In the heart of Hatch chile season, Oakland Roots travelled to Albuquerque to pull off a mildly spicy 2-1 road win against New Mexico United. The win once again leaves Oakland at third place in Western Conference—level on points with a Scotch bonnet-hot Orange County SC but ahead on head-to-head results.
Anuar Paláez roasted the game’s first goal to give the Roots the lead late at the 42nd minute in the first half, tucking away off a low cross from Danny Barbir. Trayvone Reid scored his second goal of the season on another Barbir assist ten minutes later in the 52nd. New Mexico failed to respond until second-half stoppage time at 90+2′ when Sergio Rivas scored off of a corner kick.
The illusion of late drama was cut short quickly following a Neveal Hackshaw collision that saw the Trinidadian struggle to stand for remainder of the game. He collapsed at the sound of the final whistle.
In his first season for Oakland, Hackshaw has earned the confidence of Noah Delgado in midfield and central defense, and his presence was sorely missed during the Gold Cup. His availability, as well as the slightly hobbled Paul Blanchette, will be essential in Louisville this weekend and the rest of the season.
While United dominated possession and field positioning through the first half-hour, they were held at bay by Roots’ defense. At their best defensively, as they were to start this game, Oakland look more than comfortable without the ball. Paláez can cause frustrations with his pressing, and their wide players all commit to tracking back aggressively. Like this year’s monsoon-weathered chile crop, the Roots battled what might be impossible conditions for their peers only to survive and thrive.
The center-back trio of Emrah Klimenta, Neveal Hackshaw, and Danny Barbir put together one of the most complete performances Oakland has seen this season. Playing three center-backs is an en vogue tactic for USL Championship sides, but the dynamism of this group creates unique problems for opponents.
Barbir, with the two assists, is given freedom over to make runs and combine with Memo Diaz down the left. The lefty can provide unique overlaps, not just because of the position from which he releases, but because contrasts nicely with right-footed Diaz (not to disrespect Memo’s trivela crossing, which is delightful).
His heat map from Wednesday’s game more closely resembles Bryan Tamacas than his fellow outside center-back, Klimenta.
Despite the lopsided nature of Oakland in possession, Klimenta is far from a stay-at-home defender. He profiles uniquely, having played a significant amount of right back and midfielder as a professional, and enjoys getting involved in the attack. Similarly, Hackshaw is not solely a central defender, having also played for both club and country as a defensive midfielder. While he doesn’t venture far forward from this position, his distribution stays impressive, and his physicality is the perfect quench is an attack that gets too hot.
Against New Mexico, this trio showed a real sense of understanding among their group; not venturing too far forward is another member had taken that space and limiting the space allowed between them in defense. And, when Barbir made forward runs, Klimenta and Hackshaw were looking for him with long passes.
Looking for a strong showing after a disappointing home loss to Colorado Springs, the Roots may have gotten just what they needed. The injured players from the weekend’s game, like Johnny Rodriguez, Lindo Mfeka, and Napo Matsoso all made appearances off the bench, including Irakoze Donasiyano. The players starting in their place–Tarek Morad, Danny Gomez, Paláez, and Reid–put together great showings in the desert.
Oakland has lost more depth over the course of this season that they have added, and getting their depth pieces in solid form could be helpful down the stretch.
Though they still lacked Joseph Nane after he left Saturday’s match early, and Blanchette and Hackshaw did not finish the game at 100 percent, Oakland Roots should feel closer to being their strongest selves than they have over most of the season.
As they look to tackle their stated goal of hosting a playoff game, a fully healthy Roots with their stifling, yet progressive, defense should be spicy in the Western Conference.
FotMob Player Ratings
- Danny Barbir, 8.7
In 90 minutes, Barbir recorded two assists and attempted two shots with 50% accuracy, created two scoring chances, completing 74% of his passes (20/27), 50% of crosses (2/4), 25% of long balls (1/4), and 10 passes into the final third. He won 100% of his tackles (1/1), 25% of ground duels (1/4) and all of his aerial duels (1/1). Defensively, he made three interceptions, nine recoveries, and blocked two shots. He drew one foul and finished with 50 total touches.
2. Neveal Hackshaw, 8.3
In 90 minutes, Hackshaw attempted one shot with 100% accuracy, created 1 scoring chance, and completed 70% of his passes (21/30), 0% of crosses (0/1), 11% of long balls (1/9), and 5 passes into the final third. He won 100% of his tackles (2/2), 100% of ground duels (3/3), and all of his aerial duels (3/3). Defensively, he recorded 3 interceptions, 12 recoveries, 6 clearances, 4 headed clearances, and 1 last man tackle. Hackshaw also drew 1 foul and had 48 total touches during the match.
3. Paul Blanchette, 8.2
In 90 minutes, Blanchette made 6 saves, conceding 1 goal. He completed 28% of his passes (9/32) and had 17% accuracy on long balls (4/24). With 6 diving saves and 2 saves inside the box, he recorded 7 recoveries and 38 touches.
4. Trayvone Reid, 7.7
In 65 minutes, Reid scored one goal and attempted 3 shots with 100% accuracy, creating 1 chance. He completed 79% of his passes (11/14) and sent 3 passes into the final third. Reid successfully tackled 100% (3/3), recovered 2 times, and had 20% successful dribbles (1/5). In duels, he won 38% of ground duels (6/16), but had no success in aerial duels (0/4). Reid made 3 interceptions, drew 2 fouls, and finished with 30 touches.
5. Memo Diaz, 7.6
In 90 minutes, Memo created 2 scoring chances and completed 61% of passes (19/31), with 50% accuracy on crosses (2/4) and 100% on long balls (1/1). He sent 6 passes into the final third and took 3 corners. Memo won 50% of his tackles (1/2), made 3 interceptions, secured 7 recoveries, and successfully blocked 2 shots. In duels, he won 33% of ground duels (2/6) and 60% of aerial duels (3/5). Additionally, Memo drew 1 foul and finished with 45 total touches.
6. Emrah Klimenta, 7.4
In 90 minutes, Emrah attempted 1 shot, blocked 1 shot, and completed 59% of passes (16/27). He made 6 passes into the final third and 22% accurate long balls (2/9). Defensively, he won 100% tackles (2/2), made 4 clearances by header, secured 3 interceptions and 4 recoveries. Emrah won 50% of ground duels (3/6) and 100% of aerial duels (3/3). He drew one foul and finished with 42 touches.
7. Anuar Pelaez, 7.4
In 65 minutes, Anuar scored once from 3 shots with 100% accuracy. He completed 60% of passes (3/5) and blocked 1 shot. Anuar made 1 interception, secured 3 recoveries, and was fouled once. He won 20% of ground duels (1/5) and finished with 12 touches.
8. Danny Gomez, 6.9
In 90 minutes, Gomez created 1 scoring chance and completed 83% of his passes (24/29), sent 5 passes into the final third and won 100% of his tackles (1/1). While his ground duels were at 20% (1/5), he was successful in all of his aerial duels (1/1). Defensively, he secured 1 clearance, 1 interception, and 4 recoveries. He drew 1 foul and recorded 33 total touches.
9. Bryan Tamacas, 6.8
In 90 minutes, Tamacas completed 46% of passes (12/26) and sent 6 passes into the final third. He won 100% of his tackles (1/1), secured 1 clearance, 1 interception, and 8 recoveries, won 43% of ground duels (3/7) and 22% of aerial duels (2/9). While being fouled twice, he touched the ball 46 times during the game.
10. Lindo Mfeka, 6.8
In 25 minutes, Lindo completed 62% of passes (8/13), created 1 chance and made 100% successful dribble (1/1). He sent 4 passes into the final third and had 50% accuracy on long balls (1/2). He won 100% tackles (2/2) and a notable 80% of ground duels (4/5), drawing 1 foul. He finished with 19 total touches.