In their first-ever meeting, Oakland Roots defeated Birmingham Legion FC 2-1 in front of a sold-out Laney College crowd. Roots needed a win to keep their playoff chances alive with two games left in the season and got it thanks to a late goal from birthday boy Juan Azócar.
Preceding the match was a performance of ‘Me, Myself and I’ by Oakland Roots new owner G-Eazy, the rapper/producer who purchased an ownership stake of the team in September, and the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Birmingham drew first blood in the 21st minute but Oakland responded just three minutes later when all-time leading goalscorer Óttar Magnús Karlsson rifled home a loose ball in the box.
The first half ended one apiece.
Helped on by the raucous Laney crowd, Roots took the game to the Legion — the No. 4 team in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference — in the second half.
Edgardo Rito was active on the right side but Roots couldn’t make a breakthrough until the 84th minute, when Memo Diaz found Juan Azócar free in the box for his seventh of the season. Roots’ defense hung on through a long period of added time before securing the victory at the final whistle.
“It’s the only way we know, baby,” said captain Emrah Klimenta in the post-match interview.
“[Roots fans] have been rocking with us all season. We love you guys for rocking with us — through good times and bad. Thank you for always believing in us — we’re coming back, baby!”
Saturday night’s match was the last game of the season at Laney college. Roots’ quest for the USL Championship Playoffs continues on the road against Hartford Athletic on Oct. 8 before finishing the regular season against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Oct. 15.
Speaking to Head Coach Noah Delgado
A much-needed victory tonight. What did this win mean to the team and the organization?
“After everything we’ve been through this season, after this tough stretch of games — Birmingham Legion is a very good team — it’s crunch time. The players know it, the trainings are intense, everything is heightened. To come out and give an effort like we did tonight was good for us.”
Some big saves from Paul Blanchette at the end there. What does it mean for him to come up big late on?
“It means we’re not playing good defense or he’s giving us something special. That’s what we ask for from our goalkeeper. He was outstanding tonight.”
Oakland Roots SC vs Birmingham Legion FC
USL Championship | October 1, 2022
Venue: Laney College, Oakland, California
Kickoff: 7:00 PM PT
Weather: 64 degrees, partly cloudy
BHM: 21’ Enzo Martinez
OAK: 24’ Ottar Magnus Karlsson
OAK: 84’ Juan Azocar
OAK: 74’ Mikael Johnsen (yellow card)
OAKLAND ROOTS LINEUP: Paul Blanchette, Danny Barbir, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Tarek Morad, Edgardo Rito (Emrah Klimenta), Charlie Dennis, José Hernández, Juan Azócar (Joseph Nane), Lindo Mfeka (Mikael Johnsen), Darek Formella (Memo Diaz), Óttar Magnús Karlsson
Unused subs: Jesús Enríquez, Johnny Rodriguez, Taylor Baileyy
Shots: 10 | Shots On Goal: 4 | Corner Kicks: 8 | Fouls: 8 | Offside: 1 |
BIRMINGHAM LEGION FC LINEUP: Matt Van Oekel, Phanuel Kaita (c), Mikey Lopez (Jake Rufe), Alex Crognale, Jonny Dean, Anderson Asiedu (Matthew Corcoran), Bruno lapa (Sadik Balarabe), Zach Herivaux, Marlon Santos (Prosper Kasim), Enzo Martinez, Juan Agudelo (Mataeo Bunbury)
Unused subs: Trevor Spangenberg, Ryan James
Shots: 10 | Shots On Goal: 7 | Corner Kicks: 7 | Fouls: 17 | Offside: 0 |