Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots take second straight loss, 0-2 to Loudoun United

Hello darkness, my old friend. Oakland Roots lost 0-2 to Loudoun United on the road in Virginia in a performance which, obviously, left a lot more to be desired. Roots controlled possession at 58 percent, had more shots with 14 to Loudoun’s 11, but Oakland finished with just one on target. It was an eerily similar performance to the 1-2 loss to Hartford Athletic last week, where Roots finished with 15 shots and two on target.

So where are things going wrong?

It seemed like Loudoun was always on a breakaway, leading to Paul Blanchette making six saves with four by dives. John Morrissey highlighted how the Virginia side was able to frequently put itself in great position to score. Without Blanchette, Loudoun could’ve easily had a five-goal day.

In first clip above, Blanchette makes a huge dive to stop Wesley Leggett’s shot after miscommunication between Emrah Klimenta and Tarek Morad while both were pressing high. In Morrissey’s next clip just a few minutes later in the game, Loudoun forces a turnover on Irakoze Donasiyano and leads to another athletic save by Paul The Wall.

Loudoun’s goal in the 30th came by way of a penalty kick after Tarek Morad was called for a high boot on Leggett. It came shortly after a free kick on the left side, where Leggett attempted to flick the ball to himself following the cross in, following up with a header. Morad reached for the ball with his foot, and although it’s not clear if contact was made with Leggett, the Loudoun forward did enough to sell the foul.

Loudon’s next goal in the 58th came from a beautiful shot by Panagiotis Armenakas, curling a left-footed shot from atop the area to the left post around Blanchette. The buildup came from the counter-attack action that’s been hurting Roots over the past two weeks, starting with Armenakas sending a long ball out into space for Kalil ElMedkhar with Emrah his nearest defender tracking back. ElMedkhar took a shot that ricocheted off of Morad and landed perfectly to Armenakas–taking two dribbles before unloading with his left foot for the score.

Oakland’s one shot on target throughout the night was its best opportunity to score early on in the 10th minute with Bryan Tamacas. Donasiyano played a pass over the top to Tamacas–who was lining up at right back with Edgardo Rito out after having a newborn baby–but the Salvadoran’s shot was stopped by Hugo Fauroux.

But from there, Oakland couldn’t create clear looks. Similar to the Hartford match, Roots had a chance early with a shot-on-target by Rito in the fifth minute and it wound up to be one of the only opportunities of the entire match.

Oakland pled for penalties in the 68th and 76th minutes, but the ref wasn’t giving any favors. In the 68th, Anuar Pelaez was ran straight through his back after Lindo Mfeka did well to center a ball off of the line toward the Colombian striker. Loudoun’s Nanan Houssou sprinted back to mark Pelaez and clearly made contact with Pelaez’s numbers, leaving the Roots arguing with the officials. Trayvone Reid thought he drew a penalty in the 76th after working his way around Aidan Rocha until getting knocked to the ground, but the referee ate his whistle yet again.

Blanchette made two more big saves in the 72nd after another bad giveaway by Oakland and then stopped one more one-on-one opportunity in stoppage time. If we’re naming a RootsBlog Man of the Match, it was undoubtedly Paul The Wall. Sad to see so much required of him against a team that ranked near the bottom of last year’s Eastern Conference.

Game Notes

  • All too similar to Hartford, is the blueprint out?

As mentioned previously, the performance was all too familiar to the 2-1 loss to Hartford–so is the blueprint out on Oakland? Similar to Hartford, Loudoun was able to beat Roots over-and-over on plays into space and plays in behind. Oakland’s center backs were frequently tracking back to catch up to Loudoun forwards in one-on-one opportunities.

Loudoun ended the night with just 42 percent of possession, while Hartford had even less of the ball with 32. Roots finished with 14 shots, one on target and had seven corners on Sunday night, similarly having 15 shots, two on target, and 13 corners against Hartford.

Taking bad losses to two of last year’s worst Eastern Conference teams isn’t a good look, but the inability to create scoring opportunities is even more of a eyebrow-raiser. It’s going to be an interesting week.

  • Roots not productive from set pieces

The season started with Oakland struggling to defend set piece, but the trend has now become their inability to create from set pieces of its own. Roots have yet to score from a corner kick or pass from a free kick so far this USL Championship season despite doing very well to draw corners and fouls in good areas. Roots have attempted to execute a lot of plays on corners and set-pieces, but it hasn’t been overly effective thus far.

Oakland drew seven corners and 17 fouls on Loudoun, 13 corners and nine fouls on Hartford, eight corners and 18 fouls versus Indy Eleven, seven corners and 12 fouls from New Mexico, seven corners and 13 fouls on RGV, and eight corners and 13 fouls from San Antonio.

  • Anuar Pelaez struggling to get going.

Anuar Pelaez struggles are creating some short patience among supporters. He’s yet to get on the score and make a large impact when in possession of the ball. That being said, Pelaez has suffered from a lack of lack of service and it’s unclear how much the system is playing a part in that. He finished with just 21 total touches against Loudoun, had only 12 touches versus Indy Eleven, and 19 against New Mexico. I think it’s clear Pelaez must find more ways to get involved going forward.

If Johnny Rodriguez remains out, Roots will need more out of Pelaez in a 90-minute role similar to Ottar Magnus Karlsson in 2022.

  • Open Cup away, what will the team look like?

Enough with the pessimism and critiquing just how bad things went on Sunday–how will things look for Wednesday’s Open Cup match at Sacramento? Edgardo Rito was notably out of the 18-man gameday roster and is expected to play for the Open Cup. Neveal Hackshaw, Trayvone Reid, Kevin Wright, and Joseph Nane got time off of the bench, and I’m thinking they will appear on Wednesday in the starting lineup.

Tamacas played 88 minutes at right back, will he be fresh enough to rotate to the back line? Morad and Barbir both played 90 minutes, so Drew Murray should be expected to get more time. I could see Ethan Kohler making another Open Cup appearance in place of Donasiyano, who played a full 90. Perhaps Ryan Her plays at Lindo’s spot, while the striker position is still a question-mark based on Rodriguez.

Player Ratings

  1. Paul Blanchette, 7.6

In 90 minutes, Blanchette recorded six saves with four by dives and stopped four shots from inside the box, completing 12 of 16 passes, 3/7 long balls, 11 throws, one high claim, 16 recoveries, and finished with 34 total touches.

2. Irakoze Donasiyano, 7.4

In 90 minutes, Donasiyano had two shots with one blocked, completing 38 of 47 passes, 1/3 crosses, 2/6 long balls, eight passes into the final third, created two chances, took two corners, had 1/7 successful dribbles, dribbled past two defenders, won 4/6 tackles, 11/21 ground duels, nine recoveries, drew four fouls, and finished with 79 total touches.

3. Danny Barbir, 7.4

In 90 minutes, Barbir completed 79 of 90 passes, 3/9 long balls, 14 passes into the final third, created one chance, had 1/1 successful dribble, dribbled past one defender, won 1/1 tackle, 3/4 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, two clearances with one by header, one interception, eight recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 100 total touches.

4. Bryan Tamacas, 7.1

In 88 minutes, Tamacas recorded two shots with one on target and missed one big scoring opportunity, completing 39 of 51 passes, five passes into the final third, had 2/3 successful dribbles, won 3/5 ground duels, 2/4 aerial duels, one clearance, two interceptions, five recoveries, and finished with 75 total touches.

5. Memo Diaz, 6.6

In 80 minutes, Diaz recorded one shot that was blocked and completed 31 of 38 passes, 1/3 crosses, nine passes into the final third, created one chance, took two corners, had 1/3 successful dribbles, dribbled past one defender, won 1/4 ground duels, one interception, six recoveries, and finished with 55 total touches.

6. Trayvone Reid, 6.6

In 19 minutes, Reid completed five of seven passes, two passes into the final third, had 3/4 successful dribbles, dribbled past one defender, won 7/12 ground duels, two recoveries, drew three fouls, and finished with 19 total touches.

7. Darek Formella, 6.5

In 90 minutes, Formella recorded one shot and completed 37 of 42 passes, 1/1 long ball, created three chances, won 1/3 ground duels, one interception, two recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 49 total touches.

8. Neveal Hackshaw, 6.5

In 19 minutes, Hackshaw completed 18 of 19 passes, 1/2 long balls, two passes into the final third, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 2/3 ground duels, one interception, three recoveries, and finished with 23 total touches.

9. Tarek Morad, 6.4

In 90 minutes, Morad completed 98 of 106 passes, 8/11 long balls, eight passes into the final third, won 1/2 tackles, 2/4 ground duels, 3/4 aerial duels, blocked two shots, two clearances with one by header, two interceptions, five recoveries, conceded one penalty, and finished with 116 total touches.

10. Lindo Mfeka, 6.4

In 71 minutes, Mfeka recorded three shots with one blocked, completing 24 of 33 passes, 2/3 crosses, 1/5 long balls, six passes into the final third, created one chance, took three corners, had 2/3 successful dribbles, won 4/8 ground duels, four recoveries, drew two fouls, and finished with 48 total touches.

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