It wasn’t pretty or a dominating performance, but Oakland Roots got the job done with a 1-0 win over Charleston Battery on the road, walking into its two week break at 10-7-6 and third-place in the Western Conference with 37 points. Oakland is now tied for points with second-place San Antonio but behind on goal differential.
The result extends Oakland’s unbeaten run to six games including four wins of the last five games, a stark turnaround from its six-game winless run from June 10 at Phoenix to July 12 hosting Memphis, which also marked the start of the current stretch.
We named Danny Barbir and Memo Diaz our RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients for the goal and assist contribution towards the game-winning score in the 41st minute, but Barbir was evidently uncredited for the goal after his header came off of Derek Dodson and into net.
It marked the cap on a quick change of pace for Oakland after entering the 40th minute without any shots on target. Aside from Johnny Rodriguez nearly scoring on a bicycle kick in the 14th minute, there wasn’t much to write about until Neveal Hackshaw sent a rocket to the top-left bin at the 40-minute mark.
Charleston went into the half with seven shots but just two on target, finishing with 16 in total but only four on target, while also missing two big scoring chances. Paul Blanchette, who was FotMob’s Man of the Match with an 8.0 rating, recorded his one diving save in the 30th minute when stopping a shot by Augie Williams.
Oakland’s goal in the 41st minute came after the corner was played short and cycled around before falling to Trayvone Reid, who played it back to Diaz, who sent an arcing pass to Barbir making his run. Barbir doesn’t get the goal in the stat sheets, but the praise for making the instinctive move to net.
Roots finished the night with six shots and three on target after entering halftime with three shots and two on net. Oakland’s single shot on target in the latter 45 minutes came when Rodriguez looked to dink a forward ball by Hackshaw over Charleston goal keeper Trey Muse.
Charleston missed a couple of clear scoring opportunities in the second half, starting with Emrah Klimenta clearing a shot by Nick Markanich off of the line in the 48th minute. Then in the 64th, Tristan Trager won the ball off of Klimenta down by the end line and worked his way into the box before sending a centering pass to Markanich, but his shot went wide of the right post.
Blanchette had another big stop in the 78th when taking a header by Juan Palma off of his shoulder to keep Charleston scoreless. Battery drew a corner in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time, when nearly 14 minutes were awarded following Johnny’s injury to close the game, but their header attempt went wide.
Here are our Oakland Roots talking points.
Career-years for Memo Diaz and Danny Barbir
Danny Barbir and Memo Diaz got our RootsBlog Man of the Match recipients regardless of the own-goal by Dodson. The two have been major parts of Oakland’s system with Barbir being the team’s most-active outfield player, while Memo has shined as the team’s leading passer.
Starting with Barbir, he hasn’t missed a minute so far this season with 23 starts and 2,070 minutes played, which is tied with Blanchette. He’s just 14 minutes away from eclipsing his total from last season to create a new career high. A goal on Friday night would’ve marked a new personal best in goal-assist contributions.
He’s arguably become Roots’ most important back-line player and is proving he can withstand the rigors of a full 34-game USL Championship schedule.
Over to Memo, he’s become equally important as Roots’ third most active player behind Barbir and Blanchette with 22 appearances, 20 starts, 1,799 minutes, and five goal-assist contributions. It’s already a career-year for Diaz in goals and assists, while he needs 377 more minutes to create a new high–he’ll undoubtedly eclipse that mark.
FotMob currently has Diaz with 27 created scoring chances, including five big chances, ranking No. 29 in the league. Moreover, Oakland’s free kick and corners operation revolves around him either taking the corner or having it played short to him.
After being shunned by El Paso and re-earning a role under Juan Guerra, Memo is proving himself as a worthy centerpiece under Noah Delgado.
Injury woes piling on
Oakland’s two-week break couldn’t come at a more convenient time. Roots started the match without Bryan Tamacas and Lindo Mfeka, while Napo Matsoso began the game on the bench. According to a club source, Tamacas was held out as a precautionary measure and his issue is not considered long-term.
Matsoso, meanwhile, was able to re-enter the game. Both of Matsoso and Tamacas don’t appear to be suffering from anything lingering and will have two weeks to get right before hosting Colorado Springs on August 19.
Mfeka notably missed the previous game against Detroit after suffering an injury in pre-game warmups, but was included on Roots’ subs list. Ryan Her entered the match at left wing for Trayvone Reid in the 62nd minute instead of Mfeka, so that could be a clue he’s not 100 percent ready to go. Lindo, hopefully, also benefits from the break.
Joseph Nane limped off with the help of trainers in the 70th minute after being checked out for a foot/ankle injury as well. He was, at least, able to walk off.
But Friday’s game was marred by Johnny Rodriguez’s injury in the 90th minute. Johnny was unable to walk off under his own power and nor put any weight on his right ankle. It happened after a ball in the box from Jeciel Cedeño targeted him, but it was slightly behind Rodriguez, whose ankle was rolled over by slide tackle from behind.
Flat-out, it did not look good. Johnny instantly called to the bench and seemed distraught on the field, using his hands to cover his eyes.
Of the group, Johnny undoubtedly looks the most severe. We haven’t been updated on Rodriguez’s status, the club will know more in the coming week.
Defense wins out
You have to win ugly if you want a home playoff draw and Oakland is showing they can accomplish that task under Delgado. Roots had to lean on its defense, and notably rotated Hackshaw to central midfield with Joseph Nane tracking deeper backward.
It was a strategy that allowed Charleston to operate down the wings, but limited their chances in the middle of the park–evident by Battery finishing with just four of its 16 shots going on target. With Oakland able to rely on Blanchette, currently the league’s premier shot-stopper, Roots are able to force shots from odd angles.
Oakland blocked two of Charleston’s shots and numerous crosses into the area. After conceding a goal from a corner to Detroit, Roots stopped all seven of Battery’s corner attempts. Paul’s big stop in the 78th was from a corner, so there still is some cleaning up to do in that department. But a clean sheet is a clean sheet.
Games to watch
It’s a long stretch until Roots’ next match on August 19 versus Colorado Springs. Now four-points clear of fourth-place San Diego Loyal, Oakland is still just eight points clear of eighth-place Phoenix, six points ahead of seventh-place Orange County, and five points clear of El Paso and Colorado Springs in sixth and fifth.
Here’s a list of results to keep an eye on ahead of Roots’ next match:
(Aug. 5) El Paso vs. Miami FC, Monterey vs. Sacramento, San Diego vs. Orange County, Phoenix vs. San Antonio; (Aug. 9) Colorado Springs vs. Tulsa, San Diego vs. Loudoun; (Aug. 12) Monterey vs. Tampa Bay, San Antonio vs. New Mexico, San Diego vs. Memphis, Phoenix vs. El Paso; (Aug. 16) San Antonio vs. RGV, Orange County vs. Pittsburgh.
Update: El Paso lost 4-0 to Miami. Sacramento won 1-0 over Monterey. Orange County won 3-1 over San Diego. San Antonio won 2-1 over Phoenix.