Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots beat El Farolito 3-1 for first U.S. Open Cup win

Oakland Roots claimed a 3-1 victory over El Farolito 3-1 for its first U.S. Open Cup win in team history. Roots scored all of its goals in the first 24 minutes of action thanks to scores by Johnny Rodriguez and a brace from Wolfgang Prentice. It provided supporters their first full look a large contingent of new signings like Neveal Hackshaw, Kevin Wright, Bryan Tamacas, Trayvone, Daniel Gomez, Ryan Her, Drew Murray, Ethan Kohler, and Prentice.

Oakland was able to sit the entire lineup from its previous match against New Mexico until calling upon players like Darek Formella, Memo Diaz, Danny Barbir, and Anuar Pelaez in the second half.

“It’s good to get some of our younger players in the game and getting them minutes. We have 17-year-old kids playing in the spine of the field and a lot of guys who haven’t had any minutes all season. A lot of debuts tonight and a lot of positives on that. We were able to rest some guys and get Hackshaw some minutes, Tamacas got extended minutes, Kevin Wright got extended minutes, and Trayvone as well. I’m happy to get players some time in a game that was intense,” said coach Noah Delgado.

It was the club’s first Cup win after losing 2-0 at Greenville Triumph in last year’s second round. Delgado thinks the cross-country road trip to the USL League 1 finalists left a sour taste for a lot of players.

“I think everyone had that in the back of their mind. We didn’t bring it up, but you can think about traveling across the country when we could’ve played a local game. But it is what it is, this team will deal with adversity,” said Delgado.

We named Johnny Rodriguez and Wolfgang Prentice our two RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients after Rodriguez scored the opening goal and assisted Prentice on his first of two scores–while nearly bagging a hat trick later on in the second half.

For Johnny, it marked his third goal of the season, scoring all of them over his last three appearances. Following his score in the 12th minute of action, Tamacas re-performed Rodriguez’ celebration from Saturday’s game-winner over New Mexico United where Johnny pointed both finger down to the field to let fans know he’s arrived.

Delgado mentioned the 24-year-old striker is giving him a lot to contemplate.

“It’s hard to say where’s he at right now, he’s flying. We got him some extended minutes and got Pelaez some time. I think there’s a lot of tough decisions going forward. You can see his sharpness. It comes with his confidence after you score a goal or two. Even in training [on Monday], he was scoring a lot of goal. I felt like he was going to have a good night,” said Delgado of Rodriguez.

On his goal in the 12th, Rodriguez did well to draw a foul about six yards outside of the penalty area on the left side. Ryan Her stepped up for the free kick, bending in a pass to Johnny making the near post run for the header goal.

With Prentice, it marked the first start of his Oakland Roots career after getting loaned to USL League 1 side, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC. Wolfy’s first goal in the 16th minute came on some beautiful footwork to avoid a tackle and arch in a left-footed shot. His second goal was on a perfect cross from Rodriguez while unmarked in front of the 6-yard box for the first-touch goal.

Prentice started the match at right back and eventually rotated up to play right wing in the second half. Delgado commented on the 22-year-old’s versatility.

“Wolfgang played right wingback as a left footer, he came in and scored two goals and almost had a third at the end. That’s how good the competition on the team is. Versatility is important to us, especially with playing a lot of games. He can play left wingback, he can probably play in the midfield as well but we put him as a forward at the end of the game. He can play that position, he scored a goal the other day in training there. He had a good night,” said Delgado.

Tuesday’s match marked the debut for Hackshaw, who showed his veteran stature as a big-body center back. He cleared a potential goal off of the line in the 86th minute, which would’ve put El Farolito uncomfortably closer at 3-2.

“I thought he was solid. I’m trying to think of any errors and there’s not much going on. He’s very steady, very good in the air, and very composed. He’s a great left-sided player and he got on the end of a corner as well, so I think you just saw his experience and how he passes it onto the team. I thought he had a good performance,” said Delgado.

Much of Oakland’s lineup on Tuesday consisted of players signed in the preseason who were added as presumptive starters like Tamacas, Hackshaw, Wright, and Reid. Even the performances from Kohler, Murray, and Her showed promise. With the amount of talent Roots seemingly possess, the level of depth to the roster is a clear step above 2022’s.

“We talked about that on Saturday after the game about how deep we were on the bench. We had three international players on the bench. I was able to bring Kevin, Tamacas, and Neveal–who all played for their international teams–come in and play today. It makes us pretty lucky, we are deep. Trayvone, Drew Murray and Ethan all played well,” said Delgado.

But with Hackshaw’s clearance of a goal in the second-half, the intensity seemed to turn down from Roots as the match wore on despite El Farolito’s red card in the 83rd. Oakland didn’t have many looks in the latter 45 minutes; Rodriguez and Wolfgang had shots sail very high in the 59th and 61st minutes, while Prentice nearly scored his hat trick in stoppage time. Delgado thinks fitness came into play towards the end.

“I think we were just trying to figure it out. I think a big part of it is fitness with how many of these guys have played so far. We did as much as we can to get them fitness in the preseason with games, but during the season, it’s hard to replicate game-minutes. Some guys got a bit tired, but we were able to push them through moments,” said Delgado.

Oakland will have an opportunity to take their U.S. Open Cup trip one step further on April 25-26 for the third round when MLS teams enter the fold. The draw for the next round will be announced on April 6.

“It’s the oldest tournament in the country, it’s super special to play games against teams in higher and lower divisions. The deeper you go, these are competition games that replicate the playoffs. The ideal goal would be to reach Champions League, so one step at a time. Having one-off playoff games really brings out the intensity that’s not in the regular season when you have 34 games,” said Delgado.

Roots now prepare for a road match at Indy Eleven this Saturday. They are currently sixth-place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-2-0 record in manager Mark Lowry’s second year at the helm.

“It’ll require a lot of hard work, Indy is a very talented team. They have a very good midfield and keep the ball for most of the game. We’ll watch some film, do tactical work tomorrow, and get ready,” said Delgado.

Initial Takeaways

  • Open Cup shows depth of roster

As I talked about with Delgado during our postgame interview, the U.S. Open Cup revealed just how deep this Oakland Roots’ roster is–which is a considerable improvement from last season. It’s rare teams walk into their first appearance in the tournament against a lesser side while playing a majority of players signed in the offseason who were initially considered starters.

Neveal Hackshaw and Bryan Tamacas should step into the starting 11 in the near future, and I don’t think it’s farfetched to view Drew Murray as an eventual starter. Hackshaw and Tamacas in the 11 would push Danny Barbir and Emrah Klimenta to the bench–giving Roots a lot of depth for the back line.

The same goes with the wingback battle between Kevin Wright, Memo Diaz, and Wolfgang Prentice. Right now, Diaz has clearly put himself in a great position to continue as the starter, but it will be interesting to see how Wright can develop with more playing time. With Wolfgang, Delgado commented on his versatility to play on both sides. Right now, I consider Wolfy number three on the depth chart at both LB and RB.

  • Johnny’s breakout season continues

Johnny Rodriguez continued his onslaught on opposing nets. He’s in a run of form that is hard to match and the coaching staff is recognizing it as well based on Delgado’s quote above. I’m intrigued to see if Rodriguez continues his scoring form against USL Championship teams if it will lead to more starts.

We’ve already named Rodriguez our MOTM three times.

  • Neveal Hackshaw a solid veteran for the back line

Neveal Hackshaw showed his veteran stature tonight. He played 90 minutes and looked like a stabilizing presence in the back line–evident when he cleared a goal off of the line. Bloom’s first reaction to seeing him: “He’s thick.”

I think Roots become much better defensively with Hackshaw in the starting 11. Delgado commented that Neveal can also move the ball well up the left side.

  • Thoughts on the new guys

It was also a good day for the 17-year-old duo from the San Jose Earthquakes’ academy and U.S. Youth National Team, Ethan Kohler and Drew Murray. Kohler fed Wolfgang on his first goal and had some good moments in possession, he also had a giveaway in the first half that I’m grateful Oakland wasn’t punished on. For Murray, he’s a lot bigger and more physically developed than I initially thought. He showed presence in the middle of the defense and never seemed uncomfortable facing older players.

I also thought Kevin Wright could’ve had a better game, but seeing rust in his first full game wasn’t overly concerning. Ryan Her, meanwhile, had a perfect cross for Johnny’s goal. Delgado commented on Her:

“He had some good moments. I think the physical fitness with him comes with getting those minutes, we pushed him a little bit. I thought he did some good stuff off of the ball, he had a good night,” said Delgado.

FotMob Top-10 Ratings

  1. Wolfgang Prentice, 9.2

In 90 minutes, Prentice scored twice with three of four shots on target, completing 24 of 31 passes, two passes into the final third, had 1/3 successful dribbles, won 4/4 tackles, 9/12 ground duels, five recoveries, drew four fouls, and finished with 59 total touches.

2. Ethan Kohler, 8.2

In 90 minutes, Kohler recorded one assist and completed 37 of 46 passes, 5/5 long balls, 11 passes into the final third, created two chances, dribbles past one defender, won 2/5 tackles, 6/10 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, two interceptions, six recoveries, blocked one shot, drew one foul, and finished with 60 total touches.

3. Johnny Rodriguez, 8.1

In 68 minutes, Rodriguez recorded one goal and one assist with one of two shots on target, completing 10 of 14 passes, 1/1 cross, 1/1 long ball, one pass into the final third, won 4/8 ground duels, one recovery, drew four fouls, and finished with 30 total touches.

4. Bryan Tamacas, 8.0

In 90 minutes, Tamacas completed 44 of 57 passes, 5/9 long balls, 10 passes into the final third, won 3/4 tackles, 6/8 ground duels, 2/2 aerial duels, one clearance by header, one interception, 10 recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 78 total touches.

5. Ryan Her, 7.7

In 87 minutes, Her recorded one assist and one shot that was blocked, completing 12 of 17 passes, 1/2 crosses, one pass into the final third, created two chances, won 1/1 tackle, 7/13 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, four recoveries, drew six fouls, and finished with 36 total touches.

6. Neveal Hackshaw, 7.5

In 90 minutes, Hackshaw recorded one shot attempt and completed 44 of 56 passes, 13 passes into the final third, won 2/2 ground duels, 4/5 aerial duels, four clearances with two by header, one interception, six recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 78 total touches.

7. Trayvone Reid, 7.3

In 68 minutes, Reid recorded two shots with one on target and one blocked, completing 16 of 21 passes, 2/3 long balls, three passes into the final third, had 3/4 successful dribbles, won 3/3 tackles, 9/14 ground duels, one recovery, drew three fouls, and finished with 38 total touches.

8. Taylor Bailey, 7.1

In 90 minutes, Bailey recorded three saves with two by dives and one shot stopped from inside the box, completing 19 of 29 passes, 6/14 long balls, five throws, one high claim, six recoveries, had 39 total touches, and conceded one penalty kick.

9. Joseph Nane, 7.1

In 45 minutes, Nane completed 23 of 25 passes, 1/1 long ball three passes into the final third, created one chance, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 7/13 ground duels, one interception, nine recoveries, drew four fouls, and finished with 37 total touches.

10. Daniel Gomez, 6.8

In 45 minutes, Gomez completed 21 of 23 passes, 2/4 long balls, two passes into the final third, won 2/3 tackles, 3/5 ground duels, one clearance, four recoveries, and finished with 28 total touches.

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