Oakland Soul improved its record to 3-0-0 following a strong 4-nil clean sheet over Academica SC at Merritt College in the Oakland Hills. Soul is now 1/4 through its 12-game regular season with two matches scheduled within the next week; returning to Merritt hosting Stockton Cargo on Thursday, June 1 with just three days of rest while Soul also hosts Cal Storm three days later on Sunday, June 4.
It was never in doubt for Soul, although it could’ve easily been 8-0 with more clinical finishing and a fraction less heroics by Academica goal keeper Natalia Ochoa–who just finished her sophomore year at Stanislaus State.
Oakland came out in a 4-4-2 Diamond formation with Sam Tran on the right and Miranda Nild on the left, making her first appearance as a center forward after lining up as a wingback in her previous two matches. Manaka Hayashi made her debut in the starting lineup in the 10-role in place of Nayeli Diaz, who came on in the second half.
The move made the difference for Nild, contributing two assists and one goal. Oakland’s first goal in the 24th minute came after Nild sent a pass low-rolling pass through across the face of goal through the penalty to Jaida Nyby for the tap-in goal.
Prior to Soul’s next goal 10 minutes later, Manaka Hayashi had a shot ring off of the crossbar in the 28th while Tran had a shot on target go straight to the keeper in the 32nd. Two minutes later, Nild scored on a similar goal to the first score, this time with Tran sending a low cross to the former Golden Bear–converting in close distance to make it 2-0.
To close the first half, Nild had a shot blocked while Tran had a shot on target pushed out for a corner in stoppage time.
Soul continue pressing forward for goals in the second half and could’ve easily tacked on another six. Oakland’s next goal came in the 52nd from Jordan Geis, who is a senior at Archbishop Mitty in San Jose. In the buildup, Nild took a long run down the wing before sending a cross over the defense to Geis–who took a perfect first-touch shot on the volley to slot it home.
From there, Oakland continuously put pressure on Academica’s net. Nyby almost fed Tran on a perfect through ball to put her in point-blank distance, but Ochoa dove on the ball. Geis had a shot trail high in the 59th after stealing possession in Academica’s defensive zone, while Tran had another shot that forced a diving save three minutes later. Teresa Noyola had a shot on target in the 74th after Geis laid off a perfect dummy pass on a rolling ball through the area. Geis and Grace Thao had shots trail wide in the 75th and 77th minutes, while Diaz had a shot on target in the 78th.
Soul’s final goal came in the 81st after Oakland won possession in Academica’s defensive half, kicking the ball out wide to Sarah Mirr, who took a dribble around a defender to send a perfect cross to Noyola for the goal. Mirr, notably, just finished her college career at Loyola University Maryland as a fifth-year senior.
Oakland nearly scored one more in the final minute of action when Geis had a shot in close distance stopped by Ochoa.
Soul looks ahead to a busy two week stretch. They host Stockton Cargo at Merritt on June 1 and Cal Storm on June 4 before traveling to Cal Storm in Sacramento on June 8 and SF Glens on June 11. The matches against Cal Storm and the Glens will shape the outcome of the USL W League Nor Cal Division.
- It could’ve easily been 8-nil.
It felt like this match could’ve easily been 8-nil with clinical finishing from Soul. But, to be fair, Academica’s goal keeper Natalia Ochoa had an outstanding game–she constructed a personal highlight reel of diving saves and some long passes. Especially in the second half, the stretch between the third and fourth goal included nearly 10 scoring opportunities and six shot attempts.
- Miranda Nild was our Player of the Match.
It’s easy to see why Nild was our Player of the Match with her three goal contributions. Her presence as a forward was too much for Academica, I was bummed to not be in attendance to see it first-hand and get a closer look.
In the previous week against Olympic Club, Nild was also slick in possession and worked her way around multiple defenders on numerous occasions. She had a similar performance against Academica, where the visitors struggled to prevent her sprints down the wing and ability in possession. She definitely looks like she has NWSL quality, and at just 26-years old, perhaps this short W League season starts turning more eyes.
- Sam Tran also looks to be on the verge of greatness.
I think Sam Tran, the 4-time National Champion at Stanford, has looked better in each appearance so far this season. She had multiple shots on target and gain an assist on Nild’s goal for a former Golden Bear-Cardinal connection.
Against Stockton, Tran seemed to create most of the action on runs out wide and movement in transition. This game, Tran made a difference cutting inside for shooting opportunities. She had two shots on target that forced corners and made a nice run through the back line late in the game, but couldn’t finish Nyby’s through ball.
I still think we haven’t seen the best of Sam. If she can hit her stride against Cal Storm and the Glens, that will help lift Oakland to the playoffs.
- Will Goal Differential become a factor?
With just a 12-game regular season, its already time to start thinking about the playoffs. With that, how will Goal Differential and Head-to-Head results play into the final standings?
We know the Nor Cal Division is a three-team race between Cal Storm, SF Glens, and Soul with just two clubs able to make the playoffs. All three are currently 3-0-0, but Soul is still in third place due to goal differential–meaning they would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today. Glens currently have a +23 goal differential, Storm is +13, while Soul is just +6. Oakland will be able to control its destiny by defeating either of the two.