Game Notes & Player Ratings: Oakland Roots Falls In PKs To Orange County
The Oakland Roots' season came to an end on Saturday, November 13 at Championship Stadium in Irvine, falling 6-5 in penalty kicks to Orange County SC after a full 120 minutes completed without a goal being scored.
Oakland came in with a specific game plan to stop OC's Ronaldo Damus, and they did so up until the final penalty attempt. Roots' keeper Paul Blanchette stopped Damus' initial try but was called for encroachment, resulting in the Haitian National burying his kick.
Damus was repeatedly called for offside throughout the 120.
"Penalties, I love penalties. I look at penalties and say that’s our game. I’ll continue to think that way even though things didn’t go our way tonight. We had a good game plan and created some good opportunities. I certainly think that we did enough tonight to be stepping into the Western Conference Final, but that’s knockout football," reflected technical director and interim head coach Jordan Ferrell.
"You play to PKs and it’s a guessing game, everything is up for grabs and we did well on most of our PKs. It’s tough to lose on that but I think we showed a lot of character in the 120 minutes to really give them nothing and create some good chances for ourselves. It’s a tough way to cap off the season but only one team is happy at the end of the season and we hope to be that team next year."
It was a miraculous season for Roots, waging through the adversity of a June 19 postponed home opener that resulted in a last-minute shuffling of the schedule. Oakland had no matches at Laney College until August 4 against Phoenix--they were 1-3-7 at that point, in dead last.
Ferrell had high praise for the squad's tenacity to push through a tiresome first half of 2021.
"It’s been monstrous, I can’t say enough about the character of these individuals and how they come together as a team. We had some really low lows, but we also had some incredible highs. Inside the locker room, after the first 12 games of the season, there were questions but I don’t think there was doubt, and that’s what got us here," said Ferrell.
"Once the wheels started turning, with some incredible fight from the team week in and week out, I can’t say enough about these guys. Not just the players but also the staff. It’s not just the players but everybody that was behind them. The fans weren’t able to be with us much for those first 12 games but once they were there, everybody started to see the work they were doing and the players were able to see the support that they had. Tonight the support was equally incredible to cap off the first year. It’s a great jumping off point for us and the second season can’t start soon enough."
The word around social media was the visiting fans overpowered Orange County in the stands. Ferrell had the same acknowledgment, pointing out that Oakland kept up the energy.
"I think what we’ve tried to build as a team that has the character, the quality, the personality of Oakland; the fans see that. It’s one thing to come down for a playoff game, it’s another to come in full voice like they did," said Ferrell.
"There were moments of the game where they were far louder than any OC fan, and that shows how much the entire support off the field believes that the group on the field is fighting as much as they can. We’ve been lucky to build this, not just this year in the USL, but you see that on the stage is where we belong. The fans, they have a stronger connection to their team than other USL teams that have been here for longer. To start that in year one, and give them what we’ve given them down the stretch has built a strong foundation for what’s to come."
It was a defensive affair for all 120 minutes against Orange County. Oakland finished the night with 49 percent possession, 11 shots with one on target, five blocked, with one colliding off of the woodwork, while creating six chances. OC had eight shots, three on target, and seven chances created.
Memo Diaz had the best chance for Roots in the 30th minute when receiving a nice pass from Emrah Klimenta along the right edge of the box. Diaz's narrowly pulled his shot wide, knocking off the left post.
In penalty kicks, the Roots went with a lineup of Tarek Morad, Jeremy Bokila, Ariel Mbumba, Joseph Nane, and Yohannes Harish before Akeem Ward in the sixth slot. Orange County went Mikko Kuningas, Dillon Powers, Seth Caspile, Thomas Enevoldsen, Sean Okoli, and then Damus for the final shot.
Oakland moves into the offseason with eyes on filling its international slots after departures of Wal Fall, Soya Takahashi, Tyler Blackwood, and Zeus de la Paz. The organization is currently negotiating with its domestic roster, and activity is bound to pick up in the coming days.
Ferrell will also be replaced as a head coach in order for him to focus on the technical director role which oversees Roots SC, Project 51O, and the upcoming women's team.
Top-10 player-ratings via FotMob.com
1. Akeem Ward, 8.0
2. Emrah Klimenta, 7.9
3. Memo Diaz, 7.8
In 98 minutes, Diaz recorded two shots with one off of the woodwork and completed 34 passes (67 percent), 1/3 crosses, 5/8 long balls, won five duels, two clearances with one by header, blocked one shot, 1/1 successful dribble, drew one foul, 1/1 successful tackle, two aerials won, two interceptions, and six recoveries. He finished with 77 total touches.
4. Joseph Nane, 7.7
In 120 minutes, Nane completed 48 passes (84 percent), 2/3 long balls, one key pass, won six duels, drew two fouls, 1/3 successful tackles, one aerial won, three interceptions, and nine recoveries. He finished with 69 total touches.
5. Paul Blanchette, 7.5
In 120 minutes, Blanchette conceded no goals and recorded four saves, two of which were diving with two inside the box, five throws, one high claim, completed 13 passes (59 percent), 7/16 long balls, five throws, and 10 recoveries. He finished with 37 total touches.
6. Kai Greene, 7.4
In 120 minutes, Greene recorded one shot and completed 39 passes (71 percent), 1/1 cross, 6/14 long balls, won four duels, five clearances with two by header, three aerials won, two interceptions, and 10 recoveries. He finished with 70 total touches.
7. Matias Fissore, 7.3
In 98 minutes, Fissore recorded three shots with two blocked and completed 40 passes (77 percent), 6/7 long balls, won seven duels, three clearances with one by header, 1/1 successful dribble, drew five fouls, 1/1 successful tackle, and four recoveries. He finished with 67 total touches.
8. Johnny Rodriguez, 6.9
In 80 minutes, Rodriguez completed 20 passes (77 percent), 1/2 long balls, one key pass, five duels won, 1/4 successful dribbles, drew one foul, 1/1 successful tackle, two aerials won, and six recoveries. He finished with 39 total touches.
9. Jose Hernandez, 6.8
In 105 minutes, Hernandez completed 41 passes (93 percent), 3/9 crosses, 5/5 long balls, one key pass, won two duels, drew two fouls, two interceptions, and five recoveries. He finished with 67 total touches.
10. Max Ornstil, 6.7
In 22 minutes, Ornstil completed 11 passes (79 percent), 2/2 long balls, won one duel, 1/1 successful tackle, two interceptions, and two recoveries. He finished with 18 total touches.