Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots Upset No. 1 El Paso Locomotive
Oakland Roots' technical director and interim head coach Jordan Ferrell had one message to the organizations around the USL which have doubted them, "keep doing it."
"They can keep doing it, I don’t really care. What matters is within that locker room right now and the fans that have been supportive of us all of season. People can continue to overlook us and that’s great but we’re not concerned with how other people see us," said Ferrell.
The Roots entered with the odds stacked against them at over 6/1 underdogs. And rightfully so; in addition to El Paso not losing a home match in 470 days, Oakland started the first two months of the season 1-3-8 without a home match at Laney. Things obviously took longer to jell than initially hoped for.
"I think for us as a group, not having been a team for a long time, the early part of the season where we didn’t find success, there were a lot of challenges. It’s very easy when you come together and start winning and everyone feels that momentum. You rely on some veterans, you rely on very optimistic youngsters, and I think that mix and as well people who bought in and looked around and said we had enough to be a playoff team," said Ferrell.
Oakland held that last-place record in the Pacific Division standings coming out of Aug. 8's disastrous 3-1 loss to Tacoma Defiance. Ferrell believes that was the ultimate turning point for the organization.
"That loss in Tacoma, I think that was the moment where things clicked and they looked in each other’s eyes and said “we’re good enough”. It’s a special group of guys and once we got to the part of the season where we were playing games almost every three days we found a good rhythm both in training and on the pitch and got good results and just kept going from there and it’s gotten us here and we’ll keep rollin’ with it," said Ferrell.
Jeremy Bokila's game-winner came in the 76th minute, just two minutes after subbing in for Johnny Rodriguez. Bokila, considered a super-sub all season, assumed the #9 role.
In the buildup, Paul Blanchette sent a long pass up to Quincy Amarikwa, who flicked on a pass with his knee over to Chuy Enriquez. On the volley, Enriquez sent a left-footed pass over a ball-watching Mechack Jérome to Bokila, who held off Jérome and nutmegged Logan Ketterer.
Oakland strikes first! Jeremy Bokila!! pic.twitter.com/2iZupLlLl6— Oakland Roots (@oaklandrootssc) November 6, 2021
Ferrell expanded on Bokila's reputation as an impactful sub and how he made the difference against Locomotive.
"It’s a tough thing to say because no player wants to come off the bench, every player wants to start and I recognize that as a coach. It’s a challenge for me selecting a group, but Bokila’s insertion in the second half made the world of difference. From closing their defensive line down, making difficult for them to play, to scoring the goal and creating a couple other chances too. He’s been massive, he’s a big member of this team," said Ferrell.
It easily could've been 3-0 for Oakland as well. Johnny Rodriguez had an early attempt in the fifth minute, Kai Greene had an attempt trail wide in the 54th, Emrah Klimenta had a free header in the 55th go straight to the keeper, while Matias Fissore nearly made it 2-0 in the 84th minute.
Ferrell acknowledged Roots' missed opportunities.
[Laughs] Like I’ve been saying, we keep missing sitters. Matias (Fissore) and Kai (Greene) had the other one, even Johnny (Rodriguez) has that first chance of the game and went wide.
Paul Blanchette, who finished as Man of the Match, was instrumental with a critical save in the 72nd minute when batting away a point-blank header by Luis Solignac. Kai Greene came up big with a stuff of Solignac in the 84th minute.
Oakland finished the night with just 38 percent possession with 11 shots, four on target, eight chances created, with two big opportunities. El Paso had 20 shots, three on target, 17 chances created, but zero big chances.