Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots lose 2-1 to Hartford Athletic

It was a disappointing result against a weaker USL Championship side for Oakland, losing 2-1 to the visiting Hartford Athletic at Pioneer Stadium by allowing goals by Prince Saydee in the 31st and Jeciel Cedeno in the 35th.

“Some errors early on that led to some goals and some chances. I thought we created a lot of chances tonight, the second half we were pretty dominant. I’m happy with the team and the way they reacted at halftime, we came out and played in the second half. But to come back from two goals is always tough,” said coach Noah Delgado.

Oakland looked more aggressive in the latter 45 minutes, finishing the night with 16 shot attempts after going into halftime with six. However, just three attempts on the night were on target with Darek Formella’s spot-kick in the 73rd being one of them.

“My message at halftime was, we’re going to get opportunities to win this game. We worked on trying to do some stuff in transition and space in behind, we talked about some of those ideas but also how we could get at them, create penetration, and get in behind. We created some good opportunities in the second half, this just wasn’t our day,” said Delgado.

Hartford clearly had the right plan of attack, exploiting the space in behind with defenders pressing higher up the field. In Prince’s goal at 31′, Tristan Hodge fed Antoine Hoppenot unmarked on the left side. Hoppenot dribbled into the box and sent a pass to Kyle Edwards in front of the net, but Danny Barbir deflected the ball back to Prince for the easy first-touch goal.

In the buildup, Hodge spotted Rito and Bryan Tamacas cheating upward, giving Hoppenot yards of space to run in behind.

“They got some chances [on space in behind]. It was in the transition, I think we were up high, we have to watch film to get a better idea. We got caught in behind there and then a ricochet bounce, and then the second goal was unfortunate for us. Hats off to Hartford, they came in here and got a result,” said Delgado.

In Hartford’s next goal just four minutes later, Hoppenot played the ball to Cedeno–who must’ve put Stick-Em on his boots to keep possession through a tackle attempt by Tarek Morad. Although Morad lunged twice to put in a tackle, the 23-year-old Ecuadorian maintained the ball to trickle in a left-footed shot past a frustrated Paul Blanchette.

“We knew they transitioned well and get numbers ahead. They did a good job at that, they did some good counter movements with their wing players. Cedeno played up high a bit and created a lot of hard work for our center backs. They did a good job on the counter and then kind of played a bend-but-don’t-break second half where we were knocking on the door the whole time” said Delgado.

But Oakland had its chances. Perhaps Roots’ most clear look came very early in the fifth minute when Rito was stopped on a perfect run. Tamacas fed Edgardo storming down the right side, but with a defender draped on his back, Rito’s shot was critically kicked away by Hartford keeper Richard Sanchez. It was Oakland’s only shot on target of the first 45 minutes.

Roots wanted a penalty kick in the 43rd minute when Rito was bowled over by Hodge, but the referee awarded the free kick just a foot outside of the box.

In the second half, Oakland pressed forward for goals but Hartford was able to remain compact to prevent open looks. Although Roots had 10 shots on the second half, only two were on target. Tamacas had a clear look after receiving a pass from Memo Diaz following a free kick, by the Salvadoran’s shot went a foot over the net.

Roots’ goal came after Anuar Pelaez drew a free kick a yard above the penalty area, followed by Formella sending in a shot. Formella’s attempt hit Hodge’s arm to award the PK, allowing the Polish forward to slot it home. Moments later, Rito was pulled down in the box, but a penalty was not awarded.

“We need to tighten up our transition from attack to defense. We want to get on some of the early crosses we had and just be a bit cleaner in the final third and combining centrally. [Hartford] was a very tight, compact, and deep. So at the end, we just want quick ball movement, getting side-to-side and shifting them around–combining not just through the wide channel, but also centrally,” said Delgado.


  • Hartford came with the right plan

Hats off to Hartford manager Tab Ramos, who was among the marquee coaching signings of the offseason throughout the league. During the broadcast, Joe Malfa said Ramos called Oakland an “easy scout,” which is somewhat concerning coming from a team that came into Hayward winless at 0-2-3.

Hartford frequently exploited the space in behind Rito as he kept his usual high-line. You would’ve liked to see Rito finish his scoring chance early in the match because I think that changes Hartford’s approach and allows Oakland to be more defensive. The opening goal seemed more glaring of the two with Rito playing high and Tamacas spotting a player to press, but no teammates to back him up given Morad and Barbir were held centrally by a pair of Hartford forwards. It was a blue-print type of goal.

Hartford finished the night with just 32 percent of the ball, but effectively hit Roots on the counter time and again.

  • How does Pelaez impact games off of the bench compared to starting?

Johnny Rodriguez got the start, which I feel was much-deserved. But does Anuar Pelaez starting with Rodriguez being the super-sub make a larger impact in games? Rodriguez certainly did not have a bad night, he made some good passes and made himself involved with 31 touches. However, the early portion of the schedule has shown how Pelaez can loosen up defenses with his shear physicality and allow Johnny to play more freely.

There were a couple of points in the first half where Rodriguez was knocked over in the box in physical duels against Hartford’s captain Niall Logue, who stands at 6 feet, 4 inches. Comparing to boxing, I thought Pelaez may have been the better fit to square up with Logue for a 12-round fight, while Johnny could enter late to land the haymaker.

Delgado shared his thoughts on Johnny.

“I thought he’s been doing well and I wanted to reward him with more minutes. We wanted to see Pelaez off of the bench and see how he can contribute to the team. I think they both had some decent chances. But they are both competing and they are both supportive of each other. I’m happy the way the team and the players coming off and being supportive. Obviously, the result wasn’t great, but I thought the attitude was good,” said Delgado.

  • Finding the finishing touch

You don’t want finding the finishing touch to become a trend like it was last season. Despite having 16 shot attempts on the night, just three were on target with one of two big chances converted. Rito and Tamacas’ looks would’ve changed the game, along with Pelaez’s free header towards the end. You want to see them convert those opportunities, but each were in difficult and intense situations–so you can’t be overly critical.

Still, you need to defeat teams like Hartford if you want a home playoff game. Teams must take what’s given in the critical moments and Oakland just couldn’t find the finishing touch.

  • Napo Matsoso is okay

Napo Matsoso has missed the last couple of games, but Delgado mentioned he’s doing well and is back with the team. He was at Pioneer Stadium on Saturday night.

“He’s back. He’ll be back in the mix moving forward,” said Delgado.

Player Ratings

  1. Irakoze Donasiyano, 7.7

In 90 minutes, Donasiyano had three shots blocked and completed 47 of 53 passes, 1/1 cross, 1/3 long balls, had 8/9 successful dribbles, dribbled past two defenders, won 1/1 tackle, 13/20 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duel, one interception, three recoveries, drew four fouls, and finished with 85 total touches.

2. Joseph Nane, 7.5

In 86 minutes, Nane completed 50 of 55 passes, 5/7 long balls, 12 passes into the final third, created two chances, won 1/1 tackle, 1/3 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, one clearance, four interceptions, 11 recoveries, and finished with 66 total touches.

3. Tarek Morad, 7.1

In 90 minutes, Morad had one shot that was blocked and completed 73 of 79 passes, 2/5 long balls, six passes into the final third, had 1/1 successful dribble, dribbled past one defender, won 2/3 tackles, 4/6 ground duels, three clearances with one by header, five interceptions, eight recoveries, and finished with 92 total touches.

4. Bryan Tamacas, 7.0

In 90 minutes, Tamacas recorded one shot and completed 54 of 65 passes, 1/2 crosses, 2/3 long balls, eight passes into the final third, created two chances, missed one big chance, won 1/1 tackle, 2/4 ground duels, 3/5 aerial duels, three clearances, three interceptions, seven recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 93 total touches.

5. Danny Barbir, 7.0

In 90 minutes, Barbir recorded two shot attempts and completed 59 of 67 passes, 1/3 crosses, 6/11 long balls, 14 passes into the final third, created one chance, won 1/2 tackles, 2/2 ground duels, 3/3 aerial duels, one interception, nine recoveries, blocked one shot, and finished with 82 total touches.

6. Lindo Mfeka, 6.7

In 90 minutes, Mfeka recorded one shot that was blocked and completed 38 of 46 passes, 1/3 long balls, 10 passes into the final third, took five corners, created one chance, had 1/1 successful dribble, dribbled past three defenders, won 2/6 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, seven recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 66 total touches.

7. Darek Formella, 6.4

In 90 minutes, Formella scored once with four shots, two on target, and one blocked. He also completed 26 of 38 passes, 1/5 crosses, six passes into the final third, took one corner, won four recoveries, and finished with 56 total touches.

8. Johnny Rodriguez, 6.4

In 67 minutes, Rodriguez recorded one shot attempt and completed 18 of 22 passes, 3/3 long balls, two passes into the final third, five recoveries, won 1/4 ground duels, 2/2 aerial duels, drew one foul, and finished with 31 total touches.

9. Edgardo Rito, 6.2

In 90 minutes, Rito recorded one shot on target and completed 27 of 31 passes, 1/8 crosses, 1/1 long ball, three passes into the final third, had 3/10 successful dribbles, won 4/11 ground duels, five recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 66 total touches.

10. Anuar Pelaez, 6.0

In 23 minutes, Pelaez recorded two shot attempts with one on target, won 1/2 ground duels, drew one foul, and finished with nine total touches.

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