Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots tie RGV with late goal by Johnny Rodriguez

Oakland Roots walk out of Edinburg with a point thanks to Johnny Rodriguez’s equalizer in the 82nd minute, but perhaps feel like Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Rio Grande Valley was two points lost after Trayvone Reid slammed the crossbar with a shot in the final seconds.

It was an encouraging performance from Roots despite requiring a response to a 1-nil deficit. Oakland finished the night with 13 shots, five on target and two blocked with 52 percent of possession time, but failed to convert on two of three big chances, according to FotMob.

Oakland seemed to start out on the front foot. Anuar Pelaez, making the first start of his career with Roots, had a shot on target in the fourth minute with one of many key passes completed by Edgardo Rito. Darek Formella then received a ball over the top in the eighth from Lindo Mfeka, but he couldn’t get a good handle on possession.

Although Roots built some early momentum, it was gone as quickly as it came. RGV’s Christiano Francois had a shot tipped over the goal by Paul Blanchette in the 12th minute, followed by the Toros drawing the free kick leading to its goal the following minute. Jose Francisco Torres’ ball into the area fell conveniently to Frank Nodarse, who sent a straight ball to Jonathan Ricketts–redirecting it into net. Ricketts nearly scored again in the 20th.

Oakland had a near chance in the 29th minute after drawing a corner, where Emrah Klimenta flicked on a header to Tarek Morad at the left post–but he couldn’t make square contact with the ball. In the 37th, Roots had another look when Klimenta headed a longball from Irakoze Donasiyano on target, but Emrah was called offside.

But RGV had another chance to add a second goal in the 41st minute when Wilmer Cambrera Jr. held off Morad to send a rolling pass through the area to Ricardo Ruiz charging towards goal. But sprinting back was Rito, making a sliding tackle from behind to stop the opportunity.

In the second half, Blanchette made another huge save in the 51st when making a dive to stop Cabrera Jr.’s shot on target to the left post.

Rodriguez entered the match in the 64th for Pelaez. It was a move that seemingly impacted the flow of the match as Oakland began to gain steam from then on. Roots drew three free kicks by the 79th minute, but couldn’t do much with any of them.

Bryan Tamacas then came into the game at the 80th minute to make his Roots debut. Just two minutes later, Oakland found its equalizer with some help from the Salvadoran. In the buildup to Johnny’s goal, Blanchette sent high, looping pass toward Tamacas. After the ball bounced off of the turf, Robert Coronado tried to head it back toward the Toros’ attack, but Tamacas jump to defend the pass–sending it back toward Rito on the right wing.

Rito then, on his first touch, sent a perfect ball through the area to nestle nicely for Rodriguez. The charging forward took one touch with his left and followed through with his right to nutmeg RGV keeper Tyler Deric.

Rodriguez had one more chance in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time on a perfect cross from Rito, but Johnny’s header went straight to Deric. But as the seconds ticked away, Rito made one more perfect pass through the box to Reid–but the Jamaican’s shot clanged off of the crossbar, sending Oakland’s players to the ground in disbelief as the final whistle blew.

We named Rito and Rodriguez our two RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients for their productive nights. Rito finished the night with five chances created and nine passes into the final third, standing on the highly productive 2023 debut against San Antonio. He now has two assists and eight chances created through 90 minutes.

Game Notes

  • Bryan Tamacas an instant factor

Bryan Tamacas is the truth. In just a 10 minute debut, Tamacas was instantly a factor as the right sided center back and wasted no time to enter the action. He finished his shift with 28 touches, completed 10 passes, two passes into the final third, and one clearance, interception, and recovery.

Johnny was a benefactor of Tamacas for the equalizing goal when the Salvadoran athletically kept the ball in play with a defensive header to send the ball back toward Rito, leading to Rodriguez’s goal. Tamacas’ usage indicates how Noah Delgado want the right side center back role to operate in his system. Tamacas showed mobility, an ability to start attacks, and defensive technique to keep possession.

Tamacas looks like he’ll thrive in this system.

  • Edgardo Rito continuing Player of the Year form

Our 2022 OaklandRootsBlog Player of the Year is continuing his form into the new season, but appears to have made visible improvements as a passer over the offseason. He’s clearly the current star-player of Roots’ roster and the attack completely revolves around him at times. It’ll be interesting to see how Oakland’s system progresses as teams adjust to Rito, because he’s bound to attract multiple defenders going forward.

Through two games, Rito has two assists with eight scoring chances created, six successful dribbles, four of five successful tackles, and two interceptions.

  • Good performance from Johnny Rodriguez

Johnny Rodriguez had a solid rebound game versus RGV after struggling against San Antonio. He finishes with 16 touches, 2/2 successful dribbles, won 3/3 ground duels and wasn’t dispossessed any times compared to losing 10 ground duels and possession five times versus SAFC. Getting 25 minutes of action, it perhaps is a sign of the respect Delgado has for the center forward and plans to continue using him as a pacey aerial threat atop the attack.

I’d personally like to see how Johnny and Pelaez look in a two striker attack, but its overall good to see Oakland having scoring options off of the bench.

  • Napo’s injury and how does that impact the midfield?

Napo Matsoso went down with a lower leg injury in the second half and eventually had to be subbed off for Joseph Nane. So how does that impact the midfield operation going forward with the next game just six days away?

Irakoze Donasiyano made his first start of his Oakland Roots’ career, so I’d bank on him continuing as a starter. Opposite of him will undoubtedly continue with Nane, but Napo’s departure takes away from defending in the middle of the pitch coupled with some veteran creativity. I’m unsure how more creative Donasiyano is than Napo or Nane, but Koze, Nane, and Napo all appear to have holding-midfielder traits.

With Matsoso likely to miss some time, I’m curious to see what that means for Ethan Kohler (who hasn’t been in either game’s lineup), Danny Gomez, Ryan Her, or Wolfgang Prentice.

  • Lack of finishing

Lack of finishing may become a problem. Roots have created several clear chances that they were unable to put away against both SAFC and RGV. Pelaez had a shot on target in the fourth minute, Morad couldn’t put away his header chance in the 29th, Klimenta’s header called offside was stopped in the 51st, while Reid nearly exploded the crossbar at the end.

Versus San Antonio, Roots similarly should’ve put some of its opportunities in the back of the net–like when Jordan Farr stopped a 1-on-1 situation on Formella and made a diving save at the end to stop Reid (irony).

The ability to finish is definitely proving to be an area for improvement thus far.

  • Set-piece defense needs to improve

Another area for improvement is set-piece defense. San Antonio scored from a set piece in Game 1, while Roots conceded a fairly lackadaisical goal against RGV. On Toros’ goal, the two nearest defenders to Ricketts was Danny Barbir and Formella–but both were caught ball-watching. Oakland also struggled on set-piece defense through the early portion of 2022, so it’s been a negative quality that carried over from last year.

FotMob Top-10 Ratings

  1. Edgardo Rito, 8.1

In 90 minutes, Rito recorded one assist and completed 23 of 30 passes, nine passes into the final third, 4/10 crosses, created five chances, had 3/10 successful dribbles, won 1/1 tackle, 6/13 ground duels, one clearance, one interception, four recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 69 total touches.

2. Lindo Mfeka, 7.8

In 90 minutes, Mfeka recorded one blocked shot and completed 40 of 45 passes, four passes into the final third, 4/4 long balls, took three corners, had 2/2 successful dribbles, won 1/1 tackle, 4/5 ground duels, blocked one shot, three interceptions, five recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 64 total touches.

3. Memo Diaz, 7.6

In 90 minutes, Diaz completed 18 of 32 passes, three passes into the final third, 3/9 crosses, 2/8 crosses, took four corners, created two chances, had 2/3 successful dribbles, dribbled past three defenders, won 1/1 tackle, 3/4 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, three clearances by header, four interceptions, six recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 65 total touches.

4. Johnny Rodriguez, 7.6

In 25 minutes, Rodriguez scored once and recorded two shots on target, completing seven of 10 passes, 1/1 long ball, had 2/2 successful dribbles, won 3/3 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, drew one foul, and finished with 16 total touches.

5. Irakoze Donasiyano, 7.2

In 90 minutes, Donasiyano recorded two shots on target and completed 45 of 57 passes, 2/2 long balls, eight passes into the final third, had 1/2 successful dribbles, dribbled past two defenders, won 5/14 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, two clearances, four interceptions, eight recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 85 total touches.

6. Paul Blanchette, 7.2

In 90 minutes, Blanchette recorded four saves with two by dives and completed 10 of 14 passes, 1/5 long balls, six throws, seven recoveries, and finished with 24 total touches.

7. Tarek Morad, 7.0

In 90 minutes, Morad recorded one shot attempt and completed 64 of 74 passes, 8/10 long balls, seven passes into the final third, created one chance, missed one big chance, five clearances with two by header, won 1/3 ground duels, 2/2 aerial duels, six recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 84 total touches.

8. Danny Barbir, 6.8

In 90 minutes, Barbir completed 42 of 44 passes, 6/7 long balls, three passes into the final third, dribbled past two defenders, won 1/1 tackle, 1/4 ground duels, five clearances with one by header, eight recoveries, and finished with 57 total touches.

9. Darek Formella, 6.8

In 80 minutes, Formella recorded two shots with one blocked, completing 24 of 29 passes, 3/4 long balls, four passes into the final third, dribbled past one defender, won 1/1 tackle, 4/5 ground duels, two recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 41 total touches.

10. Anuar Pelaez, 6.8

In 65 minutes, Pelaez recorded two shots with one on target and completed 4/6 passes, one pass into the final third, won 1/1 ground duel, 1/1 aerial duel, one clearance by header, two recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 15 total touches.

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