Oakland Soul finished the job with a 2-1 win over Marin Siren FC on Sunday at San Rafael High School. Albeit a one-goal win, Soul dominated possession and conceded otne counter-attack score on the opponent’s only shot on target. It’s worth noting that San Rafael’s field’s width is five yards shorter on both sides, providing a narrower pitch.
“Marin did a really good job of sitting in and causing problems for us. It goes back to some of our conversations, its how you problem solve. How often do our players see teams sitting in based on the youth and college level? So how do you problem-solve that in a narrower field in a game where I players like to have space and prefer space to get in behind. We walk away with three points, but we made it closer than what it was,” said head coach Jessica Clinton.
The win improves Soul’s record to 9-0-2 (27 points) with a Points Per Match average of 2.45, now entering a critical match against SF Glens (9-1-0, 28 points) on Sunday at Merritt College for the season-finale. It looks like Oakland will require at least a draw to clinch a way into the postseason at 9-1-2, 2.33 PPM.
California Storm, currently third after losing 4-3 to Glens, has matches remaining against Pleasanton RAGE and Stockton Cargo. They will likely finish at 9-1-2 and 2.33 PPM as well but are ahead of Oakland on goal differential, currently +29 to Soul’s +22.
For a Wild Card berth, Soul is in competition with United PDX of the Northwest Division, which has two matches left in its regular season against the bottom two teams of its division. They only play 10 matches and will likely finish 7-2-1 at 2.30 PPM.
Against Marin, Oakland frequently pressed their way into possession and held the hosts in their own defensive end for much of the first half. They only led 1-0 at the half and reeled off nine shots through the first 45 minutes, but only two of them were on target. Soul finished with over 15 shot attempts on the afternoon.
“I think our attacking group when we started entering the zone was very good. But how do you beat a block of nine that sits right on top of the 18-yard box or right in front of the net. In the second half, we were asking one of our forwards to run in behind and we’d look to play the second runner. However, why we were presenting our possession in the first half was very different than the second half. I’m not sure why, that wasn’t the plan. We were looking for more slashing runs to pull them out to then play the second,” said Clinton of Marin’s defense.
Soul’s goal was scored in the 17th minute by Sam Tran–our RootsBlog Player of the Match–when she stole possession near Marin’s own penalty area before putting away her shot for the goal. Sam nearly scored again in the 23rd minute, rolling one narrowly past the left post.
Oakland’s next best chance came in the 43rd minute when Miranda Nild had a shot on target when redirecting a pass from a free kick toward the net, but Marin’s keeper was there to recover.
In the second half, Nayeli Diaz had a near-chance in the 55th when Nild fed a ball through the back line, but the keeper was there to dive on it. Isabella Flocchini had a shot on target in the 62nd minute, but it didn’t have a lot of pace behind it.
Nild sent a looping cross from the left side to the far post in the 65th minute, but Marin’s keeper made an athletic leap to push it away. Sarah Mirr then had a shot go narrowly wide in the 67th.
Three minutes later, Soul made it 2-0 on a perfect run into the box by Tran. Cutting towards net on the right side, Sam sent a low pass across the face of goal to Nild at the far post for the easy tap-in score.
But their joy was short-lived with Marin scoring in the 73rd minute on a counterattack. Marin had an earlier shot attempt for into the side-netting in the 70th minute, but there was nothing much else from their attack.
“We made mistakes; I think those are how all the goals that have come against us–making mistakes in our defending third that we have to pay for. I’m happy with the work ethic, but you also see the inexperience at some positions. A part of it is development, but walking away, they know they have to be better,” said Clinton.
Second-half substitute Kayla Fong had a pair of looks in the later minutes. She had a shot on target in the 88th minute after Soul did some nice work in transition, while she had another shot on target a minute later after Tran sent her a pass.
Oakland now prepares for the top team in the Nor Cal Division, SF Glens, this Sunday at Merritt College. Clinton’s message to the group is she wants players to prove they are learning what the staff is implementing.
“What we’re doing in training is purposeful and thoughtful; we’re teaching and we’re developing, but you have to learn. It’s not just show up and let me be me. There’s something special in what we di, but you have to pay attention to it and there has to be experience and professionalism on how we go about things. There’s a value piece on how you go about business. And it’s on the line with Glens,” said Clinton.
- It’s go time!
Expect a playoff intensity at Sunday’s game between Soul and Glens, where a victory assures Oakland the Nor Cal Division’s second-seed. These are the matches you play for.
“You play because you love those moments and to be under that pressure. Can we do it? Absolutely. But that’s the exciting part; sometimes you hate leaving it down to the final, but you also love to have that last game mean something. It will be a great atmosphere, that is the absolute goal,” said Clinton.
- Miranda Nild and Sam Tran are just an awesome duo.
Miranda Nild and Sam Tran have been magical in Soul’s first season. The pair provide an attacking duo Roots’ fans have been yearning for with Sam being the speedy counterpart to Miranda’s power.
Against Marin, Tran was our RootsBlog Player of the Match for her goal and assist–she often used her speed to dribble around defenders. Nild, meanwhile, uses her strength to hold off defenders and technical footwork to put the ball through people’s legs.
“They are special because they are smart, technical, and tactical. They know how to break down the opponent and know exactly what they are seeing. They get a feel for the opponent and learn it pretty fast, which is something that separates elite-level players from everyone else. It’s the ability to read what’s needed and then doing it. That’s what those two offer, plus the leadership and an ability to pull other players in,” said Clinton.
- Nayeli Diaz off to Tennessee
Coach Clinton mentioned that some players will depart this week for the start of their college programs, which is expected this time of year. One of the more critical players in that group include Nayeli Diaz–who is off to the University of Tennessee as a graduate student for the Volunteers. She was among the most exciting players through Year 1 of Soul.
It’ll be interesting to see what other players that entails for Oakland, Glens, Storm, and other teams throughout the W League. It’s worth mentioning that other players enrolled in college include Aaliyah Schinaman (Cal), Elizabeth Vranesh (Cal), Zoe Franks (UCSB), Isabel Liu (Columbia), Evan House (SJSU), Isabella Flocchini (SJSU), Tatiana Cunningham (SJSU), Marissa Garcia (St. Mary’s), Clare Robke (Santa Clara), Malia Yamamoto (Santa Clara), Manaka Hayashi (Santa Clara), Mia Parkhurst (Georgia), Ella Sims (Michigan), Vickie Jones (Michigan), Elianna Wong (Portland), Zoe Parkhurst (Oklahoma), Mia Colombini (UC Irvine), Ella Colombini (UC Irvine), Jaida Nyby (Pacific).