Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots shutout San Diego Loyal 2-nil

How we feeling RootsFam!? Oakland Roots continued its domination over San Diego Loyal with a 2-nil victory at Pioneer Stadium, putting Roots up to fifth place with a 5-2-4 record and 17 points. Oakland is now three points behind San Diego and hold a game in hand, one point above Colorado Springs and also have a game in hand, and one point above Phoenix in seventh.

Roots’ ownage of San Diego seemingly lacks reason and understanding. Oakland improves their record over the SoCal foe to 5-2-1 with its only loss coming in the 2021’s debut versus SD. Coach Noah Delgado’s thoughts surmised just how uncanny Roots’ control of the rivalry when asked if he feels Oakland has an advantage in the matchup.

“No… I just think…. They’re a good team, that’s what I’ll say,” Delgado said with a smile.

It marked the second match of a tough 10-game stretch for Oakland against teams in playoff contention. After falling 3-1 to first-place Sacramento and taking out San Diego, once again, Delgado thinks Roots match up well with the upper-echelon of the Western Conference.

“I pretty much haven’t changed my message the whole season, I think we’ve been doing good things. I think we can compete with any team just doing the details right and playing for 90-plus minutes,” said Delgado.

It was a solid night for Oakland on both sides of the ball. They produced 12 shots with six on target despite holding 10 percent less time of possession at 45 percent. Although San Diego had 10 shots and five on target, they missed two big chances due to Roots’ defensive form and goal keeper Paul Blanchette having another “Paul The Wall” type of night with three diving saves. We named him our RootsBlog Man of the Match.

“We made some rotations because there’s a lot of games; getting some players minutes. I thought the early goal really motivated us, but we knew how good San diego was and knew they would get chances. I thought we did a good job once we got into our mid-block to not give up a lot of space and force them out wide,” said Delgado.

“We knew they like the ball and are possession oriented. They’re a team where I know things can go either way. I thought we did well to create good chances when we had possession… We’re keeping our lines tight, not giving up space in between lines, and we’re forcing the ball out wide. They were playing some diagonal balls early on to try and get in behind us, so getting pressure on the ball was important.”

The big change in the Roots’ starting 11 was Johnny Rodriguez in the 9-role. He made quick work of his minutes with his goal in the seventh minute–receiving a pass from Memo Diaz in point-blank range, holding off Kyle Adams to get the ball out from under his feet.

Delgado explained the move with Johnny, saying they will continue using “a lot of players” going forward.

“We’ve got to keep stuff fresh, he’s been playing well. We’re going to be a team that’s going to use a lot of players and sometimes there will be different lineups. It’s important to get these guys minutes, they get experience, and have competition within the team,” said Delgado.

Diaz was a big part of the first goal, retaining possession after a long ball from Neveal Hackshaw tipped off of Nick Moon’s head as he fell to the ground. Diaz recovered the ball, sending a right footed cross into Rodriguez. Memo re-entered the starting lineup for Roots after being on the subs list against Sacramento.

“Memo is, obviously, a technically good player. He works extremely hard, he’s a player that will get up and down the field, and creates service. He’s someone who can move around inside and outside a bit as well. He has a high work-rate and experience, he brings a lot,” said Delgado.

Also featured for the fourth consecutive game in the midfield was Danny Gomez, the Project 51O callup from the offseason. Even with Napo Matsoso available, Delgado opted to start Gomez opposite of veteran Joseph Nane.

“He came in as a young guy, a rookie player. The first time I told him he was going to start, I saw a smile and excitement instead of being nervous. He came in and has been solid, often attacking and defending. I’ve been very happy with him,” said Delgado.

The match ended with Colombian striker Anuar Pelaez in the final moments of the game at 90+5′ after entering in the 87th for Lindo Mfeka. It was clear to see what the goal meant to him, pointing to the heavens, letting out an exhale in relief.

“I’m excited for him, he’s put in work. He does stuff after training to put even more work in. We keep telling him, ‘Stay focused. Keep going, keep going.’ The whole team was happy for him,” said Delgado.

Oakland now looks ahead to another Western Conference playoff contender, traveling to Colorado Springs on June 3, and follow up visiting Juan Guerra’s Phoenix on June 10 in another match that will help shape the standings. Roots just catapulted above sixth-place Colorado Springs with 16 points while Phoenix also has 16 points in seventh.

Game Notes

Credit: Oakland Roots SC
  • Big game for Johnny at striker, but is he okay?

It was a big moment for Johnny Rodriguez to get the start despite Darek Formella seemingly taking ownership of the role in the previous matches. His goal in the seventh minute was just what he needed; getting on the scoresheet and holding off a defender to score in the process. He also showed consistent hold-up play when in possession and sprung players out wide on multiple occassions.

What worries me is that he was subbed off in the 65th minute and sat on the field until the sub was announced. He was stretching his calves prior to going down with the injury, showing that something was nagging him. I’m hoping he was taken off as a precaution, but it seemed more like he requested to come off. We’ll see where Rodriguez is on the next injury report.

  • Paul The Wall was on full display

How amazing was Paul Blanchette? Us media heads forgot to draw praise about the goal keeper in Delgado’s postgame interview, but he was undoubtedly our Man of the Match. He finished with a FotMob rating of 8.6, recording five saves with three by dives. His save in the 60th to preserve the clean sheet was simply magical. Blanchette had the crowd singing “Ayyyyyy, we got a goalie” all night long.

  • Edgardo Rito here, there, and everywhere.

Yes, I’m taking the Roy Kent (Kai Greene) chant and applying it to Edgardo Rito’s presence as an attacker. Although he didn’t appear in the stat sheet, Rito continued his work at right wing but made an impact rotating all around the field. At times, he moved across the field to the left side and even made some runs centrally. Delgado offered his thoughts on Rito’s usage:

“He’s getting better at that position and he’s learning it more. You’re not just finding him on the right side, you’re seeing him on the left or centrally. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense to cover him on runs in behind,” said Delgado.

  • If Roots contend for a home-playoff game, this win was important.

Oakland’s win over San Diego becomes increasingly important for later in the season if Roots are vying for home-field contention. It’s worth noting that Oakland’s game-in-hand is Memphis, which is sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Having those three points right now would’ve given Roots 20 points, which would’ve put them up to fourth based on Head-to-Head results versus Loyal. Beating Colorado and taking points from teams like Phoenix and El Paso would put Oakland on a home-playoff pace.

  • Still no Irakoze Donasiyano.

I closed the interview with Delgado on the usual injury wrap up. Irakoze Donasiyano missed his fourth straight game due to a lower body injury. Coach Noah said there’s no timeline for his return.

“Nothing certain right now, he’s on his way back. He’s progressing each day but we don’t have a timeline,” said Delgado.

FotMob Player Ratings

  1. Paul Blanchette, 8.6

In 90 minutes, Blanchette made five saves with three dives and stopped five shots inside the box, completing 53 percent of his passes (17/32), 38 percent of long balls (9/24), seven recoveries, one punch, two throws, one high claim and finished with 44 total touches.

2. Memo Diaz, 8.4

In 90 minutes, Diaz recorded one assist, one shot on target, completed 58% of his passes (14/24), created one scoring chance, two successful dribbles, six passes into final third, took two corners, won two tackles won (67%), seven clearances with three by header, two interceptions, eight recoveries, dribbled past two defenders, won five ground duels won (38%), one aerial duel won (50%), and finished with 47 total touches.

3. Edgardo Rito, 7.8

In 90 minutes, Rito had three shots with one on target, completed 78% of his passes (18/23), created two chances, two successful dribbles, two passes into final third, one accurate cross (25%), three recoveries, won four ground duels (67%), drew one foul, and finished with 39 total touches.

4. Lindo Mfeka, 7.8

In 87 minutes, Mfeka recorded two shots on target, completed 87% of his passes (34/39), create one chance, two successful dribbles, six passes into final third, one accurate long ball (50%), blocked one shot, took one corner, won two tackles, 12 recoveries, dribbled past four defenders, won four ground duels (100%), and finished with 51 total touches.

5. Johnny Rodriguez, 7.8

In 65 minutes, Johnny scored once with one shot on target in two attempts, completed 64% of his passes (9/14), one successful dribble out of two attempts, one pass into final third, won two tackles, three clearances with two by header, three recoveries, won five ground duels (56%), one aerial duel (33%), drew three fouls, and finished with 33 total touches.

6. Danny Barbir, 7.6

In 90 minutes, Barbir completed 84% of his passes (36/43), eight passes into final third, three accurate long balls (38%), won one tackle, one clearance, two interceptions, 11 recoveries, dribbled past three defenders, won one ground duel, one aerial duel, and finished with 53 total touches.

7. Emrah Klimenta, 7.6

In 90 minutes, Emrah completed 83% of his pass accuracy (39/47), one chance created, blocked one blocked, 10 passes into final third, four accurate long balls (40%), two clearances, 12 recoveries, dribbled past one defender, won two ground duels, and finished with 54 total touches.

8. Neveal Hackshaw, 7.5

In 90 minutes, Hackshaw completed 87% of his passes (33/38), one chance created, seven passes into final third, six accurate long balls (75%), blocked one shot, three clearances with one by header, one interception, seven recoveries, won one ground duel, drew one foul, and finished with 49 total touches.

9. Joseph Nane, 7.3

In 71 minutes, Nane completed 83% of his passes (30/36), blocked one shot, six passes into final third, two accurate long balls (67%), won four tackles won (4/6), one interception, three recoveries, dribbled past two defenders, won six ground duels won, one aerial duel, and finished 47 touches.

10. Bryan Tamacas, 7.0

In 90 minutes, Tamacas had one shot on target, completed 67% of his passes (26/39), six passes into final third, two accurate long balls (40%), one tackle won (1/1), one clearance with one by header, six recoveries, dribbled past two defenders, won four ground duels won (4/11), drew three fouls, and finished with 63 total touches.

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