In their first game following a grueling 1-0 victory in Charleston on August 4th, Oakland Roots defended with two weeks worth of rust. The traditionally rigid Roots backline was caught out three times by Colorado Springs, the most goals the club has conceded at Pioneer Stadium. Tyreek Magee’s brace, his first two goals of the season, sealed the game for the Switchbacks.
The first half saw an open and even contest with each team highlighting their strengths. Colorado Springs connected long strings of successive passes for two beautiful, possession-driven goals, while Oakland connected on ruthlessly efficient long balls and one-two passes into the final third.
Memo Diaz once again looked to be the Roots most potent offensive threat from his left wingback position. When defenses look to overwhelm (what is said to be on paper) Oakland’s stronger right side where Bryan Tamacas and Jeciel Cedeño combine, he has been able to wreck havoc down the left.
Diaz, who has been Oakland’s most consistent and available player this season, has shown even more fitness and final third quality than he has in past seasons for the Roots. With his pace and seemingly endless endurance, the first half saw Diaz’s technical impact deep in possession, long range passing threats, and with his ability to stretch the defense with long, pacey runs.
The rust from the off week corroded at halftime, and Colorado Springs exploded onto the front foot. Oakland struggled to control the ball outside of their defensive half, and Memo Diaz was unable to get on the ball or make his forward runs. Between the start of the second half and Magee’s game winner in the 58th minute, Colorado Springs tilted the field and made their goal feel inevitable.
Even after showing significantly more signs of life after conceding, Oakland’s comeback never had the oxygen to come alive. Saturday’s game contained many of the same frustrations viewers have felt all season: despite having one of the most effective and aesthetically appealing attacks, the Roots defensive focus often makes goal scoring look like an after-thought until the final minutes of match.
Under Noah Delgado, Oakland’s modus operandi has been a defense that wins 1-v-1s and forces low quality shots they trust Paul Blanchette to smother. This tactical identity has allowed the Roots to suck the life out of higher quality opponents, like at Charleston in their previous match, but leaves much to be desired against opponents in which they should be controlling the flow of play.
The Roots’ matchday squad lacked Lindo Mfeka, Napo Matsoso, and top scorer Johnny Rodriguez. During this extended period of Switchbacks control, the attacking threat and creativity of Rodriguez and Mfeka was sorely missed, while Matsoso’s pace and high rate of defensive activity is able to provide more defensive dynamism than Tarek Morad or Danny Gomez.
Although Anuar Paláez and Trayvone Reid offer more athletic ability than maybe any other Roots forwards, they have not shown the same ability to create the quick buildup and timely goals Oakland has relied on this season. The club certainly would have hoped the extended time off would have cleared up more of the injury situation, and the lack of squad depth impacted the ability to make game-altering substitutions.
Switchbacks provided a blueprint for an effective strategy at breaking Oakland down over the course of the game. During their periods of possession, Colorado Springs complied long strings of safe passes that kept the Roots defense in motion. When Oakland are unable to win the ball back quickly, they can look disorganized as individual defenders step to the ball. Eventually, an open switch of play allowed for quick attacks versus a discombobulated backline. In addition to this, by preventing the Roots from quickly winning the ball, Colorado Springs also slowed down the Oakland counterattack—where they have been most effective.
To accomplish what Colorado Springs did offensively against Oakland requires patience, discipline, and a fair amount of individual technical ability—along with a substandard Roots defensive shift—so there is good reason why it has happened so infrequently. With ten games remaining, almost entirely against the Western Conference, and no additional long breaks, the Roots have an opportunity to learn from what went wrong and get their well-oiled defense up and humming. But their opponents in the West have seen an outline for how to break them down, and there is no time or space in standings for another rusty performance.
FotMob Player Ratings
- Memo Diaz, 8.5
In 90 minutes, Memo scored one goal on three shot attempts (100% accuracy), completing 65% of his passes (33/51) and created two scoring chances. Defensively, he won 100% of his tackles (1/1) and aerial duels (1/1), making one interception, 10 recoveries, and winning 70% of ground duels (7/10). He also drew four fouls.
2. Neveal Hackshaw, 8.0
In 90 minutes, Hackshaw provided one assist while attempting one shot. He completed 88% of his passes (52/59) and created one scoring chance. In attack, he had a perfect 100% successful dribble rate (1/1) and completed 88% of his long balls (7/8). Defensively, he won 100% of his tackles (1/1), blocked one shot, two clearances, and made one interception, along with eight recoveries. In duels, he won 40% of his ground duels (2/5) and all of his aerial duels (4/4).
3. Anuar Pelaez, 7.5
In 88 minutes, Pelaez secured one goal from two shots taken with a perfect 100% shot accuracy. He completed 81% of his passes (13/16) and recorded one successful dribble out of two attempts (50%). Defensively, he achieved 67% success in ground duels (4/6) and aerial duels (2/3). He also drew three fouls during the match.
4. Jeciel Cedeño, 7.0
In 90 minutes, Cedeño attempted four shots and completed 78% passes (39/50), created three chances, won one penalty, and blocked one shot. He missed one big chance, made 33% accurate crosses (1/3) and long balls (1/3). He won 43% ground duels (3/7), drew three fouls, and made one recovery. He also took one corner.
5. Emrah Klimenta, 6.9
In 90 minutes, Emrah attempted two shots (100% accuracy), completed 82% passes (50/61), created one chance, and had 100% successful dribbles (1/1). He made two clearances, five interceptions, and seven recoveries. He blocked one shot, won 33% ground duels (1/3), and 100% aerial duels (2/2).
6. Danny Gomez, 6.8
In 90 minutes, Gomez completed 78% of his passes (21/27) and creating 1onechance. He contributed five passes into the final third and had 100% success in his tackles (2/2). He won 75% of his ground duels (3/4), made six recoveries, and was fouled once.
7. Bryan Tamacas, 6.7
In 90 minutes, Tamacas attempted two shots with 50% accuracy and created one chance. He completed 71% of his passes (36/51) and won 100% of his tackles (1/1). He blocked one shot, made one interception, and secured four recoveries. He won 40% of his ground duels (4/10) and 100% of his aerial duels (1/1). In attack, he sent 10 passes into the final third and completed 33% of his long balls (1/3). He also drew three fouls.
8. Trayvone Reid, 6.6
In 71 minutes, Reid completed 82% of his passes (18/22) and 33% of his dribbles (1/3). He completed two passes into the final third and 50% of his long balls (1/2). Defensively, he excelled with 100% tackle success (2/2), three recoveries, 100% aerial duel wins (2/2), and 38% of ground duels (3/8). He also drew three fouls.
9. Joseph Nane, 6.2
In 34 minutes, Nane completed 94% of his passes (17/18) and 75% in long balls (3/4). He completed one pass into the final third and managed 50% success in ground duels (1/2). Defensively, he secured one interception and three recoveries.
10. Tarek Morad, 6.2
In 56 minutes, Tarek completed 77% of his passes (23/30) and made five passes into the final third. His defensive contributions included two interceptions, three recoveries, won 100% of his aerial duels (2/2).