 2018–finishing his time with 89 appearances, 51 starts, 11 goals, and four assists.

He led Louisville City in tackles with 30 in 2021 while he was third on the team in interceptions with 45, making 28 appearances and 18 starts. Matsoso fell somewhat out of favor last season, watching his minutes dip from 1,619 to 648

Matsoso has been described as a player who can line up in multiple roles, which is a marquee highlight of Oakland Roots’ roster while under technical director Jordan Ferrell.

John Morrissey broke down Matsoso’s film, describing that he’s someone who can play “basically everything besides keeper.”

Morrissey highlights Matsoso’s defensive contribution, which certainly fills into the role that’s left behind from Hernandez and defensive midfielder Matias Fissore. He also has the speed and ability to play as a winger, outside back, and make incisive runs on the attack.

His one goal against Atlanta United II last season is a product of those splitting runs through the back line, finishing off with a nice left footed volley.

When looking at Delgado’s presumptive lineup, their starting midfield rotation could be nearly put together with Matsoso joining Charlie Dennis, and Lindo Mfeka. It’s worth mentioning that Matsoso appeared most productive at Louisville City in a 4-3-3 midfield pivot; playing in a similar role could entail Charlie Dennis appearing as a more natural midfield 8-role while Mfeka lines up at his natural 10-role.

We’ve also heard praise of 22-year old midfielder Wolfgang Prentice, who appeared in an 8- and 10-role while on loan at Northern Colorado Hailstorm–making 12 appearances and 11 starts for the USL League One side. He was named on the Roots’ intitial roster, so they clearly have faith in his potential. It’ll be interesting to see what Prentice’s role becomes.

Here is what Roots’ current lineup of nine players would look like on the field in last year’s 3-4-4 and if there’s a switch to something more similar to a 4-3-3.

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