Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots rout Indy Eleven 3-nil

It was a huge 3-nil clean sheet for Oakland Roots over Indy Eleven on the road with goals by Lindo Mfeka in the 43rd, Darek Formella in the 71st, and Edgardo Rito with the dagger at 78′. It improved Oakland’s record to 2-1-1, marking their hottest start in its three years within the USL Championship.

Don’t look now, but Roots are looking much better than their preseason projection of finishing with the last playoff seed in the Western Conference. Oakland is cooking right now and it still feels like we’ve yet to see the very best from them.

John Morrissey seems to agree Roots have taken the “step up.”

Oakland finished the night with 11 shots, seven on target, five (!) big chances, and two missed. Indy Eleven, meanwhile, had 15 shots with six on target, but missed two big chances of its own. Much like coach Noah Delgado expected, Indy held the ball for the majority of possession time at 63 percent, but they struggled to find the finishing touch.

Even before Roots goal, the visiting side seemed to have most of the action. Oakland could’ve scored in the first 10 minutes when Anuar Pelaez had a header on target in the 7th following a perfect pass in from Memo Diaz from a free kick from outside of the area. Pelaez also had a shot on target in the 11th after Lindo fed a nice pass to greet his forward run.

Pelaez had one more look in the 30th minute when Diaz sent a beautiful outside foot cross to the Colombian striker, but he couldn’t make squad contact on his header attempt.

Oakland’s goal in the 43rd was a product of Formella instinctively jumping on a loose ball to find Mfeka charging through the back line. In the buildup, Danny Barbir took a fall on the left sideline, which Indy’s defenders may have expected to be a foul after Barbir’s ankle was nicked.

With no foul called, Formella was situated perfectly to jump on possession. Lindo, noticing no one marking him in the center of the pitch, darted towards goal with five yards of space between him and the nearest defender. In no-mans land, Indy’s goal keeper Yannik Oettl came far out of goal to greet Mfeka, but the South African took a touch with his head around Oettl and easily could’ve walked it in.

Indy’s most dangerous look of the first came right as the first half came to an end when Aodhan Quinn sent a looping shot on the volley back toward goal to force a diving save from Paul Blanchette. Indy did nothing with the ensuing corner, eventually cleared out by Formella.

In the second half, Indy had look in the 49th on a counter attack that targeted Douglas Martinez in point-blank range, but the pass was behind him and eventually led to a cross by Sebastian Guenzatti that was cleared out.

Although Indy finished with 15 shots with six on target, it’s hard to pin-point anything as overtly challenging. Likely their best chance came in the 65th when Quinn’s pass trickled through the area untouched, but Diaz was there to clear it out.

Roots’ goal in the 71st came from high pressing action. Indy played a ball short following a goal kick and failed to get the ball out of their own penalty area. Mfeka pressed Robby Dambrot to playing a pass back to Jesus Vasquez, which was slightly off the mark and caused Vasquez to track back towards the end line. Vasquez, in a panicked state, tried to play a pass back to Dambrot–enabling Mfeka to jump on the ball.

Lindo took a few dribbles into the area and unloaded on a right-footed shot, but Oettl was able to get a foot on it–causing the ball to loop up into the air. Formella, situated perfectly again, followed up with a right-footed volley for the goal.

Blanchette had a huge save in the 73rd when Adrian Diz Pe shot a laser at him, but Paul The Wall didn’t have to make any adjustments to handle it. Solomon Asante also had a shot from close distance go narrowly wide in the 76th.

But then Oakland struck for the final time in the 78th on a perfect counter attack goal–something I called for in yesterday’s match preview. With Indy holding possession, Formella cleared a ball up toward the opposing back line, leading to a defensive header by Vasquez that went straight to Joseph Nane.

The veteran captain, Nane, took a touch with his chest then followed up with a right-footed pass up to Rito. The break through Indy’s defense by the Venezuelan was very similar to Lindo’s goal. Indy Eleven’s backline, once again, seemed to be ball-watching on the buildup with Cameron Lindley not marking Rito as he made his run–as seen on the image below.

We named Mfeka and Formella our RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients following the game.

Emrah Klimenta received a second yellow in the 82nd minute, but Indy couldn’t capitalize on the man-advantage. They drew a free kick a minute later, which led to nothing after a header attempt went out for a goal kick. Blake had a shot sail high in the 88th minute, but that was the last action of the match.

Oakland now looks ahead to April 15’s match hosting Hartford Athletic, which enters at 0-2-3 and 11th place in the Eastern Conference. The club is still working toward finalizing the stadium location between Laney College or Cal State University East Bay in Hayward, we’ll provide more on the matter when the information becomes available.

Game Notes

  • Strategic planning by Noah Delgado

Saturday’s result was a big indicator of just how well coach Noah has his team drilled on what their system and game plan is. Following Oakland’s Open Cup win over El Farolito, Delgado commented on how Indy likes to possess the ball and control games with its midfield. Indy was able to finish with 63 percent of possession time, but their attack wasn’t much of a challenge for Blanchette.

I thought the final goal of the game was the epitome of Delgado’s plan; create turnovers, don’t allow clear looks, and play the ball into space as often as possible.

  • Expected starters still weren’t out there

This is focused around the back line, because I think players like Formella and Memo have earned their first-team roles. However, clear difference makers like Bryan Tamacas and Neveal Hackshaw didn’t start the match.

It’s a factor that provides a lot of optimism with the team playing this well while still having wrinkles to add into the system. The question is how does this team look in the coming weeks and how can they continue form when Tamacas and Hackshaw enter the starting lineup?

  • Breakout campaigns by Formella and Memo?

Leading off of the topic above, how great have Formella and Diaz been? I mistakenly had Trayvone Reid and Kevin Wright slated as the preseason starters at their spots, but Formella and Memo have been two bright lights of 2023 thus far.

Memo’s passing in 2022 was already considered one of the best on the roster and he’s somehow made even larger improvements in that area over the offseason. His outside-foot passing is spot on and he can even line things up with his left. He’s always finding an open man in space and holds his own as a defender. I’m having a really hard time seeing Diaz getting dropped.

The same goes for Formella, the 27-year-old Polish forward is tied for the team-lead in assist with two alongside Rito. He was the catalyst in Oakland’s game-winner against New Mexico and was in the right spot again for his goal in the 71st. His pass to Lindo for the opening goal was inch-perfect.

  • A strong midfield performance without Napo

Napo Matsoso was not featured in the 18-man lineup, which opened the door for a big performance from Irakoze Donasiyano. Despite having a couple of shot attempts that left more to be desired, “Koze” was a controlling presence in the midfield and was the cause of a lot of attacking movement.

Donasiyano was five-for-five on his dribble attempts, per FotMob’s stat engine, and complete 10 passes into the final third. Very productive from him.

Joseph Nane, meanwhile, is a leader of the entire team. He wore the captain’s armband and had the assist on Rito’s goal–completing four passes into the final third.

  • Honestly, it wasn’t a complete performance

That sentence felt critical to write, but I think its an even larger sign of optimism to execute at a high level and still have room to improve. There were several moments where passers failed to spot Edgardo Rito storming down the right side and it seemed to frustrate him at times.

Coming into the match, the attack always seemed to flow through Rito. This may have been an impact from Indy’s game plan for Rito, but he still had multiple openings down the right flank. I think it’s assured teams will continue planning for neutralize Rito, making it much more important to hit him when openings are available.

FotMob Top-10 Ratings

  1. Paul Blanchette, 8.5

In 90 minutes, Blanchette recorded six saves with one by diving and stopped three shots inside the box, completing 20 of 35 passes, 8/23 long balls, created one chance, four throws, four high claims, 16 recoveries, and finished with 50 total touches.

2. Darek Formella, 8.3

In 90 minutes, Formella recorded one goal and one assist with one shot on target, completing 17 of 21 passes, 1/2 long balls, two passes into the final third, created two chances, won 4/10 ground duels, one interception, three recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 39 total touches.

3. Lindo Mfeka, 8.3

In 72 minutes, Mfeka scored once with two shots on target, completing 24 of 28 passes, 1/2 cross, 2/2 long balls, five passes into the final third, took one corner, missed one big chance, won 1/1 tackle, 4/6 ground duels, two clearances, one interception, five recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 43 total touches.

4. Irakoze Donasiyano, 8.1

In 90 minutes, Donasiyano recorded two shots that were blocked and completed 27 of 34 passes, 10 passes into the final third, created one chance, had 5/5 successful dribbles, won 1/1 tackle, 9/11 ground duels, three interceptions, 10 recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 57 total

5. Edgardo Rito, 7.8

In 90 minutes, Rito scored once with his only shot attempt, completing nine of 14 passes, one pass into the final third, had 1/4 successful dribbles, won 1/1 tackle, 3/8 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, three recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 28 total touches.

6. Danny Barbir, 7.4

In 90 minutes, Barbir completed 21 of 24 passes, 1/2 long balls, five passes into the final third, created one chance, dribbled past one defender, won 1/2 aerial duels, blocked one shot, five clearances with two by header, four interceptions, two recoveries, and finished with 46 total touches.

7. Joseph Nane, 7.4

In 87 minutes, Nane recorded one assist and completed 18 of 20 passes, 1/1 long ball, four passes into the final third, created one chance, dribbled past two defenders, won 1/5 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, one clearance, four recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 25 total touches.

8. Tarek Morad, 7.2

In 90 minutes, Morad completed 43 of 45 passes, 7/8 long balls, four passes into the final third, had 1/1 successful dribbles, dribbled past one defender, won 2/5 ground duels, five clearances with two by header, one interception, six recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 55 total touches.

9. Memo Diaz, 7.2

In 90 minutes, Diaz completed 19 of 31 passes, 1/2 crosses, 1/4 long balls, eight passes into the final third, created two chances, had 1/4 successful dribbles, dribbled past two defenders, won 1/1 tackle, 5/14 ground duels, 1/5 aerial duels, four clearances with one by header, one interception, five recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 56 total touches.

10. Anuar Pelaez, 6.7

In 68 minutes, Pelaez recorded four shots with three on target, completing 4/4 passes, missed one big chance, and finished with 11 total touches.

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