It was a second-consecutive breakthrough win for Oakland Roots with a 3-nil clean sheet on Orange County at Pioneer Stadium on Saturday night, where the club recorded its most tickets sold of all time with 5,855 for its double-header with Soul.
After what seemed like results were taking a downturn following losses to Hartford, Loudoun United, and Sacramento in the Open Cup, Roots have now scored seven goals in the last two games and are unbeaten in its last three matches. The win quietly continues the organization’s best start in franchise history at 4-2-3 record and sixth place in the Western Conference.
“In other games where we didn’t get results, our performance has been very high. We didn’t get goals in a couple of games, I just thought we were pretty unlucky and created some chances. Tonight, the ball went in. I thought we played some good balls, finding players between lines, finding penetration, and getting players in the box. We keep harping on the stuff that we need to work on and keep to our principles,” said coach Noah Delgado.
It marked the third consecutive game for Oakland to start usual winger Darek Formella at the 9-role and Edgardo Rito at right wing instead of the outside back position.
“There’s a couple of tweeks in there, just a little movement with players. Just working on players rotating a bit while keeping the same shape. I think the versatility of our team and players understanding what we want, we’re starting to see good things coming out of it. There’s a lot of good movement off the ball too,” said Delgado.
For Formella, his goal in the 30th minute was on some stellar cleanup work after a pass by Edgardo Rito deflected off of Dillon Powers, perfectly laying up for Fomella for the right-footed rocked. Formella’s goal marked his fourth of the year. He leads Oakland with six goals and assist contributions and with four scores in the USL Championship.
With Anuar Pelaez and Johnny Rodriguez available, it’s becoming more evident that Formella is Delgado’s preferred option at striker. When asked about where he likes Formella, coach Delgado gave a quick shrug and said it’s difficult to take him out of the spot.
“He’s doing well. He’s scoring goals as a 9, so its hard to take him off of the field. But I think he does a lot of work holding the ball under pressure, playing the way he faces defenders while he’s still holding the ball looking to penetrate. He works hard defensively as well, a lot of hard work,” said Delgado.
As for Rito, Delgado is finding use of him pushed up as a forward after having him run into the attack as a wingback. We named him our RootsBlog Man of the Match for his goal to kill the game and ability to change the game in his new role.
Delgado thinks Rito is quickly building into the right wing role and Bryan Tamacas allows them to move the Venezuelan up the field.
“Obviously, he’s a player who can penetrate. After his first game at right wing, someone asked about him playing there, questioning it a little bit. My thought was it was his first game at right wing, it’s not going to be perfect. You could see him getting more comfortable, understanding the system, and he has a great relationship with [Bryan] Tamacas. Both of those guys get forward, I thought their combination was really good tonight,” said Delgado.
Rito did well to draw Oakland’s corner in the 43rd minute that led to Tarek Morad’s header goal. It marked Roots’ first league goal from a set piece opportunity and only goal from a corner so far this season.
In the buildup, Lindo Mfeka played a ball short to Memo Diaz, who played it back to the South African. Mfeka sent a perfect cross to Morad for the free header right in front of the net, just like they drew it up.
Roots went into halftime dominating the action with five shots and three on target, eventually finishing the match with 10 shots and four on target. Orange County only had two attempts with none on target in the first 45 minutes, closing the night with 11 attempts and two on target–one of which forcing a diving save in the 72nd.
Like the stats show, Oakland didn’t overly press for another goal in the second half, but did enough to create and still keep its defensive shape. Roots drew three straight corners in a four minute span from 60′-64′, but couldn’t convert.
Johnny Rodriguez entered the match in the 75th minute, contributing to Rito’s goal just three minutes later. It came after Kevin Wright booted a ball up to Johnny in a 1-on-1 situation with OC’s Daniel Pedersen, doing well to muscle off the handsy defender to find Rito charging in behind.
Rodriguez has been stellar in his super-sub role. His pass to Rito marked Johnny’s first assist of the year, now with four goal contributions in league play.
“I think he’s confident right now, every time he gets on it, he’s looking forward. He did a great job to hold the ball on the goal and attract his defender a bit to get Rito more open so he had more time in front of goal. Johnny’s playing excellent, I’m very proud of him,” said Delgado.
Oakland now looks ahead to big road match at the top-team in the USL Championship, Sacramento at Heart Health Park.
- How Tamacas impacts the right side.
We’ve said on RootsBlog that we prefer Rito on the right side, and although that might be true, the interlinking between Tamacas and Rito appears to be a key part the system Delgado is implementing.
The Salvadoran entered the lineup as the presumptive starter as the right-side center back. Tamacas initially had a tendency to push forward from the center back spot, but the strategy seemed to begin showing some holes. Now, it looks like Delgado feels Tamacas’ defensive ability, passing skills, and maneuverability on the pitch is better suited for the wingback role.
“He’s a veteran player, an experienced player. He’s someone who plays both sides of the ball, shows tenacity to get in for tackles and willingness to get forward and get back to defend. He’s good in the air too,” said Delgado.
- Formella taking the lead?
“Formella is magic, he plays in our attack. He could’ve signed to Sac, but he said ….”
Could this be Formella’s chance to shine? Formella is emerging as Delgado’s top option at striker after three straight appearances. The stats certainly confirm that; Darek is Roots’ most active forward with nine starts and 779 minutes. In 23 less appearances than in 2022, Formella has already tied his goals output from last year with four, while his two assists puts him over last year’s total.
Formella has spent time in the center forward role before arriving to Oakland, so this certainly isn’t new for him. The hope is he can regain his form in 2020, where the Pole scored eight goals in 14 appearances with Sacramento.
- Backline beginning to shape itself.
Roots’ backline is beginning to take shape with Danny Barbir on the left side, Neveal Hackshaw in the middle, and Tarek Morad on the right. Barbir hasn’t missed a minute of league play all season with 810 minutes in nine starts, only Paul Blancette is equal with him. Morad, meanwhile, has 720 minutes in eight starts.
“We thought Hackshaw was a good fit centrally and physically. He’s obviously a beast, good technically, and very good on the ball in finding passes. I think his anticipation with passes in behind was excellent tonight. He can push into the midfield as well,” said Delgado.
- Nane and Donasiyano nearing a return.
Joseph Nane and Irakoze Donasiyano were ruled out due to injuries but are working their way back. Delgado provided an update on both players:
“They are progressing vert fast. Expect Jojo next week. Koze, we’ll check, but he’s made some strides the last couple of days,” said Delgado.
- The schedule gets difficult.
Getting wins over Birmingham and Orange County was great to build momentum going into a tough stretch of matches. After traveling to Sacramento, Roots enter a difficult series of matches against San Diego (May 27), at Colorado Springs (June 2), at Phoenix (June 10), Pittsburgh (June 17), hosting Phoenix (June 24), and RGV (June 28).
FotMob Top-10 Player Ratings
- Tarek Morad, 8.1
In 90 minutes, Morad scored once with his only shot attempt, completing 89 of 92 passes, 4/5 long balls, five passes into the final third, won 1/1 tackle, 1/3 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, blocked two shots, four clearances by header, two interceptions, two recoveries, and finished with 104 total touches.
2. Edgardo Rito, 8.1
In 90 minutes, Rito scored once with two shot attempts, completing 20 of 26 passes, two passes into the final third, created three chances, dribbled past two defenders, four recoveries, and finished with 43 total touches.
3. Neveal Hackshaw, 8.1
In 90 minutes, Hackshaw recorded one shot attempt and completed 82 of 89 passes, 5/9 long balls, eight passes into the final third, missed one big chance, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 1/1 ground duel, three clearances with one by header, one interception, 14 recoveries, and finished with 98 total touches.
4. Darek Formella, 8.0
In 84 minutes, Formella scored once with his only shot attempt and completed 24 of 29 passes, 1/1 long ball, six passes into the final third, had 4/6 successful dribbles, won 5/8 ground duels, drew one foul, and finished with 42 total touches.
5. Lindo Mfeka, 8.0
In 75 minutes, Mfeka recorded one assist and one shot on target, completing 31 of 34 passes, 2/3 crosses, 2/3 long balls, six passes into the final third, created two chances, took three corners, dribbled past one defender, won 1/1 tackle, 2/6 ground duels, 1/1 aerial duel, one clearance, six recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 43 total touches.
6. Bryan Tamacas, 7.7
In 87 minutes, Tamacas recorded one shot attempt and completed 54 of 63 passes, 2/3 long balls, eight passes into the final third, had 2/2 successful dribbles, won 1/1 tackle, 4/4 ground duels, three clearances, five recoveries, drew one foul, and finished with 81 total touches.
7. Paul Blanchette, 7.5
In 90 minutes, Blanchette recorded two saves with one by diving from a shot inside the box, to go along with seven throws, 12 recoveries, and finished with 47 total touches.
8. Danny Barbir, 7.2
In 90 minutes, Barbir recorded one shot that was blocked and completed 53 of 62 passes, 6/8 long balls, eight passes into the final third, one clearance by header, one interception, two recoveries, dribbled past two defenders, won 4/4 aerial duels, and finished with 71 total touches.
9. Johnny Rodriguez, 7.2
In 15 minutes, Rodriguez recorded one assist and completed five of seven passes, 1/1 long ball, two passes into the final third, had 1/1 successful dribble, won 2/3 ground duels, blocked one shot, drew one foul, and finished with 10 total touches.
10. Danny Gomez, 7.1
In 84 minutes, Gomez completed 32 of 37 passes, 2/3 long balls, two passes into the final third, won 1/4 tackles, 4/5 ground duels, 1/2 aerial duels, four recoveries, and finished with 46 total touches.